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‘I Found My Tribe’ by Ruth Fitzmaurice

The Oldie

Aged 32 and pregnant with her third child, Ruth Fitzmaurice’s husband, Simon, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given four years to live. Nine years later, with Simon only communicating with his eyes, Ruth joins the ‘Tragic Wives Swimming Club’, which keeps her going.

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‘Your Life In My Hands: A Junior Doctor’s Story’ by Rachel Clarke

The Oldie

Clarke’s description of the physical and emotional exhaustion of being a junior doctor. Aiming to reveal the truth about the NHS, the neurosurgeon Henry Marsh, who also writes for the Times, said that ‘anybody who wants to understand what is happening to the NHS should read this book’.

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‘In the Days of Rain’ by Rebecca Stott

The Oldie

This winner of the 2017 Costa Biography Award tells the story of Stott’s father and his relationship with his family, highlighting the horrors of the Christian fundamentalist cult they are part of. Stott herself managed to escape the indoctrination, making this a poignant story.

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‘The Truth Game’ by Vanessa Nicolson

The Oldie

Nicolson has described this book as ‘highly personal, investigating the nature of truth seen through the stories of people whose lives have intersected with mine’. In twelve chapters, she explores the roles of twelve people, forming an eye-opening account of a concept we take for granted.

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‘I Must Belong Somewhere: An Extraordinary Family Tale of Survival’ by Jonathan Dean

The Oldie

Inspired by the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe, Dean decided to explore the lives of his grandfather and great-grandfather, both of whom were refugees. Using their diaries and visiting their former homes, Dean is able to discuss the complex issues of today through lives lived years ago.

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‘Adults In The Room: My Battle With Europe’s Deep Establishment’ by Yanis Varoufakis

The Oldie

Albeit for only a short time, Varoufakis was Greece’s finance minister, and negotiated his country’s bailout. The Observer called this work ‘a riveting hiss and tell’, and although Varoufakis is perhaps too self-praiseworthy, this is a fine economic insight into the (supposedly) flawed EU.

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‘Priestdaddy: A Memoir’ by Patricia Lockwood

The Oldie

Recollecting her childhood as the daughter of a Lutheran minister, Lockwood paints a picture of a Right-wing, conspiracy-theorising father who converted to Catholicism. She also picks up on her own rebellion against the church, which forms the narrative thread.

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‘M: Maxwell Knight’ by Henry Hemming

The Oldie

Hemming tells the story of the person he deems to be ‘MI5’s greatest spymaster’ – the man associated with the infiltration of Britain’s Fascist movement in the 1920s. Combined with his quirky ‘oddball’ character, Maxwell Knight’s achievements and life are intriguing. 

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‘The Women Who Flew for Hitler: The True Story of Hitler’s Valkyries’ by Clare Mulley

The Oldie

Mulley focuses on two women brought together in courage and selflessness as test pilots. Both received the Iron Cross, but only one was a fanatical supporter of Hitler. The other, Melitta von Stauffenberg, was the sister-in-law of the man behind the plot to kill Hitler in 1944.

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‘Blood Sisters’ by Jane Corry

The Oldie

Inspired by the author’s three-year stint as a writer-in-residence in prisons, this is the latest thriller from Sunday Times bestselling author Jane Corry. The fast-paced tale of murder tells of two women sworn to each other by an unthinkable secret, although someone else is aware of this…

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Croatia: Korcula, Korcula Island

The Oldie

This town, of the same name as the island it sits on, is a glorious example of a medieval settlement on the Dalmatian coast. With architecture similar to that seen in Tuscany  – narrow streets, a Gothic cathedral – and just two hours away from Dubrovnik, it provides a lovely getaway.

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‘What They Teach You at Harvard Business School’ by Philip Delves Broughton

The Oldie

An entertaining reflection of one man’s two years at Harvard Business School – graduates from which generally go on to run the world’s largest banks. From his first day to graduation, his witty but equally insightful memoir is there to tell you how to get to the top, and the cost of doing so.

