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Mountain Tales: an extract

‘Roy has a journalist’s unflinching eye, a poet’s talent for detail, and a radical sense of empathy … a stunning achievement.’
– Kiran Desai, Booker Prize-winning author of The Inheritance of Loss

‘If you read one book about India, read this one.’
– Geeta Anand, Pulitzer Prize-winner and author of The Cure

All of Mumbai’s memories and castaway possessions come to die at the Deonar garbage mountains. And among these vast, teetering piles of discarded things, a small, forgotten community lives and works. Scouring the dump for whatever can be resold or recycled, waste pickers also mark the familiar milestones of babies born, love found, illnesses suffered and recovered from. Like a mirror image, their stories are shaped by the influx of unwanted things from the world outside. But now, as Deonar’s toxic halo becomes undeniable, a change is coming. And as officials try to close it, the lives that the pickers have built on the Mountain seem more fragile than ever.

Saumya Roy spent more than eight years entangled with the Deonar mountains and their denizens, watching the lives and businesses of four families unfold in their shadow. Most of all she watched a teenager, Farzana Ali Shaikh, grow into a life that seemed as unlikely as the mountains, rising precipitously with the desires that had flickered and died in the city. This book is Farzana’s story.

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Read an extract below:


1

Farzana Ali Shaikh rummaged on a mountain clearing on a hot April afternoon. The sun warmed her head and made lurid colours swim in her eyes. The smell of rotting prawns wafted up from the mountain. She jabbed her long garbage fork to push aside translucent fish scales, crackling prawn shells, entrails and animal dung, and scooped up the broken glass jars that had just poured out on the clearing.

Smoke and heat rose up, as forklifts shovelled glass away. It blurred Farzana’s view of the trash strewn around her and brought up burning smells that mingled with the stench of decaying flesh. Scavenging birds swooped low beside her, searching for entrails. Farzana kept her eye on the glass and hacked her fork into the mess, keen to retrieve it. She didn’t usually work on the jhinga or prawn loop, as this mountain was known. It was made up of remains from the city’s municipal slaughterhouse and its vast port lands. That afternoon she and her younger sister, Farha, had chased a garbage truck winding up its unsteady slope.

Farzana worked quickly, shovelling glass jars, shards and saline bags that had fallen out of the truck into the large bag she dragged along. The truck had probably come from a hospital, and its contents would fetch good money. A straggly crowd built up around her, also eager for the glass. But, at seventeen, Farzana was tall, athletic and fearless. Her eyes were trained to spot plastic bottles, wire, glass, German Silver – a metal alloy often used to make appliances and machinery – or cloth scraps. She snapped up her pickings before others could get to them.

She looked up to make sure that Farha was picking close by. It must nearly be time for their father to arrive with lunch, she thought. She clanked her fork into the glass heap again and, this time, brought out a heavy blue plastic bag. Farzana thought it must be filled with smaller glass bottles, which usually fetched a good price. She squatted on the warm fly-filled slope, untied the string and gently upturned the bag, expecting delicate glass vials to pour down, clinking and glinting in the sun. Instead a single large glass jar plopped onto the clearing. As she bent low to see what was inside, she could make out arms, legs, toes and tiny bald heads swimming into each other within it. She squinted, looked again and screamed. A few friends gathered to examine the jar crammed with floating limbs. Farzana opened the lid and brought out a baby girl, a little bigger than her large, bony palm.

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Gift a book for Father’s Day 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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Five reasons why you should care about swimming pools in the US

What would make a society drain its public swimming pools and fill them with concrete rather than opening them to everyone?

In The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, 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.

Racism in the United States drained the pools and this is everybody’s problem. Here are five reasons why:

1. Racism caused the global financial crisis

It was the use of biased lending policies that laid the groundwork for the 2008 financial crisis. Predatory loan companies disproportionately targeted black communities in redlined areas, but the system only imploded in 2008 when white consumers fell victim to the same strategies. This had repercussions across the globe, many of which are still being felt today.

2. Racism has a negative impact on climate change

Black communities are significantly more polluted than those that are a majority white, due to housing policies that excluded black families from all but designated industrial ‘sacrifice zones.’  This has a global impact and there can be little prospect of tackling global climate change until America’s zero-sum delusions are defeated.

