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  • William Tyler

A General Reading List

Prisoners of Time by Christopher Clark. Clark is a great historian of all things German. This book is sub-titled 'Prussians, Germans and other Humans'. It is a most eclectic collection of essays, the first being based on the Book of Daniel Chapter 2. All the essays are thought provoking and very original. A real delight to read. A great historian at the height of his powers.

A few essay headings chosen at random:-

From Prussia with Love: Zealotry, Liberalism and the Public Sphere in 1830s Konigsberg.

The Jews and The End of Time

Brexiteers, Revisionist and Sleepwalkers


The Armchair General by John Buckley. This volume has a very original format in looking at World War Two. It is sub-titled, Can you defeat the Nazis? It accurately describes various incidents from the war, such as Britain's Darkest Hour, and then looks at the issues from the point of view of various decision makers of the time, such as General Ismay, Samuel Hoare, Clement Attlee, etc. After each decision maker's story you, the reader, are invited to give your decision, eg should you support Halifax or Churchill for the Prime Ministership. A book that makes you think all over again about key incidents in the war.


Isle and Empires by Stephan Roman. Like many bibliophiles, I am often the victim of impulse buying. Sometimes this works out well, other times not so well. On a brief break on The Isle of Wight towards the end of 2021 I saw and instantly purchased this book, which is sub-titled Romanov Russia, Britain and the Isle of Wight. How intriguing, and slightly bizarre even, as a subject for a 400 page history book. The author is an historian who works for The British Council. The story hinges around the Russian Imperial Family's visit to the island in 1909 for the sailing of Cowes Week. It also tells the story of Russian exiles, terrorists and refugees, who sought safety on the island. The author links the events of a century ago to current relations between Britain and Russia. The author's grandparents were Russian and it is to their memory that the book has been written. Thus this book is far wider in its scope and analysis than the rather tight description of its sub-title might suggest. A real gem of an impulsive purchase.

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A Spotter's Guide to Countryside Mysteries by John Wright. Beautifully produced with wonderful colour pictures (although they would have benefited from clear notes of what and where they are). The book is divided into three parts, viz The Field, The Wood, and The Seashore. Each part then has small essays on various topics ranging from Pillow Mounds (artificial housing for rabbits in earlier times), through Slime Moulds (wow!), to Holes in the Sand. Very subjective writing that both shares the author's enthusiasms and his prejudices. Wonderfully life enhancing.

An example from the book, 'Piddocks have one other trick up their burrow, though I have never seen it: they glow in the dark. Quite why they do this I cannot imagine, and it has rather ruined my long-held principle of never eating anything that glows in the dark.'


Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer. A book about moss written by a leading scientist hardly sounds like the material I would both read and enjoy. Yes, I didn't understand all, or much, of the science, but the author's enthusiasm shone through and hooked me. Moreover, her musings on her own life and the analogies she draws are gripping, but it is her writing that elevates this book to something special. It is like Thoreau updated for our century. Kimmerer is also an American, but, and this is important, an indigenous American who draws on her background to give what the Guardian newspaper described as 'magical' insights.

Just one quotation from the book to show why I, and others, have been entranced by

the writing:

'On the hilltops of my home in upstate New York, the bare gray branches of the maples seem to be traced with a newly sharpened pencil against the winter sky. But in the Willamette Valley the Oregon oaks are drawn in thick green crayon.'

Just marvellous, and despite my ignorance, I do now look at mosses with renewed respect and wonder.



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