From her days as a star of West End comedy and revue, Dame Maggie's path has led to international renown and numerous accolades including two Academy Awards. Recently she has been as prominent on our screens as ever, with high-profile roles as the formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey, as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter movie franchise and as the eccentric Miss Shepherd in the film version of The Lady In The Van by Alan Bennett.
Paradoxically she remains an enigmatic figure, rarely appearing in public and carefully guarding her considerable talent. Drawing on personal archives, interviews and encounters with the actress, as well as conversations with immediate family and dear friends, Michael Coveney's biography is a captivating portrait of the real Maggie Smith.
How new is atheism? Although adherents and opponents alike today present it as an invention of the European Enlightenment, when the forces of science and secularism broadly challenged those of faith, disbelief in the gods, in fact, originated in a far more remote past. In Battling the Gods, Tim Whitmarsh journeys into the ancient Mediterranean, a world almost unimaginably different from our own, to recover the stories and voices of those who first refused the divinities.
Homer’s epic poems of human striving, journeying, and passion were ancient Greece’s only “sacred texts,” but no ancient Greek thought twice about questioning or mocking his stories of the gods. Priests were functionaries rather than sources of moral or cosmological wisdom. The absence of centralized religious authority made for an extraordinary variety of perspectives on sacred matters, from the devotional to the atheos, or “godless.” Whitmarsh explores this kaleidoscopic range of ideas about the gods, focusing on the colorful individuals who challenged their existence. Among these were some of the greatest ancient poets and philosophers and writers, as well as the less well known: Diagoras of Melos, perhaps the first self-professed atheist; Democritus, the first materialist; Socrates, executed for rejecting the gods of the Athenian state; Epicurus and his followers, who thought gods could not intervene in human affairs; the brilliantly mischievous satirist Lucian of Samosata.
Before the revolutions of late antiquity, which saw the scriptural religions of Christianity and Islam enforced by imperial might, there were few constraints on belief. Everything changed, however, in the millennium between the appearance of the Homeric poems and Christianity’s establishment as Rome’s state religion in the fourth century AD. As successive Greco-Roman empires grew in size and complexity, and power was increasingly concentrated in central capitals, states sought to impose collective religious adherence, first to cults devoted to individual rulers, and ultimately to monotheism. In this new world, there was no room for outright disbelief: the label “atheist” was used now to demonize anyone who merely disagreed with the orthodoxy - and so it would remain for centuries.
As the twenty-first century shapes up into a time of mass information, but also, paradoxically, of collective amnesia concerning the tangled histories of religions, Whitmarsh provides a bracing antidote to our assumptions about the roots of freethinking. By shining a light on atheism’s first thousand years, Battling the Gods offers a timely reminder that nonbelief has a wealth of tradition of its own, and, indeed, its own heroes.
In Days of Fire, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, takes us on a gripping and intimate journey through the eight years of the Bush and Cheney administration in a tour-de-force narrative of a dramatic and controversial presidency.
Theirs was the most captivating American political partnership since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger: a bold and untested president and his seasoned, relentless vice president. Confronted by one crisis after another, they struggled to protect the country, remake the world, and define their own relationship along the way. In Days of Fire, Peter Baker chronicles the history of the most consequential presidency in modern times through the prism of its two most compelling characters, capturing the elusive and shifting alliance of George Walker Bush and Richard Bruce Cheney as no historian has done before. He brings to life with in-the-room immediacy all the drama of an era marked by devastating terror attacks, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, and financial collapse.
The real story of Bush and Cheney is a far more fascinating tale than the familiar suspicion that Cheney was the power behind the throne. Drawing on hundreds of interviews with key players, and thousands of pages of never-released notes, memos, and other internal documents, Baker paints a riveting portrait of a partnership that evolved dramatically over time, from the early days when Bush leaned on Cheney, making him the most influential vice president in history, to their final hours, when the two had grown so far apart they were clashing in the West Wing. Together and separately, they were tested as no other president and vice president have been, first on a bright September morning, an unforgettable "day of fire" just months into the presidency, and on countless days of fire over the course of eight tumultuous years.
