Books for Prisoners – authors’ recommendations

“Books represent a lifeline behind bars, a way of nourishing the mind and filling the many hours that prisoners spend locked in their cells.” Some leading authors recommended books for prisoners as part of the recent campaign ‘Books for PrisonersTouching the void‘.

Martin Amis: I would recommend Primo Levi’s If This is a Man. It is a masterly evocation of something much worse than prison: murderous enslavement for the crime of being born.

 Jim Crace: I’d send the Prison Trilogy by Pramoedya Ananta Toer – written in the head and remembered while on Buru prison island, but denied pen, paper and books.

 Carol Ann Duffy: I would send Jimmy Boyle’s visceral autobiography, A Sense of Freedom. It describes his journey from a violent, criminal youth to the degradation, shame and remorse he experienced in Scotland’s most draconian prisons – and the redemption eventually delivered by literature and art in the special unit at Barlinnie. It is a book everyone concerned with this current debate should read when the most wretched of our fellow citizens, who have nothing, are now being told they have less than nothing.

 Tracy Chevalier: I would recommend giving prisoners Touching the Void by Joe Simpson. It’s a true account of a disastrous climb in the South American Andes in which the two climbers face terrible choices, hit rock bottom, facing death, yet manage to survive. I can imagine prisoners would find a lot to relate to in the story of finding a way up and out from the worst moment of your life.

 Hermione Lee: The Secret Agent, Joseph Conrad. Because it shows the danger and treachery and fear in English public life.

 Ian McEwan: The Grass Arena by John Healy. It’s a long and brilliant postcard from hell. A brutal childhood, alcoholism, a London underworld – this is what it’s like to touch bottom, then find your way up through the game of chess.

  Elif Shafak: My Books for Prisoners recommendation would be Rumi’s Masnavi, composed of six books of poetry. The style is extraordinary, interwoven with stories within stories. The themes Rumi deals with (death, body, love, birth, beauty) are both universal and timeless. His peaceful voice speaks to our hearts and minds across all national and religious borders, and challenges head-on the teachings that promote bigotry, xenophobia and discrimination

The Manly Art of Knitting

“Only a man would knit a hammock with shovel handles for needles and manila rope for yarn.” it says on the back cover.

Published 1972, ‘The Manly Art of Knitting’ by Dave Fougner will fetch the princely sum of £397.04 on Amazon. Unfortunatley we don’t have a copy in the library!

What can you make? The projects chapter includes how to make: a dog blanket, a beanie, a wall hanging (for your horse’s best-in-show award), a saddle blanket for your horse (knitted circularly with sharpened garden hose and “jumbo” yarn), a slipover (jumper) and a rope hammock (knitted with either shovel handles or pool cues with manila rope).

 Plus there’s a section on problems which tells you how to pick up dropped stitches with the end of a knitting needle and a toothpick instead of a crochet hook!

135 new non fiction titles this week

So many titles to choose from, here’s our picks and full listing. Enjoy!

Favourite read  this week:  The Puppy Express: on the road with 25 dogs what could go wrong? All aboard! When David Rosenfelt and his family embarked on a roadtrip across the USA to their new home in Maine, he thought he had prepared for every eventuality. They had mapped out the route, brought three just-in-case SatNavs and had enough snacks to feed an army. There was just one tiny complication – they were travelling with twenty-five rescue dogs: a sure-fire recipe for chaos. But having devoted their lives to rehoming thousands of unwanted and unloved dogs, there was no way they could leave them behind. With nine volunteers, three motorhomes and several contingency plans, David and his very large, very hairy family set off on a journey that will test his patience and his sense of humour to the limits. This is a hilarious and uplifting tale of a canine cross-country adventure like no other; if David and his dogs make it to Maine in one piece, it will be a miracle!

