Much Anticipated 2019 Releases

I have been through all the catalogue that I can lay my hands on and these are the books that I am most looking forward to reading next year. I even have a couple of them already! Any take your fancy?



Burning The Sky: Project Argus, The Most Dangerous Scientific Experiment In History by David Sumpter

Around The World In 80 Trains: A 45,000-Mile Adventure by Monisha Rajesh

A Vicious Wonderland: Travels In Burma by David Eimer

Mudlarking: In Search Of London’s Past Along The River Thames by Lara Maiklem

Coastal Britain: England And Wales – Celebrating The History, Heritage And Wildlife Of Britain’s Shores by Stuart Fisher

Tracking The Highland Tiger: In Search Of Scottish Wildcats by Marianne Taylor

The Gentle Art Of Tramping by Stephen Graham

Mountain Man: 446 Mountains. Six Months. One Record-Breaking Adventure by James Forrest

Take The Slow Road: England And Wales by Martin Dorey

Clearing The Air: The Beginning And The End Of Air Pollution by Tim Smedley

Superheavy: Making And Breaking The Periodic Table by Kit Chapman

Skateboarding And The City: A Complete History by Iain Borden

The Wind At My Back: A Cycling Life by Paul Maunder


Bodley Head

Now We Have Your Attention: Inside The New Politics by Jack Shenker

In Praise Of Walking by Shane O’Mara



Salt On Your Tongue: Women And The Sea by Charlotte Runcie

Quicksand Tales: The Misadventures Of Keggie Carew by Keggie Carew

When: The Scientific Secrets Of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink

The Chronology Of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

Unspeakable: The Things We Cannot Say by Harriet Shawcross

London Made Us: A Memoir Of A Shape-Shifting City by Robert Elms

Outpost by Dan Richards

The Story Of Looking by Mark Cousins

A Human’S Guide To The Cosmos by Jo Marchant



A Road For All Seasons by Harry Bucknall

A Walk Across The Rooftops by Dom Joly


Ebury Press

Earth From Space: Epic Stories Of The Natural World by Michael Bright And Chloe Sarosh

I Never Knew That About Coastal England by Christopher Winn

This Nation’s Saving Grace by Stuart Maconie



The Innocent Anthropologist: Notes From A Mad Hat by Nigel Barley

A Plague Of Caterpillars: A Return To The African Bush by Nigel Barley

Not A Hazardous Sport: Misadventures Of An Anthropologist In Indonesia by Nigel Barley


Faber & Faber

The Universe Speaks In Numbers: How Modern Maths Reveals Nature’s Deepest Secrets by Graham Farmelo

All Together Now: One Man’s Walk In Search Of His Father And A Lost England by Mike Carter



The Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds



The Way To The Sea: The Forgotten Histories Of The Thames Estuary by Caroline Crampton

Choked: The Age Of Air Pollution And The Fight For A Cleaner Future by Beth Gardiner

Not Working: Why We Have To Stop by Josh Cohan

Island Song by Madeline Bunting


Hamish Hamilton

Underland by Robert Macfarlane

Irreplaceable: The Fight To Save Our Wild Places by Julian Hoffman


Head Of Zeus

Cage Of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Money For Nothing: The South Sea Bubble And The Invention Of Modern Capitalism by Thomas Levenson

The Royal Society And The Invention Of Modern Science by Adrian Tinniswood

The Book Of Kells by Victoria Whitworth by Female by

The Making Of Walnut Tree Farm by Rufus Deakin And Titus Rowlandson



The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things And How To Avoid Them by David Robson

The Science of Fate: Why Your Future Is More Predictable Than You Think by Dr Hannah Critchlow

The Supernavigators: How Creatures, Great And Small, Find Their Way by David Barrie


