The best books on Modern British History, recommended by Andrew Hindmoor

What will historians say about the latest period in British history? What has stayed the same, and what is vastly different from our parents’ generation? Andrew Hindmoor, professor of politics at the University of Sheffield and author of Twelve Days that Made Modern Britain, recommends books that give insights into contemporary British history.

The best books on Dickens and Christmas, recommended by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

When it was published on December 19th, 1843, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol was an instant classic. As families settle in front of the fire to read it aloud on Christmas Eve, Oxford Professor of English Literature Robert Douglas-Fairhurst runs through the best of Dickens’s prolific writings about Christmas.

The best books on Covert Action, recommended by Rory Cormac

Many of us live in democracies and believe in government transparency, but the truth is our leaders have considerable scope to engage in secret operations overseas. Rory Cormac talks us through five books on ‘covert action,’ and some of the countries that have embraced it as a policy tool.

The best books on Ancient Greece, recommended by Christopher Pelling

Ancient Greece’s legacy can be seen all around us, including in our political system — but many of us don’t know that much about it. Fortunately, we have someone who has devoted his life to studying this remote time and place to give us a reading list. Chris Pelling, Emeritus Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford, recommends his top five books on Ancient Greece.

The best books on Belgium, recommended by Martin Conway

With a keen awareness of the vicissitudes of history and an ironic sense of national identity, Belgium is a country others could learn a lot from. Historian Martin Conway recommends some books to better understand Belgium/België/Belgique.

The best books on Sex in Victorian Literature, recommended by Claire Jarvis

We often assume the Victorians had puritanical attitudes to sex, but this was far from the reality. From familiar classics to neglected gems, Claire Jarvis—Stanford academic and author of Exquisite Masochism: Sex, Marriage and the Novel Form—selects the best books on sex in Victorian literature.

The best books on The European Union, recommended by Giles Merritt

The EU started life as a small trading bloc but now spans 28 (soon to be 27) countries with half a billion people. What can be done to help its institutions catch up with the new reality? Giles Merritt, author of Slippery Slope: Brexit and Europe’s Troubled Future, has some ideas.

The Best George Eliot Books, recommended by Philip Davis

George Eliot is all but synonymous with Victorian realism; for D H Lawrence, she was the first novelist to start ‘putting all the action inside.’ Here, Philip Davis, author of The Transferred Life of George Eliot, selects the best books by or about one of the greatest novelists of all time: ‘If you want to read literature that sets out to create a holding ground for raw human material—for human struggles, difficulties, and celebrations—read George Eliot’

The best books on Zombies, recommended by Greg Garrett

Zombies have returned with a vengeance in recent years, the secret to their undying popularity lying in their ability to embody many different kinds of menace, from social unrest to pandemics, financial insecurity to international terrorism. Greg Garrett, author of Living with the Living Dead, recommends five books to help you prepare for the zombie apocalypse

The best books on Ageing, recommended by Kathleen Taylor

Old age. We all hope to reach it, but there are big differences between a ‘good’ old age and one beset by dementia or Alzheimer’s. Neuroscientist and science writer, Kathleen Taylor, talks us through the latest science on ageing and the literary works that can give us a clearer picture of what it’s all about.

The best books on The Reformation, recommended by Peter Marshall

On October 31st 1517, Martin Luther, an unknown friar in an obscure town in eastern Germany may or may not have posted a list of complaints to the door of his local church. His actions would lead to what was later called ‘the Reformation’ — a grisly period in European history that nonetheless paved the way for a more tolerant and pluralistic society. Peter Marshall, one of the period’s leading scholars, talks us through the best books on the Reformation.