Days of Fire is a monumental and definitive work that will rank with the best of presidential histories. As absorbing as a thriller, it is eye-opening and essential reading.
The riveting true story of mother-and-daughter queens Catherine de' Medici and Marguerite de Valois, whose wildly divergent personalities and turbulent relationship changed the shape of their tempestuous and dangerous century.
Set in magnificent Renaissance France, this is the story of two remarkable women, a mother and daughter driven into opposition by a terrible betrayal that threatened to destroy the realm.
Catherine de' Medici was a ruthless pragmatist and powerbroker who dominated the throne for thirty years. Her youngest daughter Marguerite, the glamorous "Queen Margot," was a passionate free spirit, the only adversary whom her mother could neither intimidate nor control.
When Catherine forces the Catholic Marguerite to marry her Protestant cousin Henry of Navarre against her will, and then uses her opulent Parisian wedding as a means of luring his followers to their deaths, she creates not only savage conflict within France but also a potent rival within her own family.
Rich in detail and vivid prose, Goldstone's narrative unfolds as a thrilling historical epic. Treacherous court politics, poisonings, inter-national espionage, and adultery form the background to a story that includes such celebrated figures as Elizabeth I, Mary, Queen of Scots, and Nostradamus. The Rival Queens is a dangerous tale of love, betrayal, ambition, and the true nature of courage, the echoes of which still resonate.
Maxwell Knight was a paradox. A jazz obsessive and nature enthusiast (he is the author of the definitive work on how to look after a gorilla), he is seen today as one of MI5's greatest spymasters, a man who did more than any other to break up British fascism during the Second World War - in spite of having once belonged to the British Fascisti himself. He was known to his agents and colleagues simply as M, and is rumored to be the inspiration for the character in the James Bond series.
Knight became a legendary spymaster despite an almost total lack of qualifications. What set him apart from his peers was a mercurial ability to transform almost anyone into a fearless secret agent. He was the first in MI5 to grasp the potential of training female agents.
Agent M is about more than just one man however. In its pages, Hemming will reveal for the first time in print the names and stories of some of the men and women recruited by Knight, on behalf of MI5, and then asked to infiltrate the most dangerous political organizations in Britain at that time. Until now, their identities have been kept secret outside MI5. Drawn from every walk of life, they led double lives - often at great personal cost - in order to protect the country they loved. With the publication of this book, it will be possible at last to celebrate the lives of these courageous and selfless individuals.
Drawing on declassified documents, private family archives, and original interviews, Agent M reveals not just the shadowy world of espionage but a brilliant, enigmatic man at its shadowy center.
66 million years ago, a ten-mile-wide object from outer space hurtled into the Earth at incredible speed and destroyed the dinosaurs, along with three-quarters of the other species on the planet.
Where did it come from, and why? And how is this connected to dark matter – the most mysterious, elusive stuff in the universe, that interacts with gravity like ordinary matter but doesn't emit or absorb light. Astronomers know it's there but it is literally invisible.
Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs tells the story of Big Bang theory, cosmological inflation, the makeup of the universe and our solar system's place in it; it's about mass extinctions through the ages, what we know has hit the Earth and what might hit us in the future. And it explores the radical idea that dark matter might ultimately have been responsible for the dinosaurs' extinction.
A horizon-expanding tour of the cosmos that blends what we know about the universe with new thinking, Dark Matter and the Dinosaursis a book full of wonders, from a gifted scientist and writer.
ABBEY'S CHOICE MARCH 2015 ----- From Galileo and Newton to Thomas Hobbes and Martin Luther King, Jr., thinkers throughout history have consciously employed scientific techniques to better understand the non-physical world.
The Age of Reason and the Enlightenment led theorists to apply scientific reasoning to the non-scientific disciplines of politics, economics, and moral philosophy. Instead of relying on the woodcuts of dissected bodies in old medical texts, physicians opened bodies themselves to see what was there; instead of divining truth through the authority of an ancient holy book or philosophical treatise, people began to explore the book of nature for themselves through travel and exploration; instead of the supernatural belief in the divine right of kings, people employed a natural belief in the right of democracy.
In this provocative and compelling book, Shermer will explain how abstract reasoning, rationality, empiricism, skepticism - scientific ways of thinking - have profoundly changed the way we perceive morality and, indeed, move us ever closer to a more just world.
