books monthly july 2017

Coffee table stunners from RPS/Cico Books headline this month's finest... over 50 new Nonfiction titles this month!

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Michael Hicks: The Family of Richard III

Published by Amberley 15th June 2017

The Wars of the Roses were quarrels within the Plantagenet family, of which Richard’s dynasty, the House of York, was one branch. They were about family trees – the capacity of family relationships both to unite and to divide – and notoriously about the slaughter of cousins, in-laws, brothers, and nephews. The House of York won the first war, with Richard’s elder brother becoming king as Edward IV.

The 1460s are about the explosion of King Edward IV’s family – his brothers (including Richard), his wife and in-laws, and his own offspring – and end in a trial of strength between them. The 1470s are about a second explosion of the House of York, its division into separate nuclear families competing against each other, about the kings’ preferences, and in 1483 a sudden violent resolution following Edward IV’s death. Richard III claimed to be his brother’s heir. The Yorkist establishment refused and shared in Richard’s destruction.

With the recent discovery of Richard III’s skeleton, Professor Michael Hicks, described by BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE as ‘the greatest living expert on Richard III’, reassesses the family ties and entrails of his wayward and violent family. Many thousands of descendants of Richard’s siblings survive, some more interested in their lineage than others, and the book will conclude with an analysis of Richard’s DNA and his ‘family’ as it exists today.

A magnificent foray into the new historical "flavour of the month (decade)" Richard III. The discovery of his skeleton was headline news for quite a while and the whole concept of a "cousins' war" had gripped the nation for quite some time and shows no signs of abating. Much of Michael Hicks' findings are new to me, and I found the entire book readable and fascinating - a perfect history book, something that adds to what you already knew whilst at the same time entertaining as well.


Sean Cunningham: Prince Arthur - The Tudor King Who Never Was

Published by Amberley 15th June 2017

During the early part of the sixteenth century England should have been ruled by King Arthur Tudor, not Henry VIII. Had the first-born son of Henry VII lived into adulthood, his younger brother Henry would never have become King Henry VIII. The subsequent history of England would have been very different; the massive religious, social and political changes of Henry VIII’s reign might not have been necessary at all.

In naming his eldest son Arthur, Henry VII was making an impressive statement about what the Tudors hoped to achieve as rulers within Britain. Since the story of Arthur as a British hero was very well known to all ranks of the Crown’s subjects, the name alone gave the young prince a great deal to live up to. Arthur’s education and exposure to power and responsibility, not to mention his marriage to a Spanish princess in Catherine of Aragon, all indicate that the young prince was being shaped into a paragon of kingship that all of Britain could admire.

This book explores all of these aspects of Prince Arthur’s life, together with his relationship with his brother, and assesses what type of king he would have been.

Prince Arthur has all too often been glossed over in the various histories of the Tudors as historians race to get to the meaty part, the years of Henry VIII. Sean Cunningham's superb book takes an in-depth, detailed look at the life of the young Tudor Prince and examines ways in which his reign could have been so different to that of Henry VIII. Hugely enjoyable - an historical saga about a subject of whom we previously knew all too little.




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Book of the Month - Peter Baker: Obama - The Call of History

Published by Abrams 26th June 2017

Peter Baker's authoritative history of the Obama presidency is the first complete account that will stand the test of time. Baker takes the measure of Obama's achievements and disappointments in office and brings into focus the real legacy of the man who, as he described himself, doesn't look like all the presidents on the dollar bills. With vivid colour photographs by New York Times photographers and others of the events, major and minor, public and behind-the scenes, that defined Barack Obama's eight years in office, Obama: The Call of History is a portrait in full of America's first African-American president against the background of these tumultuous times.


This is the only book on Obama I have ever read, and it's an eye-opener, an account of the impossible struggle he faced to get his legislation through whilst facing opposition from the Republicans (the United States's equivalent of our Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and UKIP). When you think about who is now the USA president, it pays to have your memories of Obama in your mind, because there is a universer of intelligence, charisma, humility, and all those traits that make you a better person between him and Trump, it simply does not bear thinking about. Peter Baker's assessment of Obama as a president, as a father, and as a man, is insightful and sad, at the same time because in much of his legislation he never stood a chance, and yet he gave the poorer people of America hope in the same way that Jeremy Corbyn does right now in the UK. This is a record of Obama's time in office, with stunning, candid photos and a brilliant commentary. You won't read a better book about Barack Obama...


