By Richard J. Evans
A bullet misses its target in Sarajevo, a would-be Austrian painter gets into the Viennese academy, Lord Halifax becomes British prime minister in 1940: seemingly minor twists of fate on which world-shaking events might have hinged.Alternative history has long been the stuff of parlour games, war-gaming and science fiction, but over the past few decades it has become a popular stomping ground for serious historians. Richard J. Evans now turns a critical, slightly jaundiced eye on the subject. Altered Pasts examines the intellectual fallout from historical counterfactuals. Most importantly, Evans takes counterfactual history seriously, looking at the insights, pitfalls and intellectual implications of changing one thread in the weave of history.
All Together Now
By Gill Hornby
The Bridgeford Community Choir is in crisis. Numbers are down. The choir leader is in hospital. The tea urn is behaving in an ominous fashion. Something must be done. New joiners Tracey Leckford and Bennett Parker might just be able to save the day. But Tracey is hiding a huge secret about her past. And Bennett - while equipped with a beautiful singing voice - is entirely baffled by the world and everything in it. Can they really fit in with dependable old regulars like Annie? As the choir suffers through fights, feuds and the perils of the school fair, it becomes clear that their struggles are not just about music, but the future of their community. In order to save their singing group and their town, the Bridgeford Singers will have to find a way to work together - in harmony.
By Richard Tomlinson
On a sunny afternoon in May 1868, nineteen-year-old Gilbert Grace stood in a Wiltshire field, wondering why he was playing cricket against the Great Western Railway Club. A batting genius, 'W. G.' should have been starring at Lord's in the grand opening match of the season. But MCC did not want to elect this humble son of a provincial doctor. W. G's career was faltering before it had barely begun.Grace finally forced his way into MCC and over the next three decades, millions came to watch him - not just at Lord's, but across the British Empire and beyond. Only W. G. could boast a fan base that stretched from an American Civil War general and the Prince of Wales's mistress to the children who fingered his coat-tails as he walked down the street, just to say 'I touched him'.The public never knew the darker story behind W. G.'s triumphal progress. Accused of avarice, W. G. was married to the daughter of a bankrupt. Disparaged as a simpleton, his subversive mind recast how to play sport - thrillingly hard, pushing the rules, beating his opponents his own way.In Amazing Grace, Richard Tomlinson unearths a life lived so far ahead of his times that W. G. is still misunderstood today. For the first time, Tomlinson delves into long-buried archives in England and Australia to reveal the real W. G: a self-made, self-destructive genius, at odds with the world and himself.
By William Philpott
The First World War was too big to be grasped by its participants. In the retelling of their war in the competing memories of leaders and commanders, and the anguished fiction of its combatants, any sense of order and purpose, effort and achievement, was missing. Drawing on the experience of front line soldiers, munitions workers, politicians and those managing the vast economy of industrialised warfare, Attrition explains for the first time why and how this new type of conflict born out of industrial society was fought as it was. It was the first mass war in which the resources of the fully-mobilised societies strained every sinew in a conflict over ideals - and the humblest and highest were all caught up in the national enterprise. In a stunning narrative, this brilliant and necessary reassessment of the whole war cuts behind the myth-making to reveal the determination, organization and ambition on all sides.
At the Reunion Buffet
By Alexander McCall Smith
Isabel Dalhousie - philosopher, mother and friend - is taking on the mammoth task of hosting her school reunion. In the hours before twenty-five former classmates descend on her home, and the caterers arrive to set up a buffet, Isabel has time to reflect. She is mindful of the fact that reunions can bring up all sorts of uncomfortable feelings. Later that night, with the party in full swing, Isabel realises that the pull of the past remains as strong as ever. Some people are interested in fuelling disagreements, while others are hoping to make amends. As hostess of the party, Isabel feels compelled to help them on the path to mercy and forgiveness. But what if the reasons for forgiveness are murky and suspect? And what if long-held secrets threaten to derail Isabel's efforts?In this warm, intelligently observed novella, Alexander McCall Smith's wonderful heroine, Isabel, learns valuable lessons about inviting the past into your life.
The Awakening of Miss Prim
By Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera
Prudencia Prim is a young woman of intelligence and achievement, with a deep knowledge of literature and several letters after her name. But when she accepts the post of private librarian in the village of San Ireneo de Arnois, she is unprepared for what she encounters there. Her employer, a book-loving intellectual, is dashing yet contrarian, always ready with a critique of her cherished Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. The neighbours, too, are capable of charm and eccentricity in equal measure, determined as they are to preserve their singular little community from the modern world outside. Prudencia hoped for friendship in San Ireneo but she didn't suspect that she might find love - nor that the course of her new life would run quite so rocky, would offer challenge and heartache as well as joy, discovery and fireside debate. The Awakening of Miss Prim is a distinctive and delightfully entertaining tale of literature, philosophy and the search for happiness.
