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The Best Paperback Non-Fiction This Autumn

Posted on 10th October 2019 by Mark Skinner

A few days ago we shared a list of stunning new novels, available in paperback for the first time, that make ideal reading for the autumn months. Now, it's the turn of non-fiction to step into the limelight. The selection below covers everything from definitive biography to revisionist history, via political polemic and scintillating science writing. And all at a size that fits snugly into handbag or satchel.  

Biography and Lifestyle

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A noted polymath and genius wordsmith, Edward Lear was also a tormented soul, tortured by loneliness and depression. Uglow’s masterly biography examines both the work – the natural history paintings, travel writing and, of course, famous limericks – and the flaws and complexities of the man. Stunningly illustrated and exhaustively researched, Mr Lear is an enthralling piece of life writing.
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£15.99 £13.99
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At just shy of 1,000 pages the first major biography of Oscar Wilde in three decades is a truly formidable achievement. Sturgis marshals vast amounts of information with skill and flair to present the definitive account not just of the man but his era.
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Journeying from the former refugee camp of Yarmouk, in the besieged and bomb-blasted outskirts of Damascus, to the concert halls of Europe, The Pianist of Yarmouk is the story of a man who dared to defy the authorities and make music amidst the madness. Offering a rare insight into the Syrian conflict, his story is an extraordinary and moving testament to human endurance and the survival of hope.
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A bravura collection of essays from one of the most fertile literary imaginations of the twenty-first century, The End of the End of the Earth leans heavily on autobiography with a flourish of provocative politics sprinkled throughout. Erudite, learned and mightily entertaining, Franzen commands the reader as few prose stylists can.
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One of the most recognisable faces on television news, Maitlis proves a delightfully witty and engaging navigator through the twists and turns of the broadcast media game. Brimming with behind the scenes gossip and fascinating TV trivia, Airhead is an addictive, one-sitting read.
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£8.99 £6.99
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One of the country’s biggest comics, Ranganathan reveals all in this side-splitting memoir. Covering everything from his childhood and his circuitous route into comedy, to how to cope as a vegan stand-up, Ranganathan’s memoir is irreverent, frank and hilarious.
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£14.99 £11.99
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From the inspiring, if somewhat sweary, pages of the Sunday Times Jog On column, Bella Mackie composes a no-nonsense journal to help overcome mental health issues through exercise.
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History

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One of our finest popular historians delivers a volume packed with fascinating facts and tantalising trivia. Using the deceptively simple technique of exploring one key event for every day of the year (some infamous, others unfamiliar) Dan Snow builds an impressively accessible global history.
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Curated with immense skill and eye for intriguing juxtapositions by Simon Sebag Montefiore, the one hundred plus letters contained within Written in History provide a fascinating window into the private and public lives of history's greatest figures. From Rameses to Trump, all human life is here.
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From the author of A History of the World in 100 Objects comes a panoramic history of faith and custom that examines just why certain communities adopted specific religious practices. Broad in scope yet forensic in detail, Living with the Gods is a stunningly accomplished piece of work.
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From Ancient Egypt to twenty-first-century Australia, Jenni Murray charts the achievements and influence of twenty one female pioneers, creative artists and political leaders. An informal and accessible companion to her A History of Britain in 21 Women, Murray's book is an informative and enlightening guide to centuries of strong women.
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The definitive modern biography of a titan of military history, Zamoyski’s monumental account pulls apart the mythos of Napoleon to reveal a flawed yet noble human being. Accessing original European sources and refusing to be swayed by preconception and bias, Zamoyski has produced an astonishingly complete and rounded masterwork.
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£14.99 £12.99
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Acclaimed historian Andrew Roberts unmasks the man behind the icon in an exhaustive biography that the Sunday Times’ Dominic Sandbrook calls ‘the best single volume life of Churchill ever written.'
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Sumptuously produced and consistently jaw-dropping, The Colour of Time views epochal events in glorious colour for the first time. Combining Marina Amaral’s revolutionary colourization work with Dan Jones’ lucid historical timeline this is a transformative perception of history.
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The penultimate volume of Ackroyd’s game-changing history of England, Dominion takes the story of Albion from the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars to the death of Queen Victoria. Vivid and accessible this is history told with epic sweep and colourful anecdote, from an acknowledged master of the form.
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£10.99 £8.99
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Endlessly fascinating and recounted with passion and eloquence, The Golden Thread weaves a wondrous history of fabric and its interconnections with the grander canvas of the past. From the burial linens of Tutankhamun to the textiles that forged the Industrial Revolution, St Clair’s singular book is a kaleidoscopic, colourful treat.
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From one of Britain's most distinguished historians this is the definitive history of a divided Europe, from the aftermath of the Second World War to the present. Ian Kershaw has created a grand panorama of the world we live in and where it came from. Drawing on examples from all across the continent, Roller-Coaster will make us all rethink Europe and what it means to be European.
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One of America’s foremost historians turns his attention to the conflict that ripped the United States apart. Mixing rigorous historical analysis with reportage and personal testimony from those involved, Burns’ exhaustive book presents a multi-faceted view of the Vietnam War that has hitherto been impossible to achieve. Magisterial.
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Politics and Philosophy

