March 2020 nonfiction books - the brilliant biography of Winnie-the-Pooh...
  Books Monthly new nonfiction books


My nonfiction book of the month is Shirley Harrison's brilliant biography of the most famous teddy bear on the planet - fascinating facts about the life and times of Winnie-the-Pooh!

Book of the Month - Shirley Harrison: The Life and Times of Winnie-the-Pooh

 Published by Pen and Sword (2011)

When Christopher Robin Milne was given a Farnell teddy bear from Harrods, he didn t realise how much it would change his life. He named it after a real Canadian bear at London Zoo, Winifred or Winnie for short. And Winnie the Pooh was born. His father, A.A. Milne, created a series of books around his son s toy bear and its friends, not realising that this would destroy his relationship with his child. Or that Pooh himself would become a jetsetter, emigrating to America where he remains today except for a short visit back to his old home in Hartfield, Sussex, where he was to meet Shirley Harrison, the author who was to write his biography over 30 years later. This, then, is the story of the real Winnie the Pooh, the actual bear on whom Milne based his book. For the first time, those involved with the Milne family tell their stories and share their previously unpublished photos, including the day when Winnie the Pooh came home and played Pooh Sticks.

Everyone knows Winnie the Pooh, of course, but how many of you know the origins of the original stuffed toy that was adored by Christopher Robin and that inspired A A Milne to write those universally-loved and now world-famous stories in the first place? Shirley Harrison's book is the first non-fiction "biography" I have been unable to put down in all my years of reviewing books. It isn't just the tale of a stuffed bear - it's a slice of social history peppered with anecdotes and amazing, jaw-dropping facts about the circumstances that came together to create a moment in time that changed the world - the literary world at least - forever. Pooh came from Harrods, and Shirley digresses for a while to uncover some staggering facts about the greatest department store in the world. Pooh wasn't always called Pooh, in fact he was first called Edward Bear, or simply Bear, and again Shirley digresses to describe the times when Theodore Roosevelt came to be involved with the naming of the little bear stuffed toys that would dominate children's childhoods and adults' obsession with these charming and fabulous soft toys. Our house is full of teddy bears - bears the children had, bears we've bought from charity shops to be "killed" by our border collies, Skipper and Holly. On the occasion of Skipper's birthday each year, we buy him a teddy bear. Pooh wasn't the first such soft toy, but he certainly inspired the growth of the craze to epidemic proportions. Shirley reveals early in the book that Winnie the Pooh (Walt Disney removed the hyphens) is Disney's hottest property and that Winnie, or Pooh, is richer than the Queen. I don't recall ever reading Winnie the Pooh or having had it read to me as a child; I discovered Pooh when our two younger children were growing up - my brother-in-law (recently deceased) bought them hardback versions of the two main books, and my job was to read them to the children at bedtime. I now have a complete Winnie the Pooh which I treasure and am always happy to read for my own pleasure. Shirley's book is utterly charming and superb, tinged with sadness because, as most of us know, Christopher Robin's adolescent and adult years were plagued by Pooh; and because the original stuffed toy that belonged to him isn't in Hartfield, or even in Britain - it's in the children's library in New York. But the book is a brilliant revelation of a very special family, of a very special lilterary heritage, and of the times in which Pooh was born and lived, and made an important mark on children and adults, that massive army of arctophiles that revere Winnie the Pooh and everything about him. This is a biography that you simply must read!

Niki Lauda: To Hell and Back - An Autobiography

 Published by Ebury Press 27th February 2020

Niki Lauda drove a car for sport, but crossed the line between life and death and fought back to even greater glory. Even people who know nothing of Formula One have heard of his crash at Nurburgring in 1976, when we was dragged from the inferno of his Ferrari so badly injured he was given the last rites. Within 33 days, he was racing again at Monza. His wounds bled, he had no eyelids. He was terrified. A year later, he reclaimed his World Championship title.

In To Hell and Back he reveals how he battled fear to stage a comeback that seemed beyond human endurance. Then it’s Lauda vs Hunt, an epic rivalry later dramatized in 2013’s Hollywood blockbuster Rush, and he looks back on the strict childhood and parental disapproval that he believes gave him an ‘addiction to excellence’. There’ll never be another like him.

I'm old enough to remember watching this terrible accident unfold in real time. Niki Lauda is one of those iconic sportsmen who is one of a small band of giants who transcend their sport and become legendary; Michael Schmacher is another name that springs to mind. Unlike Michael, Niki made a "full" recovery, going on to reclaim his world title a year after the accident. There is a film, indeed, called Rush, and it's a really good film. But in order to get the tru, full story of this horrific incident and what led to it and what happened afterwards, you really need to read this remarkable autobiography of a very special, extraordinary man. Superlative in every respect.