Icon Books

Six Impossible Things by John Gribbin

ArtArtificialtelligence by Yorik Wilks

Survellience Valley by Yasha Levine

Beyond Coincidence by Martin Plimmer & Brian King

The Big Ones by Lucy Jones

The Spy In Moscow Station by Eric Haseltine


Influx Press

Mothlight by Adam Scovell

Built On Sand by Paul Scraton


Jo Fletcher

Lost Acre by Andrew Caldecott


John Murray

The Human Tide: How Population Shaped The Modern World by Paul Morland

The Stonemason: An Insider’s History Of Britain’s Buildings by Andrew Ziminski

Unthinkable: An Extraordinary Journey Through The World’s Strangest Brains by Helen Thomson

The Brief Life Of Flowers by Fiona Stafford


Jonathan Cape

Time Song: Searching For Doggerland by Julia Blackburn


Little Toller

Woods Of The Helford River by Oliver Rackham

Living With Trees by Robin Walter


Little, Brown

Cold Warriors by Duncan White



The Warship by Neal Asher

Children Of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky

I Spy: My Life In MI5 by Tom Marcus by Male


Michael Joseph

The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea

A History Of Britain In 12 Maps by Philip Parker



Weirder Maths At The Edge Of The Possible by David Darling And Agnijo Banerjee

The Way Home: Tales Of A Life Free From Technology by Mark Boyle



The Rosewater Insurrection by Tade Thompson



Agency by William Gibson by Male

A Fistful Of Shells: West Africa From The Rise Of The Slave Trade To The Age Of Revolution by Toby Green

The Demon In The Machine by Paul Davies by Male

Humble Pi: A Comedy Of Maths Errors by Matt Parker

Upheaval: How Nations Cope With Crises (Or Don’t) by Jared Diamond

Licence To Be Bad: How Economics Corrupted Us by Jonathan Aldred



Nature’s Mutiny: How The Little Ice Age Transformed The West And Shaped The Present by Philipp Blom



Chasing The Sun: How The Science Of Sunlight Shapes Our Bodies And Minds by Linda Geddes

A Farmer’s Diary A Year At High House Farm by Sally Urwin

Keirin: War On Wheels: Inside Japan’s Cycling Subculture by Justin Mccurry

The Forager’s Calendar: A Seasonal Guide To Nature’s Wild Harvests

Working With Nature Saving And Using The World’s Wild Places by Jeremy Purseglove



Empty Planet by Darrell Bricker & John Ibbitson

10 Women Who Changed Science, And The World by Catherine Whitlock & Rhodri Evans

All The Ghosts In The Machine by Elaine Kasket

Talking To Robots by David Ewing Duncan


Square Peg

Wild London by Sam Hodges And Sophie Vickers

How To Catch A Mole: And Find Yourself In Nature by Marc Hamer


The Bodley Head

Origins: How The Earth Made Us by Lewis Dartnell by Male



Sunfall by Jim Al-Khalili

Still Water: Reflections On The Deep Life Of The Pond by John Lewis-Stempel



Walking: One Step At A Time by Erling Kagge



Out Of The Woods by Luke Turner

Syria’s Secret Library by Mike Thomson

She Has Her Mother’s Laugh by Carl Zimmer

4 out of 5 stars

When people meet my children I often hear comments along the lines of; he is just like you, your daughter reminds me so much of your wife and similar comments. And it is true, their genetic inheritance comes directly from me and my wife and the blend of our genes has made three very different and unique children. What gets passed on and how is the subject of this weighty tome.

In this very researched book, Zimmer takes us back through our genetic history to show how these fragments make up our very being. Of the trillions of cells in our bodies, those that contain our DNA make us who we are, what we look like, how our health will be and countless other factors. But there is more to it than that, our genetic code is not the only thing passed from mother to child, echoes of past event from our father and his parents can be seen in the code, we get our first immune system via the placenta and the various microbes that ensure that we can live as passed on too.

There is a fascinating chapter on Chimeras – these are people who carry more than one set of DNA. This was never thought to be possible, but after various anomalies including where a mother was witnessed giving birth to a child, the DNA test said that it wasn’t her child. The investigation into it discovered how DNA can transfer between non-identical twins after one dies in the womb. A mother can even absorb some of the DNA from the child she is carrying.

