English Books

This England - - Contents -

CHURCHILL: WALK­ING WITH DES­TINY By An­drew Roberts Pen­guin, £35

Churchill: Walk­ing with Des­tiny is a fresh look at our great­est wartime premier, with bi­og­ra­pher and his­to­rian An­drew Roberts draw­ing on over 40 new sources, in­clud­ing the pri­vate diaries of King Ge­orge VI and Lawrence Bur­gis’s ver­ba­tim re­ports of the War Cabi­net meet­ings.

We are al­lowed to see Churchill as a man rather than just a states­man and ap­pre­ci­ate his char­ac­ter in full: his ti­tanic ca­pac­ity for work (and drink), his good hu­mour even in the most des­per­ate of cir­cum­stances (there are ap­prox­i­mately 250 Churchill jokes in the book), and his ex­tra­or­di­nary propen­sity to burst into tears at un­ex­pected mo­ments (he cried in pub­lic 50 times dur­ing World War II).

The whole span of Churchill’s life is ex­plored, ex­am­ples be­ing his “fairly mis­er­able child­hood be­ing vi­o­lently phys­i­cally abused at prep school and ig­nored by his busy and self­ish par­ents” to mo­ments at RAF Uxbridge where he watched the Bat­tle of Bri­tain be­ing fought.

Hailed by The Times as “the best biog­ra­phy of Win­ston ever writ­ten”, this is an un­miss­able ac­count of, as Roberts de­scribes, “the su­per­hu­man ef­fort Churchill put into de­feat­ing Hitler and sav­ing Bri­tain from de­feat and Fas­cism”. As Churchill “draws Bri­tons to him for the rest of our his­tory, be it long or short”, this biog­ra­phy feels like es­sen­tial read­ing for just about all of us.

SOHO IN THE EIGHT­IES Christo­pher Howse Blooms­bury Con­tin­uum, £20

Tele­graph writer Christo­pher Howse evokes a lost world in “Soho in the Eight­ies”, a world of bo­hemi­ans that he be­came im­mersed in hav­ing worked at the Spec­ta­tor mag­a­zine where part of his job was to de­liver the mag­a­zine into the hands of “Low Life” colum­nist Jef­frey Bernard.

Of­ten to be found in the Coach and Horses in Greek Street, Bernard was one of a cast of Soho char­ac­ters which in­cluded Francis Ba­con, Tom Baker and John Hurt along with Nor­man Balon, aka Lon­don’s Rud­est Land­lord.

As Christo­pher says in his Fore­word: “My fo­cus is the places where po­ets, painters, stage­hands, re­tired pros­ti­tutes, crim­i­nals, ac­tresses, mu­si­cians and gen­eral layabouts met to drink and con­verse, or shout at each other . . . It was all very funny in­deed and ended in dis­as­ter.”

QUEEN OF THE WORLD By Robert Hard­man Cen­tury, £25

The world is a very dif­fer­ent place from 65 years ago when Her Majesty the Queen first took her place on the throne.

In Robert Hard­man’s new per­sonal por­trait of Queen El­iz­a­beth II, (writ­ten along­side the ma­jor ITV doc­u­men­tary), we see just how much HRH has done to re­de­fine the role of Bri­tain, the Com­mon­wealth and the monar­chy on the world stage.

A tour de force of de­tail, Hard­man re­veals be­hind-thescenes anec­dotes from HM The Queen’s royal in­ter­na­tional tours and state vis­its to coun­tries all over the world and makes the most of his priv­i­leged ac­cess to the Queen’s fam­ily and staff in a series of in­ter­views. A cel­e­bra­tory trib­ute to our coun­try’s great­est pa­tron, Queen of the World is sure to in­spire a new wave of ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

THE TIMES: BRI­TAIN’S HID­DEN RAIL­WAYS Ju­lian Hol­land Harpercollins, £30

Writer of best­selling rail­way books Ju­lian Hol­land has com­piled a col­lec­tion of 50 for­mer rail­way routes, most of which were aban­doned af­ter the Beech­ing Re­port which rec­om­mended the clo­sure of thou­sands of miles of rail­way more than 50 years ago.

