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Elaine's Holiday Reads

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 These are a few of the books I think would be a great read on these long winter's nights.

    Bring Up the Bodies

    Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2009 'Lock Cromwell in a deep dungeon in the morning,' says Thomas More, 'and when you come back that night he'll be sitting on a plush cushion eating larks' tongues, and all the gaolers will owe him money.' England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey's clerk, and later his successor. Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages. From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion and suffering and courage.

    True History of the Kelly Gang

    'I lost my own father at 12 years of age and know what it is to be raised on lies and silence...' To the authorities in pursuit of him, outlaw Ned Kelly is a horse thief, bank robber and police-killer. But to his fellow ordinary Australians, Kelly is their own Robin Hood. In a dazzling act of ventriloquism, Peter Carey brings the famous bushranger wildly and passionately to life.

    The Phantom Atlas

    The Phantom Atlas is an atlas of the world not as it ever existed, but as it was thought to be. These marvellous and mysterious phantoms - non-existent islands, invented mountain ranges, mythical civilisations and other fictitious geography - were all at various times presented as facts on maps and atlases. This book is a collection of striking antique maps that display the most erroneous cartography, with each illustration accompanied by the story behind it. Exploration, map-making and mythology are all brought together to create a colourful tapestry of monsters, heroes and volcanoes; swindlers, mirages and murderers. Sometimes the stories are almost impossible to believe, and remarkably, some of the errors were still on display in maps published in the 21st century. Throughout much of the 19th century more than 40 different mapmakers included the Mountains of Kong, a huge range of peaks stretching across the entire continent of Africa, in their maps - but it was only in 1889 when Louis Gustave Binger revealed the whole thing to be a fake. For centuries, explorers who headed to Patagonia returned with tales of the giants they had met who lived there, some nine feet tall. Then there was Gregor MacGregor, a Scottish explorer who returned to London to sell shares in a land he had discovered in South America. He had been appointed the Cazique of Poyais, and bestowed with many honours by the local king of this unspoiled paradise. Now he was offering others the chance to join him and make their fortune there, too - once they had paid him a bargain fee for their passage... The Phantom Atlas is a beautifully produced volume, packed with stunning maps and drawings of places and people that never existed. The remarkable stories behind them all are brilliantly told by Edward Brooke-Hitching in a book that will appeal to cartophiles everywhere.

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