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Books on this page - click to go to the title you want to read about


Chocolate: The British Chocolate Industry

What Tommy Took To War

Railway Ribaldry

A Century of Railway Travel

A Century of Royalty

A Century of Hairstyles

Forget The Hunger Games - Jeff Povey's Shift is the hottest teenage adventure to hit the bookshops for years... this man knows all there is to know about characters!

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You are here: Books Monthly » Reviews » New from Shire Publishing, Old House & Osprey »

Shire/Old House Book of the Month:

Paul Chrystal: Chocolate - The British Chocolate Industry


Published by Shire Library, Paperback on 10th October, 2011


Kit Kat, Turkish Delight, Creme Egg, Rolo and All Gold: they are all as much a part of British life as were the companies that made them and which led the chocolate revolution in the nineteenth century: Rowntree’s, Fry’s, Cadbury’s, Mackintosh and Terry’s. This book charts the history of chocolate manufacture, marketing and consumption in Britain from its origins in the eighteenth century. It then describes the golden age from 1900 to the 1970s and the subsequent US and Swiss invasions, spearheaded by brands such as Mars, Toblerone and Nestlé’s Milky Bar, including the takeovers by Nestle and Kraft.


I have always had an absolute favourite chocolate bar - Fry's Chocolate Cream - I used to buy this in the 1950s, along with their Five Boys bar, Peppermint Cream and other variations, but Fry's chocolate was always my favourite, and I'm pleased to see that Fry's is the first major chocolate manufacturer to be profiled in this excellent Shire paperback, followed by Cadbury's and Rowntrees. The early advertising and packaging designs are exquisitely reproduced, along with a history of how chocolate made its mark in this country, and the photographs of the factories and the people employed in them are a social history buff's dream. This is a brilliant history of the British Chocolate Industry, beautifully illustrated and very well written. Excellent!


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Peter Doyle & Chris Foster: What Tommy Took To War 1914-1918

Published by Shire Books, Hardback on 10th March 2014


What Tommy Took To War tells sobering, fascinating stories that bring the ordinary Tommy's experiences back to life with poignant immediacy. With striking original photography by Chris Foster and expert text from noted historian Peter Doyle, it looks in detail at fifty objects that Tommy would have had in his kit and which would have accompanied, equipped and comforted him during his wartime ordeals: official uniform, training manual, cigarettes, good-luck charms, sweethearts' letters, foreign phrasebook and myriad others. Together, these artefacts give us a serious and informative, yet touching and even occasionally amusing, picture of the ordinary soldier's experience of the First World War.


A new title in Shire's 100-page series, this time a timely collection of photos and information about the kinds of things tommies (British Expeditionary Force soldiers were known as "tommies") had to or chose to take with them to the Western Front and other theatres of war during the 1914-18 conflict. Fifty objects, beautifully photographes, with each facing page describing the object and the reasons for its inclusion. It's almost "First World War in fifty objects... - absolutely brilliant series, and this is the best title in the series yet...


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William Heath Robinson: Railway Ribaldry - Being 96 pages of Railway Humour

Published by Old House, Hardback on 10th June 2014


First published for the centenary of the Great Western Railway in 1935, 'Railway Ribaldry' is an affectionate and humorous look at life on board the company's famous trains, incorporating some of William Heath Robinson's own trademark madcap contraptions. Featuring almost 100 cartoons - including amusing takes on the varied duties of railway police, the first 'ladies only' carriage and countless 'ingenious plans' and inventions - it is the perfect gift for any railway enthusiast.


Any collection of illustrations by Heath Robinson is a joy to behold, and whereas every collection I've see previously has centred on his brilliant genius for mechanical contraptions that shouldn't work and probably didn't, in many cases, this one is a reminder of life on the GWR in the 1930s, with almost 100 cartoons, pre-empting the social commentary skills of Giles's cartoons a generation later. The humour is gentle and dry, the cartoons are sublime. A brilliant collection by a brilliant illustrator...


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Paul Atterbury: A Century of Railway Travel

Published by Shire Books, Hardback


From the Edwardian golden age of steam to the present, no mode of travel has captured the hearts of the British people like the railways. In wartime and peace, along major routes and minor, steam, diesel and electric trains have moved goods, taken commuters to work or families on holidays - a constant presence in an always-changing way of life. A Century of Railway Travel tells the story of one hundred years of Britain's railway heritage using striking full-page imagery with commentary from bestselling author Paul Atterbury. He explains the controversial history and unique appeal of the railways, and his expert eye steers the reader from the heyday of steam to the tragedy that was Beeching and rail's recent revival. The book stops to consider the great steam engines, the drivers, luggage, passengers, postcards, tickets, station scenes and carriage interiors we all remember so fondly.


I believe this may be the first in a series of "Century of..." booklets from Shire, with two further titles also published, details of which you'll find below. Each book contains a full page photo with commentary on the opposite page, many of the photographs you will never have seen before. The commentaries are succinct but informative and well written, the photographs are brilliant and well chosen. A brilliant start to a super series...


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Ed West: A Century of Royalty

Published by Shire Books, Hardback


When Edward VII's funeral cortege passed through central London in 1910, the thousands that took to the streets little realised that many of the crown heads of Europe who followed the coffin were shortly to face revolution and exile. But the British royal family has shown an instinct for survival that has prompted it to continually feel the pulse of its people, modernising and reinventing along the way. In the meantime, a nation has witnessed a compelling family saga like no other. Over the last century, a constitution has been thrown into crisis with the abdication of Edward VIII, royal divorces have become commonplace and Queen Elizabeth II faced a serious turn in public sympathy following Princess Diana's death. Yet the dutiful stoicism has always attracted loyalty from the nation, culminating in Diamond Jubilee celebrations whose pomp and splendour was watched enviously around the world. While this book captures the public moments that have defined the British royal story over the last century, it also reminds us of the quirky fallibility of a family who must live their lives with the spotlight forever on.


More brilliance from Shire - this is a celebration of one hundred years of British royalty, and contains some great archive photographs, beginning with the funeral of Edward VII. Ed West's choice of photos is inspired, and the commentaries are absolutely riveting.


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Pamela Church Gibson: A Century of Hairstyles

Published by Shire Books, Hardback


Nothing defines a person like their hairstyle - and what a century it has been for hair! Bangs, bobs, buns, beehives and bouffants have vied with pixie cuts, pin curls, perms and pageboys for ascendancy in an ever-changing parade of ladies' looks and trends, and amongst the men we've seen caesers, comb overs, ducktails, faux hawks, flattops, quiffs and slick backs. From the Edwardian era through the seismic changes of the 1920s and '60s, and including every quirky twist hair history took on its way to the turn of the millennium, this book is a lush visual survey of a hundred years of hairstyles.


The third in the first three titles of the series is a hundred years of hairstyles, and contains some fascinating pictures of people through the last one hundred years as the author illustrates how styles have changed, and looks in some depth at the people making the headlines and the people cutting their hair, too. A fascinating little book, a valuable addition to the Shire library, and a great addition to the world of nostalgia...


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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.