Book of the week, November 23rd 2019

Charlie Mackesy, was an artist, cartoonist and book illustrator when he first started posting a series of unique drawings on Instagram. They highlighted simple truths – like the courage it can take to ask for help or the importance of taking that first step to a distant destination. The drawings became an online sensation shared around the world and have now been developed into chart topping book.

Through these beautifully illustrated pages, four friends – a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse share their observations of life from different perspectives. Direct, wise and startlingly original they embody a straightforward approach to living that cuts through the confusion of modern life.

The themes of generosity, kindness, courage, hope and humour shine through in these simple exchanges.

The book is for everyone from eight of eighty and is to be dipped into anywhere, anytime.

Ebury hardback, £16.99.

Book of the Week, November 16th 2019

Orford Ness, the 10-mile-long shingle spit the stretches down from Aldeburgh is a strange, ever shifting landscape and a unique habitat for wildlife now looked after by the National Trust. For most of the 20th century it was one of the most secret experimental military sites in the country and rusting army relics are scattered across the bleak landscape.

Written by Robert Macfarlane with atmospheric ink drawings by Stanley Donwood, this short book is as mysteriously evocative as the landscape which inspired it. It is a kind of modern-day fable where the landscape itself becomes alive.

In folklore the ‘hagstone’ – a flint with a natural hole through it, has supernatural power. It can be a window to see deep into the future or the past. The hagstone is the image at the heart of this haunting tale which in words and pictures explores the different demands of nature and mankind.

Penguin Books hardback, £14.99

Book of the Week, November 9th 2019

Schizophrenia is the most dramatic and terrifying of mental health conditions. It is probably also the most misunderstood.

Nathan Filer, a mental health nurse, takes us into the ward to meet some of the people his has cared for and in doing so blows away much of the stigma and confusion that surround mental illness. Behaviour that may appear odd, erratic or dangerous can make perfect sense with one assumption changed about the world. If someone believes that their medicine has been poisoned it becomes rational to resist it at all costs. Someone who hears voices might feel themselves called to become a priest by God, another may be diagnosed schizophrenic. The way we view unusual behaviour and label it is inconsistent.

With contributions from doctors and psychologists who are challenging the way mental illness is diagnosed and treated this book offers kind and progressive new insights into what it means to be human.

Faber hardback, £14.99

Book of the Week, November 2nd 2019

‘The Book of Dust‘ Volume Two

This is the second book of a sequence that follows the enormously popular fantasy trilogy, ‘His Dark Materials’– coming to a TV screen near you very soon.

In the first, Lyra was a baby, saved from a flooded world by 11-year-old Malcolm. Now Lyra is 20 and a student in Oxford where Malcolm is a lecturer.

Lyra’s studies are interrupted when she stumbles upon the murder of a botanist in the back streets of Oxford. Later, at the police station to report what she saw, she realises that the murderer is a policeman.

The victim was a professor studying botanical lore and the mystical power of flowers. Unable to trust the police, Lyra embarks on a long and increasingly dangerous journey that pits her against a mysterious but powerful religious organisation and a ruthless multinational chemical company.

The exciting and exotic adventures that follow force Lyra to appreciate that there is a price to pay for leaving childhood behind.

Penguin Books, Hardback £20.00

Book of the Week, October 26th 2019

Fifty years ago John le Carre’s spy novels defined the genre. His latest is set in 2018 and the themes are entirely contemporary.

Nat is an aging MI6 spymaster and after 25 years of recruiting and running agents in Europe he is withdrawn from the field and shuffled off to a low-profile desk job in a run down and overlooked office. Relaxing at his badminton club he is challenged by Ed, a geeky young newcomer and the two become friends. Ed is outspoken about Brexit, and furious at the shifts in the national psyche that made it possible. But suspicions emerge that Ed, is more than he appears to be and Nat finds himself looking up old contacts to investigate what appears to be a covert Anglo- American operation to destabilise the EU.

Now 88, le Carré retains his masterful control of pacing and suspense in this thrilling and topical tale of spies, lies and political subterfuge.

Viking Hardback, £20.00

Book of the Week, October 19th 2019

We may be made of over 70% water but microscopic amounts of a vast array of rare elements are needed to make a fully functioning adult human and the to buy all the raw materials would cost over £95,000. Our bodies are a miracle of design and packaging. Unpacked our lungs would cover a tennis court and our blood vessels would stretch 2½ times around the world. Each day we are likely to inhale at least one molecule from the breaths of every person who has ever lived.

Bill Bryson is the perfect guide on this whistle stop tour around the human body, mixing science and fun facts about the brain, heart, lungs, guts and genitals with fascinating human stories of medical discovery. He explains how everything works but also how things can go wrong in a gloriously entertaining exploration of the ‘warm wobble of flesh’ that we so easily take for granted.

Transworld Hardback, £25.00