Ben: missing since 1991: his mother's heartbreaking story of endurance and hopeRecommended:

Planet Banksy: unauthorized: the man, his work and movement he inspired Banksy is the world’s foremost graffiti artist, his work adorning streets, walls and bridges across nations and continents. His stencil designs are instantly recognizable and disturbingly precise in their social and political commentary, flavoured with subtle humour and self-awareness. More popular than ever, Banksy has spawned countless imitators, students and fans alike, his fame – although unlooked-for – inevitably transmitting his ideas and work to the international arena. Highlighting both the relevance of Banksy’s work and how his impact has continued to spread, ‘Planet Banksy’ brings together some of the very best pieces of art from all corners of the world that have been inspired by Banksy, as well as featuring some of his own innovative, profound and controversial work

Ben: missing since 1991: his mother’s heartbreaking story of endurance and hope In 1991 Kerry and her son Ben followed Kerry’s parents to live on the Greek island of Kos. On 24 July, she was at work when her mum Christine arrived crying uncontrollably. Ben had been playing outside, and then disappeared. Someone had taken Ben. In her heartbreaking memoir, Kerry describes the agony of being initially suspected by the police, which meant the closure of airport and ferry terminals were delayed, the early sightings that raised their hopes and the hoaxes which dashed them completely. And the unbearable pain of knowing her baby boy was alone somewhere without his mum

The people's songs: the story of modern Britain in 50 songsStuart Maconie The people’s songs: the story of modern Britain in 50 songs In ‘The People’s Songs’, Stuart Maconie argues that what we call pop music has a defiant, unsanctioned concept at its heart: the ability to speak to people, to affect people, to transform their lives. This book tells the story of modern Britain via the records that soundtracked this dramatic and kaleidoscopic period. The story is told chronologically over 50 chapters. At the heart of each is one emblematic song that is discussed fully

For Writers 

  • May – Get started in creative writing Revised edition
  • Dynes – Masterclasses in creative writing

For Cooks

  • The big baking book
  • Kendrick - Free-from food for family & friends: over a hundred delicious recipes, all gluten-free, dairy free & egg free
  • Leith – Leith’s cookery bible rd ed
  • Life – The life plan diet
  • Moine – Mediterranean cookbook
  • Whaite – John Whaite bakes at home

Going somewhere or planning a trip

  • Blasi – Discover Italy rd edition
  • Boyle – The rough guide to Australia Eleventh edition
  • Colbourne – France [Revised edition]
  • Egert-Romanowska – Germany Revised edition
  • Griffin – The rough guide to Scotland Tenth edition
  • Edwards – The rough guide to the USA Eleventh edition
  • Spain [Revised edition]
  • Symington – Portugal [Revised edition]
  • Western USA


  •  Ackroyd – Charlie Chaplin
  • Aitken – Margaret Thatcher
  • Campbell – Roy Jenkin
  • Collins – Michelle Collins
  • Crane – Lana
  • Dudgeon – Maeve Binchy
  • Eyman – John Wayne
  • Kensit – Absolute beginner
  • Kray – Me and my brothers [New] ed
  • Moore – Margaret Thatcher Volume one -Not for turning
  • Mortimer – Dear Lumpy
  • Needham – Ben
  • Nolan – No regrets
  • Ormiston – JMW Turner
  • Saunders – Bonkers
  • Summerscale – The Queen of Whale Cay (Joe Carstairs women champion motor boat racer)
  • Warnock – The gaffer  (football)
  • Webster – The spy with 29 names
  • Wegelius – Domestique (cycling)
  • Wood – It’s only rock ‘n’ roll