Jim Fraser: Forensic Science - A Very Short Introduction

 Published by OUP 27th February 2020

Forensic science is a subject of wide fascination. What happens at a crime scene? How does DNA profiling work? How can it help solve crimes that happened 20 years ago? In forensic science, a criminal case can often hinge on a piece of evidence such as a hair, a blood trace, half a footprint, or a tyre mark. Complex scientific findings must be considered carefully and dispassionately, and communicated with clarity, simplicity, and precision. High profile cases such as the Stephen Lawrence enquiry and the Madeleine McCann case have attracted enormous media attention and enhanced general interest in this area in recent years.

In this Very Short Introduction, Jim Fraser introduces the concept of forensic science and explains how it is used in the investigation of crime. He begins at the crime scene itself, explaining the principles and processes of crime scene management, and drawing on his own personal experience of high profile cases including, the murder of Rachel Nickell and the unsolved murder of Jill Dando. Fraser explores how forensic scientists work; from the reconstruction of events to laboratory examinations. He considers the techniques they use, such as fingerprinting, and goes on to highlight the immense impact DNA profiling has had. Providing examples from forensic science cases in the UK, US, and other countries, he considers the techniques and challenges faced around the world. This new edition has been fully updated to take into account developments in areas such as DNA analysis and drug analysis, and the growing field of digital forensics. Topical areas explored include the growing significance of cognitive bias in forensic science, and recent research that raises doubts about the validity of some forensic techniques.

I have tried my hand at writing murder mysteries, and in fact future issues of Books Monthly will contain my serialised Mike Thompson stories in serialised form. Jim's book is of huge significance to me, as I am fascinated by the forensic processes that we witness every week in the fictionalised adventures of detectives like Endeavour, Morse, Lewis, Banks etc., even Rob Hollins of Letherbridge (Doctors) often gets the CSI people involved. The book is essential reading for people like me, who will eventually write about an adult Mike Thompson, detecting at a time when CSI is more important than ever, and I want to get it right! Also of interest to people who might be considering following a career in crime scene investigation. One of the very "very short introductions" I have ever read, and I've covered quite a few titles in this brilliant series! Superb and extremely valuable!

Jenny Boyd: Jennifer Juniper - A Journey Beyond The Muse

 Published by Urbane 26th March 2020


Jenny Boyd's extraordinary life is the stuff of movies and novels, a story of incredible people and places experienced at a pivotal time in the 20th century.

As an up-and-coming young model, Jenny found herself at the heart of Carnaby Street in London, immersed in the fashion and pop culture of the Swinging 60s. With boyfriend Mick Fleetwood, sister Pattie, George Harrison and the rest of the Beatles, she lived the London scene. But as a natural Flower Child, Jenny soon became part of the counter-culture in San Francisco during the Flower Power era, witnessing the Summer of Love; she was the inspiration for Donovan's famous song, Jennifer Juniper, and her photograph was featured inside the box set of his eponymous album A Gift from a Flower to a Garden.

After working in The Beatles shop, Apple, the first of its kind, Jenny attended Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram in India to study meditation with her sister and the Beatles, witnessing their creativity and the genesis of songs that would later appear on the White Album.

Despite being attuned to the spiritual bloom and innocence of the 60s, Jenny also experienced first-hand the turmoil and decadence of the 70s and 80s. Her two marriages to Mick Fleetwood, founder member of Fleetwood Mac, brought her to the forefront of the world of rock and roll - and its fame, money, drugs and heartache. Struggling in the darkness to find and develop her own voice and identity, Jenny went to college, achieving a Masters in Counseling Psychology and a PhD in Humanities - her dissertation on musicians and creativity became the critically-acclaimed book Musicians in Tune.

Jenny has spent her life in the company of some of the greatest musical and cultural influencers of the last 50 years - and the journey she takes to finding her own sense of self and creative ability makes Jennifer Juniper a truly captivating and inspiring story.

I remember Cat Stevens singing about Jennifer Juniper when he was at the height of his powers as a flower-power icon - the song is beautiful, and so is the young lady who is the subject of this terrific autobiography, telling of a high life in the company of the most famous performers at a time when love and peace were everything. Jenny's story is a roll-call of the 1960s rich and famous, and is a joy to read.