There is a wealth of information and details in this substantial, but still a very readable book. Not only does he consider where we have got to in our understanding on DNA, but he contemplates the future of inheritance and what heredity will mean in years to come. Even though I never did biology while  at school, Zimmer manages to make this fairly substantial tome a straightforward book for readers like me.

Black Sea by Caroline Eden

4 out of 5 stars

The Black Sea is a place of contrasts. Not only is it the focal point for a number of countries, but it is the meeting point of continents and a place where different cultures contrast and meld. To discover more about this place in the world Caroline Eden circumnavigates its coast.

The surf barely lapped the shore, making the Black Sea look a solid block of blue…

She travels from Odessa to Bessarabia, then to Romania, Bulgaria and onto Turkey. In each of the places she visits, she picks away at the history and culture and meets the people of that country across a table and on a plate. Memories are frequently formed when on holiday over meals and this is her eulogy to the region. It is a wonderful mix of travelogue and recipe book,  adventures as she heads from city to city, restaurant to café, stopping at stalls to sample and purchase the fragrant foods on offer.

I have read a lot of cookery books in my time, and I can recommend this one for the prose and the food and the stunning images of the places and evocative photos of the food she ate on her journey. Also, this is a visually stunning book too, even before you have picked it up. The deep black cover with the silvered waves glisten and the black edges make this a book of contrasts, just like the place.

Inventing Ourselves by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

4 out of 5 stars

The very nerve centre of the human body is the brain. Its input is our senses, the memory helps us to learn from mistakes and controls the reactions that are needed. For hundreds of years, the brain has been a mystery to all that studied it, but only in the past few decades have we begun to scratch the surface of its capabilities. Even that is unravelling; those that thought as puberty begun, the human brain was developed have been proved wrong. The brain continues to change and adapt all through the teenage years and into adulthood.

In this excellent book on why the teenage brain is different, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, professor in cognitive neuroscience at University College London takes us into the untidy spaces within their heads to share the latest details of what is going on. From her experiments that her team have in researching the brain we will learn about why they take risks, why some friendships can be so intense, why some behave badly and others won’t talk. This time of our lives is when we can enormously creative and also destructive, a lot of mental health issues raise their head for the first time ever in teenagers.

As the father of two teenage daughters and one almost teenage son, there are a lot of things that I can relate to that she talks about in here. The brain is at a critical point in its development in teenage years and is susceptible to all sort of external stresses. Some of these can be positive, but there are a lot that have negative implications. Like all good science books it makes you think and even though this is about our most complex organ, the prose sparkles with energy and is written with clarity. Well worth reading and a worthy winner of the Royal Science Award.


Lost Dorset by David Burnett & Barry Cuff

5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

As the Victorian age was drawing to a close, new things and technologies were becoming commonplace and it was a time of change across the country. One of those inventions was the postcard that made use of the 1/2p stamps. The first postcards were blank both sides and then some genius had the bright idea of popping a photo one of the sides using the new camera technology. The idea took off and photographers scoured the land looking for photogenic places and people to capture.

Dorset was one of those places. The cracking set of 350 postcards reproduced in the book are from the Barry Cuff Collection which has over 10,000 in it. A few of these have been published before, but most are very rare and haven’t been seen since they were first posted over 100 years ago. It is an excellent snapshot of rural life in the county that is now my home. The photos are grouped into a variety of subjects, from railways, farming life and pubs. It is a fascinating snapshot of rural life and would be perfect for anyone interested in the history of Dorset. Some of the places pictured have changed out of all recognition and there are other places where there is almost no difference between then and now.

The Hedgehog Handbook by Sally Coulthard

3 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Of all the wild mammals that we have in the UK the most commonly seen one now is the fox, but go back a few years and most people would have come across the spiny-backed hedgehog snuffling around in the bushes at night in their gardens. When we first moved down to Dorset we had one in our garden too, but haven’t seen it for years now. Turns out these charming little creatures have had a catastrophic slump in numbers and are seriously threatened. This is where this little book comes in.