3. Racism in the US was caused by the legacy of British colonialism

The system that defines the United States came directly from imperial practices. It is a former British colony that has enshrined racism into law to preserve an economy built on the back of stolen labour and land. We must come to terms with our own legacy in order to move forward, recognising the negative effects of which we are capable of triggering.

4. Overcoming racism is a key step in tackling global division

In the face of an increasingly divided world, learning from the risks and limitations of a segregated society can help us to forward from Brexit, COVID-19 and more. A divided world cannot tackle issues that affect us all, so the more we can learn about overcoming division, the more we will all benefit.

5. Anti-racism must be a global effort

Racism exists in the UK as well and it hurts us all. In order to be anti-racist, we must learn the heartbreaking, liberating truth about what racism has cost all of us—and what we can do about it. This is a collective effort that can only be fully impactful when we tackle the issue together, all over the world. Only with an insight into the workings of prejudice can we achieve solidarity among all humans, ‘to piece together a new story of who we could be to one another.’

 

‘I’m thrilled that Profile is bringing The Sum of Us to UK readers. I hope that the book will explain what happened to the once-thriving American middle class and serve as a cautionary tale for other nations. While the political hymns in the US and the UK are in different keys, they sure do rhyme. A fairer, more inclusive and more prosperous economy is available to all of us if we reject zero-sum narratives and start aiming for a solidarity dividend.’ Heather McGhee

Order this instant New York Times bestseller, which is out in the UK now.

Follow Heather McGhee on Twitter: @hmcghee

Watch Heather McGhee’s TED Talk on how racism makes the economy worse, which has pulled in over 2 million views to date.

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New Leaves: Souvenir Books for a Fresh 2021

Having experienced the difficulties and anxieties of 2020, the start of a new year gives us a chance to turn a new leaf in our lives.

Whether you’re hoping to pick up a new hobby, improve your work habits, or find some inner peace, we’ve put together a list of books that will inspire change and improvement in your own life, so you can start this year on a new page.

Browse the collection to find your newest inspiring read.

A groundbreaking new book about listening to ourselves, to others and to the world from the internationally bestselling ‘queen of change’ Julia Cameron

A helpful and humorous guide to shedding our anxious habits and building a more solid sense of self in our increasingly anxiety-inducing world

A complete training plan that allows anyone to achieve results that were once only available to elite athletes – devised by Michael Jordan’s trainer Tim S. Grover

A workbook of 40 exercises to accompany the acclaimed drawing guide Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain Workbook, the world’s most widely used drawing instruction book by Betty Edwards

A self-help guide for freelancers, business owners and company employees working from home – addressing the emotional and mental challenges of working alone

A newly designed and repackaged paperback of the multi-million-copy bestseller: discover your innate creativity with The Artist’s Way

An indispensable guide for straight men by an expert sex therapist

The last work by Alan Watts, Tao is the culmination of a lifetime’s study and thought, in which he tackles the Chinese philosophy of Tao

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The Profile Christmas Gift Guide 2020

It’s here! Our Christmas gift guide, which has on it a list of the brightest and best and most beautiful books you could possibly wish for.

Here are our picks – from the Sunday Times bestselling A Cheesemonger’s History of the British Isles, to Elif Shafak’s gorgeous and stocking-sized How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division, to the second installment of hilarious diaries from Shaun Bythell’s Wigtown Bookshop, Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops. Enjoy!

Go to the Profile Christmas Book Gift Guide >>

 

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Gawande and Murthy appointed to Joe Biden’s Covid task force

We were thrilled – and reassured – this week to see that two Profile authors, Atul Gawande and Vivek Murthy, have been appointed to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ Covid-19 advisory board.

The advisory board is made up 13 doctors and reasearchers, who will advise the new administration on their strategy.

Joe Biden posted a photo of the first briefing on his instagram.

Atul Gawande is the author of three bestselling books: Complications, a finalist for the National Book Award; Better, selected by Amazon.com as one of the ten best books of 2007; and The Checklist Manifesto. His most recent book, Being Mortal, was a New York Times and Sunday Times Bestseller. He is also a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for the New Yorker, and a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. He has won the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science, a MacArthur Fellowship, and two National Magazine Awards. In 2014, he delivered the BBC Reith Lectures. In his work in public health, he is director of Ariadne Labs, a joint centre for health system innovation, and chairman of Lifebox, a nonprofit organisation making surgery safer globally. He and his wife have three children and live in Newton, Massachusetts.

