Top 5 London Books

London, dizzy London. Or as my very Marxist friend calls it, the City of Engels. Busy, grubby and unfriendly it may be, but what history, what architecture, what opportunity it offers! Love it or hate it – usually both – it’s a truly great city. And naturally we have books on and about it. Here are just a few, starting with David Piper’s glorious Companion Guide.

The Companion Guide to London

by David Piper. Revised by Fionnuala Jervis

An early-career task for this marketing drone was to create a Companion Guides mini-website, which meant I got to read great chunks of various Guides. What a wonderful job! They are all fascinating in their different ways but, alongside Rome, London was the best. In effect the reader is guided round the sights and history with a singularly charming, erudite guide who knows the history and value of everything, and is not afraid to voice regret or disapproval. Even now, years after its last revision it remains a vital guide to the essence of London. Just reading a paragraph makes me long to return.

West End Broadway

The Golden Age of the American Musical in London

by Adrian Wright

We doubt Adrian Wright could write a shopping list without it being sharp, witty and perceptive. All his books are delightful reads packed with detailed information effortlessly retold and rich in anecdotes and wry asides. This one discusses every American musical seen in London between 1945 and 1972, including the greats that blew away many old-fashioned British formulas. With smash hits like Carousel, Guys and Dolls, The King and I, Oklahoma!, Hello, Dolly!, South Pacific, and the mighty West Side Story, the bright lights of London’s theatreland became very much brighter.

Accidents and Violent Death in Early Modern London: 1650-1750E

by Craig Spence

In the century covered more than 15,000 Londoners suffered sudden violent deaths. Even without the very real threats from its less savoury inhabitants, London used to be a very, very dangerous place with the risk of accidents ever-present. Craig Spence demonstrates how drowning, falls, fires, explosions, suffocation, animals and vehicles were real risks of everyday life. But he goes onto to explore which Londoners were most likely to experience them and what, if any, practical measures they triggered. It’s a sobering read but gives great insight into how modern cities have changed, been organised and made much safer.

London Zoo and the Victorians, 1828-1859

by Takashi Ito

Now just one attraction among many, and one overlooked by most city visitors and inhabitants, London Zoo was an essential must-see when it first opened in 1828. And an essential place to be seen too. Dr Takashi Ito tells the story of the world’s oldest scientific zoo and its development at a time when animals assumed a special significance to a largely urban population, science became increasingly professionalised and more of the population than ever before began to enjoy culture and leisure.

A Free-Spirited Woman

The London Diaries of Gladys Langford, 1936-1940

Edited by Patricia Malcolmson and Robert Malcolmson

The efforts of the London Record Society have ensured that there are many diary accounts of life in London, each one presenting its own unique life lived in a forever-changing city. This is my favourite. Gladys Langford was, sadly, a deeply unhappy woman who endured a lonely life and a job she loathed. An aspiring but ultimately unsuccessful author, Gladys could write with razor-sharp precision and recorded the events of her time – made all the more gripping by the slow but inexorable approach of the Second World War – and the trials of each day with an often acid pen. Desperate for culture, she attended every film, play, musical or exhibition that she could, recording them and her responses for readers that she never found at the time but which, thanks to this edition, can now appreciate her vivid account of London life.

International Women’s Day 2018

The women in these books show themselves to be individual, influential thinkers, whether their works and actions have local, national, or worldwide effects. Though the classical music canon may seem inevitable to us today, we might not have Bach, Debussy, and Ravel without the intervention of Winnaretta Singer and Sara Levy. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Alice Munro, and Flannery O’Connor show us through fiction how many different worlds of experience exist, and how important both big and small moments are in deciding which direction a life can take. The story of Melita Norwood, who spied for Russia during the Cold War and wasn’t caught until she was 87, might not be one to emulate, but shows a fascinating resistance to the idea of women as necessarily sweet. The award-winning Widows in European Economy and Society, 1600 – 1920 turns our idea of penniless, retiring widows on its head by demonstrating that many were able to thrive in spite of – or because of? – their circumstances.