Crafters  -Wood – Cross stitch


  • Adie – Fighting on the Home Front
  • Armstrong – How to be an even better manager Ninth edition
  • Banbolt-Simons – Complete Norwegian
  • Barber – Jazz Me Blues
  • Barnes – Levels of life
  • Beeny – Sarah Beeny’s  DIY jobs
  • Bellos – Alex through the looking-glass
  • Brown – Plan of attack
  • Bryant – Parliament Volume 1 Ancestral voices
  • Buchan – A green and pleasant land
  • Canter – The Rev diaries
  • Carter – Force Benedict
  • Carter – The brain book
  • Cioran – A short history of decay
  • Cliffe – Stuart Yorkshire Places and People First
  • Cooksley – The air VCs Updated edition
  • Corrett – Honestly Healthy for life
  • Crane – Empires of the dead
  • Crewdson – Dorothea’s war
  • Cruz – One holy fire
  • Cruz – Run baby run
  • D’Acampo – Pronto!
  • Dalling – Speedway
  • Daniels – Hackney child
  • Dartnell – The knowledge
  • Davies – The artful species
  • Davis – Murder by gaslight in Victorian Bradford
  • Docherty – The tai chi bible
  • Dunlop – Meteorology manual
  • Edwards – Self belief – the vision
  • Edwards-Jones – Restaurant Babylon
  • Entrup – 10 minute make-up
  • Evelegh – The patch
  • Fermor – The broken road
  • Foucault – The order of things
  • Gilfillan – Crime and punishment in Victorian London
  • Graham – The intelligent investor Special ed
  • Grandin – The autistic brain
  • Hannan – High road rider
  • Harris – Not for turning
  • Hasson – Master the skill that will unlock your potential
  • Hayter – GEM Skues
  • Henderson – The wizard
  • Henshaw – The bookshop that floated away
  • Hogsbjerg – CLR James in imperial Britain
  • Holden – No holding back
  • Jaffe – Indigo adults
  • James – Churchill and empire
  • Jameson – Making God laugh
  • Jones – The serpent’s promise
  • Koppel – The astronaut wives club
  • Krupa – Shallow graves in Siberia
  • Law – Woodsman
  • Lewis – Voices from D-Day
  • Lewis – Zero six bravo
  • Lomax – The railway man
  • Lyman – Into the jaws of death
  • MacOnie – The people’s songs
  • Martin – Making it happen
  • Moore – How to create the perfect wife
  • Morris – War
  • O’Brien – The ultimate player’s guide to minecraft
  • Owen – The Yorkshire shepherdess
  • Peer – You can be younger Updated and revised
  • Powers – Letter composed during a lull in the fighting
  • Randall – The last gentleman of the SAS
  • Roberts – Sad men
  • Rosenfelt – The Puppy Express
  • Rudd – The English
  • Scruton – The soul of the world
  • Shelden – Young Titan
  • Shore – Bang in the middle
  • Simpson – Richmonds of the World
  • Stoppard – Baby’s first skills Revised edition
  • Stout – The sociopath next door
  • Stratton – Floyd Patterson
  • Swift – Joe’s small garden handbook
  • Taylor – Scarlett’s women New [edition]
  • Tennant – Design bloggers at home
  • The big baking book
  • Tippett – Born gangster
  • Topol – Creative Destruction of Medicine Revised edition
  • Torday – Dearest Jane
  • Tuffrey – Yorkshire Railways from the Yorkshire Post
  • Turner – A classless society
  • Urban – The tank war
  • Usher – Letters of note
  • Von Daniken – History is wrong
  • Waterhouse – Sharon & Tracy & the rest
  • Watson – The age of nothing
  • Wilcock – Hidden Science of Lost Civilisations
  • Williams – Shafted
  • Williams – Steaming to victory
  • Willis – Twice bitten
  • Wood – The Leeds Pals
  • Woolfson – Your preschoooler bible

If you are doing a walk over Easter …

The big walks of the north: including The Pennine Way, The Coast to Coast Walk, Hadrian's Wall Path, The Cleveland Way, The West Highland Way, The Great Glen WayAre you hoping to get a walk in over Easter?

Starting gently-

50 walks in West Yorkshire: 50 walks of 2-10 miles by John Morrison Clear, easy-to-follow route descriptions for every walk and includes information on what to look out for and places to eat and drink

The inn way -to the Yorkshire Dales: the complete and unique guide to a circular walk in the Yorkshire Dales by Mark Reid  Does what it says on the tin – takes you on quite a long walk with pubs included

Britain’s Best Coastal Walks by Andrew McCloy 15 two- to three-day walks along sections of Britain’s most famous coastal paths, which are shown on clear and detailed maps

Walking the county high points of England by David Bathurst  From Dark Peak on the Pennine Way in Derbyshire to the misty Malverns in Worcestershire and Milk Hill on the Mid-Wilts Way, suggestions for ramblers to experience the English countryside

The big walks of the north: including The Pennine Way, The Coast to Coast Walk, Hadrian’s Wall Path, The Cleveland Way, The West Highland Way, The Great Glen Way by David Bathurst Definitive companion to the ten best-loved long-distance footpaths in the north of Britain, with each split into manageable sections.Ramble on: the story of our love for walking Britain

