Welcome to the December 2018 issue of Books Monthly – another cracking selection of gift books to buy for yourself or for your loved ones. There are new pages for Carlton and Pen and Sword. Do please let me know what you think by using the comments box or like/share buttons on each page or via email at paulenorman1@gmail.com

Dorling Kindersley: Drive – The Definitive History of Motoring

 Published by Dorling Kindersley 5th April 2018

812auShortlisted for the Motoring Book of the Year in the Royal Automobile Club Motoring Book Awards 2018. A car book which takes you through motoring history, from classic cars to how we enjoy driving today, and beyond. As Jodie Kidd says in her introduction “Sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride”. From the public’s amazement at the idea of a horseless carriage to today’s excitement for driverless vehicles, find out everything you need to know about motoring from 1895 to the present day. Begin your journey through the history of motoring with Drive, and weave your way through the twists and turns of the early days, through to how the motorcar has shaped the modern world over the last century. It also reveals the exciting and impressive advances in technology and design that have made cars faster, safer, and better to drive, and transformed them from a means of transport into objects of status, excitement, and desire. Speed through personal accounts of motoring throughout the years, and discover exciting new facts about the world’s most famous racing events. From the first service stations to the latest fuel cell, this book tells the full motoring story.

Only Dorling Kindersley could produce a book as beautiful as this about the history of the motor car – the photography is simply stunning and the coverage is absolutely superb. The word “definitive” on the front cover is as accurate as it is possible to be, nothing is left out, and the sum total is a book to treasure for petrolheads and everyone who’s ever driven or ridden in a car, so just about everyone in the western world, really. Magnificent!

Dorling Kindersley: Marvel Studios – All Your Questions Answered

 Published by Dorling Kindersley 2nd April 2018

812avWho exactly are the Guardians of the Galaxy? Why are the Infinity Stones so important? What’s the best order to watch the films in? And are Iron Man and Captain America friends or enemies? If you’ve ever mixed up the different Thor movies, or you get confused by which Avengers villain is which, fear not! Marvel Studios: All Your Questions Answered is the book for you – whether you want to take your very first steps into this pop-culture colossus, you have friends who are die-hard Marvel fans and seem to speak in another language, or you just want to have all of the questions answered that you’ve been dying to ask. Featuring a sneak peek of the highly anticipated Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War, this friendly companion untangles plots and characters, film by film. Even if you’ve never seen a Marvel Studios movie, it’s hard to miss that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a really big deal. 10 years’ worth of movies, all linked together into a vast, unique and compelling storyline. If you want to find out more but aren’t sure where to start, this entertaining, illustrated book breaks down everything in a straightforward and fun way!

This I’ve been a fan or Iron Man for a long time – the films, that is, mainly because of Robert Downey Jr., and recently, I’ve enjoyed the two Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Infinity War immensely. If you’re confused about who all of the characters are, this book is for you, although there isn’t quite enough coverage of the Guardians of the Galaxy for my liking. A second issue could put that right, because they are a major part of the Avengers’ universe right now. This is a superb introduction to the movie Avengers. For more comprehensive coverage of the comic book Avengers, see below!

Dorling Kindersley: Marvel Avengers – The Ultimate Guide

 Published by Dorling Kindersley 5th April 2018

812awLearn all you ever wanted to know about Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, and all the Super Heroes on the Avengers roster. Marvel Avengers Ultimate Guide Updated Edition details all the key storylines and events that fans need to know, such as Avengers Vs. X-Men, Infinity, Secret Wars and Civil War II, the formation of the Avengers Unity Division and the creation of an All-New, All Different Avengers team. This jam-packed new edition fully updates the Avengers’ timeline and existing character histories, and features profiles of new Avengers characters including: Shang-Chi, Sunspot, Cannonball, Smasher, Manifold, Captain Universe, Hyperion, Ex Nihilo and Abyss, Starbrand, Nightmask, Captain America (Sam Wilson), Thor (Jane Foster), Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Nova (Sam Alexander), and Wasp (Nadia Pym). Marvel Avengers Ultimate Guide Updated Edition also features artwork from the latest storylines. Get all the facts about the Avengers’ powers, weapons, enemies, and adventures, and meet characters from every decade of the Avengers’ epic 50-year comic book history.

