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‘X and Why’ by Tom Whipple

The Oldie

As sex and gender are such hot topics, it takes a brave person to delve into the issue. Tom Whipple does not disappoint in this well-researched reminder that biology still influences our behaviour. He cites the balance of nature and nurture as vital to forming our character. 

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‘Beyond Weird’ by Philip Ball

The Oldie

Putting together a book trying to explain quantum physics to the layperson is no small feat, but Ball manages to accomplish it. Although it requires a basic understanding of particles and parallel worlds, it is still very accessible and should be praised for making these ideas more understandable.

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‘The Unmapped Mind’ by Christian Donlan

The Oldie

An inspiring tale from a man diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as his daughter was taking her first steps. This award-winning reviewer of video games speaks on trying to ‘wrestle an incurable disease into a kind of submission, using intellect and logic and love’.

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‘Writers and Their Mothers’ edited by Dale Salwak

The Oldie

According to ‘Writer's and Their Mothers’, if you grew up with well-balanced and supportive parents, it is unlikely you will amount to much. Although there are exceptions, the examples given, of Larkin, Ruskin and Martin Amis, only support this view. A fine collection of essays about growing up.

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‘Mothers’ by Jacqueline Rose

The Oldie

Jacqueline Rose explores the perception of mothers in our society today. We may be asking the impossible of mothers as we, in Rose’s opinion, hold them responsible for all our failings. A fascinating book about how messy motherhood is, physically and emotionally. 

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‘Whistler’s Mother’ by Daniel E Sutherland and Georgia Toutziari

The Oldie

The subject is Whistler’s best-known painting: his own mother, Anna McNeill. The painting has since come to represent the model of American values and motherhood and has been reproduced on stamps and posters. She may appear isolated or quiet, but in fact was well-travelled and fiercely independent.

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‘Upstate’ by James Wood

The Oldie

This is James Wood’s second novel but some critics have found it does not live up to his own high standards. However, it is still a thought-provoking look at the complexity of family relationships and how they affect our strategies for healing.

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‘The Trick to Time’ by Kit De Waal

The Oldie

The IRA pub bombings create a sad background to this novel about an Irish couple living in Birmingham dealing with the trauma of a stillborn baby. Be warned, De Waal is able to heighten the emotional intensity to such an extent that you may be on the point of sobbing into a pillow.

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‘The Friendly Ones’ by Philip Hensher

The Oldie

Described in the ‘Scotsman’ as a ‘true book of life’. Hensher shows us how people think, feel and live, even if some of his characters verge on caricatures.

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'Warlight' by Micheal Ondaatje

The Oldie

‘Warlight’ is a vivid novel set in post-war Britain. It follows Nathaniel as his parents abandon him and leave him in the care of a man called The Moth. He is introduced to a crew of people determined to protect him, but it is only years later that he begins to unravel the truth.  

  

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‘The Executor’ by Blake Morrison

The Oldie

A novel about the moral dilemma of a literary executor as he discovers poems among the papers of his dead friends. Filled with original poetry and detailed observations and allusions to topics such as Brexit and the ill-fated London Garden Bridge proposal.

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‘Painter to the King’ by Amy Sackville

The Oldie

Amy Sackville’s third novel follows Velazquez’s career at the court of the Spanish King Philip IV. The unusual narrative style makes the novel more immersive and offers an insight into the Spanish court’s grandeur. 

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‘Scenes from a Vanished life’ by Rosie Tremain

The Oldie

When Rosie's father left her at the age of ten, she lost everything, including her Nanny who was the only adult to show her real affection. She was packed off to a boarding school but, slowly, from this world a young writer full of inspiration emerged.

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‘Mehalah’ by the Rev Sabine Baring-Gould

The Oldie

Published in 1880, this is Baring-Gould's most famous novel and was said to be Gladstone’s favourite. Set on the Essex island of Mersea, a desolate region but not without beauty, it’s about humans corrupted by jealousy and greed who mess things up. 

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‘Napoleon: Passion, Death and Resurrection’ by Philip Dwyer

The Oldie

In the final instalment of his trilogy about Napoleon, Dwyer explores the ‘pseudo-religious cult’ that followed him after his death and led to his nephew becoming president following revolution in 1848. Dwyer covers the last six years and the legacy that ensued.

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‘Isle of Dogs’

The Oldie

In a dystopian future, where a rogue dog-hating mayor has put all the city’s dogs on an island, a young boy tries to find his beloved canine. Only Wes Anderson could pull off something that eccentric. The brutally dry wit that characterises Anderson’s films is delivered by a majestic Bill Murray.

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‘Ascent: A Life Spent Climbing on the Edge’ by Chris Bonington

The Oldie

‘Ascent’ explores Bonington’s home life, the sacrifices of his family, and what it takes to conquer fear. An extraordinary memoir that charts the past 60 years of British mountaineering, replete with tales of iconic successes. It is an amazing book by an amazing man.

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Online: The Bank of England website

The Oldie

The Bank of England has revamped its website. The new site is very easily used; you can explore the bank’s history as easily as you can look at its policies – its archives and meeting minutes are readily available for those who are interested. 

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‘Beneath Another Sky’ by Norman Davies

The Oldie

‘Beneath Another Sky’ is a testament to Norman Davies’s status as one of the country’s most praised and read historians. He journeys around the world, from Baku to Tasmania, and, unlike so many others, creates a truly effective global history.

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Suffolk: Orford Ness, Orford

The Oldie

For eighty years of the past century, Orford Ness was a secret site, where the military would test its most secret experimental weaponry, but it is now accessibly to the public. This ever-changing, slender femur of shingle stretching down the Suffolk coast is naturally strange but beautiful.

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‘The Bramall Papers: Reflections on War and Peace’ by Lord Bramall

The Oldie

Field Marshal Lord Bramall’s extraordinary and lengthy career has taken him from fighting on the beaches of Normandy, to the masterminding of the Falklands campaign. This collection of his articles, speeches and letters is a must-read for politicians of all hues.

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‘Under the Knife’ by Arnold Van de Laar

The Oldie

Van de Laar, a surgeon himself, brings his passion for his profession in bucketloads. He looks at the history of surgery in 28 remarkable operations. Patients include JFK, Queen Victoria, Louis XI, and Bob Marley. Not a world-changing book, but certainly a lot of fun.

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‘The Post’

Ferdie Rous

Spielberg’s film follows the trials and tribulations of newspaper heiress Katharine Graham, played by Meryl Streep, as she tries to assert her authority over a paper dominated by men. Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks bring strong performances to this film that tackles Nixon’s lies about Vietnam.

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‘Lost Connections’ by Johann Hari

The Oldie

‘Lost Connections’ is a fascinating study of the causes of depression. Hari’s personal experience with it renders the book all that more moving. He concludes that depression is not caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. A book that may revolutionise the way you think about depression.

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‘The Butchering Art’ By Lindsey Fitzharris

The Oldie

The book is principally a biography of the surgeon Joseph Lister, who discovered that germs could be treated with antiseptics. Despite concerted public opposition, the grisly, disease-ridden environment in which Victorian surgeons practised their art was for ever changed, by Lister’s discovery.

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