Taken together, these titles show how present and active women have been in influencing the course of human events, whether or not they were recognized in their own time. So whether you’re interested in reading about the story of Melita Norwood, who spied for Russia during the Cold War or the fictions of Alice Munro and Jane Austen, we are offering 35% off our Women’s Day titles. Use the code BB568 at checkout and check out our full list of Women’s Day titles here.

A Companion to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

by Ernest N. Emenyonu

From the Dior catwalks, protest signs and Beyoncé’s ***Flawless, We Should All Be Feminists, the essay penned by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has defined feminism for the 21st Century. Our Companion to the Nigerian author’s work, including the soon-to-be TV miniseries Americanah, is a celebration of her depictions of motherhood, the female body, gender roles and hair politics.

Margaret of Anjou

Queenship and Power in Late Medieval England

by Helen E. Maurer

How did Margaret of Anjou, wife of the ineffective Henry VI and later a queen without a throne, become the most notorious of English medieval queens and help to start the War of the Roses? How did she earn the evil reputation Shakespeare gives her? In her life she achieved and maintained power in the convoluted and male-dominated world of fifteenth-century politics, something so remarkable that she is forever remembered and described as fierce, harsh, and unforgiving. This book examines not just how she gained influence, but how she exercised it and how she had to overcome the restrictions that affected all women of her time.

A Companion to Latin American Women Writers

Edited by Brígida M. Pastor and Lloyd Hughes Davies

This volume offers a critical study of a representative selection of Latin American women writers who have made major contributions to all literary genres and represent a wide range of literary perspectives and styles. Many of these women have attained the highest literary honours. The distinctiveness of the book lies in its attention to writers from widely differing historical and social contexts and to the diverse theoretical approaches adopted by the authors.

Willful Girls

Gender and Agency in Contemporary Anglo-American and German Fiction

by Emily Jeremiah

What does it mean to “become woman” in today’s society? How have young girls and women been depicted and represented in Literature? Willful Girls explores works from female authors such as Helene Hegemann, Caitlin Moran, Charlotte Roche, Emma Jane Unsworth, Kate Zambreno, and Juli Zeh, who illustrate this complex transition into womanhood. Where concerns of body and beauty, sisterhood and identification, sex and desire, agency and volition, collide with failure, refusal, disgust and anger.

Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent

A Fourteenth-Century Princess and her World

by Anthony Goodman

This medieval princess lived no fairy tale life, for hers was marked by scandal and trauma from an early age. Nevertheless, she overcame all to marry Edward the Black Prince; their surviving son was crowned Richard II in 1377. Joan is important for many reasons, mostly because she became a powerful force at the heart of the royal court but also because her marriage for love rather than duty marked a shift away from dynastic responsibility.

Christabel Pankhurst

Fundamentalism and Feminism in Coalition

by Timothy Larsen

Few names are as synonymous with the fight for women’s suffrage as Pankhurst: both mother Emmeline and sister Sylvia were prominent in the struggle. Repeated arrests and jailings failed to deter Christabel from her cause, which she pursued with fierce energy. Her actions and those of her followers after the outbreak of the First World War – calling for the internment of foreigners and handing out white feathers – have tarnished her reputation but should not distract from the contribution she made towards political equality.

Sara Levy’s World

Gender, Judaism, and the Bach Tradition in Enlightenment Berlin

Edited by Rebecca Cypess and Nancy Sinkoff

Would have the name ‘Bach’ lived on in classical music had it not been for this one woman? Sara Levy was one of the first people to take an interest in preserving the music of previous generations. While literary salons were all the rage in Enlightenment Berlin, this Jewish salonnière and skilled harpsichordist gathered people to discuss music, keeping Bach family tradition alive.

Books to look out for in March 2018

When it comes to finding new books to dig your teeth into, there’s plenty to get excited about this March. Whether you consider yourself a devoted Game of Thrones fan or partial to a bit of Plato, we’ve got a little something for you. Take a look at some of our highlights to keep on your radar this March 2018.

Medievalism in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones

by Shiloh Carroll

The night is dark and full of terror. Shiloh Carroll brings us a wonderful exploration into George R.R. Martin’s high fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, and by extension its HBO television adaptation, Game of Thrones. The author, the directors and producers of the adaptation, and indeed the fans of the books and show, all lay claim to Westeros, its setting, as representative of an authentic medieval world. But how true are these claims? Is it possible to faithfully represent a time so far removed from our own in time and culture? And what does an authentic medieval fantasy world look like?