Wildlife walks: great days out at over 500 of the UK’s top nature reserves by Wildlife Trusts (GB) Covers more than 500 of the UK’s top nature reserves, all of them owned/ managed by the 47 Wildlife Trusts

The most amazing places to walk in Britain: the most beautiful and captivating routes in England, Scotland and Wales by Readers Digest   200 walks through the best of Britain’s countryside, each one specially devised to include amazing views, interesting features, varied landscapes

Great mountain days in the Pennines by Terry Marsh 50 classic walks on the rolling Pennine landscape, set across the backbone of England. The graded routes, between 6 and 13 miles in length cover classic Pennine fells and moorland

 The coast to coast walk by Martin Wainwright Originally devised by the legendary Alfred Wainwright, the Coast-to-Coast Walk is one of Britain’s most popular long-distance walks. Planned to seek out the most spectacular high ground across the country, it goes from the sea in the west to the sea in the east via three of England’s loveliest National Parks: the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. 192 miles, from the quiet Cumbrian village of St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay, which takes even a fit walker a fortnight. Sea cliffs,  mountains, lakes,  rolling dales and finally heather moorland.

Ramble on: the story of our love for walking Britain by Sinclair McKay This text presents a history of walking and our relationship with the British countryside. It tells the story of how country walks and rambling were transformed from a small and often illegal pastime to the most popular recreational activity in the country

Books into new films

Some  new films based on the books. 
Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture and Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn will be released as films in 2015. The following films are due for release in 2014

Under the Skin by Michel Faber 

What it’s about: A voluptuous woman of unknown origin combs the highway in search of isolated or forsaken men, luring a succession of lost souls into an otherworldly lair. They are seduced, stripped of their humanity, and never heard from again. Who’s in it: Scarlett Johansson, Antonia Campbell-Hughes

A Long Way Down by Nick Horby 

What it’s about: Dark comedy about four lost souls – a disgraced TV presenter, a foul-mouthed teen, an isolated single mother, a solipsistic muso- who decide to end their lives on the same night, New Year’s Eve, mutually agree to call off their plans for six  & search together for reasons to keep on living  Who’s in it: Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, Aaron Paul, Rosamund Pike, Sam Neill, Tuppence Middleton, Joe Cole

The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

What it’s about: When an Indian family moves to France and opens a restaurant across the street from a Michelin-starred French eatery, tension builds among families as they struggle with loyalty. Who’s in it: Helen Mirren as chef Madame Mallory, Manish Dayal and Om Puri. Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey Juliet Blake are producing. Release date: Aug. 8

The Giver by Lois Lowry

What it’s about: A young boy named Jonas gets the task of being the new “receiver of memory,” who keeps society’s past memories, but meeting the previous receiver — “the giver” — makes him conflicted. Who’s in it: Brenton Thwaites as Jonas, Jeff Bridges = the giver, plus Taylor Swift, Meryl Streep, and Alexander Skarsgard. Release date: Aug. 15

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

 What it’s about: This thriller from the author of Gone Girl tells the story of Libby Day, whose mother and sisters were murdered at the family’s farmhouse when she was only 7. Her testimony sent her older brother, Ben, to prison for life, and 25 years later, Libby decides to meet with the Kill Club, a group of crime enthusiasts who investigate the case and force her to rethink what really happened. Who’s in it: Charlize Theron — also a producer — as Libby Day, plus Nicholas Hoult, Christina Hendricks, and Chloë Moretz. Release date: Sept. 1

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

What it’s about: Dysfunctional siblings who aren’t used to observing their Jewish faith are forced to fulfill their father’s final wish and ‘sit shivah’ together for an entire week and confront their problems. Who’s in it: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Timothy Olyphant, Jane Fonda, Rose Byrne, and Adam Driver. Release date: Sept. 12

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

 What it’s about: The first in a young adult trilogy, the sci-fi book follows a young protagonist, Thomas, as he navigates a fantasy world called the Glade. With a group of other boys, they must solve the mystery of the maze they’re in while dodging monsters and other danger. Who’s in it: Dylan O’Brien as Thomas. Release date: Sept. 19

Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow (now The Boxtrolls, animated version)

 What it’s about: Similar to works by Roald Dahl, the middle-grade-level book is set in Ratbridge, a place where strange, quirky creatures like boxtrolls and cabbageheads live beneath the city. When a boy named Arthur uncovers an evil plot, he enlists the help of odd allies. Who’s in it: Voices of Ben Kingsley, Toni Collette, Elle Fanning, and Tracy Morgan. Release date: Sept. 26

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

What it’s about: This tightly woven novel is told from two perspectives: that of a husband whose wife suddenly goes missing and from the missing wife herself. Who’s in it: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as Nick and Amy. Release date: Oct. 3

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks

 What it’s about: High school sweethearts Dawson and Amanda reunite years later, when they both return to their hometown. Who’s in it: Michelle Monaghan is Amanda. Release date: Oct. 17

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins This gets 5* from 57 Leeds readers!!

 What it’s about: In the third Hunger Games book, Katniss fights against the corrupt Capitol from within District 13. Who’s in it: Jennifer Lawrence etc Release date: Nov. 21

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit: There and Back Again)

What it’s about: The prequel to the Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit is the story of Bilbo Baggins’s journey — and adventures along the way — through Middle Earth. Who’s in it: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom etc. Release date: Dec. 17

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

What it’s about: Four people meet on New Year’s Eve on the top of a building and form a surrogate family, helping one another overcome the difficulties of their lives. Who’s in it: Aaron Paul, Toni Collette, Pierce Brosnan, and Imogen Poots are all starring.

A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion

 What it’s about: An American woman travels to Central America to reunite with her fugitive daughter. The country is on the brink of a violent revolution, and she is anything but prepared for what she sees. Who’s in it: Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)

Serena by Ron Rash

 What it’s about: Newlyweds George and Serena move from Boston to North Carolina in 1929 to start a timber business. The pair are ruthless in building their empire, and when Serena finds out that she can’t have children, she sets out to kill George’s illegitimate son. Who’s in it: Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

 What it’s about: A young woman named Bathsheba Everdene has to deal with the difficult, sometimes tragic consequences of being in relationships with three different suitors at the same time. Who’s in it: Carey Mulligan, Tom Sturridge, and Matthias Schoenaerts

Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges (The Imitation Game)

 What it’s about: The book tells the story of British mathematician Alan Turing, who helped crack Nazi codes for the Allies during World War II. Who’s in it:  Benedict Cumberbatch, poss Keira Knightley.

Devil’s Knot by Mara Leveritt

 What it’s about: The savage murders of three young children spark a controversial trial of three teenagers accused of killing the children as part of a satanic ritual. Who’s in it: Reese Witherspoon, Stephen Moyer (Bill in True Blood) , Dane DeHaan, and Colin Firth.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

 What it’s about: Cheryl Strayed details her physical and emotional journey along the Pacific Coast Trail in the wake of losing her mother. Who’s in it: Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl, Laura Dern as Cheryl’s mother.