DK have cornered the market in comic book encyclopedias – they publish several titles each year about DC comics and Marvel comics, and now turn their attention to the Avengers, this time concentrating on the comic book Avengers, and the hundreds of characters that people the pages of the iconic Marvel Avengers comics. This is what DK does best. The layouts on each page are stunning – colourful and informative at the same time, and the artwork is simply staggering. I particularly like the latter day artists like Neal Adams and John Buscema, for exaple, but then I really enjoy reading about the early days of the Avengers comics as well, so for me, this book has it all. While I love the latest batch of movies (see above), I found this book about the Avengers comic book adventures the more enjoyable of the two, and it’s a book I shall read, page by page, until I know all there is to know about the Avengers’ universes and timelines. It will be a labour of love, and the book is, as far as I’m concerned, already a collectors’ itemm. If I can’t read the comics, I can at least read about the comics. Stupendously good!

Treasures of Led Zeppelin 50th Anniversary Edition

 Published by Carlton Books October 2018

812acSell-out tours in packed stadiums, records going platinum on preorders alone, three-hour long concerts night after night, girls, booze, drugs…Led Zeppelin did it all. ‘Treasures of Led Zeppelin’, an unofficial publication, tells the story of the amazing journey of four talented young Englishmen on the path to rock ‘n’ roll glory. It is probably the greatest story of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll ever told…And the facsimile memorabilia takes you there, with ticket stubs, programmes, beautiful posters, superbly-designed contemporary flyers and other fascinating pieces of musical history in your hands…

Led Zeppelin are not my favourite rock band, let me make that quite clear from the outset. In terms of my musical choices, they simply don’t figure anywhere. However, I have to say that as a rock band book, this one from Carlton takes some beating. It’s one of those books that only Carlton do, where you have envelopes and pockets inside which contain significant and invaluable artefacts such as concert programmes, tickets etc., included with the book as souvenirs. This is a collectors’ item, and in years to come will be recognised as such. The production values are sky-high, the photographs will delight any LZ fan, and any LZ fan will be proud and pleased as punch to have it in their collection.

Benedict Nightingale: Les Miserables

 Published by Carlton Books September 2018

812adEver since its first performances in 1985, Les Miserables has been a smash success, and is now the longest running musical in the world with an award-winning Hollywood movie to its name. Les Miserables takes a look back through the storied life of this monumental show. Looking at the entirety of the Les Miserables theatre legacy, Benedict Nightingale examines the secret of why this musical has so strongly captured the hearts of the world, tracking back from Victor Hugo’s original fiction all the way to the set of the Les Miserables Hollywood set. Also included are several pieces of special memorabilia from the production such as annotated scripts, original costume sketches, and scene design notes for the 2012 film. This book is the ideal companion tome for any lover of Les Miserables and its 33-year history.

When I took the plunge and watched Les Miserables on TV a few years back, I was not prepared to discover that it was going to displace The Sound of Music as my favourite musical. I was mesmerised by the brilliance of Hugh Jackman and Eddie Redmayne, captivated by the magnificent music, and staggered by the pure spectacle. Since then, I’ve watched it maybe a dozen times, listened to the CD soundtrack even more often, and never tired of it. And now, from Carlton Books, I have this stunning account of how the musical phenomenon of Les Mis came into being. The story is brilliantly told, and accompanied by superb photos – a fitting tribute to the greatest ever musical.


Camilla Lackberg: The Girl In The Woods

 Published by Harper Collins 29th November 2018

812bNo. 1 international bestseller and Swedish crime sensation Camilla Lackberg’s new psychological thriller featuring Detective Patrik Hedström and Erica Falck – irresistible for fans of Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo. A missing child… When a four-year-old girl disappears in the woods outside Fjällbacka, people are horror-struck. Thirty years ago, a child went missing from the same spot, and was later discovered, murdered. A murder… Back then, two teenage girls were found guilty of the killing. Could one of them be the culprit this time? Detective Patrik Hedström starts investigating, with his wife, bestselling crime writer Erica Falck, by his side. A community torn apart… But as Patrik and Erica dig deeper, it seems that everyone in the tight-knit community is hiding something. And soon, the residents must confront the fact that there could be a murderer in their midst…

This isn’t the first of Camilla’s books I’ve read, but it is certainly the best. You don’t need to be Scandinavian to enjoy this one, because the characters are universally fascinating, the story could be set in any rural region of any western European country. This is 700 pages of excellent crime drama, I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Jim Storr: King Arthur’s Wars