Dr. Vivek H. Murthy is a physician, researcher, public health expert, and entrepreneur. From 2014 to 2017, he served as the 19th Surgeon General of the United States. His writings have been published in leading medical journals, newspapers and magazines, and his work has been covered extensively in national and international media. In 2021, Murthy was named co-chair of Joe Biden’s twelve-person Covid-19 task force.

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Q&A with Betty Edwards, author of Drawing on the Dominant Eye

From the author of the world’s most popular drawing instruction manual Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, this new book helps you discover a new way of drawing and problem solving.

Betty Edwards reveals the role our dominant eye plays in how we perceive, create, and are seen by those around us. Research shows that much like being right-handed or left-handed, each of us has a dominant eye, corresponding to the dominant side of our brain – either verbal or perceptual. Once you learn the difference and try your hand at the simple drawing exercises, you’ll gain fresh insights into how you perceive, think, and create. You’ll learn how to not just look but truly see.

Generously illustrated throughout, Drawing on the Dominant Eye offers a remarkable guided tour through art history, psychology, and the creative process; a must-read for anyone looking for a richer understanding of our art, our minds, and ourselves.

Buy your copy from your local independent bookshop or at Bookshop.org, Waterstones, or Amazon

 Betty Edwards

A Q&A WITH BETTY EDWARDS

What has changed the most for you in terms of your approach to creativity over the years?

There are so many things that I have learned over all these decades, but a key was Roger Sperry’s Nobel Prize-winning discoveries about the brain’s dual functions – visual and verbal – and how that impacts creative thinking.

Who is your/has been your biggest creative inspiration?

There are many who have inspired me:  George Orwell, for writing.  Roger Sperry, for science.  In terms of art, the list of inspirational artists over centuries is far too long to list here.  But perhaps my greatest creative inspiration has been seeing how our students who participate in the Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain Workshops learn to draw in only 5 days. 

 You have had an amazing career – what have been your personal highlights?

– Seeing Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, first published in 1979, become a surprise best-seller.
– Lecturing and speaking in so many parts of the world about a subject for which I have such passion.

– Knowing that my books have helped or inspired so many people over 40 years.

– Having a chance to publish this new book, Drawing on the Dominant Eye, which focuses on a different aspect of creativity.

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

Say things as plainly as possible.

What is your advice for people struggling with their creativity during the Pandemic?

Actually, one of the few positive things about the COVID pandemic may be that many people who must remain sheltered have found new creative interests and outlets, including drawing.

Do you have a go-to exercise in the workbook, or one that has received the most feedback?

The exercise that has clearly made the most impact is the “Upside Down Drawing,” particularly the Picasso drawing of Igor Stravinsky, which is featured in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.  When students complete this exercise and turn their drawing right side up, they are always amazed at what they have been able to draw!


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Announcing Cheerio Publishing

cheerio banner

 

We’re hugely excited to be publishing the books of CHEERIO, a new, independent publishing and film production company established by leading literary agent Clare Conville, celebrated author and curator Harriet Vyner in partnership with The Estate of Francis Bacon.

CHEERIO’s name is a nod to Bacon’s favourite drinking toast. It will commission unexpected and provocative essay collections, books and films from contributors across a broad range of artistic disciplines. Much of its content is inspired by or linked to Francis Bacon’s life and work, although that is not a prerequisite. Its eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction, drama and factual, will appeal to enquiring minds with an artistic bent.

CHEERIO’s first books – BACON IN MOSCOW by James Birch with Barry Miles, LITTLE SNAKE: AN ENQUIRY INTO GAMBLING AND LIFE by DBC Pierre and JACKDAW by Tade Thompson – will be released from 2022 onwards. They will be published in collaboration with Profile Books, independent publisher of inventive books, powerful voices and lively thought.

In addition, CHEERIO enters a three-year partnership with THE WHITE REVIEW on its hugely successful The White Review Poet’s Prize from this month. With CHEERIO’s support, the Poet’s Prize will award £2,500 to the winner, an increase on previous years and equivalent to the award money of the Short Story Prize – a recognition of the need to challenge the longstanding undervaluing of poetry against fiction. The 2021 Prize will be judged by three established poets: Jay Bernard (FRSA, FRSL), Emily Berry and Kayo Chingonyi.

