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Top 10 Non-Fiction Titles for April 2021

by Brandon King

Take a look at some of the touching, heartfelt and extraordinary stories that are available to reserve on our catalogue and brand new for April 2021.

Appointed by Philip Roth and granted complete access and independence, Blake Bailey spent years poring over Roth's personal archive, interviewing his friends, lovers, and colleagues, and engaging Roth himself in breathtakingly candid conversations. Bailey shows how Roth emerged from a lower-middle-class Jewish milieu to achieve the heights of literary fame, how his career was nearly derailed by his catastrophic first marriage, and how he championed the work of dissident novelists behind the Iron Curtain.

Monica Jones was Philip Larkin's partner for more than four decades, and was arguably the most important woman in his life. She was cruelly immortalised as Margaret Peel in Kingsley Amis's 'Lucky Jim' and widely vilified for destroying Larkin's diaries and works in progress after his death. But Monica Jones was also a brilliant academic and an inspiring teacher in her own right. She wrote more than 2,000 letters to Larkin, and he in turn poured out his heart to her. In this revealing biography John Sutherland explores the question: who was the real Monica?

Panic as Man Burns Crumpets is the inside story of local newspapers during the past 25 years, told in a way that's funny, poignant and very revealing.

From a 2018 Wainwright Prize shortlisted author, The Circling Sky is part childhood memoir, blended with exquisite nature observation and the story of one man's journey over a year to one of the UK's key natural habitats, the New Forest in Hampshire.

Sharon Stone, one of the most renowned actresses in the world, suffered a massive stroke that cost her not only her health, but her career, family, fortune and global fame. In 'The Beauty of Living Twice', she chronicles her efforts to rebuild her life, and the slow road back to wholeness and health. In an industry that doesn't accept failure, in a world where too many voices are silenced, Stone found the power to return, the courage to speak up, and the will to make a difference in the lives of women and children around the globe.

Renowned actor David Tomlinson, best known as 'Mr Banks' in the film adaptation of Mary Poppins and Professor Emelius Brown in the film Bedknobs and Broomsticks distinguished himself as an RAF pilot during the war. He also endured a turbulent, tumultuous personal life. In 1943, his new American wife committed suicide with her two children by jumping from the top floor of a New York hotel. Not long after, a brief romance with an Icelandic beauty ended with her marrying the founder of the American Nazi Party.

When he finally found comfort with his second wife, Audrey, he fought to have their son, Willie, recognised as one of the first British cases of autism. However, it was playing 'affable asses' in a string of British cinema classics and West End shows that would lead to his career upturn. Still adored by generations of children, Tomlinson's fame continues to shine, and in this book, Nathan Morley reveals his remarkable story.

An untold account of a Florentine bookseller working at the frontiers of human knowledge, and the epochal shift from script to print that defined the Renaissance. The Renaissance in Florence conjures images of beautiful frescoes and elegant buildings - the dazzling handiwork of the city's artists and architects. But equally important were geniuses of another kind: Florence's manuscript hunters, scribes, scholars and booksellers, who blew the dust off a thousand years of history and, through the discovery and diffusion of ancient knowledge, imagined a new and enlightened world.

At the heart of this activity was a remarkable bookseller: Vespasiano da Bisticci. Besides repositories of ancient wisdom by the likes of Plato, Aristotle and Cicero, his books were works of art in their own right, copied by talented scribes and illuminated by the finest miniaturists.

Whether it is pastoral care for the bereaved, discussions about the afterlife, or being called out to perform the last rites, death is part of the Reverend Richard Coles's life and work. But when his partner the Reverend David Coles died, shortly before Christmas in 2019, much about death took Coles by surprise. For one thing, David's death at the early age of forty-three was unexpected. The man that so often assists others to examine life's moral questions now found himself in need of help.

He began to look to others for guidance to steer him through his grief. The flock was leading the shepherd. Much about grief surprised him: the volume of 'sadmin' you have to do when someone dies, how much harder it is travelling for work alone, even the pain of typing a text message to your partner - then realising you are alone.

The End to End record is the longest place-to-place cycling record in Britain. It is a daunting 842 miles and for the men and women who attempt to break the record, there can be no second place, only the binary outcome of total success or failure. Paul Jones decided to ride from Land's End to John o' Groats in an attempt to understand the relentless physical and mental challenges involved. 'End to End' is a captivating and beautifully written narrative. A portrayal of hope and ambition, of what happens when things go wrong and how hard it is to make them right.

Having worked for 16 years in a high security women's prison dealing with the likes of Rosemary West and Myra Hindley, Vanessa Frake thought she'd seen just about everything. That was until she was transferred to the notorious Wormwood Scrubs as head of security and operations. Thrust into a 'man's world', her no nonsense approach and fearless attitude saw her rise through the ranks, as she engaged in daily battles of the wits with both inmates and staff.

From dealing with celebrity criminals and busting drug rings, to recruiting informers and being subject to violent attacks, one of which resulted in a missing chunk of her shoulder, this gripping memoir bares all.