Coulthard explains just how this prickly mammal has had a long cultural influence, and the lore that has risen around it. But more than that it is crammed full of practical advice on how to care for these creatures should you have one around the garden, what food to put out and the sort of habitats that make the difference between survival and eradication. The book takes us through the year from when a hedgehog emerges from hibernation in March and is full of practical advice. There are lots of charming illustrations by Vanessa Lubach and Sylvie Rabbe liberally scattered throughout too. Really nicely produced book.

Morning by Allan Jenkins

4 out of 5 stars

Most mornings follow the same pattern; I wake at the angry insistence of the alarm, then ablutions, head downstairs, empty the dishwasher, make lunches and take a coffee up at 7 am to wake my wife. Then it is the fun job of waking the dead, or teenagers as they are otherwise known… That said, there is something about waking early on a bright clear day at the weekend, before anyone else in the household has woken, getting a coffee and sitting outside with a book. It is a rare treat.

 This is Allan Jenkins perspective too. He is in bed early to enable him to rise very early in the morning, sometimes as early as 4 am. In this magical time as night shifts today, he uses it to walk, read, garden on his allotment or just to enjoy the moment. He talks to others who love this time of the morning, asking the same set of questions and eliciting very different responses for each participant.  I liked the diary format, the chart of sun rises over the course of a year and the exploration of various subjects concerned with mornings and just thought that this was a really well-written celebration of mornings and dawn.

Upstate by James Wood

4 out of 5 stars

Alan Querry is a property developer based in the north of England. The company is doing ok at the moment but he has his hands full with that and visiting his mother who is in a home. What he doesn’t need is any more complications, but one of his daughters, Vanessa, Is suffering from depression again and has just broken her arm after falling down the stairs in her home in America. He decides he needs to get to America to see her and her boyfriend, Josh. He meets his other daughter, Helen, in New York and they get on the train to head upstate toSaratoga Springs where she is living with her boyfriend, Josh.

Over the next six days, they will slowly move around each other, probing for answers to questions that have not been asked, choosing not to reveal intimate details for fear of being seen as weak. They trawl through the history of the family in fleeting and shallow conversations. They talk about the divorce that Alan and Cathy went through just at the critical moment of their daughters’ upbringing, Cathy’s death a few years ago and why both daughters still dislike Alan’s current girlfriend, Candace.

It was a strange novel really. Not a lot happens in terms of action, it is really about the interaction between a father and his daughters and how the conversation circles round without any of them getting to the crux of the matter. It kind of reinforces the thing that I have heard that says children are for life, as he still worries for them and their prospects even though they are grown women and have children of their own. In some ways, it reminded me a little of Stoner, a well written, gentle viewing of family life, except this time a little more intense as it is set over six days, not a lifetime.

Monthly Muse – November

How is it December already? Time is definitely speeding up each and every year.  Anyway, you’re here for the books really. On the 19th November, I was supposed to be heading up into London to meet with the others on the shadow panel for The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer Of The Year Award, in association with The University of Warwick. Except, thanks to Network Rail overrunning on engineering works, there were no trains running. I thought I was going to be on the 7.40 and there was nothing until the first train came through at 9.40. Missed the meeting and have to participate over the phone! It was a close thing and we picked a winner which you can read about here.

Every year I participate in the Good Reads reading challenge. I set mine to 190 every year and normally complete it with a few days to spare. This year for the first time ever I finished a month early:

I think that I might crack the 200 for the first time ever. On to what I read last month. For those of you that don’t know, November for bloggers is often Non-Fiction November where people expand their reading from fiction into the wonderful world of non-fiction. I read a lot of non-fiction and in a certain irony, I ended up reading seven fiction books this month! But we will start with a book on cities by Darran Anderson called Imaginary Cities. In this, he roams through space, time and possibility, mapping cities of sound, melancholia and the afterlife, where time runs backwards or which float among the clouds. I quite liked it, but I did have some reservations.