Hol­land traces some of these routes which “have their own char­ac­ter and, de­spite the pas­sage of time, many still carry re­minders of their il­lus­tri­ous past in the shape of sta­tions, plat­forms, bridges, viaducts and tun­nels – in many cases all that is miss­ing from to­day’s scene is the track and trains.”

Some are now pop­u­lar with walk­ers and cy­clists, al­low­ing them to en­joy be­ing away from the hus­tle and bus­tle of mod­ern life.

Each route comes with a map, ar­chive pho­tog­ra­phy of the track in its prime and mod­ern pho­tog­ra­phy of some of the high­lights en route, along with a his­tory of the route and how to nav­i­gate it to­day.

While Hol­land says one of his favourites is the Camel Trail, run­ning along­side the Camel Es­tu­ary be­tween Pad­stow and Wade­bridge, there are plenty of oth­ers in equally pic­turesque sur­round­ings, such as the Crab and Win­kle line from Can­ter­bury to Whit­stable and the Mon­sal Trail from Mat­lock to Bux­ton and Chin­ley.

A HIS­TORY OF ENG­LAND IN 100 PLACES Philip Wilkin­son His­toric Eng­land, £20

Be­hind this book were some 4,000 pub­lic nom­i­na­tions of many sig­nif­i­cant places where ex­tra­or­di­nary things have hap­pened.

These nom­i­na­tions were then judged by a panel of ex­perts in­clud­ing Robert Win­ston, Mary Beard, Will Gom­pertz and Ge­orge Clark and nar­rowed down to 100 places.

Split into 10 cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing Sci­ence and Dis­cov­ery, Travel and Tourism, Homes and Gar­dens, In­dus­try, Trade and Com­merce and Power, Protest and Progress, each build­ing or place is rep­re­sented in the book with a size­able write up along with a cou­ple of pic­tures.

Some aren’t the ob­vi­ous choices – the Wake Green Road Pre­fabs in Birm­ing­ham, for in­stance, sit­ting be­tween Blen­heim Palace and Great Somer­ford Al­lot­ments in Wilt­shire, are there be­cause they have changed the course of his­tory, even if it’s only in some small way.

In the case of the Birm­ing­ham pre­fabs, these changed post-war hous­ing, giv­ing the first glimpse of homes that were fit for mod­ern life. Al­though only sup­posed to last 10 years, these 16 pre­fabs in Mosley, Birm­ing­ham, are still go­ing strong and are now Grade-ii listed.

Many of these land­marks are his­toric but there are mod­ern choices, too, in­clud­ing the Lloyds Build­ing for In­dus­try, Trade and Com­merce and, poignantly, Hills­bor­ough sta­dium in the sec­tion ded­i­cated to Loss and De­struc­tion.

RE­MARK­ABLE VIL­LAGE CRICKET GROUNDS Brian Le­vi­son Pav­il­ion, £25

With the vil­lage cricket sea­son long be­hind us, we can start look­ing for­ward to the start of next year’s thanks to this beau­ti­ful book show­ing some of the finest grounds in the coun­try.

“Re­mark­able” is quite a tag, but with back­drops in­clud­ing Bam­burgh Cas­tle, Aud­ley End, Belvoir Cas­tle, Blen­heim Palace and Ha­gley Hall, it seems fair. Other grounds are in the mid­dle of the coun­try, perched on hills or clifftops, as in Bude.

There are oth­ers still where the pav­il­ion is the re­mark­able fea­ture, ei­ther be­cause of its diminu­tive size (as in Ha­worth’s gar­den shed), or Bridgetown in Som­er­set, a cute thatched wooden build­ing. The his­tory and sta­tus of the club is given as well as large pic­tures of the most beau­ti­ful places in the coun­try where cricket is played.