Emily G Thompson: Cults Uncovered

 Published by Dorling Kindersley 6th February 2020

Real-life stories of mind control and murder

Uncover the secrets of the world's cruellest criminal cults, from the horrors committed by Charles Manson and his family, to the acts of extortion and abuse practised by NXIVM and it's members.

Accessible and authoritative explorations of each cult examines its core beliefs, key figures, and the often bizarre and heinous crimes committed by its leaders and members.

Ideal for True Crime fans looking for a new case to investigate, join us for this unforgettable read.

The business of cults in real-life and in fiction makes compelling reading - how can otherwise intelligent and sensible people be taken in by others peddling something so dangerous? Emily Thompson's book looks at real-life cult leaders and examines how they came to have such a strong and compelling hold over their subjects. True Crime at its most intriguing and terrifying at the same time!

Carol Dylhouse: Heartthrobs - A History of Women and Desire

 Published by Oxford University Press 9th January 2020

What can a cultural history of the heartthrob teach us about women, desire, and social change? From dreams of Prince Charming or dashing military heroes, to the lure of dark strangers and vampire lovers; from rock stars and rebels to soulmates, dependable family types or simply good companions, female fantasies about men tell us as much about the history of women as about masculine icons.

When girls were supposed to be shrinking violets, passionate females risked being seen as 'unbridled', or dangerously out of control. Change came slowly, and young women remained trapped in double-binds. You may have needed a husband in order to survive, but you had to avoid looking like a gold-digger. Sexual desire could be dangerous: a rash guide to making choices. Show attraction too openly and you might be judged 'fast' and undesirable.

Education and wage-earning brought independence and a widening of cultural horizons. Young women in the early twentieth century showed a sustained appetite for novel-reading, cinema-going, and the dancehall. They sighed over Rudolph Valentino's screen performances, as tango-dancer, Arab tribesman, or desert lover. Contemporary critics were sniffy about 'shop-girl' taste in literature and in men, but as consumers, girls had new clout.

In Heartthrobs, social and cultural historian Carol Dyhouse draws upon literature, cinema, and popular romance to show how the changing position of women has shaped their dreams about men, from Lord Byron in the early nineteenth century to boy-bands in the early twenty-first. Reflecting on the history of women as consumers and on the nature of fantasy, escapism, and 'fandom', she takes us deep into the world of gender and the imagination. A great deal of feminist literature has shown women as objects of the 'male gaze': this book looks at men through the eyes of women.

TheCarol's most excellent, fascinating book looks at men as objects of desire for women in popular fiction and on the big screen with examples ranging from Tarzan of the Apes (first published 1914) to Elvis Presley and beyond. As a book about popular culture it's first class, with a huge dose of social commentary thrown in. The illustrations are great, particularly those from Peg's Paper, and the book covers. The term "heartthrob applies equally to women as men, as far as I'm concerned, and so I'd love to read a similar book by Carol on who men idolised down through the ages...

DC Comics Year By Year - A Visual Chronicle (New Edition)

 Published by Dorling Kindersley 3rd October 2019

 Embark on an amazing adventure through more than 80 years of DC Comics history!

Explore the evolution of DC Comics from Superman first taking to the skies in 1938 to the Rebirth of the DC multiverse and the final countdown of the Doomsday Clock.

Comics, characters, and storylines are presented alongside background information and real-world events to give readers unique insights into the DC Universe.

Now fully updated, this spectacular visual chronicle is written by DC Comics experts and includes comic book art from legendary artists such as Bob Kane and C.C. Beck to latter-day superstars like Jim Lee and Tony Daniel, and many more of DC's finest talents.

Includes two stunning prints.

This stunning new edition of an old favourite is, quite simply, comic book history at its very finest. When I was a youngster, my uncle Leslie somehow seemed to get hold of a huge number of American comics in the early 1950s. Most of them were DC comics, Superman, Batman, Supergirl, Superboy, Wonder Woman etc. It was he who introduced me to the brilliance of Tarzan of the Apes, who went on to figure large in my literary preferences - at one time I had every single Tarzan book in existence, and went on to co-found the British Edgar Rice Burroughs Society with like-minded lovers of ERB and his creations. Tarzan came to DC comics courtesy of the great Joe Kubert in the 1970s/80s, along with Korak (Son of Tarzan) and John Carter of Mars. These are among the finest Tarzan and ERB comics ever, although they don't get the coverage they deserve in this magnificent book. DC Comics will forever be remembered for Superman and Batman. For me, it's about quite a lot more, but the book's coverage is extraordinary and superb in every detail. An instant collectors' item if ever there was one!