Helen Conford, Publisher at Profile, said:

“I’m delighted to be working with Clare and Harriet on such a fizzy, original imprint with such a great range of distinctive voices and bold plans. Cheerio, as Francis Bacon would say.”

Find out more at: www.cheeriopublishing.com

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Halloween at home with Dame Susan Hill

‘No one chills the heart like Susan Hill’ Daily Telegraph

As the temperature drops, the wind starts to whisper, and the fire beckons, so do Susan Hill’s spinechilling stories of murder, magic and mayhem…

This Halloween, the greatest living writer of ghost stories has a new title: Susan Hill was awarded a damehood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her services to literature.

From the horrifying secret of Eel Marsh House in The Woman in Black to the supernatural terror unleashed by spiteful Leonora van Vorst in Dolly, Susan Hill’s ghost stories never fail to raise the hairs on the back of your neck and keep you turning the pages long past midnight. Read on if you dare …

About the books

THE TRAVELLING BAG

From the foggy streets of Victorian London to the eerie perfection of 1950s suburbia, the everyday is invaded by the otherworldly in this unforgettable collection of ghost stories.

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THE SMALL HAND

Late one summer evening, antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow is returning from a client visit when he takes a wrong turn. He stumbles across a derelict Edwardian house, and compelled by curiosity, approaches the door. Standing before the entrance, he feels the unmistakable sensation of a small cold hand creeping into his own, ‘as if a child had taken hold of it’…

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PRINTER’S DEVIL COURT

One murky November evening a conversation between four medical students takes a curious turn and Hugh is initiated into a dark secret. In the cellar of their narrow lodgings and a little used subterranean mortuary, they have begun to interfere with death itself…

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DOLLY

A perfect chiller: a story of two damaged children filled with unease, the supernatural and horror. Set in the forlorn remoter parts of the English Fens, two young cousins, Leonora and Edward, are parked for the summer with their ageing spinster aunt and her cruel housekeeper. When spoilt Leonora is not given the birthday present of a specific dolly that she wants, affairs inexorably take a much darker turn with terrifying, life-destroying consequences for everyone …

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THE WOMAN IN BLACK & OTHER GHOST STORIES

Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer, travels to a remote village to put the affairs of a recently deceased client, Alice Drablow in order. As he works alone in her isolated house, Kipps begins to uncover disturbing secrets – and his unease grows when he glimpses a mysterious woman dressed in black. The locals are strangely unwilling to talk about the unsettling occurrence, and Kipps is forced to uncover the true identity of the Woman in Black on his own, leading to a desperate race against time when he discovers her true intent…

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Q&A with Sybil Oldfield, author of The Black Book

 In 1939, the Gestapo created a list of names: the Britons whose removal would be the Nazis’ first priority in the event of a successful invasion. Who were they? What had they done to provoke Germany? For the first time, the historian Sybil Oldfield uncovers their stories and reveals why the Nazis feared their influence

Among them are the writers E. M. Forster and Virginia Woolf, the social reformers Margery Fry and Eleanor Rathbone MP, the artists Jacob Epstein and Oscar Kokoschka. Oldfield not only sheds light on the Gestapo worldview; she also movingly reveals a network of truly exemplary Britons: mavericks, moral visionaries and unsung heroes.

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 black book

A Q&A WITH SYBIL OLDFIELD

With her editor, Ed Lake

Ed Lake: Why/how did you decide to investigate the black book?

Sybil Oldfield: Once I learned that in 1938-9 the Gestapo compiled a list of those people they would arrest immediately on invading Britain, I had to find out who these anti-fascist men and women were.

Some were well-known anti-fascists – e.g. E.M. Forster who wrote in 1939 that ‘Jew-mania’ was ‘now the most shocking of all things’, and Virginia Woolf and H.G.Wells. But others I had to search for in WHO’s WHO 1939, the Oxford DNB and in the German, French, Czech, Dutch and Polish versions of Wikipedia, not to mention the Quaker archives in Friends’ House Library for the refugee rescuers and Stefan Lorant’s Picture Post before September 1939. Then there were the 20 years of research for my Dictionary of British Women Humanitarians, 1900-1950, and my personal knowledge of some individual refugees, eg Hans and Ilse Singer, who remembered Eleanor Rathbone – “She vos qvite a voman!'”

EL: What does it tell us about how the Nazis saw Britain?

