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Scaling the heights: climbing and mountaineering

Scaling the heights: climbing and mountaineering

January 19, 2017.

When asked why he became a mountaineer, George Mallory answered that climbing represented, for him “the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward”. This selection of books on climbing takes in a broad sweep of ascents, from the facades of Cambridge colleges to the sandstone cliffs of Bohemia. Whether a statement of civil disobedience

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“too fancy and ingenious”: Children’s books by adult writers

“too fancy and ingenious”: Children’s books by adult writers

December 8, 2016.

It is, perhaps, rare that an author can turn their hand with equal success to both children’s and adult literature. Indeed, many have no wish or intention to write for younger readers: see, for example, Martin Amis’ contentious claim a few years ago that to pen a work of children’s literature would be to write

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Science fact and science fiction: Part II

Science fact and science fiction: Part II

November 22, 2016.

The first part of this blog series can be found here. Ray Bradbury has said the importance of science fiction lies in that fact that it is “the history of ideas, the history of our civilization birthing itself.” Sci-fi is arguably the best medium through which to examine the present by projecting what the future

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Science fact and science fiction: Part I

Science fact and science fiction: Part I

November 9, 2016.

In a recent interview, Margaret Atwood speculated that the world we currently live in is not a million light years away from the dystopias such as those we might find in her fiction. Her MaddAddam trilogy imagines a world in which the earth’s resources are severely depleted, leading to a situation in which “warlords and demagogues

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Women’s Work: Women in Economics, Politics and Philosophy

Women’s Work: Women in Economics, Politics and Philosophy

October 26, 2016.

The contribution of eminent male thinkers to intellectual and public life is well documented: we all know our Kant from our Keynes, our Wittgenstein from our Wilberforce. It’s no secret that women and women’s issues have historically been granted less space on the political, philosophical and economic stages, and this deficit is unfortunately reflected in publishing

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Fantastic Beasts: Natural history c. 12th century AD in T. H. White’s Book of Beasts

Fantastic Beasts: Natural history c. 12th century AD in T. H. White’s Book of Beasts

October 6, 2016.

  In the blurb of T. H. White’s translation of this twelfth century Latin bestiary we are reminded that ‘a bestiary is a serious work of natural history’, and later, in White’s appendix, that bestiaries are ‘the bases upon which our own knowledge of biology is founded, however much we may have advanced since it

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Mad, bad and dangerous to read: banned books

Mad, bad and dangerous to read: banned books

September 29, 2016.

Mad, bad and dangerous to read: banned books In The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), Lord Henry refutes Dorian’s claim that the infamous ‘yellow book’ he read in his youth was responsible for the onset of his moral dissolution, on the grounds that books can be inherently neither moral not immoral. ‘The books that the world

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By its cover: E. McKnight Kauffer

By its cover: E. McKnight Kauffer

September 23, 2016.

Colourful, carefully designed and highly produced; dust jackets are now ubiquitous in book publishing and are an important tool for publishers in making books look appealing to readers and communicating at a glance what they might find inside. However, it hasn’t always been so easy to judge a book by its cover. The use of

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Buried treasure and trouble-making: the lesser-known works of Roald Dahl

Buried treasure and trouble-making: the lesser-known works of Roald Dahl

September 16, 2016.

The 13th September 2016 marked the celebration of Roald Dahl 100, the one hundredth birthday of one of the best-loved children’s authors of all time. Into the lives of children all over the world, Dahl’s books have brought the joy of whizzpopping with the BFG, the voracious reading habits of Matilda, the thrill of terror

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A Noiseless Flash: Hiroshima by John Hersey

A Noiseless Flash: Hiroshima by John Hersey

August 31, 2016.

Today marks 70 years since the publication of John Hersey’s landmark article ‘Hiroshima’, which appeared in the New Yorker on 31st August 1946. The entire editorial space in the issue was given over to the story, the first and only time in the publication’s history that such a thing occurred. Bringing together the accounts of six

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