AT­LAS: A WORLD OF MAPS FROM THE BRI­TISH LI­BRARY By Tom Harper Bri­tish Li­brary, £30

Mod­ern maps have al­ways helped us travel, but it’s with his­tor­i­cal maps that we can time travel. This beau­ti­fully il­lus­trated book from the Bri­tish Li­brary is a stun­ning and thought­pro­vok­ing col­lec­tion taken from the Bri­tish na­tional map col­lec­tion, rang­ing in date from the 12th cen­tury to the 21st.

Cast your eyes over Cum­bria in 1576 or Buck­ing­hamshire circa 1764, or tra­verse far­ther to Mom­basa Kenya or to Santa Fe, New Mex­ico. Each map comes with its own unique tale such as a 1580 map of the North At­lantic and Arc­tic Oceans cre­ated by “math­e­mati­cian and ma­gi­cian, astronomer and as­trologer”, philoso­pher and car­tog­ra­pher John Dee.

Pre­sented to El­iz­a­beth I, it shows what we did and didn’t know about the world then as well as, from Dee’s writ­ings on the back of the map, our ready at­ti­tude to con­quest other “hea­then peo­ple”.

PETERLOO: THE STORY OF THE MANCH­ESTER MAS­SACRE By Jac­que­line Rid­ing Head of Zeus, £25

It was a hot day in late sum­mer. Sixty thou­sand or­di­nary work­ing-class men, women and chil­dren had gath­ered in St Peter’s Field to protest against a cor­rupt elec­toral sys­tem. Walk­ing to the sound of hymns and folk songs, they wore their best clothes and held silk ban­ners aloft. And there a dis­grace­ful crime un­folded.

Jac­que­line Rid­ing’s new ac­count sheds light on what re­ally hap­pened at the Peterloo Mas­sacre on that fate­ful day in 1819, when lo­cal mag­is­trates pan­icked at the scale of the meet­ing and drunken yeo­manry hacked down in­no­cent lo­cals.

Writ­ten in ad­vance of the bi­cen­te­nary of Peterloo next year, this new book of­fers a com­pre­hen­sive and ac­cu­rate his­tory of one of the great out­rages of the 19th cen­tury and will an­swer many ques­tions raised by the new fea­ture film, di­rected by Mike Leigh.

THE LIV­ERY HALLS OF THE CITY OF LON­DON Anya Lu­cas and Henry Rus­sell Mer­rell, £45

This is a fas­ci­nat­ing book which steps in­side a lit­tle-known world in Lon­don. Of the 110 Liv­ery Com­pa­nies, 40 have Liv­ery Halls, the old­est be­ing the Apothe­caries’ Hall built in 1672, and the new­est the Leathersellers’ Hall, fin­ished last year.

This book, pro­duced by the Wor­ship­ful

Com­pany of Char­tered Architects on the oc­ca­sion of their 30th an­niver­sary of re­ceiv­ing full liv­ery sta­tus, tells the story of the Liv­ery com­pa­nies and shows their of­ten splen­did ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Mar­ble, gild­ing, plas­ter­work, carv­ings, paint­ings and stat­ues em­bel­lish these of­ten fan­tas­ti­cally rich in­te­ri­ors. Chan­de­liers, stained glass and pan­elling

are as fine as some of the grand­est coun­try houses and the fur­ni­ture is of­ten out of this world.

The book is writ­ten by Anya Lu­cas, an art and ar­chi­tec­tural his­to­rian, and his­to­rian Henry Rus­sell, with the pho­tog­ra­phy by An­dreas von Ein­siedel.

It is a stun­ning visual jour­ney around a rarely ac­cessed world.

THE IM­MOR­TAL YEW By Tony Hall Kew Pub­lish­ing, £25

Fos­sil records show that the English Yew is at least 15 mil­lion years old, long pre-dat­ing us homo sapi­ens who have been around a mere 200,000 years. Some par­tic­u­lar yew trees around to­day are thought to be over 2,000 years old, mak­ing them the old­est liv­ing things in the UK.

