What We're Reading

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Neil

Women and Power, by Mary Beard (Profile Books 2017)

A brilliant little book from the renowned English classics professor, which confronts how women have been treated from the classical world to the present day, and seeks to redefine the structures of power.

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Neil

The Crofter and the Laird, by John McPhee (Daunt Books 2017)

John McPhee - now 86 - is one of the pioneers of creative non-fiction, and has had a long association with The New Yorker. Many of his 29 books have been based on stories first published there, including this one - published in that magazine in 1969, and in book form in 1970. This is a welcome new edition. In 1969, he moved his family from New Jersey to the island of Colonsay, off the coast of Scotland, to live in the land of his forefathers. This book explores the history and legend of the remote island, and provides entertaining portraits of many of its 138 inhabitants.

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Neil

Consent, by Leo Benedictus (Faber March 2018)

A dark and very disturbing thriller, in which the reader is made to feel complicit in the horrors wrought by the narrator. This is not a pleasant book, but it is compelling and original.

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Neil

Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, by Kapka Kassabova (Granta 2017)

The densely forested border area between Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey was once heavily militarised. It isn't any longer, but it is still haunted by the past, and is now a crucial pathway for refugees fleeing conflict further to the East. Kapka Kassabova explores this enigmatic and little-known region, and reports on the borderlines between nations, people and cultures with her typical iridescent prose and remarkable depth of research. This is a graceful and moving travelogue and political history, reminiscent of writers such as Patrick Leigh Fermor and Tim Cope.

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Neil

Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago , by Patrick Barkham (Granta 2017)

In Islander, Patrick Barkham, travels to and reports on 11 islands of the coast of Great Britain, from the known - Isle of Man, St Kilda, Barra - to the small, unknown and uninhabited - Bardsey, Osea, Ray. It's an evocative and vividly observed book, and Barkham investigates history and culture and seeks to discover what it's like to live on an island, and what it means to be an islander.

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Neil

An Atlas of Countries That Don't Exist, by Nick Middleton (Macmillan 2015)

This atlas is in the same style as the recent Atlas of Improbable Places, and the Atlas of Untamed Places - highly designed 'books as objects', a selection of unusual places illustrated and mapped; rather superficial perhaps, but enjoyable diversions nonetheless. This example asks 'What is a country?' and describes parts of the world where independence has been declared but not recognised by anyone, or short-lived nations and places whose definition is unclear. Entertaining, informative, and stylish.