There is no shortage of books to stick your nose into this upcoming Spring. Expect a revolutionary guide to sex, evolution and the female animal by zoologist and presenter Lucy Cooke, an unfiltered memoir by the Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker, a spine-chilling account of the sister of Kim Jong Un by scholar Sung Yoon Li, a heartbreaking portrait of a marriage in the face of loss and much more.
Make sure to keep an eye on our books section where we will be reviewing some of the books mentioned below and much more every weekend.
Bestselling author Robert Hardman explores the extraordinary life of the longest-reigning monarch in this authoritative yet intimate biography. From her accession at the age of just 25 in 1952 to a slew of royal scandals and living in the age of Covid-19, HRH has proved herself to be an astute and quietly determined figure, leading her subjects through 70 years of transformational change. From constitutional crises, threats against her life, meeting a stream of prime ministers and world leaders to the Commonwealth, the Queen has steered herself and her family through a lifetime in the public eye. Queen of Our Times is a “must-read study of dynastic survival and renewal” that spans abdication, war, romance, danger and tragedy.
Bitch: A Revolutionary Guide to Sex, Evolution and the Female Animal by Lucy Cooke (Transworld Publishers), £15.45.
What does it mean to be female? From the role of mother, daughter, ruler to a provider – the female species has always been scrutinized or politicised. As we search to define our gender, combat prejudice and misogyny, and celebrate the myriad of femininity, Lucy Cooke looks to the animal kingdom to see what it can teach us about feminity’s true nature. Cooke ventures far-and-wide; from the island of Madagascar, where she discovers that female lemurs, our most ancient primate cousins, dominated males physically and politically to the beaches of Hawaii, where she encounters a long-term female albatross couples that defy notions of a traditional nuclear family. Meeting a new breed of scientists who are rewriting our patriarchal view of evolution, Cooke paints a “fresh, diverse, timely and important” portrait of the female species.
When the singer Jarvis Cocker starts clearing out his loft, he stumbles across a jumble of objects that lead him to question who he really is. From a Gold Star polycotton shirt to a packet of Wrigley’s Extra, Jarvis uses the objects to pen an unfiltered memoir of his life. The star reflects on his time in Pulp and 20th-century pop culture; the good times and the bad. This accumulated debris of a lifetime reveals the creative process — his writing and musicianship, performance and ambition, style and stagecraft: “It is not a life story. It’s a loft story.”
Cruel but charming, demure and dangerous, the rise of Kim Yo Jong — sister of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un — has been markedly extraordinary. As the regime’s chief propagandist, internal administrator and foreign policymaker, she is now undoubtedly the most powerful woman in North Korea. A princess by birth with great ideas for her kingdom, Yo Jong was brought up to believe it is her mission to reunite North Korea with the South, or die trying. The Sister, written by Sung-Yoon Lee, a scholar of Korean and East Asian studies and a specialist on North Korea, is an authoritative and gripping account of this closed world of North Korea, its ruling dynasty and its probable successor.
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When Amy Bloom began to notice drastic changes in the behaviour of her husband, Brian, she had a sinking feeling something was wrong. He had retired from a new job he loved, withdrawn from close friendships and was constantly nostalgic about the past. Amy felt as if a glass wall had been installed between them, and then, an MRI confirmed her worst fears: Brian had Alzheimer’s disease. Written by the New York Times bestselling author Amy Bloom, In Love is a heartbreaking portrait of a marriage of two people whose love and shared life has led them to find a courageous way to part – and of a woman’s struggle to move on in the face of loss.
The War on the West: How to Prevail in the Age of Unreason by Douglas Murray (HarperCollins), £16.15.
If the history of humankind is a history of slavery, conquest, prejudice, genocide and exploitation, why are only Western nations taking the blame for it? The international best-selling author Douglas Murray posits this question in his latest book The War on the West as he explains how it has become acceptable to celebrate the contributions of non-Western cultures, but discussing their flaws and crimes is called hate speech. “A blistering and important polemic” the book methodically shows how far political discourse has strayed in Europe and America from its stated goals of justice and equality. Spearheaded by an incisive deconstruction of inconsistent arguments and activism, towards a clarion call for the defence of enlightenment values. The War on the West has been labelled as “one of the most important books for a generation, cementing Murray as one of the world’s foremost political writers.”
Polling UnPacked: The History, Uses and Abuses of Political Opinion Polls by Mark Pack (Reaktion Books), £11.79.
Opinion polls dominate media coverage of politics, especially elections, but how do they work? How can you tell the good from the bad? And in light of recent polling disasters, can we even trust them? Polling UnPacked gives the full story, from the first rudimentary polls in the nineteenth century, through to attempts but politicians to ban polling in the 20th century, up to the very latest techniques and controversies. Written by the Lib Dem President Mark Pack who has extensive experience in conducting, commissioning and analysing political opinion polls, PollingUnPacked will reveal which opinion polls to trust, which to ignore and which to, frankly, laugh at.
The nine stories in The Secret Lives of Church Ladies feature four generations of Black women and girls grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught between the church’s double standards and their own needs of passions. The portraits of these characters in the book are beautifully nuanced, from fourteen-year-old Jael, who has a crush on a preacher’s wife to forty-two-year-old Lyra, who realises that her discomfort with her own body stands between her and a new one love. With their secret longings, forbidden affairs and budding romances, these church ladies are as seductive as they want to be, vulnerable as they need to be, as unfaithful and unrepentant as they care to be, and as free as they deserve to be.