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New non-fiction for August 2021

by Brandon King

Take a look at our latest non-fiction picks for August 2021.

Chaise longue by Baxter Dury

Methods of parenting and education have progressed in recent years, especially compared to some of the more casually experimental routes inflicted on children of artistic professionals in the 70s and 80s. One experience that would take some beating is that endured by Baxter Dury. When punk rock star Ian Dury disappeared to make films in the late 80s, he left his teenage son in the care of his roadie, in a rundown flat in Hammersmith. But this was no ordinary roadie; this was the Sulphate Strangler. The Strangler, having taken a lot of LSD in the 60s, was prone to depression, anger and hallucinations. He was also, as the name suggests, a drug dealer. What could possibly go wrong? In a period that we can now only imagine, a young Baxter ricocheted from one adventure to another, narrowly swerving one disaster only immediately to collide with another.

Four thousand weeks: time and how we use it by Oliver Burkeman

The average human lifespan is absurdly, outrageously, insultingly brief: if you live to 80, you have about four thousand weeks on earth. How should we use them best? Of course, nobody needs telling that there isn't enough time. We're obsessed by our lengthening to-do lists, our overfilled inboxes, the struggle against distraction, and the sense that our attention spans are shrivelling. Yet we rarely make the conscious connection that these problems only trouble us in the first place thanks to the ultimate time-management problem: the challenge of how best to use our four thousand weeks. 'Four Thousand Weeks' is an uplifting, engrossing and deeply realistic exploration of this problem.

Traitor king: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in exile by Andrew Lownie

Here Andrea Lownie looks at the years following the abdication of Edward VIII when the former king was kept in exile, feuding with his family over status for his wife, Wallis Simpson, and denied any real job. Drawing on extensive research into hitherto unused archives and Freedom of Information requests, it makes the case that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were not the naïve dupes of the Germans but actively intrigued against Britain in both war and peace.

Speak, silence: in search of W.G. Sebald by Carole Angier

W.G. Sebald was one of the most extraordinary and influential writers of the twentieth century. Through books including 'The Emigrants', 'Austerlitz' and 'The Rings of Saturn', he pursued an original literary vision that combined fiction, history, autobiography and photography and addressed some of the most profound themes of contemporary literature: the burden of the Holocaust, memory, loss and exile. 'Speak, Silence' pursues the true Sebald through the memories of those who knew him and through the work he left behind.

Sad little men: public schools, prime ministers and me by Richard Beard

In 1975, as a child, Richard Beard was sent away from his home to sleep in a dormitory. So were David Cameron and Boris Johnson. In those days a private boys' boarding school education was largely the same experience as it had been for generations: a training for the challenges of Empire. He didn't enjoy it. But the first and most important lesson was to not let that show. Being separated from the people who love you is traumatic. How did that feel at the time, and what sort of adult does it mould? This is a story about England, and a portrait of a type of boy, trained to lead, who becomes a certain type of man. As clearly as an X-ray, it reveals the make-up of those who seek power - what makes them tick, and why.

Tunnel 29: the true story of an extraordinary escape beneath the Berlin Wall by Helena Merriman

He's just escaped from one of the world's most brutal regimes. Now, he decides to tunnel back in. It's summer, 1962, and Joachim Rudolph, a student, is digging a tunnel under the Berlin Wall. Waiting on the other side in East Berlin - dozens of men, women, and children; all willing to risk everything to escape. From the award-winning creator of the acclaimed BBC Radio 4 podcast, 'Tunnel 29' is the true story of the most remarkable escape tunnel dug under the Berlin Wall.

Remarkable bike rides by Colin Salter

Over 50 of the most spectacular, exhilarating and challenging bike rides from around the world.

Too many reasons to live by Bob Burrow

Rob Burrow is one of the greatest rugby league players of all time. And the most inspirational. As a boy, Rob was told he was too small to play the sport. Even when he made his debut for Leeds Rhinos, people wrote him off as a novelty. But Rob never stopped proving people wrong. During his time at Leeds, for whom he played almost 500 games, he won eight Super League Grand Finals, two Challenge Cups and three World Club Challenges. He also played for his country in two World Cups. In December 2019, Rob was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, a rare degenerative condition, and given a couple of years to live. He was only 37, not long retired and had three young children. When he went public with the devastating news, the outpouring of affection and support was extraordinary. When it became clear that Rob was going to fight it all the way, sympathy turned to awe.