Gift a book for Father’s Day 2021

16 June 2021

Instead of buying yet another tie for Father’s Day, why not book a steam train, plan a foraging walk, plunge into a trip through history, or embark on an adventure through the mind, all from the comfort of your sofa?

Our intern, Lydia Fried, put together a list of books that are sure to help you celebrate the father figure in your life this year.

Tell us what you’re gifting for Father’s Day – @ProfileBooks.


THE HIDDEN SPRING – Mark Solms

A revolutionary new explanation for sentience from the neuroscientist who discovered how the brain dreams.

How does the mind connect to the body? Why does it feel like something to be us? For one of the boldest thinkers in neuroscience, solving this puzzle has been a lifetime’s quest. Now at last, the man who discovered the brain mechanism for dreaming appears to have made a breakthrough.

The very idea that a solution is at hand may seem outrageous. Isn’t consciousness intangible, beyond the reach of science? Yet Mark Solms shows how misguided fears and suppositions have concealed its true nature. Stick to the medical facts, pay close attention to the eerie testimony of hundreds of neurosurgery patients, and a way past our obstacles reveals itself.

Join Solms on a voyage into the extraordinary realms beyond. More than just a philosophical argument, The Hidden Spring will forever alter how you understand your own experience. There is a secret buried in the brain’s ancient foundations: bring it into the light and we fathom all the depths of our being.

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ALL IN IT TOGETHER – Alwyn Turner

A biting and original history which places culture front and centre to explain how our country went to pieces.

Perhaps the Brexit vote shouldn’t have come as such a shock. In Cool Britannia’s long hangover, every pillar of British society seemed to sink into a mire of its own making, from the Church to the banks to the great offices of state. Even the BBC lost its reassuring dignity (though the private schools were doing rather well: their former pupils were everywhere). We were losing our faith in the system. How did it come to this?

Weaving politics and popular culture into a mesmerising tapestry, historian Alwyn Turner tells the definitive story of the Blair, Brown and Cameron years. Some details may trigger a laugh of recognition (the spectre of bird flu; the electoral machinations of Robert Kilroy-Silk). Others are so surreal you could be forgiven for blocking them out first time around (did Peter Mandelson really enlist a Candomblé witch doctor to curse Gordon Brown’s press secretary?). The deepest patterns, however, only reveal themselves at a certain distance. Through the Iraq War and the 2008 crash, the rebirth of light entertainment and the rise of the ‘problematic’, Turner shows how the crisis in the soul of a nation played out in its daily dramas and nightly entertainments.

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THE SUM OF US – Heather McGhee

The heartbreaking, liberating truth about what racism has cost all of us.

THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Soon to be adapted by Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground podcast

What would make a society drain its public swimming baths and fill them with concrete rather than opening them to everyone? Economics researcher Heather McGhee sets out across America to learn why white voters so often act against their own interests. Why do they block changes that would help them, and even destroy their own advantages, whenever people of colour also stand to benefit?

Their tragedy is that they believe they can’t win unless somebody else loses. But this is a lie. McGhee marshals overwhelming economic evidence, and a profound well of empathy, to reveal the surprising truth: even racists lose out under white supremacy.

And US racism is everybody’s problem. As McGhee shows, it was bigoted lending policies that laid the ground for the 2008 financial crisis. There can be little prospect of tackling global climate change until America’s zero-sum delusions are defeated. The Sum of Us offers a priceless insight into the workings of prejudice, and a timely invitation to solidarity among all humans, ‘to piece together a new story of who we could be to one another’.

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STEAM TRAINS TODAY – Andrew Martin

A delightfully warm exploration of a very British obsession.

After the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, many railways were ‘rationalised’ and gradually shut down. Rural communities were isolated without ready access to the main lines and steam trains slowly gave way to diesel and electric traction. But some people were not prepared to let the romance of train travel die. Thanks to their efforts, many of these lines passed into community ownership and are now booming with new armies of dedicated volunteers.

Andrew Martin goes out to meet these enthusiasts and find out just what it is about preserved railways which makes people so devoted. From the inspiration for Thomas the Tank Engine to John Betjeman’s battle against encroaching modernity, Steam Trains Today is a wonderful journey across Britain from Aviemore to Epping.

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BRITAIN AT BAY – Alan Allport

Power. Glory. Death. Courage. How well do we know the story of the Second World War?

Times Book of the Year

‘Britain’s wartime story has been told many times, but never as cleverly as this.’ Dominic Sandbrook

In the bleak first half of the Second World War, Britain stood alone against the Axis forces. Isolated and outmanoeuvred, it seemed as though she might fall at any moment. Only an extraordinary effort of courage – by ordinary men and women – held the line.