 Published by Helion & Co., 31st October 2018

812z‘King Arthur’s Wars’ describes one of the biggest archaeological finds of our times; yet there is nothing new to see. There are secrets hidden in plain sight. We speak English today, because the Anglo-Saxons took over most of post-Roman Britain. How did that happen? There is little evidence: not much archaeology, and even less written history. There is, however, a huge amount of speculation. ‘King Arthur’s Wars’ brings an entirely new approach to the subject. The answers are out there, in the countryside, waiting to be found. Months of field work and map study allow us to understand, for the first time, how the Anglo-Saxons conquered England; county by county and decade by decade. ‘King Arthur’s Wars’ exposes what the landscape and the placenames tell us. As a result, we can now know far more about this ‘Dark Age’. What is so special about Essex? Why is Buckinghamshire an odd shape? Why is the legend of King Arthur so special to us? Why don’t Cumbrian farmers use English numbers when they count sheep? Why don’t we know where Camelot was? Why did the Romano-British stop eating oysters? What does this have to do with Napoleon’s Ulm campaign of 1805, or the Prusso-Danish War of 1864? ‘King Arthur’s Wars’ tells that story.

I love the way that Jim Storr simply accepts that there was someone in our history who was a “King Arthur” during the darkest period when there were precious little written accounts, and his acceptance leads the way to uncovering new evidence of how the English people became what they are. This book again supports the accounts of the Anglo-Saxon invasion of England as told by Bernard Cornwell in the same way that Margaret’s book about Aethelflaed does. Engaging and extremely readable stuff – this period of English history becomes more interesting the more you read about it.

Total Guitar Presents How To Play Guitar

 Published by Carlton 1st September 2017

812agA practical guide to everything you need to know about what is probably the most popular musical instrument in the world, How to Play Guitar teaches you how to play, how to read music, and the essentials of music theory. With sections on maintenance, performing and songwriting, this is a fully up-to-date guide, written to appeal to all age groups, from beginner to intermediate level. Written by the experts at Future Publishing, How to Play Guitar includes hundreds of diagrams and step-by-step exercises, help and advice, and even quotes from some of the great contemporary guitarists.

When I was teaching myself to play the guitar back when I was thirteen years old, there was only one man that could help me, and that was Bert Weedon. His simple cords and riffs were enough to whet  my appetitie – I was never going to be the next Django Reinhardt, but I could pretty soon play along with the likes of Lonnie Donnegan and all those skiffle and blue grass players. Had I had this wonderful book, I might well have ended up as the new Django – as it is, I’m proud to be able to say that I taught my two sons to play, and they are both now way ahead of me in terms of how well they play, so I must have done something right. This book is comprehensive and attractive, and I might well learn to play all over again, just for the hell of it…

Jay Wertz: The First Americans

 Published by Carlton 13th December 2018

812ahWithout a doubt, one event in the history of Native Americans overshadows all others in its impact on their culture – the discovery of the Western Hemisphere by European explorers. This catastrophic event is the main focus of The First Americans, which, having given an overview of Aboriginal concepts and history, traces the tumultuous relationship between Native Americans and Western settlers. Wertz explains the relationship between Native Americans and their cultural roots in the modern world, tracing their history into the contemporary era. It is illustrated throughout with artworks, maps and photographs as well as painstakingly researched documents from US archives and private collections.

I learned most of what I think I know about native American Indians from my comics, the Sun, the Comet, the Lion and theTiger, all of which presented some tribes as troublemakers and to be avoided at all costs, or else woped out with the aid of the Seventh Cavalry etc. I did get to know the names of a great deal of tribes, about Manitou, and so on, but it was hardly a comprehensive knowledge of native American Indians that I ended up with. Jay Wertz’s The First Americans is a stunning book, crammed with information and brilliant illustrations, many of them early photographs, and I shall spend hours poring over the fascinating contents over the coming months, until I shall be able to say, truly, that now I do really know something about the native American Indians. A magnificent book.

My Perfect Puppy

 Published by Carlton 8th February 2018

812aiWith the My Perfect Puppy book and app, you can take care of your very own Augmented Reality pup! After all, what’s better than a cute, bright-eyed and waggy-tailed puppy that can’t wait to meet you? My Perfect Puppy is a unique puppy care book and app. The pages are bursting with the cutest puppy photos imaginable, plus all the info you need to know about keeping a new dog in tip-top condition. And that’s not all, there are 13 special interactive pages. Download your free app, point your phone or tablet’s camera at the book and say hello to your new virtual friend! You can name your puppy, feed it, play with it, and even choose the latest accessories. Keep it healthy and happy with exercise, tricks and training challenges, and capture photos of your favourite moments – ready to take pride of place in the My Perfect Puppy Hall of Fame.

