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.