The Second World War is the defining experience of modern British history, a new Iliad for our own times. But, as Alan Allport reveals in this, the first part of a major new two-volume history, the real story was often very different from the myth that followed it. From the subtle moral calculus of appeasement to the febrile dusts of the Western Desert, Allport interrogates every aspect of the conflict – and exposes its echoes in our own age.

Challenging orthodoxy and casting fresh light on famous events from Dunkirk to the Blitz, this is the real story of a clash between civilisations that remade the world in its image.

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THE FORAGER’S CALENDAR – John Wright

A beautiful bible for every outdoors lover.

WINNER OF THE GUILD OF FOOD WRITERS AWARD FOR FOOD BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020
WINNER OF WOODLANDS AWARDS BEST WOODLAND BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020

Look out of your window, walk down a country path or go to the beach in Great Britain, and you are sure to see many wild species that you can take home and eat. From dandelions in spring to sloe berries in autumn, via wild garlic, samphire, chanterelles and even grasshoppers, our countryside is full of edible delights in any season.

John Wright is the country’s foremost expert in foraging and brings decades of experience, including as forager at the River Cottage, to this seasonal guide. Month by month, he shows us what species can be found and where, how to identify them, and how to store, use and cook them. You’ll learn the stories behind the Latin names, the best way to tap a Birch tree, and how to fry an ant, make rosehip syrup and cook a hop omelette.

Fully illustrated throughout, with tips on kit, conservation advice and what to avoid, this is an indispensable guide for everyone interested in wild food, whether you want to explore the great outdoors, or are happiest foraging from your armchair.

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THE RULES OF CONTAGION – Adam Kucharski

The new science of contagion, and the surprising ways it shapes our lives and behaviour.

An Observer Book of the Year
Times Science Book of the Year
New Statesman Book of the Year
Financial Times Science Book of the Year


A deadly virus suddenly explodes into the population. A political movement gathers pace, and then quickly vanishes. An idea takes off like wildfire, changing our world forever. We live in a world that’s more interconnected than ever before. Our lives are shaped by outbreaks – of disease, of misinformation, even of violence – that appear, spread and fade away with bewildering speed.

To understand them, we need to learn the hidden laws that govern them. From ‘superspreaders’ who might spark a pandemic or bring down a financial system to the social dynamics that make loneliness catch on, The Rules of Contagion offers compelling insights into human behaviour and explains how we can get better at predicting what happens next.

Along the way, Adam Kucharski explores how innovations spread through friendship networks, what links computer viruses with folk stories – and why the most useful predictions aren’t necessarily the ones that come true.

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WAR – Margaret MacMillan

How the human history of conflict has transformed the world we live in – for good and evil.

New York Times 10 Best Book of 2020
Sunday Times best book for Autumn 2020
Guardian critics’ pick for Autumn 2020
Wall Street Journal notable book of 2020

The time since the Second World War has been seen by some as the longest uninterrupted period of harmony in human history: the ‘long peace’, as Stephen Pinker called it. But despite this, there has been a military conflict ongoing every year since 1945. The same can be said for every century of recorded history. Is war, therefore, an essential part of being human?

In War, Professor Margaret MacMillan explores the deep links between society and war and the questions they raise. We learn when war began – whether among early homo sapiens or later, as we began to organise ourselves into tribes and settle in communities. We see the ways in which war reflects changing societies and how war has brought change – for better and worse.

Economies, science, technology, medicine, culture: all are instrumental in war and have been shaped by it – without conflict it we might not have had penicillin, female emancipation, radar or rockets. Throughout history, writers, artists, film-makers, playwrights, and composers have been inspired by war – whether to condemn, exalt or simply puzzle about it. If we are never to be rid of war, how should we think about it and what does that mean for peace?

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THE CONFIDENCE MEN – Margalit Fox

The astonishing true story of two First World War prisoners who pulled off one of the most ingenious escapes of all time.

Imprisoned in a remote Turkish POW camp during the First World War, two British officers, Harry Jones and Cedric Hill, cunningly join forces. To stave off boredom, Jones makes a handmade Ouija board and holds fake séances for fellow prisoners. One day, an Ottoman official approaches him with a query: could Jones contact the spirits to find a vast treasure rumoured to be buried nearby? Jones, a lawyer, and Hill, a magician, use the Ouija board – and their keen understanding of the psychology of deception-to build a trap for their captors that will lead them to freedom.

The Confidence Men is a nonfiction thriller featuring strategy, mortal danger and even high farce – and chronicles a profound but unlikely friendship.

