Category: SOC002010

Arcadian Days: Gods, Women and Men from Greek Myth – From the Winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction

The Greek myths, refined by the great poets and playwrights of Ancient Greece, distil the essence of human life: its brief span, its pride, courage and insecurity, its anxious relationship with the natural world – earth, sea and sky, represented by powerful gods and monsters.

Taking inspiration from the incomparably beautiful and intense poetry of Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, Spurling – a lifelong classicist and an award-winning playwright and historical novelist – spins five more myths for contemporary readers. These captivating tales centre on male-female pairs – Prometheus and Pandora, Jason and the sorceress Medea, Oedipus and his daughter Antigone, Achilles and his mother Thetis, Odysseus and Penelope – that destroyed dynasties, raised and felled heroes, and sealed the fates of men.

The Secret Life of Bones

Bone is a marvel, an adaptable and resilient building material developed over 500 million years of evolutionary history. It has manifested itself in wings, sails, horns, armour, and an even greater array of appendages since the time of its origin. In dinosaur fossils, skeletons are biological time capsules that tell us of lives we’ll never see in the flesh. Inherited from a common fishy ancestor, it is the stuff that binds all of us vertebrates together into one great family. Swim, slither, stomp, fly, dig, run – all are expressions of what bones make possible. But that’s hardly all.

In The Secret Life of Bones, Brian Switek frames the history of our species through the importance of bone from instruments and jewellery, to objects of worship and conquest from the origins of religion through the genesis of science and up through this very day. While bone itself can reveal our individual stories, the truth very much depends on who’s telling it. Our skeletons are as embedded in our culture as they are in our bodies. Switek, an enthusiastic osteological raconteur, cuts through biology, history, and culture to understand the meaning of what’s inside us and what our bones tell us about who we are, where we came from and the legacies we leave behind.

Georgia in the Mountains of Poetry

Peter Nasmyth has lived in and travelled extensively throughout Georgia for the last 32 years. Georgia in the Mountains of Poetry is his fascinating account of this historically rich and drama loving country, based on his travels and hundreds of wide-ranging interviews. Reprinted numerous times, it remains the only comprehensive book on Georgia’s history and culture written for the general reader, now substantially revised and expanded for this new edition.

Georgia – no larger than Ireland – is the most geographical diverse country in the world for its size. It borders on the Black Sea and contains the heart of the Caucasus mountains, as well as subtropical wetlands and semi-arid regions. Stone towers attest to its 3,000-year-old history, which has witnessed the thousand-year reign of the Bagratuni monarchy, the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, a bitter civil war, the celebration of its independence in 1991 and the arrival of full democracy in 2012. Yet little is known about this remarkable nation outside its borders. Georgia in the Mountains of Poetry is the first book to provide its full inner story and remains essential reading for anyone interested in this fascinating region set on the historic far borders of Europe and Asia.

One Kiss or Two?

Every encounter begins with a greeting. Be it a quick ‘Hello!’ or the somewhat longer and gracious ‘Sula manchwanta galunga omugobe!’ shaking hands or shaking, well, rather more private parts of our anatomy, we have been doing it many times daily for thousands of years. It should be the most straightforward thing in the world, but this apparently simple act is fraught with complications, leading to awkward misunderstandings and occasionally even outright violence.

In the illuminating and entertaining One Kiss or Two? Andy Scott goes down the rabbit hole to take a closer look at what greetings are all about. In looking at how they have developed, he discovers a kaleidoscopic world of etiquette, body-language, evolution, neuroscience, anthropology and history. Through in-depth research and his personal experiences, and with the help of experts, Scott takes us on a captivating journey through a subject far richer than we might have expected.

The Nordic Theory of Everything

From childcare to healthcare, provision for the elderly and tackling issues of homelessness, the Nordic countries are world leaders in organising society – no wonder Finland has been ranked among the happiest places in the world.

But when Finnish journalist Anu Partanen moved to America, she quickly realised that navigating the basics of everyday life was overly complicated compared to how society was organised in her homeland. From the complications of buying a mobile, to the arduous task of filing taxes, she knew there was a better way and as she got to know her new neighbours she discovered that they too shared her deep apprehensions.

The Nordic Theory of Everything details Partanen’s mission to understand why America (and much of the Western world) suffers from so much inequality and struggling social services. Filled with fascinating insights, advice and practical solutions, she makes a convincing argument that we can rebuild society, rekindle optimism and become more autonomous people by following in the footsteps of our neighbours to the North.