SO: The Gestapo List tells us that to the Nazis, anti-Nazi Britain was not anti-fascist but simply anti- German -‘deutschfeindlich‘ . The Nazis saw Britain as the aggressor, declaring war on Germany in September,1939, refusing Hitler’s peace offer in July 1940, ;nd as an imperial maritime power encircling poor Germany by land and sea.

EL: Who was the most interesting inclusion?

SO: They are all fascinating and worth discovering, but I find the ‘Red’ Duchess of Atholl, most interesting. She was a Conservative MP whose passionate anti-appeasement stance, based on her revulsion against Nazi inhumanity, made the Conservatives withdraw the Party Whip from her.

EL: Who was the most surprising omission?

SO: Some say Bernard Shaw, but I think it was George Orwell, whose socialist The Road to Wigan Pier had already been published in 1937.

EL: What resonance does the Black Book have in the current political climate?

The Black Book shows us where fanatical, tribal nationalism can lead – to arrests, imprisonments without trial, and eventually to mass-executions. See p. 372: ‘What’, asks the moral philosopher Susan Neiman, ‘can we learn; from the Holocaust? we can learn [to] be aware of the beginnings. Be aware of racism, be aware of nationalism’.

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Hashi Mohamed’s People Like Us is Radio 4’s Book of the Week

‘A white British student is still 16 per cent more likely to be accepted to the elite Russell Group universities than a black African student with the same grades.’9

A former child refugee, barrister Hashi Mohamed knows something about social mobility. In People Like Us, he shares what he has learned: from the stark statistics that reveal the depth of the problem to the failures of imagination, education and confidence that compound it.

It is time to recognise racial bias in the UK and the impact it has on social mobility. People Like Us explores this problem, and offers insights into how we can begin to solve it.

Black Lives Matter: find out how you can help

Follow @hm_hashi on Twitter

Radio 4’s Book of the Week

People Like Us is currently Radio 4 Book of the Week, being read aloud by the author every morning at 9.45am. Catch up and listen online

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 plu paperback

From Chapter 4: IN PURSUIT OF PURPOSE: CONFIDENCE 

The Oxford English dictionary offers the following definition of confidence:

The feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something. A feeling of self-assurance arising from an appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

What we can take from this is that confidence is both internal and external: confident individuals believe they are good enough and they believe or trust that other people and institutions will recognise this. Partly, confidence is a responsibility you must take on yourself: to believe in your strengths and talents and keep faith with them. But you also need to have a certain amount of trust in the world around you, and that it will treat you fairly. And it’s much easier to do that if you feel comfortable about your place in it: no definition of confidence would be complete without acknowledging that it’s entirely contextual. All of us are more at ease in some situations than in others, and few of us find ourselves behaving most naturally somewhere new or with people who aren’t like us. This confidence of familiarity cuts both ways: in his book Poverty Safari, the rapper and activist Darren McGarvey, writes about the first time he left the extremely deprived area of Glasgow where he grew up, to attend therapy in a part of the city where ‘it is not unusual to find a small, fashionable dog waiting in the retro wicker basket of an upcycled penny-farthing while its owner proceeds into a café to politely complain to a barista named Felix about being undercharged for artisan sausage.’ While there, he sees a group of young people from the local school, confidently chatting among themselves, ‘using the kind of words I always had in my head but felt too inhibited to speak’. But as he passes them, they go silent and turn away, a response he recognises as fear of him. He is ashamed, and feels ‘harshly judged by snobs who could do with a clip around the ears as an introduction to the “real world”’.2 His trip to the other, more well-to-do side of town has brought him into collision with a different social milieu, and with both kinds of people – poor and privileged – feeling uncomfortable as a result. It’s clear how this might come into play in a job interview, for example: the interviewee feeling nervous, out of place, looked down upon, and the interviewer uncomfortable, unsure, already looking for an easier option.

Looking at all of this, it’s easy to see why a ‘confidence divide’ has grown up to match the class divisions in economic, social and cultural capital that I’ve already talked about. In Britain, the kind of confidence I am talking about sits at the intersection of a number of factors: your childhood and close relationships; the availability of role models; the kind of positive reinforcement you get at school and in the wider world; and your ability to achieve, and see those achievements recognised. It’s clearly simplistic to say that confidence is a preserve of the middle and upper classes, and that everyone else is unconfident, self-doubting, unable to visualise a better kind of life for themselves. Neither am I romanticising the middle-class childhood: I know plenty of people who have had a privileged upbringing, but who, when they came home for the holidays, practically had to sign a book if they wanted a hug. I know plenty of middle-class kids who buckled under the expectation that, having been gifted a good education, endless tutoring and a happy home, they would excel, end up at Oxbridge and carry all before them. And I know plenty of working-class parents who harbour passionate aspirations for their children, and are well aware of their talents.