I believe that Carlton are the only publisher to offer this kind of publication, one where you download an app onto your mobile, and then point it at certain specific images throughout the book, and it comes to life wth videos and extra information. The illustrations are cute – no, adorable, and the book itself is absolutely irresistible. Dog lover or no, My Perfect Puppy will capture your heart and your imagination very quickly indeed!

Joel Levy: Hawking – The Man, The Genius and the Theory of Everything

 Published by Carlton 1st November 2018

812ajHawking explores the life and work, explaining the breakthroughs at the cutting edge of cosmology, from the Big Bang to black holes, and the ups and downs of Stephen Hawking’s extraordinary and often turbulent life. The death of Stephen Hawking in March 2018 brought to a close one of the most remarkable and inspiring scientific life stories of all time. This in-depth and comprehensive biography covers both the well-known aspects of his celebrated life and work, as well as the personal elements of his life, that make his astounding triumph over disability and his titanic achievements all the more impressive. Full of documents and photographs providing extra details and context to Hawking’s discoveries, this is the complete story of how Hawking defied medical science and the frailties of his twisted body to explore vast cosmic realms, tour the world, create a publishing phenomenon, embrace celebrity, experience incredible adventures and enjoy romance and family life.

My one regret about my gramar school is that it streamed students into modern (chemistry, physics and biology) and classics (modern languages, history), and as I was good at the latter subjects, I missed out on a scientific education. This book doesn’t put things right in that respect, but it does offer a great insight into the life and times of the greatest scientist to live in our lifetime, Stephen Hawking. I’ve seen the fil about his life, I’ve been mesmerised by his dedication and determination and his lectures (even though I’ve understood only the occasional word). He has been an inspirational genius, and this brilliant book by Joel Levy is a fitting tribute to him. Brilliant.

Ultimate Eye Twisters

 Published by Carlton 10th January 2019

812akFrom the winner of Royal Society’s Young People’s Book Prize 2018. Ultimate Eye Twisters is a bumper collection of crazy and mesmerizing optical illusions and visual puzzles. It contains hours of eye-boggling, mind-twisting fun for kids who love the challenges of visual trickery.

Many of the pages rely on the reader having perfect eyesight, because I tried some of them and couldn’t get the results promised or suggested. Other pages are populated by the kind of images that are impossible structures and so on, and there are some mind-bending puzzles too. Not just eye twisters, but brain twisters as well. Hours of fun and entertainment. Superb.


Janice Anderson & Edmund Swinglehurst: Britain Yesterday and Today

 Published by Carlton Books 4th October 2018

812aoBritain Yesterday & Today takes a nostalgic look at every aspect of British life over the past 150 years. By contrasting beautiful black-andwhite images with colour photographs, it presents the amazing social changes that make Britain what it is today. From sport and leisure to the workplace, from the countryside to the city and from shore to shore, Britain Yesterday & Today transports you through time with more than 150 photographs and illuminating, commentary. Reflecting on great royal occasions, national obsessions and unique events, as well as changes to urban areas and the impact of technology, this is a delightful look at Britain past and present.

This superb, stunning book could have been three times as big, with further examples of how we lived and how we live now, and more of the photographs could have contrasted the same geographical locations over time, but the premise is excellent and the quality of the photographs is second to none. This is a brilliant introduction to nostalgia, beautifully presented and not just a coffee table book, because the text is very well written as well. I can’t say I approve of the two pages featuring fox-hunting huntsmen, despite the conciliatory text, because this, for me, is something we should be ashamed of, and not be celebrating in this otherwise stupendous book.

Camilla Calhoun: The White Moth

 Published by Matador 28th October 2018

812aqThe White Moth is an intimate, riveting portrait of life at a farm villa in Tuscany, from the challenging times of fascism and foreign occupation in the 1940s to the idyllic farm-to-table times in the 1970s. A generational saga of longing, loss and displacement, the book is also an American woman’s tribute to her Italian husband and mother-in-law. While championing Alda’s courage, optimism and resilience despite heartbreaking loss, the author also celebrates her own idyllic times spent harvesting and falling in love with her friend at his farm villa in the 1970s. The book explores the interconnected stories of three generations of women who marry into the Rafanelli family and reveals the importance of place and the tender relationship between women. It is also the story of the changing roles and status of women and challenges the stereotype of the often maligned role of a mother-in-law.





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