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Max Hastings tops our tips for non-fiction

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Hungerford Bookshop’s Emma Milne-White on what to watch out for

Local historian Sir Max Hastings Picture: Toby Madden
Local historian Sir Max Hastings Picture: Toby Madden

HISTORY buffs will be delighted that the best-selling historian Sir Max Hastings, who lives near Hungerford, will be bringing out a new book on May 13 about Operation Pedestal – the fleet that battled to Malta in 1942.

Operation Pedestal was a crucial relief mission that became an epic bloody naval battle and a pivotal moment in the Second World War. You know that this story will be told in an utterly compelling way.

On Boxing Day 1962, when Juliet Nicolson was eight years old, the snow began to fall. It did not stop for 10 weeks. The drifts in East Sussex reached 23 feet. In London, milkmen made deliveries on skis. As well as bad weather, political shadows hung over the country: the threat of nuclear war, unemployment was rising, de Gaulle was blocking Britain from joining the EEC and Winston Churchill, still the symbol of Great Britishness, was fading – and yet underneath the frozen surface, new life was beginning to stir... Frostquake is out today (February 4).

There are some fascinating biographies to get stuck into. Devils, Lusts and Strange Desires: The Life Story of Patricia Highsmith by Richard Bradford has just been released to critical acclaim (look out for Andrew Scott playing Ripley on your TVs soon).
Another literary biography that will do well is The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym by Pauline Byrne (I love Pym’s novels, especially Excellent Women and Jane & Prudence).

A candid and addictive memoir will be released on today. Journalist Tabitha Lasley, lives offshore on a North Sea oil rig to research this overlooked industry made-up primarily of working class men. During her research the distance from her subject becomes perilously thin. Sea State is an unflinching and explosive portrayal of masculinity, loneliness and female desire.

Two books set to make us (and help us) think. Former Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney has written Value(s) – out March 18 – which sets out a framework for the change needed for an economic and social renaissance in a post-Covid world; and from the multi-million copy best-selling author of Thinking, Fast and Slow Daniel Kahneman returns with the highly-anticipated Noise, a book about how to make better decisions. It teaches us how to understand all the extraneous factors that impact and bias our decision-making – and how to combat them and improve our thinking.

Spring is not too far away, which means the arrival of some wonderful natural history titles. Sea and sky are covered by these two: The Brilliant Abyss: True Tales of Exploring the Deep Sea, Discovering Hidden Life and Selling the Seabed by Helen Scales (out March 18) and The World on a Wing by Scott Weidensaul – a rousing and reverent story of the billions of birds that, despite the numerous obstacles we have placed in their path, continue to head with hope to the far horizon (both published March 18). And look out for the anthology Women on Nature in May, which includes Newbury Weekly News columnist Nicola Chester.

Hungerford Bookshop is open for orders and collection. Books can be pre-ordered directly from Hungerford Bookshop or by visiting https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/

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