Marina Warner on Fairy Tales

‘It’s a long time since ogres have seemed so absolutely real,’ says Marina Warner, author and long-time scholar of fairy tales. Which makes now as good a time as any to immerse ourselves in the twisted truths of the fairy tale realm, with Warner’s selection of the best books of, or about, other-worldly tales of mischief and subversion, dreams and laughter, ‘hope against hope’

Jim Baggott on Writing about Physics

Contemporary physics is so complex that no single physicist can be said to have a decent grasp of the full picture. This makes communicating physics a formidable challenge.  Acclaimed popular science writer, Jim Baggott, talks us through this challenge by discussing his favourite physics books.

The best books on Oscar Wilde, recommended by Sos Eltis

Oscar Wilde cultivated an image of himself as an idle genius, dashing off masterpieces with a lazy brilliance. But below the glittering linguistic surface of his works, suggests Sos Eltis, lies an anarchic politics and a phenomenal analysis of power.

The best books on Humanism, recommended by Andrew Copson

Humanist ideas are not a recent phenomenon, but have been around for millennia, says Andrew Copson, chief executive of Humanists UK. He explains why it’s worth making a positive choice to be a humanist and recommends a great humanist reading list.

The best books on Leonardo da Vinci, recommended by Martin Kemp

Every generation has its own Leonardo, and for many he remains a man of mystery. Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor in Art History at Oxford and the author of the recently published Mona Lisa: The People and the Painting, helps us identify the non-mythical Leonardo. What might Leonardo be doing were he alive today, in our own digital age?

The best books on Modern German History, recommended by Hester Vaizey

In the 20th century, Germany suffered defeat in two world wars and withstood two kinds of dictatorship. Yet today it is Europe’s strongest economy. Hester Vaizey, fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, and author of Born in the GDR, selects five brilliant books on a tumultuous century.

The best books on The Saints, recommended by Simon Yarrow

Heroes are universal to human culture and, in Christian culture, they manifested themselves as saints. Historian Simon Yarrow recommends the best books to understand the saints, from their widespread appearance in late antiquity to their continuing influence in modern America.

The best books on El Alamein, recommended by Simon Ball

Churchill hailed the Allied victory at the Battle of El Alamein as “the end of the beginning” for Hitler in World War II. But in that very same speech, he downplayed its significance. Historian Simon Ball separates clichés from facts and chooses the best of the vast number of books written about El Alamein, the Desert War and World War II in general.

The best books on Jacobitism, recommended by Murray Pittock

The failure of the Stuarts to win back the English or Scottish throne changed the course of history, enabling the buildup of a highly centralized British state and, possibly, America’s war for independence. Murray Pittock chooses the best books on Jacobitism, the 18th century phenomenon that nearly overthrew the British government.

The best books on Populism, recommended by Cas Mudde

After a tumultuous year in politics, ‘populism’ is on everybody’s lips. But what is it? Is it good or bad for democracy? How is it that populist movements often have superrich leaders? Political scientist and longtime populism observer Cas Mudde recommends the best books on populism.

The Best Charles Dickens Books, recommended by Jenny Hartley

He was the most popular novelist of the Victorian era, a convivial family man who always championed the underdog. But he also harboured dark secrets that only came out after his death. Jenny Hartley recommends the best books by and about Charles Dickens and discusses Dickens the phenomenon, past and present.

The best books on Eugenics, recommended by Philippa Levine

The term ‘eugenics’ elicits queasiness amongst those who associate it with the Nazis. But Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw and Margaret Sanger were among its many proponents in the interwar period. Why? Philippa Levine, professor of history at the University of Texas, explains.

The best books on Nature of Reality, recommended by Andrew Briggs

When addressing the really fundamental questions in science, researchers must assume that there is an objective reality to describe. But the nature of that reality may be more subtle, allowing space for the existence of God, says Andrew Briggs, professor of nanomaterials at Oxford University.

The best books on Modern China, recommended by Rana Mitter

In October 1911, China’s last imperial dynasty fell. The legacy of that revolution remains deeply ambiguous in today’s People’s Republic. China scholar Rana Mitter tells us about the country’s tumultuous changes from 1911 to the present day.