Shakespeare’s Restless World by Neil MacGregor

Subtitled An Unexpected History in Twenty Objects, Neil MacGregor’s book shouts ‘gimmick!’ at the top of its nicely-designed voice. Yes, Dr MacGregor is the former British Museum director wrote A History of the World in 100 Objects; and yes, the publishing world likes lists and numbers – they give putative readers a good idea of what they’re…

‘Broadsword Calling Danny Boy’ by Geoff Dyer

In much the same way as there is a Christmas James Bond film (O.H.M.S.S., as if you needed to ask), there is also a Christmas war film: Where Eagles Dare. Actually, you could get almost as much enjoyment out of watching each during a heatwave; but still. There’s a lot of snow. The men and…

The Shortest History of Germany by James Hawes

James Hawes’ A White Merc With Fins captured London in the 1990s beautifully (or perhaps just captured London in the 1990s for me beautifully, minus the glamour, bank robberies and IRA dealings). He is also an academic; hence, two decades on, The Shortest History of Germany. A split existed in the country we now call Germany –…

Ghosts of Christmas Past edited by Tim Martin

Oh, pour a glass of amontillado and put another bar on; it’s time for some winter chillers. All the short stories in this diverse collection, edited by Tim Martin*, ‘confine their haunting, chasing, shambling or manifesting to the festive season’. There is no stinting on the big names of the supernatural in Ghosts of Christmas Past – M.R. James, Neil…

The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride

First off, that title. The Lesser Bohemians. Perfect in pretty much every way: smart, funny, revealing. And for quite a while, the book lives up to it. An 18-year old Irish girl comes to London to go to drama school. She falls in love with an established actor twice her age. But why does he…

Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd

Barbara Euphan Todd is best-known as the creator of Worzel Gummidge. But before she got into tales of scarecrow folk, she also wrote this engaging curio: Miss Ranskill Comes Home is the story of a British woman who has been marooned on a desert island, presumed dead. When Nora Ranskill returns to England, World War…