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‘Question Time – A Quizzical Journey Around Britain’ by Mark Mason

Evans

The British love a good quiz. Mark Mason has seized on this and published the best questions and answers, and also tips for making the best possible quiz at home. Mason toured the country, hopping from quiz to quiz, to produce this entertaining read.

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‘The Mayflower Generation – The Winslow Family and the Fight for the New World’ by Rebecca Fraser

The Oldie

The journey made by the fleeing English Puritans in 1620 is well-known. Yet Fraser goes beyond the common version of this story, tracking the Winslow family for two generations. She shows how relations with indigenous tribesmen broke down, and documents the constant struggles of everyday life.

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‘Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time’ by Hilary Spurling

The Oldie

This is, according to the Times, a ‘landmark biography’. Spurling, through access to letters and by investigating those around Powell, manages to shed light on the inspirations behind a classic piece of fiction. This edition compiles Spurling’s twelve volumes written over 25 years. 

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‘The Company of Trees’ by Thomas Pakenham

The Oldie

Pakenham recollects his attempt to create a respected arboretum on his family estate, as well as his trips to plantations, preservation missions and dangerous seed-finding escapades. With threats from climate change but hope for the many young saplings, this is a book for all tree enthusiasts. 

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‘Charles Darwin: Victorian Mythmaker’ by AN Wilson

The Oldie

The Times supposes that there ‘is no better biographer than Wilson’ when it comes to Darwin. He shows Darwin’s urge to explain the state of the world comprehensively, while also fulfilling his ambition of becoming an esteemed naturalist. And Wilson isn’t afraid to challenge the Darwinian orthodoxy.

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‘Orchards in the Oasis’ by Josceline Dimbleby

The Oldie

This is more than your ordinary cookbook. It’s Dimbleby’s favourite of her many books, because ‘it is about life and not just recipes’ – it explores the influence of foods on her life.

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‘Notes from the Velvet Underground: The Life of Lou Reed’ by Howard Sounes

The Oldie

By interviewing 140 people who knew Reed, Sounes manages to escape the typical portrayal of this musician as a grumpy man wearing black. Entertaining, in-depth and extremely well researched, the book explores Reed’s creative process, his leading of the Velvet Underground, and his personal issues.

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‘To Catch a King: Charles II’s Great Escape’ by Charles Spenser

The Oldie

Using Samuel Pepys’s account, Spenser sheds light on a truly great escape – the flight of the 22-year-old king away from Cromwell’s army in 1651. Of course, he hid in an oak tree, but also disguised as a servant, and he saw villages mistakenly celebrating his death. Gripping and action-packed.

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‘A Legacy of Spies’ by John Le Carré

Evans

Ian McEwan has called him ‘perhaps the most significant novelist of the second half of the 20th century’, and Le Carré succeeds here in carrying that legacy through to the 21st century. This is a thrilling story of a retired Cold War spy being summoned back to London to pay for innocent blood spilt.

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‘Partition: The Story of Indian Independence and the Creation of Pakistan in 1947’ by Barney White-Spunner

The Oldie

This international bestseller explores the time when ninety years of British rule in India ended; the Congress Party established democracy; and Pakistan was created in a rush. This account stands out, as it explains the terrorism, wars and shame that followed between the newly founded nations.

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‘Difficult Women: A Memoir of Three’ by David Plante

The Oldie

Recently reissued as a New York Review Classic, this blunt portrayal of the flaws of Jean Rhys, Sonia Orwell and Germaine Greer is horribly brilliant. From an alcoholic to an exploiter and finally to a woman with overwhelming opinions, Plante portrays three formidable women with great precision.

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‘Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense’ by Jenny Uglow

The Oldie

Uglow’s biography of the man with many talents – including poetry, travel writing and paintings – vividly opens up Lear’s friendships, exhaustive travels and ranging moods. He is shown to be a man pushing the boundaries of Victorian Britain, and surprisingly modern in spirit.   

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‘Six Minutes in May: How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister’ by Nicholas Shakespeare

The Oldie

The Telegraph’s 2017 Book of the Year tracks the riveting story of Churchill’s unlikely rise to power. Six minutes was all it took for MPs to vote to bring down Chamberlain in May 1940, but Shakespeare illustrates just how easily things could have been different.  

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