American Dream Machine
By Matthew Specktor
Beau Rosenwald - overweight, far from handsome, and improbably charismatic - arrives in Los Angles in 1962 with nothing but an ill-fitting suit and a pair of expensive brogues. By the late 1970s he has helped found the most successful agency in Hollywood. Through the eyes of his son, we watch Beau and his partner go to war, waging a battle that will reshape an entire industry. We watch Beau rise and fall and rise again, forging and damaging remarkable relationships. We watch Beau's partner, the enigmatic Williams Farquarsen, struggle to control himself and this oh-so-fickle world of movies. We watch two generations of men fumble and thrive across the LA landscape, revelling in their successes and learning the costs of their mistakes.
By E. L. Doctorow
This brilliant new novel by an American master, the author of Ragtime, The Book of Daniel, Billy Bathgate, and The March, takes us on a radical trip into the mind of a man who, more than once in his life, has been an inadvertent agent of disaster.Speaking from an unknown place and to an unknown interlocutor, Andrew is thinking, Andrew is talking, Andrew is telling the story of his life, his loves, and the tragedies that have led him to this place and point in time. And as he confesses, peeling back the layers of his strange story, we are led to question what we know about truth and memory, brain and mind, personality and fate, about one another and ourselves.Written with psychological depth and great lyrical precision, this suspenseful and groundbreaking novel delivers a voice for our times-funny, probing, skeptical, mischievous, profound.
By Russell Shorto
Amsterdam is not just any city. Despite its relative size it has stood alongside its larger cousins - Paris, London, Berlin - and has influenced the modern world to a degree that few other cities have. Sweeping across the city's colourful thousand year history, Amsterdam will bring the place to life: its sights and smells; its politics and people. Concentrating on two significant periods - the late 1500s to the mid 1600s and then from the Second World War to the present, Russell Shorto's masterful biography looks at Amsterdam's central preoccupations. Just as fin-de-siecle Vienna was the birthplace of psychoanalysis, seventeenth century Amsterdam was the wellspring of liberalism, and today it is still a city that takes individual freedom very seriously. A wonderfully evocative book that takes Amsterdam's dramatic past and present and populates it with a whole host of colourful characters, Amsterdam is the definitive book on this great city.
By Charles Allen
India's lost emperor Ashoka Maurya has a special place in history. In his quest to govern India by moral force alone he turned Buddhism from a minor sect into a world religion, and set up a new yardstick for government. But Ashoka's bold experiment ended in tragedy and he was forgotten for almost two thousand years.In this beautifully written, multi-layered journey Charles Allen describes how fragments of the Ashokan story were gradually discovered, pieced together by a variety of British Orientalists: antiquarians, archaeologists and epigraphists. In doing so, they did much to recover India's ancient history itself. The Lost Emperor tells the story of the man who was arguably the greatest ruler India has ever known.
By Tim Harford
Everything we know about solving the world's problems is wrong. Out: Plans, experts and above all, leaders. In: Adapting - improvise rather than plan; fail, learn, and try againIn this groundbreaking new book, Tim Harford shows how the world's most complex and important problems - including terrorism, climate change, poverty, innovation, and the financial crisis - can only be solved from the bottom up by rapid experimenting and adapting.From a spaceport in the Mojave Desert to the street battles of Iraq, from a blazing offshore drilling rig to everyday decisions in our business and personal lives, this is a handbook for surviving - and prospering - in our complex and ever-shifting world.
By Philippe Legrain
The financial crisis brought the world to the brink. But now bankers' bonuses are back, house prices are rising again and politicians promise recovery. Is this really sustainable - or do we need to change course?In this incisive assessment of the post-crisis world, Philippe Legrain looks at what went wrong, and how the world's leaders and financial institutions can learn from their disastrous mistakes. Reporting first-hand from across the globe he sets out the huge dangers ahead - and the opportunities to craft a fairer, safer, richer and greener world. Wide-ranging, brilliant and impassioned, AFTERSHOCK it is at once a warning from history and a compelling call to arms for the future.
The Art Of Choosing
By Sheena Iyengar
Every day we make choices. Coke or Pepsi? Save or spend? Stay or go?Whether mundane or life-altering, these choices define us and shape our lives. Sheena Iyengar asks the difficult questions about how and why we choose: Is the desire for choice innate or bound by culture? Why do we sometimes choose against our best interests? How much control do we really have over what we choose? Her award-winning research reveals that the answers are surprising and profound. In our world of shifting political and cultural forces, technological revolution, and interconnected commerce, our decisions have far-reaching consequences. Use this book as your companion and guide for the many challenges ahead.'No one asks better questions, or comes up with more intriguing answers' Malcolm Gladwell, author of THE TIPPING POINT
Across The Blood-Red Skies
By Robert Radcliffe
Spring 1917. The average survival time of a First World War reconnaissance pilot is eighteen hours. After weeks in the thick of it, George Duckwell, reluctant novice-hero of the Royal Flying Corps, is living on borrowed time, watching in horror as a succession of comrades are shot down, burned, maimed and killed, while somehow he survives.Struggling to make sense of the conflict, George forms an awkward friendship with William 'Mac' MacBride, an enigmatic Canadian ace, waging his own private war against the legendary Red Baron, Manfred von Richtofen. But when Mac falls for George's sweetheart - front-line nurse Emily - the fragile bond that keeps the two men alive comes under threat on the eve of the most lethal conflict the modern world has known.