Robert Winston: Explanatorium Of Science

 Published by Dorling Kindersley 5th September 2019

Welcome to the Explanatorium - the only science encyclopedia for children you'll ever need, with amazing photography that shows and explains how chemistry, physics, and biology work.

Open up this book to reveal how science really works! Watch as mixtures merge and matter changes state. Discover how some chemical changes can be reversed, yet others can't, and why some reactions produce a bang! See bacteria at work in the world around us, and even inside the human digestive system. Understand the tricks that light plays and unlock the secrets of electricity to find out how it powers your home.

Whether it's elements, evolution, or energy, the world of science is brought to life by stunning photographic explanations that answer the biggest and smallest questions about our Universe.

Packed full of astounding close-up images, Explanatorium of Science is the ultimate guide to how the world works, explaining every aspect of science from gigantic galaxies to tiny cells and miniscule atoms.

Professor Robert Winston is one of those extraordinary people who have the capability of being able to communicate with people in a way that commands attention, like Sir David Attenborough. This latest book is one of a series written by Professor Winston, and introduces people of all ages to the wonders of science. I know it's intended for younger readers, but I'm exploding that myth and saying that it has taught me so much about science that I didn't know, in a very short space of time. It's a wonderful treatise on science to which I shall return time and time again. It should win awards...

Jane Rockett & Lucy St George: Extraordinary Interiors in Colour

 Published by Ryland Peters and Small 8th October 2019

In Extraordinary Interiors In Colour, self-confessed colour addicts Jane Rockett and Lucy St George follow on from their best-selling first book by tackling the topic of choosing colour for the home.

Such is their passion for colour that Jane and Lucy launched the Rockett St George paint range in August 2018 sophisticated, earthy shades that work perfectly together. This new book allows them to explore the world of colour and reveal their inspirations – travel, hotels and restaurants, Instagram, the natural world and vintage design. Starting at the beginning, Jane and Lucy investigate colour theory before plunging into the history of colour and how it affects our emotions. Next, they take a look at the natural world and explore what colour means in different cultures around the globe. They then tackle the million-dollar question – which colours should you choose? A final chapter explores inventive ways to decorate with colour, from bold blocking to brave use of contrasting hues. Each chapter is interspersed with a real-life home that exemplifies the Rockett St George style. If you want maximum impact when updating an interior, there’s no better way to achieve it than with bold, clever and creative use of colour.

Extraordinary Interiors is an apt name for this stunning book, which not only celebrates the intensity and the vibrancy of interiors decorated with Rockett St George paint, it also takes the reader on a journey through what colouir is, how it works, what colours go together and why in a truly extraordinary celebration of colour. With reference to the Natural World, amongst other things, this remarkable book shows how nature blocks colours together, and why it works. This truly is the century of amazing books, and this one, from RPS, is a shining example of a book that's both practical in terms of advice on the use of colour in interior design, and is also a stupendous book that's a pleasure to look at and to have on your bookshelves.

Ros Byam Shaw: Farrow and Ball Living With Colour

 Published by Ryland Peters and Small 8th October 2019

Iconic brand Farrow & Ball began in the 1940s as a small firm based in Dorset specializing in paints made in the traditional way from traditional ingredients.

Despite its success, Farrow & Ball has stayed true to its origins. It is the quality of the paint, with its exceptional depth and subtlety of colour, that has made the company famous worldwide. Farrow & Ball paints look as good on the walls of a slick apartment as they do in a period drawing room and are as perfect for a cottage as in a castle. Divided into chapters according to style, including Classical, City, Modern Country, Cottage and Country House, the first part of the book shows Farrow & Ball paints and wallpapers in a variety of beautiful interiors. Part Two is devoted to colour. From All White and In Neutral to Softly, Softly and Bright and Beautiful, each chapter explores a particular palette and shows how colour can be used to create atmosphere and character. Inspiring, instructive and celebratory, Living with Colour brings out the painter and decorator in us all.

Slightly more practical than the Rockett St George book above, Farrow & Ball Living With Colour is another prime example of a beautiful book that;s also exemplary and helpful when it comes to interior design and its use of colour. We all want to make the most of our houses, in particular the rooms in which we spend most of our time, the living room, the bedrooms etc., and this book and the one above celebrate the decoration of such rooms in grand style. The printing of these two books is stupendously good - the colours in both are vibrant and stunning. There are loads of makeover programmes on TV, but I'd choose a book (or books) such as these two over TV programmes any day. Inspiration by the bucketful in both of these amazing books!

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 22nd year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at and I'll let you know where to send it.

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