Jacqui McCarthy: Cheltenham Caravans

Published by Amberley 15th May 2017

Cheltenham Caravans were made by one of the smallest caravan manufacturing companies, but nevertheless are still used across Europe by members of the longest established one-marque caravan owners’ clubs, forty years after the company ceased to exist. This is testament to the quality of the research, design and build of each caravan.

The family company tested new models extensively overseas before they went into production, testing new ideas, finding and resolving any problems they encountered. This ensured they could sell the caravans with great confidence.

The Cheltenham Caravans were aimed at the more discerning caravanner, being built to an extremely high standard and tailored to each buyer’s needs, with a list of ‘extras’ available. Buyers were, and still are, as enthusiastic about the caravans as the family were, and The Cheltenham Owners Club, which was established in 1950, retains a large membership over sixty-five years later. The club members encourage, support and share knowledge with each other so that the caravans stay around for many years to come.

This book details the Cheltenham Caravan’s journey from the beginning to the present day, showing photographs and images of the models through the years and encompassing the various changes that took place.


I stayed in a two-berth Cheltenham caravan when I was a teenager... in Cheltenham, of all places! At the time I didn't know that the brand or model even existed. Amberley's amazing history of Cheltenham caravans is peppered with fantastic, nostalgic photos, always featuring a caravan but many times something else as well. This is a fascinating insight into an iconic brand, beautifully presented and a superb addition to the Amberley social history of the UK range.


Nichole Robertson: New York In Color

Published by Chronicle Books 6th June 2017

Paris in Color photographer Nichole Robertson brings her eye for colour to the streets of New York in this unique and charming portrait of the beloved metropolis. In this vibrant visual tour of the city colour by colour, Nichole Robertson brings the city's quintessential shades into focus, from iconic yellow taxicabs to gleaming gold art deco archways, from the signature orange of the Staten Island Ferry to the bright red of a 'no parking' sign.


This superb collection of personal photos by Nichole Robertson display an amazing sense of colour - the variety of subjects and the choice bringing out the vibrancy and brilliance of a city no one who has visited can ever say a bad thing about. Stunning!


John Lasseter: The Art Of Cars 3

Published by Chronicle Books 1st June 2017

Pixar Animation Studios presents The Art of Cars 3, a behind-the-scenes look at the concept. John Lasseter is a two-time Academy Award® winner, director, chief creative officer at Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, and principal creative officer at Walt Disney Imagineering. Brian Fee is the director of Cars 3. He worked as a story artist on the Cars films, Ratatouille, WALL E, and Monsters University. Bill Cone is a production designer on Cars 3. He worked as a production designer on several short and feature films including A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, and Cars. Jay Shuster is a production designer on Cars 3. He worked as a character designer on Cars, WALL E, and Cars 2.


I haven't seen Cars or Cars 2 yet, but I have young relatives who adore these films, and they even have models of some of the characters from them to play with. This wonderful book details the incredible amount of work that goes into making films such as Cars - the illustrations are brilliant, the technical details superb.

Paddy Carpenter: Unsafe - The Script of One-Zero-Three

Published by Grey Dog Books 11th August 2014 

QUESTION 1: How much of the carefully concealed truth about the LOCKERBIE BOMBING can one novel contain? THE ANSWER: Pretty much all of it! QUESTION 2: How much of the carefully concealed truth about the LOCKERBIE BOMBING can one film script contain? ANSWER: The same! English screenwriter Ray Scriver's latest script lifts the lid on the real guilt behind LOCKERBIE, so will find powerful opponents. When his film, ONE-ZERO-THREE, moves nearer to production, and knowledge of his explosive conclusions can no longer be contained, his life begins to feel increasingly precarious. Just as with the Lockerbie flight itself, its investigation, evidence at the trial, the verdict and the whole public perception of the case, Scriver wonders if he too is now UNSAFE. A novel set in the larger than life world of filmmaking, UNSAFE – The Script of One-Zero-Three is centred around a screenplay which aims to stir the muddy waters of a real terrorist plot, the actual outrage above Scotland and a cynical 25 year cover-up by agencies and governments. So the book is also a fascinating, no-stone-unturned, TRUE CRIME REINVESTIGATION of the UK's largest ever mass-murder and its aftermath. Scriver is an enthusiastic pilot, giving him added sympathy with his subject. He circles the globe on airliners to raise interest in his script and he flies himself to Scotland in search of what may be the final clues. While UNSAFE is set in the UK, California, New Zealand and Australia, the story within the story ranges through the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, as Scriver, his associates and his film's characters sift true conspiracy from a raft of theories. What they discover throws light on extremist terrorism, unaccountable intelligence agencies and political duplicity. Paddy Carpenter's book also opens normally closed doors on the far-from-glamorous and often eccentric business of filmmaking, the art of screenwriting, the practice of aviation and the nature of power and responsibility. And Scriver is forced to question whether a feature film can ever satisfactorily explore and expose truth. Also comes the realisation that his choice of subject has placed his whole life at a major crossroads; everything he has ever believed in is likely to change, and that making his discoveries public may well make that crossroads lonely and dangerous. UNSAFE – The Script of One-Zero-Three is a mystery thriller in its own right, as an already unusual life becomes laced with omens, half-appreciated menace and foreboding, but a huge bonus is its range and quantity of revelations. Whatever their special interest, aviation, politics, crime, terrorism, intelligence, the police, the cinema, other media and more besides, readers will find themselves constantly surprised and frequently shocked by what Scriver and others unearth and disclose. UNSAFE then will appeal to a wide audience -- almost everyone in fact -- for it should include anyone who has ever boarded an airliner while trusting that everything possible has been done to keep them safe. There is much for every reader to think about, file away in the memory and even act upon.