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The doyen of American political journalism, Bob Woodward turns his unflinching attention to the chaos and dysfunction of the Trump White House. With characteristic investigative brilliance, Fear lifts the lid on the most unconventional presidency in history and what its legacy is likely to look like.
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One of the breakout hits from the morass of Brexit-related publishing, O’Toole’s sprightly, provocative thesis about Britain’s place in the world and its relationship to the EU is a compelling read whether you agree with him or not. Uncompromising on the British opinion of itself and merciless in his predictions of what will come next, Heroic Failure is a mercurial political and cultural analysis.
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Famously voted the world’s 41st greatest stand-up, Stewart Lee turns his scathing wit to the topic of Brexit, with this collection of newspaper columns and a full transcription of his acclaimed show Content Provider. Ruthlessly deconstructing the madness of the referendum campaign, March of the Lemmings is belligerent, razor-sharp satire at its best.
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From one of the greatest living political philosophers comes a vital analysis of identity, anger and populism. Stringent and insightful, Fukuyama interrogates the rise to power of outsiders and anti-establishment figures and their fraudulent claims to speak ‘for the people’ in a persuasive and enlightening polemic.
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£9.99 £8.49
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An impassioned polemic against the institutionalised prejudice at the heart of the British legal system, Misjustice confronts a catalogue of appalling misogyny and violence towards women. Meticulously researched and cogently argued by leading lawyer Kennedy, this is a clarion call for change that simply cannot be ignored.
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Delving deep into the shocking saga of the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, Mark Urban sifts through the rumour and sensational headlines to present a thorough and accurate version of events as well as an enthralling account of Skripal’s espionage backstory. Frequently alarming and almost incredible, The Skripal Files is a vital resource for understanding Russia’s relationship with the West.
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A ground-breaking survey of the philosophies of the world, their origin and their relevance to twenty-first century life, Baggini’s tour de force is the first to truly contrast and evaluate differing philosophical cultures across the globe. Illustrating the great Eastern systems of thought with clarity and concision, How the World Thinks is a triumph of comparative philosophy.
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Popular Science and Nature

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Unflinchingly frank and unapologetically apocalyptic, David Wallace-Wells’ transformative book blows a hole in the polite rhetoric of climate change. Written with a skilful marshalling of leading scientific evidence and offering the starkest possible warnings about our future (from worldwide famine to total economic ruin), this is an impassioned, imperative call to take action now.
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Written with a breezy, informal exuberance, Soonish sees the Weinersmiths look to potential future technologies and discuss what impact these developments may have on the human race and the planet. Witty and informative, Soonish is popular science at its most wide-eyed and entertaining.
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Every day of our lives we interact with quantum physics in innumerable ways and Chad Orzel is here to tell us how. From alarm clocks to grills to smoke detectors, Breakfast with Einstein reveals the hidden science behind our daily routine with wit and accessibility.
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As the long winter nights start to draw in, thoughts turn to the magical possibility of a ‘White Christmas’. This utterly enchanting volume gives you the lowdown on everything snow related, from historical anecdotes to fascinating meteorological trivia, presented with charm and exuberance by a true snow obsessive.
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Blending history and science in a genre-busting narrative that retells our island story, Britain’s DNA Journey is a uniquely mesmerising slice of genealogical investigation. Tracing a path through time by analysing the DNA of ordinary people, this alternate history uncovers astonishing facts about the ethnic makeup of the British Isles.
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