Trash by Andy Mulligan

 What it’s about: When three boys in a third world country discover something valuable in a trash heap, they find themselves at the heart of a major mystery. Who’s in it: Rooney Mara,  Martin Sheen.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson What it’s about: The humorous memoir follows an Iowa-born man who returns to America after 20 years in England to walk the Appalachian Trail. Who’s in it: Robert Redford, Nick Nolte ; directed by Richard Linklater.
Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern (now Love, RosieWhat it’s about: Childhood best friends Alex and Rosie are separated as teenagers when Alex’s family moves from Dublin to America. Rosie feels lost and plans to join him in Boston, but a surprise pregnancy keeps her tied to Ireland, and they struggle to navigate true love. Who’s in it: Lily Collins and Sam Claflin.
If you want to read these, just reserve them and we will try to get them for you.
The Switch by Elmore Leonard (now Life of Crime) –  What it’s about: In this prequel to Jackie Brown, two convicts kidnap a woman married to a real estate developer. The plan hits a snag when he doesn’t want his wife back and refuses to pay the ransom. Who’s in it: Tim Robbins and Jennifer Aniston as the husband and wife, John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) as the kidnappers.
Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman -  What it’s about: When two little girls, Alice and Ronnie, find an infant in an abandoned stroller, a terrible incident shatters three families. Seven years later, the girls are 18 and trying to find a new start, but the crime keeps haunting the families and the police — especially when another child disappears. Who’s in it: Dakota Fanning and Danielle Macdonald;  Diane Lane,  Elizabeth Banks .
All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (now Edge of Tomorrow)  – What it’s about: The sci-fi book tells the story of Keiji Kiriya, a recruit who fights against an alien invasion, dies, and then finds himself reborn each morning to fight and die again. Things change, though, when he meets a female fighter. Who’s in it: Tom Cruise as Lt. Col. Bill Cage, with Emily Blunt.
A Walk Among the Tombstones by Lawrence Block  - What it’s about: Scudder is an ex-NYPD cop, unlicensed private detective, and recovering alcoholic who is hired to find the kidnapped wife of a drug dealer. In the process, he discovers that the kidnappers have done this before and it has led to brutal murders. Who’s in it: Liam Neeson as Matt Scudder.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst -  What it’s about: In this classic children’s book, Alexander has pretty much the worst day ever, as the title implies. Who’s in it: Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner as Alexander’s parents. Release date: Oct. 10If I Stay by Gayle Forman -  What it’s about: This novel follows a young girl who’s been in a terrible accident. After the trauma, 17-year-old Mia can’t remember what happened, but she slowly tries to put all the pieces together in her mind. Who’s in it: Chloë Moretz as Mia.

Hector and the Search For Happiness by Francois Lelord -  What it’s about: Traveling across the world, Hector takes notes on all the people he meets, hoping to find the secret to happiness. Who’s in it: Toni Collette, Jean Reno, Simon Pegg, and Christopher Plummer .

True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa by Michael Finkel - What it’s about: In True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa, a former New York Times writer recounts his bizarre downfall. As he was about to be fired for fabricating details on a big story, Finkel learned that an arrested mass murderer named Christian Longo had posed as Finkel Who’s in it: Jonah Hill as Finkel,  James Franco as Longo.

One Fat Summer by Robert Lipsyte (now Measure of a Man) - What it’s about: A boy named Bobby Marks struggles with his dysfunctional family, his absent best friend, and a local bully when he spends the summer at a lake house.  Who’s in it: Christina Hendricks of Mad Men as Bobby’s mum, Bobby=  Riley Griffiths.


Thanks to Buzzfeed

The Sinking of the RMS Tayleur: the lost story of the Victorian Titanic

The Sinking of RMS TayleurThe Sinking of the RMS Tayleur by Gill Hoffs is a fascinating story of a shipping disaster.

The loss of the Titanic is a much written about tragedy that has been covered several times in films and novels, yet not many people have heard of another White Star Line disaster: the sinking of the RMS Tayleur. 

 The wrecking of the RMS Tayleur made headlines nearly 60 years before the Titanic. Both were run by the White Star Line, both were heralded as the most splendid ships of their time – and both sank in tragic circumstances on their maiden voyages. In fact, in the year of the RMS Tayleur disaster, 893 ships were wrecked in Great British and Irish waters, with a death toll of at least 1,500. Despite the risks, people continued to flood into Liverpool on their way to a new life. “That was the level of desperation and starvation these poor people were reduced to,” says the author.

On 19 January 1854 the Tayleur, a large merchant vessel, left Liverpool for Australia; packed with hopeful emigrants, her hold stuffed with cargo of  a huge cargo including 15 tons of wire fencing, seven ploughs, bottled beer, Sicilian wine, 30 blank gravestones and a piano. One theory put forward is that the ship’s revolutionary iron hull prevented its compasses from working. Bad weather meant the ship became lost in the Irish Sea, a storm sweeping  the 650 people aboard towards a cliff. The captain ordered the anchors dropped but the chain snapped and the ship headed to the rocks. He tried to swing the ship broadside to the rocks so the passengers would have a chance to escape but this just meant their jagged edges cut into the ship.

With no beach or shore at the base of the cliffs, the passengers had just a rocky niche to aim for and many of them were drowned or crushed in their efforts to get away. In less than an hour, more than half those who had boarded the ship were dead – only three out of the 70 children are known to have survived.