An explosive eye-opener of a book about the screenplay for a film about the Lockerbie bombing. Many people in the western world felt cheated when the an convicted of the atrocity was allowed out of prison to return home to Libya to die, in the same way that train robber Ronnie Biggs was freed to die at home, both men lingering for years until they actually met their makers... Paddy Carpenter's account of Scriver's attempt to make such a film is brilliantly conceived and written, reading almost like a thriller. The extraordinary world of modern day terrorism is laid bare by Carpenter's hands. The blurb is right when it says that this book should appeal to anyone who has boarded an airliner during these troubled times. Absolutely fascinating.


Bill Lawrence: When The Unacceptable Becomes The Norm

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

When the Unacceptable Becomes the Norm is an essential guide for any person looking to place a relative in care or already in the care system. Few subjects have aroused public concern since the millennium more than care for the elderly in the UK, and in particular residential care homes for the elderly. With a rapidly aging population this is a major issue for both national and local government, as well as a personal problem for innumerable people finding themselves in this situation. The media have widely reported the shortcomings of care homes for the elderly and in particular the many cases of abuse, neglect and malpractice. By definition, such people are often frail, in poor health and are always very vulnerable. The book seeks to provide advice for the increasing number of people looking for a suitable home for their elderly loved ones, based on both long personal experience and detailed research.The advice on how to choose a care home and then how to keep an elderly loved one safe and well there is practical and down to earth. The author also tells the story of his own battle to protect his mother and his experience dealing with the many outside agencies concerned with care for the elderly, including their many shortcomings and what lessons he learnt along the way.


Patricia Gachagan: Born Together

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

Born Together is the inspiring memoir of Patricia Gachagan, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and her determination to overcome the challenges to live a full life and to be a mother to her son, Elliot. When Patricia became pregnant with Elliot, she could not contain her joy and elation at the prospect of starting a family. But within hours of his birth, her body began to deteriorate. Born Together tells of Patricia's struggle to cope with her declining health and the simultaneous demands of motherhood. Eventually, Patricia was diagnosed with MS, and it was put to her that her immune system had attacked itself, in error, following the birth of her baby boy. Patricia took an alternative approach to almost everything and refused to settle for a prognosis of a life of disability and vulnerability. Many doubted her ability to succeed, but her determination to turn her life around was rewarded with a new and pioneering treatment, researched by Medical Research Scotland and part-funded by the Scottish Government Enterprise Scheme. Born Together is a unique story of courage and innovation which will both move and inspire the readers. It provides an eye-opening insight into life and motherhood with Multiple Sclerosis, and into the world of new therapies with Patricia being the first person, with MS, to test the Robo-Physio device - a new invention that is currently being researched further. Born Together will inspire its readers who are also living with MS when it is released in time for World MS Day in May 2017.