By Lawrence James
For nine hundred years the British aristocracy has considered itself ideally qualified to rule others, make laws and guide the fortunes of the nation. Tracing the history of this remarkable supremacy, ARISTOCRATS is a story of wars, intrigue, chicanery and extremes of both selflessness and greed. James also illuminates how the aristocracy's infatuation with classical art has forged our heritage, how its love of sport has shaped our pastimes and values - and how its scandals have entertained the public. Impeccably researched, balanced and brilliantly entertaining, ARISTOCRATS is an enthralling history of power, influence and an extraordinary knack for survival.
Ashes To Ashes
By Marcus Berkmann
The Ashes may be the longest and fiercest sporting soap opera the world has known. The anticipation is always intense, expectations are high and, for England fans, disappointment is almost inevitable, as we usually lose. But it's a drug we can never kick. How have we got into this state? Can we ever break free?Marcus Berkmann knows he can't and has stopped even trying. ASHES TO ASHES is the first emotional history of the contest, shamelessly eschewing balance and objectivity to give the punter's view of every series since 1972. This new edition updates the tale to the victorious 2009 series, while remaining brutally realistic about our chances in 2010 and beyond . . .
And Did Those Feet
By Charlie Connelly
The landscape of the British Isles is filled with history, much of which we miss as it flashes past the car window. Do we even realise that we're following the same path as the Tolpuddle Martyrs, or that we're driving past the exact spot where King Harold was killed, shot through the eye with an arrow? As a lover of both history and the British countryside, Charlie Connelly decided to rectify this, and set out on a series of walks that recreate famous historical journeys. En route he retells the story of the original trip while discovering who and what now inhabit these iconic routes. Walking in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, Charlie journeys alongside Boudicca's ghost in Norfolk, relives Bonnie Prince Charlie's flight to Skye disguised as Flora MacDonald's maid and takes the same 32-mile round trip as the starving Louisburgh famine walkers. He suffers broken toes, becomes trapped in the Scottish Parliament and encounters dead poets and a surprisingly high number of mad old women in woolly hats. Told with Charlie's customary charm and wit, And Did Those Feet will reveal the historical secrets hidden in the much-loved coastal, country and urban landscapes of Britain.
By Mary S. Lovell
When she disappeared in 1937 over a shark-infested sea, Amelia Earhart had lived up to her wish - internationally famous, a daring and pioneering aviator, and ambassador extraordinary for the United States. Married to a man with a genius for publicity, her life was crowded, demanding and adventurous. Mary S. Lovell's superb biography examines a legend to reveal the pressures and influences that drove Amelia, and shows how her life, career and manner of death foreshadowed the tragedies and excesses of a media-dominated age.
Attack Of The Unsinkable Rubber Ducks
By Christopher Brookmyre
Do you believe in ghosts? Do we really live on in some conscious form after we die, and is that form capable of communicating with the world of the living?...Aye, right. That was Jack Parlabane's stance on the matter, anyway. But this was before he found himself in the more compromising position of being not only dead himself, but worse: dead with an exclusive still to file. From his position on high, Parlabane relates the events leading up to his demise, largely concerning the efforts of charismatic psychic Gabriel Lafayette to reconcile the scientific with the spiritual by submitting to controlled laboratory tests. Parlabane is brought in as an observer, due to his capacities as both a sceptic and an expert on deception, but he soon finds his certainties crumbling and his assumptions turned upside down as he encounters phenomena for which he can deduce no rational explanation. Perhaps, in a world in which he can find himself elected rector of an esteemed Scottish university, anything truly is possible. One thing he knows for certain, however: Death is not the end - it's the ultimate undercover assignment.
By Donald Antrim
Donald Antrim's mother Louanne was a difficult woman: an operatically suicidal, chainsmoking, delusional alcoholic who even when sober believed that her cat Merlin was a descendant of the Arthurian necromancer. Seeing his own life bound up in her relentless deterioration, Donald Antrim embarks on this strange, marvellous memoir in an attempt to make sense of his mother and her legacy.A series of tragic-comic adventures in psychological dysfunction, Antrim's personal journey takes him wandering across the Southern states of America, tracing the bust-ups, reconciliations, and migrations of his warring parents. Gradually he unpicks the stories of his childhood, and the characters: his handsome sportsman uncle; his hardworking, bewildered Episcopalian grandparents; and his mother herself - alarming, melodramatic, manipulative, reckless and brave. This is a vivid, unmissable Technicolor slideshow of a memoir.