What will you be reading over the Easter weekend?

Yale University Press presents some ideas to kick-start your bank-holiday reading.

Easter is fast approaching, and the more organized literature fans amongst you will already have books stockpiled for the bank holiday weekend. For those of us who have yet to think about holidays, let alone holiday reading, here are some ideas to use as a starting point (see below).

What will you be reading over the Easter weekend? If you’d like to share with us some of your ideas for bank holiday reading, please use the comment box below. It would be great to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, here are some suggestions from Yale…

                                                             

HISTORY

A Little History of the World
E.H. Gombrich

In 1935, with a doctorate in art history and no prospect of a job, the 26-year-old Ernst Gombrich was invited to attempt a history of the world for younger readers. Amazingly, he completed the task in an intense six weeks, and “Eine kurze Weltgeschichte fur junge Leser” was published in Vienna to immediate success, and is now available in twenty-five languages across the world. In forty concise chapters, Gombrich tells the story of man from the stone age to the atomic bomb. In between emerges a colourful picture of wars and conquests, grand works of art, and the spread and limitations of science. This is a text dominated not by dates and facts, but by the sweep of mankind’s experience across the centuries, a guide to humanity’s achievements and an acute witness to its frailties.The product of a generous and humane sensibility, this timeless account makes intelligible the full span of human history. More

Behind Closed Doors
At Home in Georgian England
Amanda Vickery

In this brilliant work, Amanda Vickery unlocks the homes of Georgian England to examine the lives of the people who lived there. Writing with her customary wit and verve, she introduces us to men and women from all walks of life: gentlewoman Anne Dormer in her stately Oxfordshire mansion; bachelor clerk and future novelist Anthony Trollope in his dreary London lodgings; genteel spinsters keeping up appearances in two rooms with yellow wallpaper; and, servants with only a locking box to call their own. More

Demobbed
Coming Home After the Second World War
Alan Allport

Snapshots of gaiety and celebration – the street parties, the victory speeches – are how some people today think of Britain in 1945. But the years following the end of World War II were far from a ‘golden age’ of pride and self-confidence. The country was troubled though triumphant, subject to continued rationing and political change. Wracked by social disorder, austerity and disillusion, Britain was exhausted – and it was the return of those men who had fought for their country who seemed to be a root cause of the trouble. “Demobbed” is the real story of what happened when millions of ex-servicemen returned home. Most had been absent for years, and the joy of arrival was often clouded with ambivalence, regrets and fears. Returning soldiers faced both practical and psychological problems, from reasserting their place in the family home to rejoining a much-altered labour force. Civilians worried that their homecoming heroes had been barbarized by their experiences and would bring crime and violence back from the battlefield. ‘Problem veterans’ preoccupied the entire country. Alan Allport draws on their personal letters and diaries, on newspapers, reports, novels and films to illuminate the darker side of the homecoming experience for ex-servicemen, their families and society at large – a gripping tale that’s in danger of being lost to national memory. More

                                                               

CURRENT AFFAIRS

Egypt on the Brink
From Nasser to Mubarak
Tarek Osman

Famous until the 1950s for its religious pluralism and extraordinary cultural heritage, Egypt is now seen as an increasingly repressive and divided land, home of the Muslim Brotherhood and an opaque regime headed by the aging President Mubarak. In this immensely readable and thoroughly researched book, Tarek Osman explores what has happened to the biggest Arab nation since President Nasser took control of the country in 1954. He examines Egypt’s central role in the development of the two crucial movements of the period, Arab nationalism and radical Islam; the increasingly contentious relationship between Muslims and Christians; and perhaps most important of all, the rift between the cosmopolitan elite and the mass of the undereducated and underemployed population, more than half of whom are aged under thirty. This is an essential guide to one of the Middle East’s most important but least understood states. More

Wikileaks and the Age of Transparency
Micah L. Sifry

It’s one of the biggest news stories for years. A charismatic, white-haired Australian sets up a website devoted to publishing leaked documents in the public interest, and then, allegedly with the aid of a disaffected American soldier, starts releasing startlingly honest cables from the US diplomatic service – with explosive results. In this lively, up-to-the-minute book, technology and politics analyst Micah Sifry tells the story of WikiLeaks in the context of the growing movement for transparency in politics and of the crowdsourcing activism that the Internet and in particular Web 2.0 has made possible. In particular, he looks at the achievements of open-source web projects that collate information for individuals and governments alike, and describes how crowdsourcing initiatives have analysed MPs’ expenses, recorded political violence in Kenya and reduced bribery in India. Finally, he discusses the rather ambivalent attitudes displayed by political elites, many of whom have embraced the idea of open government in opposition only to go quiet once in power. Fascinating, thoughtful and often eye-opening, this is an essential guide to the new age of transparency. More

                                                               

FICTION AND POETRY

Five Spice Street
Can Xue

Five Spice Street is a novel about a street in an unnamed city whose inhabitants speculate on the life of a mysterious Madam X. The novel interweaves their endless suppositions into a work that is at once political parable and surreal fantasia. Some think X is 50 years old; others that she is 22. Some believe she has occult powers and has thereby enslaved the young men of the street; others think she is a common trickster playing mind games with the common people. Who is Madam X? How has she brought the good people of Five Spice Street to their knees either in worship or in exasperation? The unknown narrator takes no sides in the endless dialectic of visions, arguments, and opinions. The investigation rages, the street becomes a Walpurgisnacht of speculations, fantasies, and prejudices. Madam X is a vehicle whereby the people bare their souls, through whom they reveal themselves even as they try to penetrate the mystery of her extraordinary powers.”Five Spice Street” is one of the most astonishing novels of the past twenty years. Exploring the collective consciousness of this little street of ordinary people, Can Xue penetrates the deepest existential anxieties of the present day, whether in China or in the West, where the inevitable impermanence of identity struggles with the narrative within which identity must compose itself. More

Adonis
Selected Poems
Adonis

Born in Syria in 1930, Adonis is one of the most celebrated poets of the Arabic-speaking world. His poems have earned international acclaim, and his influence on Arabic literature has been likened to that of T. S. Eliot’s on English-language verse. This volume serves as the first comprehensive survey of Adonis’ work, allowing English readers to admire the arc of a remarkable literary career through the labours of the poet’s own handpicked translator, Khaled Mattawa. Experimental in form and prophetic in tone, Adonis’ poetry sings exultantly of both the sweet promise of eros and the lingering problems of the self. Steeped in the anguish of exile and the uncertainty of existence, Adonis demonstrates the poet’s profound affection for Arabic and European lyrical traditions even as his poems work to destabilize those very aesthetic and moral sensibilities. This collection positions the work of Adonis within the pantheon of the great poets of exile, including Cesar Vallejo, Joseph Brodsky, and Paul Celan, providing for English readers the most complete vision yet of the work of the man whom the cultural critic Edward Said called ‘today’s most daring and provocative Arab poet’. More

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