Yang Jisheng Penguin, £10.99
Thirty-six million Chinese died in the famine that lasted from 1958 to 1962. That’s more than all those killed in the First World War, and among them was Yang Jisheng’s foster father. This was not the result of a natural disaster, but a consequence of Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Forward, which involved diverting grain to urban areas and the export market, leaving rural Chinese starving. With unprecedented access to secret archives, Yang Jisheng has drawn upon hard documentary evidence on how the famine started and the measures taken to suppress news of it. He writes this blistering condemnation of man’s inhumanity to man as dispassionately as he can, but there’s no mistaking the anger behind it. Densely crammed with information and statistics, Tombstone can be hard work, but it’s a comprehensive, definitive account of a hideous atrocity.