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A World on Fire: An Epic History of...
Amanda Foreman
 
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A hefty book about Anglo-American diplomacy during the American civil war. It sounds daunting, but is a brilliant piece of exposition and story-telling.

Bernard Cornwell - 26/09/2013
An English Affair: Sex, Class and...
Richard Davenport-Hines
 
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The Profumo affair fascinated just about every adolescent boy in the UK back in the early 60s, and I doubt that many of us forget the risqué photographs of Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice Davies that were splashed all over the place. This is a thorough and comprehensive look at the affair from all sides, and a fascinating view of the times. It makes for compelling reading.

Peter Robinson - 14/08/2013
Modernity Britain: Book One: Opening...
David Kynaston
 
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I've enjoyed all David Kynaston's forays into the recent past, and this is no exception. It's not just a history of the politics of the Macmillan era, but a social history full of detail and colour, anecdotes and revealing vignettes, of a time when Britain was changing rapidly, when Prime Minister Harold Macmillan told the assembled members of his Conservative party, 'Most of our people have never had it so good.'

Peter Robinson - 14/08/2013
Future Perfect: The Case for Progress...
Steven Johnson
 
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Besides mapping the ways our connected society will be both different and better, 'Future Perfect' makes a timely and aspirational case that progress is still possible.

Biz Stone - 16/06/2014
Tuscany: A History
Tuscany: A History (Paperback)
Alistair Moffat
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Alistair Moffat writes beautifully on history and topography. Here he leads us through that moist entrancing of Italian regions, Tuscany.

Alexander McCall Smith - 28/07/2011
Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst...
Wendy Moore
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Also recommended in reference by David Mitchell

David Mitchell - 11/03/2011
The Rose
The Rose (Hardback)
Jennifer Potter
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A lovely book that combines my love of history with my love of old roses. The research is detailed and accessible, with wonderful photos of the history of roses in art too.

Lindsey Davis - 20/03/2012
Wellington
Wellington (Paperback)
Elizabeth Longford
 
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Still the best biography of the great man, written with admiration, sympathy and an eye for the telling detail.

Bernard Cornwell - 26/09/2013
Richard I
Richard I (Paperback)
John Gillingham
 
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John Gillingham is a scholar, addicted to understanding Richard the Lionheart. He is also readable and intuitive in his judgments of England’s emblematic king. A must for anyone interested in the Lionheart.

Justin Cartwright - 03/09/2013
If This is a Man/The Truce
Primo Levi; Stuart Woolf
 
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Read it and weep. The world's most human genius remembers Auschwitz.

Louisa Young - 21/05/2014
All Hell Let Loose: The World at War...
Max Hastings
 
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This is about as clear an account as you'll get of the Second World War. You get the big picture, the generals, politicians, strategies, battles, but you also get the scale of human suffering, the courage and the cruelty, the stories of ordinary men and women caught up in something beyond their comprehension.

Peter Robinson - 14/08/2013
There Was a Country: A Personal...
Chinua Achebe
 
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Chinua Achebe died recently. He was by a long way Africa’s finest novelist, and a substantial figure in Nigeria. This book is his last, his account of the Biafran war, when his people, the Igbo, suffered terribly. It is also a fascinating account of his upbringing and literary education.

Justin Cartwright - 03/09/2013
In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living...
Michela Wrong
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Of all the works inspired by Heart of Darkness, this one offers the most absorbing and astonishing chronicle of “the horror” of Congo after Conrad, under the grotesque dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko.

Maya Jasanoff - 29/05/2012
Going Solo
Going Solo (Paperback)
Roald Dahl
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As with Easton Ellis, I could have put any number of Dahl’s novels on this list – The Witches, Matilda, Danny The Champion Of The World – but this second part of his autobiography (which started with Boy) is utterly joyous. It’s as fantastic and funny and weird and thrilling as any of his fiction, taking in lions, snakes, fighters planes, deserts, and a cast of characters as eccentric as he’s ever had to play with. It’s completely delightful.

Will Hill - 15/03/2012
Herculaneum: Past and Future
Andrew Wallace-Hadrill
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I have to choose some Roman books, and of all those glorious tomes on the eruption of Vesuvius, this big new coffee-table volume really shines. It’s the product of Andrew’s years as the Director of the British School at Rome and his involvement in the Herculaneum Conservation Project, so as well as being beautiful and informative, it makes us think about what we want from this key archaeological site and how its conservation should be managed.

Lindsey Davis - 20/03/2012
A People's History of London
John Rees; Lindsey German
 
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Does what it says on the tin: a look at the history of the people of London. It’s wonderful to recall the radical past of such staid tourist spots as St Paul’s Cathedral and Trafalgar Square. Levellers and lollards, rioters and rebels, dockers and match girls…. An irrepressible book about an irrepressible community.

Zadie Smith - 10/08/2012

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