Ex Libris

Rather than build up a list of links to books I liked and enjoyed in the sidebar, it’s probably better (given the likely eventual number) to devote a separate page to them.

Great War

Wilfred Owen: a new biography (Dominic Hibberd), this comprehensive look at Owen’s life is well worth reading.
The Somme (Peter Hart) Forests of paper have been written about the Somme some better than others. This is one of the better ones.
The Roses of No Man’s Land (Lyn MacDonald), interesting study of nursing and nurses on all fronts.
Maccrae’s Battalion (Jack Alexander) Meticulous account account of the history of the 16th Royal Scots AKA Maccrae’s Battalion.
Tommy (Richard Holmes) Wonderfully researched account of the lives of British Tommies, mostly taken from first hand accounts.

Other History

The Fatal Shore (Robert Hughes) A detailed history of transportation, written, where possible using first hand accounts from the convicts themselves.
The Steel Bonnets (George MacDonald Fraser) An idiosyncratic examination of reiving in the 16th century. Extremely readable.


The Seven Basic Plots (Christopher Booker). This badly needs editing, but is a stunning read.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves (Lynne Truss) Talking of editing, everything you need to know about punctuation.
Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (Eric Partridge et al) No writer should be without this dictionary. Soldiers’ slang during the Great War ignited Partridge’s lifetime interest in slang.


Mythago Wood (Robert Holdstock). Quite simply this is one of the most original fantasy novels of the last thirty years, and incredibly, it seems to be out of print. Go figure.
Friday’s Child (Georgette Heyer). Heyer did it first and best, and this is one of her best – magically comical and wonderfully researched.
Murder Must Advertise (Dorothy L Sayers). There has to be a Sayers in this list, but which one to choose? I always liked this one as it was based solidly on Sayers’ own experience.
Tom’s Midnight Garden (Philippa Pearce). This magical timeslip novel caught me as a child and still enchants.
HMS Surprise (Patrick O’Brian) I came late to the Aubrey Maturin series, but fell in love with the characters immediately. This is the third outing for them and marks the end of the first story arc. Historical fiction par excellence.

Page updated 12 February 2007


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