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DANCING ON ROPES – Anna Aslanyan

Horizon-expanding tales of how translators altered the course of world events.

Would Hiroshima have been bombed if Japanese contained a phrase meaning ‘no comment’? Is it alright for missionaries to replace the Bible’s ‘white as snow’ with ‘white as fungus’ in places where snow never falls? Who, or what, is Kuzma’s mother, and why was Nikita Khrushchev so threateningly obsessed with her (or it)?

The course of diplomacy rarely runs smooth; without an invisible army of translators and interpreters, it’s hard to see how it could run at all. But though such go-betweens tend to be overlooked, even despised, the subtlest of them have achieved a remarkable degree of influence.

Join veteran translator Anna Aslanyan to explore hidden histories of cunning and ambition, heroism and incompetence. Meet the figures behind the notable events of history, from the Great Game to Brexit, and discover just how far a simple misunderstanding can go.

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FIELD WORK – Bella Bathurst

What does it take to make a living from the land in modern Britain?

For many of us, Britain is countryside – drystone walls, stiles, sheep on a distant hillside. But farmers themselves often remain a mystery: familiar but unpredictable, a secretive industry still visible from space. Who are these people who shape our countryside and put food on our tables? And what does it take to pull a life out of earth?

From fruit farmers to fallen stock operators, from grassy uplands to polytunnels, Bella Bathurst journeys through Britain to talk to those on the far side of the fence. As farmers find themselves torn between time-honoured methods and modern appetites, these shocking, raw, wise and funny accounts will open out a way of life now changing beyond recognition.

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THE GUN, THE SHIP, AND THE PEN – Linda Colley

Award-winning historian Linda Colley shows the dawn of the modern world – through the advance of written constitutions.

Starting not with the United States, but with the Corsican constitution of 1755, The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen moves through every continent, disrupting accepted narratives. Both monarchs and radicals play a role, from Catherine the Great of Russia, with her remarkable Nakaz, to Sierra Leone’s James Africanus Horton, to Tunisia’s Khayr-al-Din, a creator of the first modern Islamic constitution. Throughout, Colley demonstrates how constitutions evolved in tandem with warfare, and how they have functioned to advance empire as well as promote nations, and worked to exclude as well as liberate.

Whether reinterpreting Japan’s momentous 1889 constitution, or exploring the significance of the first constitution to enfranchise all adult women on Pitcairn Island in the Pacific in 1838, this is one of the most original global histories in decades.

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THE IDEA OF THE BRAIN – Matthew Cobb

A monumental, sweeping journey from the ancient roots of neurology to the most astonishing recent research, which Henry Marsh (Admissions) called an ‘intellectual tour de force’

Shortlisted for the 2020 Baillie Gifford Prize

This is the story of our quest to understand the most mysterious object in the universe: the human brain.

Today we tend to picture it as a computer. Earlier scientists thought about it in their own technological terms: as a telephone switchboard, or a clock, or all manner of fantastic mechanical or hydraulic devices. Could the right metaphor unlock the its deepest secrets once and for all?

Galloping through centuries of wild speculation and ingenious, sometimes macabre anatomical investigations, scientist and historian Matthew Cobb reveals how we came to our present state of knowledge. Our latest theories allow us to create artificial memories in the brain of a mouse, and to build AI programmes capable of extraordinary cognitive feats. A complete understanding seems within our grasp.

But to make that final breakthrough, we may need a radical new approach. At every step of our quest, Cobb shows that it was new ideas that brought illumination. Where, he asks, might the next one come from? What will it be?

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PARIS MATCH – John Von Sothen

How to become Parisian – a genuine, laugh-out-loud tale of French life.

In Brooklyn, John von Sothen fell in love with Anaïs, a French waitress. And then, one night in Paris, on the Pont Neuf, she agreed to marry him (“Bah, we can always get divorced!”). A couple of decades in, the two have become quatre, living in their beloved 10th arondissement with teenage kids who chat to their African neighbours in fluent Parisian slang, and John has even become kind of French himself. Well, he likes to think he has. The family still see him as an American innocent abroad.

Paris Match is one of those rare books that makes you laugh out loud, as von Sothen attempts to understand what makes the French tick. Why do they take such long holidays with friends who ration snacks and mock you for sleeping in; why do French men turn to him (an American!) for fashion tips; what really is the correct way to cut brie, and how do you tell if you’re being invited to a super-exclusive secret society of intellectuals or a weird sex club? John von Sothen has found most of the answers and in this delightful, witty book shares his experience, insights and humour into the fine art of becoming everyday French.

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