Tony Hall’s new book pro­files 75 pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble yews, with de­tails on their ap­pear­ance, lo­ca­tion, folk­lore and his­tory, each ac­com­pa­nied with pho­to­graphs of these ex­tra­or­di­nary arboreal giants.

Many yew trees are sit­u­ated in church­yards and the link be­tween churches and the yew be­came so es­tab­lished that when new churches were built, yew trees were planted next to them.

Hop­ing to raise the pro­files of these trees, some of which are un­der threat, this book is not only a fas­ci­nat­ing guide to days out vis­it­ing yews and the churches they stand be­side, but also a call to pro­tect these liv­ing fig­ures of his­tory.

ETER­NAL BOY: THE LIFE OF KENNETH GRA­HAME Matthew Den­ni­son Head of Zeus, £18.99

Matthew Den­ni­son, who has been lauded for his bi­ogra­phies of Vita Sackville-west and Beatrix Pot­ter, maps the life of The Wind in the Wil­lows au­thor.

Kenneth Gra­hame spent his work­ing days at the Bank of Eng­land and week­ends in the coun­try with wife El­speth and son Alis­tair, tak­ing walks along the Thames. It was here that he would find his in­spi­ra­tion for The Wind in the Wil­lows, which was pub­lished in 1908 when he was in his late 20s.

RICHARD III: LOY­ALTY BINDS ME By Matthew Lewis Am­ber­ley, £25

A de­vi­ous mur­derer of his neph­ews the Princes in the Tower, twisted both phys­i­cally and men­tally? Or sim­ply a brave knight liv­ing in tu­mul­tuous times?

Richard III re­mains one of the most con­tro­ver­sial fig­ures in Bri­tish his­tory, and his­to­rian Matthew Lewis’s biog­ra­phy is likely to be­come the new de­fin­i­tive ac­count of a King who has fas­ci­nated so many of us.

This in-depth ti­tle works hard to sep­a­rate the myths from the man, from his trau­matic child­hood and how this af­fected his sub­se­quent world view to his bloody death, de­serted by his lieu­tenants at the Bat­tle of Bos­worth Field in 1485.

SCOUT­ING FOR BOYS Robert Baden-pow­ell Ox­ford Univer­sity Press, £16.99

First pub­lished 110 years ago in a slightly ram­shackle six vol­umes, Baden-Pow­ell’s work en­joyed im­me­di­ate suc­cess, go­ing on to be­come one of the best-sell­ing works for the 20th cen­tury and be­com­ing the in­spi­ra­tion of the Scout Move­ment.

The orig­i­nal text is pub­lished here, along with Baden-pow­ell’s il­lus­tra­tions and an in­tro­duc­tion by Elleke Boehmer ex­plain­ing more about Baden-pow­ell, the times he lived in and his mo­ti­va­tions.

PULL THE OTHER ONE! Roger Evans Mer­lin Un­win Books, £12

Or the di­ary of a dairy farmer – try say­ing that in a hurry! Roger Evans has been rear­ing cat­tle and poul­try on his farm for years now and his di­ary is a wry look at farm­ing and vil­lage life and the mod­ern world in gen­eral.

It’s amus­ing and full of in­ci­dents that non-farmers will be able to re­late to as well.

MUST I RE­PEAT MY­SELF? Un­pub­lished Letters to The Daily Tele­graph White Lion Pub­lish­ing, £9.99

Al­most 95 per cent of The Tele­graph’s letters don’t get pub­lished for mainly prac­ti­cal rea­sons – they ei­ther ar­rive too late, don’t fit with the rest of the day’s letters or are some­times just too risqué or whim­si­cal for pub­li­ca­tion.

So, once a year, they gather them up for pub­li­ca­tion, and “Must I Re­peat My­self” is now in its 10th year.

Ab­bots­bury cricket ground.

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