The World of Paperbacks

Contemporary Review, December 2000 | Go to article overview

The World of Paperbacks


PLIMLICO has been publishing a wide range of history titles beginning with Hames Bradley and Ron Powers' Flags of Our Fathers ([pound]10.00. 376 pages), the moving account of how U.S. forces captured Iwo Jima during the Second World War. Not surprisingly it was 'number one' in the New York Times' list of bestsellers. Other history titles include: Sir Moses Finley's Ancient History: Evidence and Models ([pound]10.00. 131 pages), as challenging about our understanding of the Greeks and Romans as when first published in 1985; Charles Saumarez Smith's The Rise of Design: Design and the Domestic Interior in Eighteenth-Century England ([pound]12.50. 259 pages); Gillian Tindall's The Journey of Martin Nadaud: A Life and Turbulent Times ([pound]10.00. 310 pages), which traces the adventures of the nineteenth century French revolutionary; and, finally, Roy Strong's The Spirit of Britain: A Narrative History of the Arts ([pound]20.00. 708 pages) in which High Art meets history. A final PIMLICO title is John Prebble's Scotland ([pound]12.50. 216 pages) written, not surprisingly, by John Prebble and first published in 1984. Like Roy Srong's book it is beautifully illustrated and describes the author's love affair with Scotland.

Little books are all the rage in publishing nowadays and OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS has decided to join in by bringing out a series of eight 'Very Short Introductions' to British history. The books, measuring four and a half by seven inches, vary in length but are all priced at [pound]5.99. Each is based on a larger contribution to O.U.P.'s highly successful, Oxford Illustrated History of Britain, and is written by an expert in the period covered. The eight volumes cover: Roman Britain; The Anglo-Saxon Age; Medieval Britain; The Tudors; Stuart Britain; Eighteenth-Century Britain; Nineteenth-Century Britain; and, Twentieth-Century Britain. For fuller details see OUP's relevant website: www.oup.co.jk/vsi A more traditional publishing venture calls on OUP's fame as a publisher of reference books: Who's Who in the Classical World ([pound]8.99/US$15.95.439 pages) edited by Simon Hornblower and Tony Spawforth.

BBC BOOKS often bring out books to accompany successful series on television or radio -- the radio series tend to be better researched and, as books, better value. The latest title, published in conjunction with Penguin Books, is Christopher Lee's This Sceptred Isle: Twentieth Century ([pound]9.99/Can$22.99) which is a continuation of his The Sceptred Isle. This was published in 1997 and was based on his Radio Four series. In this volume he takes his history up to include the twentieth century.

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS has brought out a paperback version of Francis Jennings' The Creation of America: Through Revolution to Empire ([pound]12.95/USS 19.95. 340 pages). While one may find Dr Jennings' devotion to the Indians rather touching, one may question the influence this devotion has on his historical judgements, especially on leading figures such as Washington or George III. His strictures on the King remind one more of eighteenth century propagandists than of historians.

ROBINSON has republished Edward Trelawny's famous book, Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron ([pound]7. …

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