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O Joy for me! by Keir Davidson

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Art, Biography, Travel, Reference

Oh Joy for me! gives Coleridge credit for being the first person to walk the mountains alone, not because he had to for work, as a miner, quarryman, shepherd or pack-horse driver, but because he wanted to for pleasure and adventure. His rapturous encounters with their natural beauty, and its literary consequences, changed our view of the world. Full Review


G Engleheart Pinxit 1805: A year in the life of George Engleheart by John Webley

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Art, History

George Engleheart was one of the leading portrait miniaturists of Georgian London, with a career lasting from the 1770s to the Regency era. He was also one of the most prolific, painting nearly 5,000 miniatures altogether (over twenty of them being of King George III). Throughout most of that time he carefully recorded the names of each of his clients, and subsequently transcribed them into what is referred to as his fee book. Full Review

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Renoir's Dancer: The Secret Life of Suzanne Valadon by Catherine Hewitt

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Biography, Art

Deep in the rural parts of France in the 1860s, you would never really expect to find someone who would come to embody a full artistic period – and not just a movement at that, but a full generation of both creative and societal change. And if you were to expect that someone, they would like as not be male. But almost stumbling into the hedonistic culture of Montmartre came Marie-Clementine Valadon. She started in the circus that first caught her teenaged eye, although her gymnastic career was short-lived. But what she did have from that was the poise to be an appealing model for some seriously important painters, and a natural beauty and figure to appeal to both them and their audiences. And what she also had, much to the surprise of many and the distaste of some, was artistic talent of her own… [[Renoir's Dancer: The Secret Life of Suzanne Valadon by Catherine Hewitt|Full Review]

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Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Art

Murakami loves music, any reader of his could tell you as much. Norwegian Wood was named after a Beatles song (albeit one not very well known) and After Dark is framed by a music soundtrack in a brilliant display of atmospheric setting. With this all that love is here. And like all who have a good taste in music, Murakami's is eclectic and very well considered. I found myself looking up musicians after reading this because I found many of his opinions quite convincing. Full Review

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The Recent Past by James Ravilious

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Art

James, son of the war artist Eric Ravilious, inherited his father's artistic talents. Although he was a gifted painter, his main career was to be as a photographer.|Full Review]]

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American Gothic: The Life of Grant Wood by Susan Wood and Ross MacDonald

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Children's Non-Fiction, Confident Readers, Art

Who won a national prize for a crayon drawing of three oak leaves before he was properly in his teens? Who sought acclaim as an artist and came to Europe to study from the greats, only to reject all they had to offer? Who instinctively knew a picture of his dentist (yes, his dentist) would be more appealing and say more to people than floating water lilies and frilly ballet dancers? The answer in all cases was Grant Wood, practically the most well-known painter in America at one time, and still the best, alongside Edward Hopper, at presenting his world minus any Modernist trappings. Full Review

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Patchwork and Quilting: A Maker's Guide by Victoria and Albert Museum

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Crafts, Art

Patchwork is a magical craft: you can take relatively small pieces of material and turn them into another piece of material with an entirely different pattern. Quilting converts a topper and a backing fabric with some wadding in between into a fabric of an entirely different weight. Combine the two crafts and you have something more than magical, occasionally fashionable but always deeply satisfying. But where to start, when there are so many different styles of both crafts? One answer is to read Patchwork and Quilting: A Maker's Guide which looks - as the cover says - at styles from Italian trapunto to Korean jogakbo and then delivers fifteen projects inspired by the V&A collections. Full Review

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Landscape Gardens by Sarah Rutherford

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Art

My first experience of a big garden was Versailles as a teenager and whilst I was impressed, I didn't really like it. I felt stifled and strangely underwhelmed by the flatness of it all. As luck would have it I then saw Hampton Court and it was official: I was off big gardens. It would be many years before I revised my opinion. On a trip to Harewood House it was too hot a day to be corralled into the house, so I wandered the gardens and found they were delightful. I felt uplifted. Then a cricket match at Stowe gave me the opportunity to walk the grounds for over an hour. I was completely won over and a devotee of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. Sarah Rutherford's Landscape Gardens was an opportunity to put him in context. Full Review

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Peter Pan and Wendy by J M Barrie and Robert Ingpen

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews For Sharing, Art

It's a childhood staple - the story of Wendy, John and Michael Darling and their beloved nurse, Nana the Newfoundland dog who took them to school each day. It's George Darling, their father, who makes the mistake when he locks Nana in the yard and the children are whisked away to Neverland by Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. There's a wonderful mix of characters, from Peter Pan, the boy who never wants to grow up, Tinkerbell, the rather unpleasant fairy, Captain Hook, Tiger Lily, the lost boys and - of course - Wendy, but then it wouldn't have been a classic since the original stage production in 1904 and the novel of 1911 if it were otherwise. Full Review

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The Wind in The Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Robert Ingpen

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Confident Readers, Art

Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows was one of the defining books of my childhood and more than sixty years after I first read the book I've just recently passed it onto another young reader. Since the book was first published in 1908 there have been some notable illustrators: Paul Bransom provided illustrations for the 1913 edition, Ernest H Shepard (perhaps better known for his illustrations of Winnie the Pooh) in 1933, Arthur Rackham (possibly the leading illustrator from the golden age of book illustration) in 1940 and Robert Ingpen who illustrated the centenary edition of The Wind in the Willows. Full Review

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Britain's 100 Best Railway Stations by Simon Jenkins