But it’s also true that in general, poor children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds are on the wrong side of all these factors. Statistically, among our fellow successful applicants for pupillages, Mike and I will have been outliers: the Bar is dominated by privately educated Oxbridge types. And this is not because they’re innately superior beings, but because throughout their lives these individuals have had their intellectual abilities recognised and rewarded to the point where they have a crucial edge over people whose childhoods may have been more about survival than academic excellence. They exhibit that elusive ‘it’ that we’re all looking for because they have a deeply rooted sense that they are good enough, and that their – often prodigious and genuine – talent and ability will be recognised. Life has been good to them so far – why would that change? Contrast this, for example, with the experience of a young, under-privileged, black man. In Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, the journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge explores how the confidence of young black men in ‘the system’ is undermined at every turn: at school by the lowered expectations from their teachers; by the poverty of ambition of the culture that surrounds them; by bad experiences with authority, particularly the police; by the fact that, if they get to university, they’ll have to work harder to get the same grades as their white peers; by the far higher rate of rejections they’ll receive when they send their CVs out; and by the extremely high unemployment rates that affect young black men. As she puts it:

Our black man can try his hardest, but he is essentially playing a rigged game. He may be told by his parents and peers that if he works hard enough, he can overcome anything. But the evidence shows that that is not true, and that those who do are exceptional to be succeeding in an environment that is set up for them to fail.3

A version of this fate exists for a young black woman from Peckham, a young white man from a north-eastern ‘cold spot’ or a young Muslim woman of Bengali heritage, wearing a headscarf and sporting a foreign name. We are all bruised by trying to force our way through the structure of a society that isn’t set up for us and it takes extraordinary levels of self-belief to arrive on the other side still believing that you have something to contribute (whereupon you’re often held up as an example of how people from diverse backgrounds absolutely are welcome – if only they had the confidence to apply!).

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9. Boston Consulting Group, for The Sutton Trust, The State of Social Mobility in the UK 2017, p. 14

2. Darren McGarvey, Poverty Safari: Understanding the Anger of Britain’s Underclass, 2017, pp. 26, 27, 28
3. Reni Eddo-Lodge, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, 2017, pp. 57–84

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Matthew Cobb on the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2020 Shortlist

We’re thrilled to announce that The Idea of the Brain, Matthew Cobb’s monumental, sweeping journey from the ancient roots of neurology to the most astonishing recent research, is on the longlist for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2020.

The judges said:

‘The brain is arguably the most mysterious object in the universe and to allow a complete breakthrough in understanding how it works, Matthew Cobb looks at the science from a historical perspective in his book The Idea of the Brain: A History.’

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Follow @matthewcobb on Twitter

The Idea of the Brain

About the book:

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 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?

 

About the author:

Matthew Cobb is Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester. His previous books include Life’s Greatest Secret: The Race to Discover the Genetic Code, which was shortlisted for the Royal Society Winton Book Prize, and the acclaimed histories The Resistance and Eleven Days in August. He is also the award-winning translator of books on the history of molecular biology, on Darwin’s ideas and on the nature of life.

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Alan Bennett’s new Talking Heads: Two Besides

‘Given the opportunity to revisit the characters from Talking Heads, I’ve added a couple more, both of them ordinary women whom life takes by surprise. They just about end up on top and go on, but without quite knowing why. Still, they’re in good company, and at least they’ve made it into print.’

Alan Bennett’s twelve Talking Heads monologues are acknowledged masterworks by one of our most highly acclaimed writers. Some thirty years after the original six, Bennett has written two new monologues, published here for the first time. 

In An Ordinary Woman, a mother suffers the inevitable consequences when she makes life intolerable for herself and her family by falling for her own flesh and blood. The Shrine introduces us to Lorna, the bereft partner of a dedicated biker with a surprising private life. 

The two new Talking Heads were recorded for the BBC during the exceptional circumstances of the coronavirus lockdown in the spring of 2020, directed by Nicholas Hytner and starring Sarah Lancashire and Monica Dolan. 