The reason so little is known about the disaster today is that there was a massive cover-up, the author claims. “In the aftermath there was a lot of hushing up so people would still use the White Star ships. At the inquest there was all sorts of foul play going on including a mysterious Mr Jones who claimed to be a clerk who’d come over from Liverpool out of pure curiosity. When the inquest began he pulled the captain and more senior crew away and claimed they’d never been there.”


The Orwell Prize 2014

The annual Orwell Prize is Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing. The award is made for the work which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. There are two awards, one given to a book, the other to a journalist. The longlist of books was chosen from 235 entries, the journalists from 167 entries. The winners in both categories win £3000 each.

Here’s the longlist for the Book Prize

The Tragedy of Liberation by Frank Dikotter In 1949 Mao Zedong hoisted the red flag over Beijing’s Forbidden City. Instead of liberating the country, the communists destroyed the old order and replaced it with a repressive system that would dominate every aspect of Chinese life. In an epic of revolution and violence which draws on newly opened party archives, interviews and memoirs, the author interweaves the stories of millions of ordinary people with the brutal politics of Mao’s court

The General by Ahmed Errachidi On September 11th 2001, in a café in London, Ahmed Errachidi watched as the twin towers collapsed. In a series of terrible events, Ahmed was sold by the Pakistanis to the Americans and spent 5 years in Guantánamo. Beaten, tortured and humiliated, he did not give in, instead this very ordinary, Moroccan-born London chef became a leader of men. Known by the authorities as The General, he devised protests and resistance by any means possible- and eventually freed, his innocence admitted.

The World’s Most Dangerous Place by James Fergusson Although the war in Afghanistan is now in its endgame, the West’s struggle to eliminate the threat from Al Qaida is far from over. In 2010 Al Qaida operatives were reportedly streaming out of central Asia towards Somalia . What is now happening in Somalia directly threatens the security of the world, how Somalia became the world’s most dangerous place and what we can / should – do about it

The British Dream by David Goodhart One of Britain’s most influential centre-left thinkers examines UK immigration policy and argues that there have been unforeseen consequences which urgently need to be addressed

Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape by Jay Griffiths While travelling the world in order to write her award-winning book ‘Wild’, the author became aware of the huge differences in how childhood is experienced in various cultures. One central riddle, in particular, captured her imagination: why are so many children in Euro-American cultures unhappy and why is it that children in many traditional cultures seem happier?  ‘Kith’ explores these questions

This Boy by Alan Johnson, former Home Secretary  The story of two incredible women: Alan Johnson’s mother, Lily, who battled against poor health, poverty, domestic violence and loneliness to try to ensure a better future for her children; and his sister, Linda, who had to assume an enormous amount of responsibility to protect her family

The Red Fortress by Catherine Merridale The Kremlin is one of the few buildings in the world which still keeps its original, late medieval function: as a palace, built to intimidate the ruler’s subjects and to frighten foreign emissaries. ‘Red Fortress’ conveys this sense of the Kremlin as a stage set, nearly as potent under Vladimir Putin as it was under earlier, far more baleful inhabitants

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography by Charles Moore ‘Not For Turning’ is the first volume his authorized biography of Maggie.

The Confidence Trap by David Runciman Why do democracies lurch from success to failure? The current financial crises is just one example of how things keep going wrong, just when it looked like they were going right. Wide-ranging, original, compelling, this is the story of modern democracy through the history of moments of crisism from WW1 to 2008 economic crash.

One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore.  Fiction – If your children were forced to testify against you, what terrible secrets would they reveal? Moscow 1945. Stalin and his courtiers celebrate victory over Hitler, then shots ring out & on a nearby bridge, a teenage boy and girl lie dead. It’s no ordinary tragedy and they’re no ordinary teenagers, but the children of Russia’s most important leaders who attend the most exclusive school in Moscow. Murder? Suicide? Or a conspiracy against the state?

These aren’t in stock, please reserve them if you would like to read them:

  • The XX Factor by Alison Wolf
  • Edmund Burke by Jesse Norman
  • Coolie Woman by Gaiutra Bahadur
  • Sex and the Citadel by Shereen El Feki