The World of Paperbacks

Contemporary Review, June 2003 | Go to article overview

The World of Paperbacks


We begin this month's survey of new titles with two from OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS which bear a close resemblance to the old comedy team of Little and Large. The first is Prof. Michael Howard's The First World War ([pounds sterling]8.99) Its 154 pages are intended to 'introduce the vast subject...to those who know little or nothing about it' and, he accepts, 'behind almost every sentence in the book lies a scholarly controversy that still remains unsettled'. The second is Prof. Hew Strachan's The First World War. Volume I: To Arms ([pounds sterling]17.99). As this first of three volumes comes to 1227 pages the aim obviously is to be exhaustive and as nearly definitive as possible. The range is manifestly much wider than Prof. Howard's and includes the diplomatic background and the social, intellectual and economic ramifications of the Great War as well as a chronological history of the first year of fighting.

THAMES AND HUDSON have brought Out a paperback edition of The Christian World: A Social and Cultural History of Christianity ([pounds sterling]19.95) edited by Prof. Geoffrey Barraclough and first published some two decades ago. This lavishly illustrated book (the illustrations come to 353) is not a history of Christianity but a record of 'the impact of the Christian religion on the lives and cultures of the peoples who...entered the Christian fold' and the various contributors discuss their periods with this in mind. This remains a most valuable and helpful volume.

From PHOENIX we have paperback editions of five recent publications. The first is Carol Shields' Jane Austen first published as part of Weidenfeld & Nicolson's 'Lives' series. Prof. Shields has no doubt that Miss Austen's 'short life may have been lived in relative privacy, but her novels show her to be a citizen, and certainly a spectator, of a far wider world'. A companion volume is Jane Smiley's Charles Dickens in which the American novelist seeks to 'evoke Dickens as he might have seemed to his contemporary audience...filling in the background only as he became willing to address it in his work', Next is Benson Bobrick's The Making of the English Bible ([pounds sterling]7.99), originally published in the U.S., which chronicles the origins of the Authorised Translation from the early days of Wycliffe. The fourth new title is Philip Mansel's Paris between Empires 1814-1852: Monarchy and Revolution ([pounds sterling]14.99), a marvellous account that is as incisive as it is colourful. The final new volume is Bernard Lewis' The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam in which this expert on the Mohammedan world explains the origins of the secret Shi'ite sect and its impact on the history of terrorism.

JOHN MURRAY has brought out a paperback edition of Margaret Macmillan's prizewinning study of the Versailles peace conference, Peacemakers: The Paris Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War ([pounds sterling]9.99) which concludes that if the statesmen 'could have done better, they certainly could have done much worse'. Also from Murray is Roger Hudson's selection of correspondence from The Lyttelton Hart-Davis Letters: Selection. Correspondence of George Lyttelton and Rupert Hart-Davis 1955-1962 which was originally edited by Rupert Hart-Davis and published in six volumes. It remains one of the twentieth century's leading sources of literary conversation. Also from Murray we have Jim Ring's We Come Unseen: The Untold Story of Britain's Cold War Submariners ([pounds sterling]8.99) and, finally, David Gilmour's magisterial 1994 biography, Curzon: Imperial Statesman 1859-1925 ([pound sterling]16.99), which tells the story of one of Britain's most fascinating statesmen.

Among new titles from PENGUIN BOOKS we have two devoted to war. The first is Antony Beevor's prize-winning best-seller, Berlin: The Downfall 1945 ([pound sterling]12.99), which gives an exhaustive account of the collapse of Nazi Germany's capital city when faced with the Soviet onslaught.

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