The Art of Swordsmanship by Hans Lecküchner

Translated by Jeffrey L. Forgeng

Completed in 1482, Johannes Lecküchner’s Art of Combat with the “Langes Messer” (Messerfechtkunst) is among the most important documents on the combat arts of the Middle Ages. Lecküchner’s lavish manuscript consists of over four hundred illustrations with explanatory text, in which the author, a parish priest, rings the changes on bladework, deceits, and grappling, with techniques ranging from life-or-death escapes from an armed assailant to slapstick moves designed to please the crowd in public fencing matches. This translation, complete with all illustrations from the manuscript, makes the treatise accessible for the first time since the author’s untimely death less than a year after its completion that left his major work to be lost for generations.

Nadia Boulanger and the Stravinskys

A Selected Correspondence

Edited by Kimberly A. Francis

Nadia Boulanger and Igor Stravinsky began corresponding in 1929 when Stravinsky sought someone to supervise the musical education of his younger son, Soulima. Published for the first time, Francis unveils a rich epistolary dialogue revealing one master teacher’s power to shape the cultural canon and one great composer’s desire to embed himself within historical narratives. Their words touch upon matters professional and personal, musical and social, with the overall narrative reflecting the turmoil of life during the twentieth century and the fragility of artists hoping to leave their mark on the modernist period.

An Elite Family in Early Modern England

The Temples of Stowe and Burton Dassett, 1570-1656

by Rosemary O’Day

In the seventeenth century the Temples of Stowe were one of the wealthiest and most prominent local families in the Midlands leaving behind voluminous records. Based on very extensive research in these records, this book provides a detailed picture of the family life of the early Temples. It examines household, financial and estate management, discusses social networking and the promotion of family interests, and considers the legal disputes the family were engaged in. O’Day provides a full, detailed picture of the life of an aristocratic family in early modern England.

Becoming Socrates

Political Philosophy in Plato’s “Parmenides”

by Alex Priou

Plato’s Parmenides is regarded as one of the most enigmatic of Plato’s dialogues. The dialogue recounts an almost entirely ficticious conversation between Parmenides (the Eleatic Monist) and a youthful Socrates. Priou argues that the dialogue is, in actuality, a reflection on politics. The conversation consists of two discrete parts — a critique of the forms, followed by Socrates’ philosophical training — but finds a unity to the dialogue yet to be acknowledged. Priou rigorously investigates Socrates’ early education, pinpointing the thought that led Socrates to turn from natural science to the study of morality, ethics, and politics.

Editor’s Choice: Caroline Palmer talks The Montpellier Codex

The Montpellier Codex
The Final Fascicle. Contents, Contexts, Chronologies
Edited by Catherine A. Bradley, Karen Desmond

No, this isn’t the latest Dan Brown, it’s actually on medieval music. The Montpellier Codex, a manuscript dating from the thirteenth/early fourteenth century (perhaps) is one of the most important sources for our knowledge of early music and particularly motets (it’s the largest single collection of them) – many pieces are only found here, and if it had been lost, we would never have been aware of them.

However, it’s always been something of an enigma, and particularly its very last section – the “eighth fascicle” – which contains most of the unique pieces located here, and doesn’t really match the rest – it’s a mixture of the old and the very new in terms of technique, notation, and style, and no-one has quite been able to deduce what it’s doing there, or why.

The essays in this volume concentrate on this final section. They look at such matters as the relationship between the fascicle and the rest of the manuscript; the scribal hand in which it’s written; and what it contains. There are also analyses of the pieces themselves. And the book is rather delightfully completed with an essay on the performance and recordings of some of the music. Apparently the conductor wanted “non-wobbly” tenors who would not be “too self-consciously virile”. I’m going to try not to think about this at choir practice tonight.

It will actually appeal to a wide range of audiences, more perhaps than it might at first seem – obviously to early music scholars, but also to those interested in manuscript studies/the transition to the printed book, and art historians (there are two chapters on the illuminations within the manuscript; it’s very lavish), amongst others.

Related titles:
Hermann Potzlinger's Music Book Young Choristers

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