The World of Paperbacks

Contemporary Review, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

The World of Paperbacks


Pride of place among this issue's paperbacks goes to two new titles from THAMES & HUDSON. Julian Bell's Mirror of the World: A New History of Art ([pounds sterling]16.95) was first published in 2007 to considerable applause. Unusual in its approach, the book uses a wide definition of art, traces its development from the very beginnings and compares similar art forms from different cultures. The 372 illustrations are of the high quality one expects from Thames & Hudson. The second new title is The Human Past ([pounds sterling]32.50) edited by Prof. Chris Scarre. This is not just a paperback edition but a totally new edition in which the team of anthropologists and archaeologists have revised and updated the first edition of 2005 to make this indispensable book even more important, both to the student and to the general reader. Thames & Hudson have also published Dr Edward Norman's The Roman Catholic Church: An Illustrated History ([pounds sterling]16.95) which first appeared in 2006 as The Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church arguably benefits from an illustrated history as opposed perhaps to Quakers with their plain meeting-houses. The text follows the conventional Catholic history of the church but when it comes to the modern church, in which Dr Norman is more knowledgeable, we see the same penchant for provocation that he had as an Anglican priest. Sadly, the text is marred by the occasional jibe at the Church of England, so common among those who have left that church for pastures new.

Thirty-four years ago Weidenfeld & Nicolson caused a literary stir when they published The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh edited by Michael Davie. Few writers of Waugh's fame kept so complete a diary for so long even if the editor gave a warning against Waugh's penchant for 'exaggeration and fantasy". This edition was then brought out in paperback by PHOENIX in 1995 but since then it has not been in print. Now we have a new edition at [pounds sterling]20.00 and, to accompany it, a new printing of Weidenfeld's The Letters of Evelyn Waugh ([pounds sterling]20.00) which was first published in 1980 and also reprinted in paperback in 1995. Waugh was a good letter-writer and really began writing in the late 1920s, a habit he carried on to his death in 1966. It is good to have these well edited volumes once more available in paperback.

The involvement of Britain in the recent history of the Middle East has never been more important than it is today. W.W. NORTON has brought out a paperback of Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac's Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East ([pounds sterling]16.99), a masterly account which concentrates on those individuals who created the political structures that are still in place.

CONSTABLE has issued a paperback edition of Francis Beckett and David Hencke's Marching to the Fault Line: The Miners' Strike and the Battle for Industrial Britain ([pounds sterling]8.99) which this journal's reviewer of the hardback edition described as 'lively, well-written and well-researched ... a good record'. A second new title is On the Front Line: True World War I Stories ([pounds sterling]8.99), edited and introduced by C.B. Purdom. These sixty first-hand accounts were first published in Everyman Magazine in the 1930s and remain a superb addition to our literature of the Great War.

Among new titles from PENGUIN BOOKS we have Ian Kershaw's Hitler ([pounds sterling]12.99) in which the historian has combined and abridged his earlier, highly praised two-volume biography of the German dictator. Prof. Miri Rubin's Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary ([pounds sterling]12.99) in which she traces the development and influence of the Blessed Virgin in Christianity. Stephen Grey's Operation Snakebite ([pounds sterling]9.99) which gives readers a first-hand account of the fighting in Afghanistan by concentrating on a particular group of men in one specific action, and Martin Gayford's Constable in Love: Love, Landscape, Money and the Making of a Great Painter ([pounds sterling]9. …

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