Read one on cycling as I was meeting a publicist who I was going to pass it to after I had read it. William Manners book, Revolution: How the Bicycle Reinvented Modern Britain is about the Victorian craze on cycling and how this simple =, efficient machine changed society. Really enjoyable and had some amazing period photos.
These are the fiction books that I read, two were for the Young writer’s award. I read The Word For Woman Is Wilderness as I was going to hear Abi talk at the Bridport Literary Festival. The Maltese Falcon was a book group read and the others were some that I had been sent as someone thought that I might be interested in. Quite a varied selection, but I think my favourite of those was Elmet closely followed by Upstate.
Apart from road atlases, not many people think of the AA as a publisher of books but they have a small and varied selection of other books that they bring out each year. Bognor and Other Regises: A Potted History of Britain in 100 Royal Places by Caroline Taggart is one of those books. It is an interesting read of 100 places around the UK that have some royal significance. One for your regal aficionado.
I wasn’t quite sure how to categorise Morning by Alan Jenkins, so it got dropped into my miscellaneous books. This is his call to persuade people that rising early can be a wonderful thing. It is made up from interviews with others that are up at the crack of sparrows and a diary of his early mornings. I really liked it in the end.
Managed to read four natural history books this month:
John Lewis-Stempel needs no introduction, twice winner of the Wainwright prize and one of the UK’s top Natural History writers at the moment, this short book is a eulogy to the oak. I had read Susan Casey’s book on Waves and found Voices In The Ocean: A Journey Into The Wild And Haunting World Of Dolphins at the library. Not quite as good as Waves, none the less it is a fascinating guide to the sparklingly intelligent dolphins.  Wilding: The Return Of Nature To A British Farm is the story of Isabella Tree and her husband’s farm after they decided to stop farming it intensively and let the natural world return. An excellent book, as well as showing how much impact even small effects can have. The Hedgehog Handbook by Sally Coulthard is about one of the nation’s favourite mammals that is suffering a catastrophic collapse in numbers and how doing simple things can help it.
I don’t read many poetry books, but this I saw on Twitter and my library had a copy. Stanza Stones is Simon Armitage’s project to bring poetry to the Pennines. This place is raw and elemental and his worth with Pip hall to carve beautiful poems into ancient rocks through the patina and grime is a wonderful thing.
I have two teenage daughters and one son who will become a teenager next year. They are wonderful in their own way, but can also be challenging at times. Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life Of The Teenage Brain  Science by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and the winner of the Royal Society Prize this year, is a summary of her work looking at how the teenage brain is very different from children’s and adult brains. Very interesting and explains a lot!
The final book to mention this month was the final one for the Young Writers Award and was Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey by Adam Weymouth. This tells his journey down the Yukon River in a canoe, meeting the people who inhabit this wilderness and following the trail of King Salmon to the mouth of the river. An accomplished debut travel book and well worth reading.
So that was it. Eighteen books. Any of those that you have read? Or take your fancy?

The Maltese Falcon

3 out of 5 stars

It had begun like a normal day, but when the charming Miss Wonderly appears in his office asking him to follow someone called Floyd Thursby. He lets his partner Miles Archer do this one and it seems straightforward. Turns out that it isn’t going to be easy when Thursby and Archer turn up dead shortly after and the police are there sniffing around for evidence.

A scared Miss Wonderly appears shortly after and begs him to help her. Turns out she is not who she said she was and the two men died because of the missing Maltese Falcon. Others are interested in this too, and Spade is visited by Joel Cairo wh offers him a large sum to find it, before threatening him and searching his office. More armed hoodlums appear, Casper Gutman and Wilmer Cook who are desperate to find this falcon too. As the intensity builds, someone is going to get hurt and Spade does not want it to be him

I am not normally a crime reader, finding a little predictable often. However, this classic private eye novel that spawned a 1000 imitations and I’d thought that I’d give it a go.  The two main characters are strong and well supported by the minor characters. I really enjoyed the twists and turns that Hammett includes in the plot and the tensions that he builds in the narrative. A short and well-executed book.

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