Donald Curtis: Responsibility and its Avoidance

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

We live in anxious times, all too aware that governments can fail, markets too collapse and that NGOs, parties and other organisations in civil society are also prone to lose sight of the common good. Responsibility and its Avoidance seeks to understand the dynamic processes through which people struggle to produce a sound environment, stable trading arrangements, competent governance, personal security and other aspects of a 'liveable society'. In Responsibility and its Avoidance, Donald Curtis brings a practitioner focus as a project manager in development to his essays, as well as a UK and World citizen concern for current social dilemmas. He seeks and occasionally finds, enlightenment in academic theory but, aware that contradictions in governance are as old as history, sometimes seeks solace in other people's cultures or in literature. A key finding is that good governance is a matter of exercised responsibility. What emerged, through the themes of the various chapters, is that society's attempts to create constitutions, governance structures and management processes through which leaders and citizens can exercise responsibility for the public good, run up against an avoidance paradox. As soon as an agreed allocation of responsibilities is achieved, with obligations and commitments set out and accountability processes established, perverse incentives set in. Common purpose can always be deemed personally costly, encouraging neglect, manipulation, avoidance or other forms of negation. The socially concerned citizen must commit to constant struggle against institutional decay and corruption; so runs Curtis' thesis: responsibility is not good unless it is shared.


Mark Bisson: Coach Yourself First

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

Why is self-reflection critical for coaches and supervisors? How could you enhance you self-reflection capability? What approaches, models and tools could you use to self reflect? Coach Yourself First provides a balance of theory and practical guidance to support coaches and coach supervisors on their journey of improving their ability to self-reflect in their practice. It describes the contextual theory relating to self-reflection and provides a variety of approaches, models and tools covering the different learning styles which coaches can use to develop new awareness and insight. Starting with a description of the history of the theory of self-reflection, it continues through to its use in healthcare, teaching and education-based professions. Links are made with the core competencies of coaching and the research evidence base which proves the benefits of self-reflection. Coach Yourself First is interwoven with personal stories and insights from the author which add a richness and real world perspective to the practical guidance provided through a variety of approaches to self-reflection including creative tools, reflective writing techniques, reflective metaphors, reflective poetry, sand play, and a number of visual approaches. Bursting with helpful advice for all skill levels, it will appeal to novice and established coaches alike.

Kurt Hartmann: Kafka, Einstein, Kaffeinski and Me

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

Kafka, Einstein, Kafeinski and Me speculates in a fictionalised but plausible way that for several months at the beginning of the 20th century, Einstein and Kafka conversed heatedly, first in Prague and later in Berlin, about the loftiest of ideas but also about everyday matters. We learn about their conversations through the answers they are imagined to be giving to questions the narrator of the novel is asking them. 

The narrator’s fantasy then conjures up the scientist and the novelist in a café in Berlin a hundred years later, after the 20th century had run its course. Their conversation is being constantly interrupted by the investigations of a murder which was committed near the café and which may have been racially motivated. Memories of the Holocaust gets Einstein actively involved and his effort helps solve the case. Their discussion climaxes when Einstein admits that the more he understands the universe the more pointless it seems. Kafka too is convinced of the universe’s pointlessness. They’ve hit common ground and vanish below their epitaphs. 

An idiosyncrasy in Einstein’s equations then catapults the narrator thirty odd years back in time to re-live a haunting love story in Cold War Berlin, the most Kafkaesque of times and places. As things unfold for the second time, they become tainted in curious ways by the conversations he imagined his two icons to have had with each other. The novel begins with that love story in Cold War Berlin.

Rob Rondeau: Titanic Lives

Published by Formac/Lorimer 15th January 2013

The sinking of the Titanic on its maiden voyage in 1912 captured the world's attention a hundred years ago and still holds it today. Although it was bound for New York, more than 100 passengers aboard the ocean-liner were headed for Canada. Titanic Lives delves into the unique stories of ten of those passengers. Some were rich - like railroad tycoon Charles Melville Hays and a scion of Montreal's Molson family. Others were not, and would have been lost to history had they not been a part of this unforgettable story. From the scandalous romance between Montreal's Quigg Baxter and his French showgirl mistress, to one woman's search for her toddler and husband as the life boats were being launched from the decks, this book gives its readers a glimpse into the lives of those who took that fateful voyage on the Titanic. You will hear about Paul Chevre, renowned French artist travelling to Montreal to reveal his latest sculpture, and Arthur Peuchen, the wealthy chemist and lumber king whose last-minute decision to board the Titanic turned him into both a hero and a target. Be it nursemaid, cabaret dancer or ex-soldier, Rob Rondeau weaves together the unique and compelling stories of ten people sharing one common thread - they were all on board the Titanic, destination Canada.


Rondeau's book concentrates on just ten of the thousands of passengers and crew who took that faeful journey in 1912. The detail is remarkable, the photographs eerily chilling, and the whole experience contributes such a lot to the Titanic canon. Superb.