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Reference, Art, Travel

In the mid twentieth century the railway was something which harked back to the Victorian age with trains being supplanted by cars and planes, but steam was being replaced by oil, even then and in the twenty-first century oil is giving way to electricity. It's cleaner, more environmentally friendly and the stations which we'd all rushed through as quickly as possible, keen to escape their grime, were restored and became places to be admired, possibly even lingered in. Simon Jenkins has chosen his hundred best railway stations. Full Review

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On My Way: Norfolk Coastal Walks by John Hurst

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Art,Sport

It was pure serendipity: after a five-hour drive we were, annoyingly, left with an hour to fill in Blakeney before we could have the keys to our holiday cottage. There was an art exhibition in the church hall, so we went in - and found a display of the most gorgeous pictures. I'd cheerfully have bought every one and hung them on our walls, but thought that I would have to make do with a couple of greetings cards when I saw On My Way: Norfolk Coastal Walks and I couldn't resist buying it. Full Review

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Threads: The Delicate Life of John Craske by Julia Blackburn

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Biography, Art

John Craske was a fisherman, from a family of fishermen, who became too ill to go to sea. He was born in Sheringham on the north Norfolk coast in 1881 and would eventually die in the Norwich hospital in 1943 after a life which could have been defined by ill health. There were various explanations for what ailed him, what caused him to sink into a stupour, sometimes for years at a time and he was on occasions described as 'an imbecile'. But John had a natural artistic talent, albeit that his work had to be done on the available surfaces in his home. Chair seats, window sills, the backs of doors all carried his wonderful pictures of the sea. Then he moved on to embroidery, producing wonderful pictures of the Norfolk coast - and, most famously, of the evacuation at Dunkirk. Full Review

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Titania and Oberon by Jo Manton, Phyllis Bray and David Buckman

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Confident Readers, Art

Equus, Waiting for Godot and A Mid-summer Night's Dream – three very distinctive plays, and my favourite three, out of which you won't often get me choosing just one. But were I to do so, it might actually be the last, for the simple reason I would delight in playing any and all characters from it. Yes, I know Hermia and Helena look a bit implausible now – but I put it to you stranger things happen on stage… Some of the strangest things involve a player himself, a lowly actor who gets given an ass's head and is forced to be the enamoured of a fairy queen. It's this section of the play that this book concentrates on, in quite stunning form. Full Review

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Origami, Poems and Pictures by The British Museum

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Crafts, Art

Sometimes you find a delight of a book. On an afternoon when it was unseasonably cold and decidedly wet I discovered Origami, Poems and Pictures and I was transported to Japan. As the title suggests we're looking at three celebrated arts and crafts: the ancient art of paper folding, haiku poetry and painting. I'll confess that it was the origami which caught my attention, but I was surprised by the extent to which the rest of the book caught my imagination. We begin with something very simple: a boat and in case you're worried, all the entries have a degree of difficulty (from 'simple' through to 'tricky') and this one is at the lowest level. Full Review

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Travels With My Sketchbook by Michael Foreman

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Art, Travel

I guess the best children's literature can do away with complete veracity, as long as it has something about it that is recognisable – a little of the spirit, heart and character of the real thing, whatever it may be. And if that's the case then it definitely applies to children's literature illustrations, such as those provided close on two hundred times by Michael Foreman. This prolific artist leapt at a scholarship in the US when he'd completed his official, formal studies, and it would appear – huge credits list regardless – that he's never stopped moving since, as this book takes us to all corners of the world, and back home again. Full Review

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Stephen Biesty's Trains by Ian Graham and Stephen Biesty

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Art, Travel, Children's Non-Fiction

Trains look imposing, but true fans (little boys, usually from about three years old and upwards) want to know what lies beneath the skin which you can see. They want to know how it works. Getting to grips with one in real life is quite a big ask, but the next best thing is Stephen Biesty's Trains which features trains from all over the world and spanning the early steam train (complete with cow catcher) right through to the trains of the future which can reach a speed of 430 kph and don't even run on rails. Once the train reaches a speed of 150 kph the wheels are raised and the train is held up by magnetic forces alone. Full Review

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The Vanishing Man - In Search of Velazquez by Laura Cumming

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Art, Biography

Pitching up at an auction and picking up a lost masterpiece for a pittance is the dream for most art lovers. That seemingly happy circumstance happened to bookseller John Snare at a sale in 1845 and is the centrepiece to Laura Cumming's excellent The Vanishing Man – In Pursuit of Velazquez.Full Review

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A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex and the Mind by Siri Hustvedt

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Politics and Society, Art

I must confess that A Woman Looking spoke to me on a profound, intimate level. This is in part due to the apparent similarities between me and Siri Hustvedt- we are both feminists who love art and also love science in a world which emphasises that these two passions are mutually exclusive. What Hustvedt suggests in A Woman Looking is that it is the similarities between these two areas we should emphasise and that a cohesive, inclusive approach towards art and science could help fill the gaps in both disciplines. One of the unfortunate similarities shared by both art and science is a general inhospitality towards women. This critique is not new, it has been emphasised by women from Suffragettes to Guerrilla Girls and recent research has highlighted the difficulties faced by women in STEM careers, however the fact that this remains an ongoing concern only highlights that further discussion is necessary. Discussion is what Hustvedt provides, balanced yet concerned, coherent but also impassioned. This critique of entrenched sexism is a recurrent theme in each section of the book and is one of the most important elements of her work. Full Review