Category: BG

The Importance of Living

A tremendous bestseller when it was first published in 1937, The Importance of Living has been a classic for over sixty years. Intended as an antidote to the dizzying pace of the modern world, Lin Yutang’s prescription is the classic distillation of ancient Chinese wisdom: revere inaction as much as action, invoke humour to maintain a healthy attitude, and never forget that there will always be plenty of fools around who are willing – indeed eager – to be busy, to make themselves useful, and to exercise power while you bask in the simple joy of existence. 

Now, more than six decades later, with our lives accelerated to unbelievable levels, this wise and timeless book is more pertinent than ever before. In an era when we’re overwhelmed with wake-up calls, it’s an entertaining innovation to savour life’s beauty, its endless fascination and its slow, sure, simple pleasures. 

Traversa

"Traversa" is a fascinating account of the hardships and hilarity Fran Sandham experienced during his epic solo journey on foot across Africa, from the Skeleton Coast to the Indian Ocean through Namibia, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania. Inspired by the legendary crossings of the great explorers, Sandham left the daily grind of London to undertake an extraordinary adventure. "Traversa" describes his brushes with danger in the form of lions and snakes, land mines and bandits, his 2-month battle with a syphilitic donkey, malaria and the everyday troubles that arise when walking across Africa. Underpinned with stories of the great explorers themselves – Livingstone, Stanley and Galton among others – "Traversa" is the written proof of Sandham’s grit, determination and sheer obsession with the continent of Africa.

Eat, Pray Love in Rome

Experience the Rome that changed and inspired Elizabeth Gilbert to write the international bestseller Eat, Pray, Love. When Luca Spaghetti (yes, that’s really his name) was asked to show Elizabeth around Rome he had no idea how his life was about to change. She embraced his Roman zest for life and Luca in-turn became her guardian angel, determined that his city would get her out of her funk.

Filled with colourful anecdotes about food, language, soccer, life in Rome, and culminating with the episodes in Liz’s bestselling memoir told from Luca’s side of the table, this is a book that every traveller to Rome will find enriching and readers of Eat, Pray, Love will not want to miss.

Tiger Woman

Dancer, singer, gang member, cocaine addict and sometime confectionist, Betty Mays autobiography Tiger Woman thrilled and appalled the public when her story first appeared at the end of the roaring twenties. I have often lived only for pleasure and excitement but you will see that I came to it by unexpected ways Born into abject squalor in Londons Limehouse area, May used her steely-eyed, striking looks and street nous to become an unlikely bohemian celebrity sensation, a fixture at the Café Royal, London, marrying four times along the way alongside numerous affairs. I wondered why men would not leave me alone. They were alright at first when they offered to show one life, and then at once they became a nuisance She elbowed her way to the top of Londons social scene in a series of outrageous and dramatic fights, flights, marriages and misadventures that also took her to France, Italy, Canada and the USA. I learnt one thing on my honeymoon to take drugs Her most fateful adversary was occultist and self-proclaimed Great Beast Aleister Crowley, who intended her to be a sacrificial victim of his Thelemite cult in Sicily, but it was her husband Oxford undergraduate Raoul Loveday who died, after conducting a blood sacrifice ritual. Betty Mays vitality and ferocious charisma enchanted numerous artistic figures including Jacob Epstein and Jacob Kramer. A heroine like no other, this is her incredible story in her own words, as fresh and extraordinary as the day it was first told.

Wilde’s Women

‘A remarkable book… the breadth and depth of research is astonishing’ Emma Thompson

‘An illuminating study… fascinating’ Independent

Hailed as a gay icon and pioneer of individualism, Oscar Wilde’s insistence that ‘there should be no law for anybody’ made him a staunch defender of gender equality. Throughout his life from his relationship to his extraordinary mother Jane and the tragedy of his sister Isola’s early death to his accomplished wife Constance and a coterie of other free-thinking writers, actors and artists, women were a central aspect of his life and career. Wilde’s Women is the first book to tell the story of his female friends and colleagues who traded witticisms with Wilde but also give him access to vital publicity and whose ideas he gave expression through his social comedies.

Author Eleanor Fitzsimons reframes Wilde’s story and his legacy through the women in his life including such fascinating figures as Florence Balcombe who left him for Bram Stoker, actress Lillie Langtry (for a while an inseparable friend) and his tragic and witty niece Dolly who bore a strong resemblance to the writer and loved fast cars, cocaine and foreign women.

Full of fascinating detail and anecdotes Wilde’s Women relates the untold story of how the writer played a vitally sympathetic role on behalf of many women and how they supported him in the midst of a Victorian society in the process of changing forever.

Rest in Pieces

In the long run, we’re all dead. But for some of the most influential figures in history, death marked the start of a new adventure. The famous deceased have been stolen, burned, sold, pickled, frozen, stuffed, impersonated and even filed away in a lawyer’s office. Their fingers, teeth, toes, arms, legs, skulls, hearts, lungs and nether regions have embarked on voyages that criss-cross the globe and stretch the imagination.

 

Counterfeiters tried to steal Lincoln’s corpse. Einstein’s brain went on a cross-country road trip. And after Lord Horatio Nelson perished at Trafalgar, his sailors submerged him in brandy – which they drank. From Mozart to Hitler, Rest in Pieces connects the lives of the famous dead to the hilarious and horrifying adventures of their corpses and traces the evolution of cultural attitudes towards death.

The Model Wife

Effie Gray, a renowned beauty and socialite, was at the centre of Victorian England’s most scandalous love triangle, involving two giants of the art world. Married at nineteen to the much older John Ruskin, the leading art critic of the time, she found herself trapped in a loveless and unconsummated union with a husband who was to claim that ‘her person was not formed to excite passion’. Then, on a trip to Scotland during which John Everett Millais, Ruskin’s acclaimed protégé, was supposed to paint her husband’s portrait, she and Millais fell in love. This was to result in public disgrace, but also in a long and happy second marriage. Suzanne Fagence Cooper has gained exclusive access to Effie’s extensive and previously unseen letters and diaries to reveal the reality behind this great Victorian love story. A major critical reassessment of the Victorian art world, the book addresses the careers of Ruskin and Millais from a new angle, with Effie emerging as a key figure in the artistic development of both men. Effie, her sisters and daughters appear in many of Millais most haunting images, embodying Victorian society’s fears about female sexuality and freedom. ‘The Model Wife’ is a compelling portrait of the extraordinary woman behind some of the most beautiful and celebrated pre-Raphaelite paintings.