Top Ten Non-Fiction Books of 2016

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If fiction's not your bag then we've chosen some special non-fiction books for you. As always they're in alphabetical order by author.

The A-Z of Victorian Crime by Neil R A Bell, Trevor N Bond, Kate Clarke and M W Oldridge


Victorian crime has never ceased to cast its spell. Is it because such terrible goings-on took place sufficiently long ago that they do not disgust us in the same way as equally dreadful events from, say, the last few days of which we read from today's papers or online coverage? Whatever the reason, there is an endless fascination with murders and other major transgressions of the law from the era of gas lamps and swirling fog – true Victorian melodrama, misbehaviour and horror from real life writ large. It is amply catered for in this title, the joint work of four authors. Full review...

Penguin Bloom: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive


Cameron and his wife, Sam, had been leading a very active, adventurous life. Even after the birth of their three sons they wanted to continue their adventures, so they decided to travel to Thailand for a family holiday. They were having a brilliant time until, suddenly, Sam was involved in a dreadful, almost fatal, accident. The accident left her paralysed and, because of the sudden and extremely severe impact on her life she slid quickly into a very deep and dark depression. Cameron feared for his family's future, and his wife's life, until one day a small abandoned magpie chick came along, and managed to change everything. Full review...

The Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation by David Crystal


Language changes, not only in the way that it's written, but also in the way that it's pronounced. I've seen changes over my lifetime and even more substantial changes have occurred in the four hundred years since Shakespeare died. For someone watching or reading a play the differences are not usually material: we can generally understand what is being said, but occasionally we're going to miss jokes which rely on a certain pronunciation, or the fine nuances of what is being said. What's required is a dictionary of the original pronunciation and that's exactly what David Crystal has provided. I'm only surprised that it's taken so long for such a book to appear. Full review...

Purple Prose: Bisexuality in Britain by Kate Harrad


Before reading Kate Harrad's thought provoking insight into bisexuality in Britain I have to confess to being as guilty of the misconceptions surrounding the subject as everyone else. It is only when you read this collection of essays and anecdotes, you realise the prejudice they face on a daily basis. The very nature of bisexuality is widely misunderstood by the heterosexual and gay communities alike. As a result bisexuals find themselves marginalised, or, in the worst-case scenario, completely ostracised. Far from having, the best of both worlds, they are considered to be sitting on the fence, unable to come to terms with their true sexuality. Purple Prose tackles these myths and ill-informed ideas head on, and in the process shows a community that does have many issues, just not the ones that are being laid at their door. Full review...

24 Hours at the Somme by Robert Kershaw


They came past one by one...walking lumps of clay, with torn clothing, hollow cheeks and sunken eyes...There was a dreadful weariness, but a wildness burning in their fevered eyes, showing what this appalling hand to hand fighting had cost them. Utterly unforgivable for me...

So goes the description of the men, the ghosts, at the end of the first day of the Somme. July 1 2016 will mark 100 years since this most bloody of battles took place. It was supposed to be the optimistic 'Big Push' that would end the Great War, but by sunset of the first day the British casualties numbered 57,470. The battle would rage until November that year, with the total number of casualties on all sides exceeding one million. Full review...

Minecraft Exploded Builds: Medieval Fortress by Mojang AB


If you have ever marvelled at the creative architecture designed by the talented members of the Minecraft community and been inspired to give it a go yourself, then Exploded Builds might be the perfect book for you. It is aimed at those of us who have the ambition but lack the necessary expertise to design such stunning buildings. Medieval Fortress will guide you every step of the way with detailed diagrams and customisation options, allowing you be king of you own castle in no time at all. Full review...

Planet Earth II by Stephen Moss


Planet Earth II is the official companion to the upcoming BBC wildlife documentary series of the same name. Our understanding of the world around us has reached a new level, courtesy of ground-breaking technology that gives us unparalleled access to a diverse range of environments and a sneak peek into previously hidden worlds. The book looks at six vastly different environments: Jungles, Mountains, Deserts, Grasslands, Islands and Cities and showcases some of the amazing creatures that live in each one. Full review...

Pugh's New Year's Resolutions by Jonathan Pugh


If there's one thing that's for certain, it's that the world is changing. We're dating online, we're communicating in ways that make email seem redundant, and when we're shopping we just tell a website where and when it can be delivered, and how much leeway they have to swap our wishes for whatever it is they do bring us. But those changes are also supposed to be affecting us – we're supposed to use a smart watch to tell us if we're moving or not, we have to keep up with the latest fads, and we're supposed to prick our ears up and take note when the proverbial 'they' change their minds about what we're supposed to eat. Full review...

Bookshelf (Object Lessons) by Lydia Pyne


Could you imagine a whole book dedicated to a single lump of wood, or a few sections of metal? I can't assume it would be great – with or without said item being an object with physical, historical and psychological components. But shove some distorted tree by-products on to said wood or metal, and lo and behold you have a bookshelf. Now you're talking – but could you even now imagine a whole book dedicated to it? Full review...

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz


Negotiation is nothing more than communication with results, according to Chris Voss. Never Split the Difference is all about maximising the chances of these results being in your favour. Drawing upon years of experience as a crisis and kidnapping negotiator, Voss has developed a set of highly honed tools, field-tested in numerous high-stakes negotiation situations involving the FBI. In contrast to the widely accepted paradigm for negotiation taught in schools and universities, this toolkit throws aside complex game theory and dense mathematical considerations in favour of an approach that places emotional intelligence, empathy and subtle communication techniques at its core. The focus is on developing an understanding of the thought process of individuals during any given discussion. Effective communication not only helps derive these insights, but allows them to be used to move a negotiation in the direction you want it to go, while simultaneously resolving a discussion with minimal conflict. Full review...

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