Jerry Lockett: The Discovery of Weather

Published by Formac/Lorimer 1st March 2013

In the mid-nineteenth century, the new science of weather forecasting was fraught with controversy on both sides of the Atlantic. In the United States, a bitter dispute about the nature of storms had raged for decades, and forecasting was hampered by turf wars then halted by the Civil War. Forecasters in England struggled with the scientific establishment for recognition and vied with astrologers and other charlatans for public acceptance. One of the voices in this struggle was Stephen Saxby, a British naval instructor who thought he had found a sure-fire way of forecasting storms. He championed a popular, but somewhat eccentric, theory that weather disturbances are linked to stages in the moon's orbit of the earth. Saxby got lucky. One of his well-known long-range predictions-for a serious storm on October 4, 1869-was right on the button. On that very day, a deadly hurricane caused massive floods along the eastern seaboard of the United States then barrelled ashore at the Canadian border. The timing of the storm could hardly have been worse. Coinciding with an extremely high tide, the resulting storm surge breached centuries-old dykes at the head of the Bay of Fundy. In The Discovery of Weather, author Jerry Lockett traces the early days of weather forecasting, the background to Saxby's prediction, and the drama of the storm itself. About the Author: Jerry Lockett is a Halifax-based writer and editor. His first book, Captain James Cook in Atlantic Canada, won the Dartmouth Book Awards prize for nonfiction in 2011. A two-time Atlantic Journalism Awards finalist, his work has appeared in publications in Canada, the United States, and Britain, including New Scientist, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Geographical Magazine, Equinox, Cruising World, Blue Water Sailing and many others. He has felt the wrath of two hurricanes―Hugo in 1989 and Juan in 2003―and thinks that's enough for anyone.


There is a wide-held belief that the English are obsessed with the weather - and I can testify that that is true. Barely a day goes by without me moaning to my wife that the forecasters have got it wrong once again for our part of the world - either that or they haven't bothered to tell us about something, for instance the gale force winds we experienced last night whilst waiting for the thunderstorms they promised us but which never materialised. For all their modern equipment, charts and forecasting models, they rarely get it right here in North Norfolk, yet we still watch it. Earlier in the week we had thick fog for most of the day, something that was not picked up by the BBC forecasters, who forecasted a blisteringly hot day, whilst our temperature on the north sea coast hovered arounf 10 degrees for most of the day. As you can see, I don't have a lot of time for weather forecasters who forecast a completely dry day for us from Norwich when just down the road, on the coast, it's pouring with rain and we're unprepared because we've watched their weather forecast! This is an essential book for students of meteorology and social history alike... but it doesn't alter the fact that time and again they get it wrong here - more wrong than right!


Douglas Roche: Peacemakers

Published by Formac/Lorimer 15th May 2014

A world without war: this is the vision that Douglas Roche has pursued for decades. A long-time Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament, Canadian ambassador for disarmament, and later a senator, Roche has been in the thick of international affairs for more than forty years. Though few of us realize it, today the world is more peaceful than in past centuries. Wars have diminished destruction dramatically in the past two decades. This is no accident -- it is the cumulative result of the work of the world's peacemakers. Sometimes in public, often behind the scenes, talented high achievers are waging a campaign for peace that is in ascendance over the warlike intentions of the arms industry, military generals, and aggressive government leaders. Neither Roche nor the peacemakers shy away from the thorniest issues the world faces -- including the threat posed by nuclear weapons, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and multiple threats of genocidal violence. Roche shows how new ideas like the responsibility to protect innocent civilians from genocide or armed attack by their own government, and new institutions like the International Criminal Court are moving the world along the path to the end of war. To tell this story, Roche profiles some leading peacemakers of our time and the work they are doing, and also interviews keen observers of world politics who offer informed commentary on the work of the peacemakers. You will meet former prime ministers and foreign ministers, senior UN officials, religious figures, women's organization leaders and activists. Few are household names. Roche documents the many successes of the past two decades in reducing conflict in the world, and in creating structures and institutions which are making war less likely and more difficult for states to initiate.


It's true that we don't really know what's going on behind the scenes - what we do know is that despite Roche's assurances that we are all safer from war and destruction, right now there is a madman in the USA hell-bent on destroying much of the progress that was made by President Obama and his envoys in the Middle East. This is serious stuff, and will probably appeal only to serious students of such matters, but I find it particularly significant that Douglas Roche just happens to be a member of possibly the most enlightened of the western world's government, in Canada.



The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its sixteenth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.