Two Besides is out now from all good bookshops.

Order your copy | Download the ebook

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Why you need to read People Like Us by Hashi Mohamed

Our intern Khadija Osman reviews Hashi Mohamed’s People Like Us, an exploration of equality and social mobility in the UK.

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The desk of a Profile Books intern can become quite the dumping ground for books. At any point in the day you could suddenly become entombed if you’re not keeping up with your work so you’re not always taking time to appreciate everything you come across. But Hashi Mohamed’s book stood out to me. There on the paperback cover was an adorable picture of a dark-skinned boy in school uniform sporting a distinctively Somali kind of smile. No offense to you Hashi, I also resembled Bugs Bunny as an infant. It made me smile to see another fateful victim of the East African grin on the cover of a book!

Cracking it open, I wasn’t disappointed. People Like Us talks us through Hashi’s own journey of social mobility, a Somali refugee who entered England as a child and grew to become a No5 Chambers Barrister, and shows us exactly why this story is so uncommon. And while he didn’t just speak about his own experiences (he brings up the plights of multiple groups across class, race and gender) when he did bring it up he spoke about being Somali. He mentioned small things that make up everyday life, like naming conventions and the alphabet, and he talked about the overarching feelings that were affecting a nation in grief and a generation in transit.

But it isn’t a bleak book. It reads as full of love for the people who got him to where he is, through it you’ll see that it truly takes a village, and includes a humility that allows him to explain actionable advice that everyone can use. More than a memoir, this book is an education in the British social systems we navigate day in and day out and shows us how we are personally helping it to thrive. And as much as I loved the familiarity of the book, it is its universal appeal which makes me the most excited to recommend it.

This year has been strange for everyone, loss and upheaval has been felt worldwide but from that has come the launching of a number of important conversations. Seeing everything we thought of as constant change in an instant has shown us that nothing is forever. But it has helped us ask, what do we want to see in our tomorrow? Most people agree that what they want to see is a more equal world, but it’s People Like Us that explains exactly how adverse to that our current society is. So if you are looking to really make that change, to see how far you can take it and whose life you can change along the way, this is the book you’re going to need on your shelf. Read it if it mirrors your own experience, but read it especially if it doesn’t.

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Our autumn history blockbusters: a reader’s guide

As autumn approaches, we’re looking to history books to get stuck into; to educate us and draw us into their stories as the evenings grow longer. Our line-up of new publications includes top-class writing from bestselling academics. Read on to find out more.

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britain at bay

BRITAIN AT BAY
Alan Allport

‘Invigorating and beautifully-constructed’ – David Kynaston

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 Black Book

THE BLACK BOOK

Sybil Oldfield 

In 1939, the Gestapo created a list of names: the Britons whose removal would be the Nazis’ first priority in the event of a successful invasion. Who were they? What had they done to provoke Germany? For the first time, the historian Sybil Oldfield uncovers their stories and reveals why the Nazis feared their influence.

Those on the hitlist – more than half of them naturalised refugees – were many of Britain’s most gifted and humane inhabitants. Among their numbers we find the writers E. M. Forster and Virginia Woolf, humanitarians and religious leaders, scientists and artists, the social reformers Margery Fry and Eleanor Rathbone MP, the artists Jacob Epstein and Oscar Kokoschka.

By examining these targets of Nazi hatred, Oldfield not only sheds light on the Gestapo worldview; she also movingly reveals a network of truly exemplary Britons: mavericks, moral visionaries and unsung heroes.

Buy your copy

 

 


WAR

WAR
Margaret MacMillan

‘[An] excellent historical exposé’ The Times

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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ruin and renewal

RUIN AND RENEWAL
Paul Betts

‘Erudite, rigorously researched, and elegantly written… A masterpiece’ 
– Prof. David Motadel

In 1945, Europe lay in ruins – its cities and towns destroyed by conflict, its economies crippled, its societies ripped apart by war and violence. In the years that followed, Europeans tried to make sense of what had happened – and to forge a new understanding of civilisation that would bring peace and progress to a broken continent.

As they wrestled with questions great and small – from the legacy of colonialism to workplace etiquette – institutions and shared ideals emerged which still shape our world today. Drawing on original sources as well as individual stories and voices, this is a gripping and authoritative account of how Europe rebuilt itself – and what we, in the twenty-first century, could lose again.

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