From a distinguished literary historian, a look at Gustave Flaubert and his correspondence with George Sand during France's "terrible year" - summer 1870 through spring 1871.
From the summer of 1870 through the spring of 1871, France suffered a humiliating defeat in its war against Prussia and witnessed bloody class warfare that culminated in the crushing of the Paris Commune. In Flaubert in the Ruins of Paris, Peter Brooks examines why Flaubert thought his recently published novel, Sentimental Education, was prophetic of the upheavals in France during this "terrible year," and how Flaubert's life and that of his compatriots were changed forever.
Brooks uses letters between Flaubert and his novelist friend and confidante George Sand to tell the story of Flaubert and his work, exploring his political commitments and his understanding of war, occupation, insurrection, and bloody political repression. Interweaving history, art history, and literary criticism - from Flaubert's magnificent novel of historical despair, to the building of the reactionary monument the Sacre-Coeur on Paris's highest summit, to the emergence of photography as historical witness - Brooks sheds new light on the pivotal moment when France redefined herself for the modern world.
The Japanese logic puzzle is one of the most addictive products known to man. Bellos has collected over 200 of their most ingenious puzzles, rated easy to excruciating, and introduces 20 new types of addictive problems.
The Japanese logic puzzle is one of the most addictive products known to man. Alex Bellos travelled to Tokyo to meet the puzzle masters behind these habit-forming brainteasers and brought back over 200 puzzles that will flex, stretch, and blow your mind. Can you beat the puzzle masters to become a puzzle ninja?
Puzzles are so enjoyable. They get your brain sparking and the competitive spirit flowing. Solving them is one of life's simple pleasures. The puzzle masters of Japan create the world’s most satisfying puzzles, so Alex Bellos travelled to Tokyo to meet them. These enigmatologists include the godfather of Sudoku, the winner of the World Puzzle Championships, an inspiring teacher who uses games to enliven his students’ maths lessons, and the puzzle poet whose name has become a Sudoku solving technique. They use noms de guerre – Edamame, Lenin, Teatime, Sesame Egg – and each has a distinctive style. What unites them are their megawatt brains and the beauty of their hand-crafted puzzles, which will challenge and sharpen your mind.
Bellos has collected over 200 of their most ingenious puzzles, rated easy to excruciating, and introduces 20 new types of addictive problems including Shakashaka and Marupeke. Arm yourself with pencil, eraser and laser-like focus. Let's get puzzling...
A delightful and informative guide to writing like Jane Austen, written by the five-times-great niece of Austen herself Jane Austen is one of the most beloved writers in the English literary canon.
Bursting with useful exercises, beautiful illustrations and enlightening quotations from the classic author's novels and letters - and written by none other than Austen's five-times-great-niece - this book will teach you her methods, tips and tricks, from techniques of plotting and characterisation through to dialogue and suspense.
Austen’s novels changed the landscape of fiction forever, and her writing remains as fresh, entertaining and witty as the day her books were first published. Whether you're a creative writing enthusiast looking to publish your first novel, a teacher searching for further inspiration for students, or fan seeking insight into Austen's daily rituals, this is an essential companion, guaranteed to satisfy, inform and delight.
William Shakespeare is dying, with his lawyer at his bedside. It is time to dictate his will. But how can a man put his affairs in order before he's come to terms with his past? Acclaimed poet, novelist, and Shakespeare professor Christopher Rush has put thirty years of scholarship and creativity into this unforgettable re-imagining of the Bard's life. Rush takes readers into the mind of William Shakespeare, a man whose almost superhuman art was forged from very human frailties and misfortunes. Will takes us back to Shakespeare's childhood, his first encounters with sex, and the dangers of politics, plague, and love. We hear the chilling account of the Tyburn executions, see him crossing the frozen Thames with the wooden beams that would become the Globe theater, and return with him to Stratford on the heartbreaking journey to bury his only son. Rush has created an utterly irresistible figure whose voice rings true across four hundred years--irrepressible, bawdy, witty, and wise, his every word steeped in the situations and phrases of his own plays.
The most up-to-date and information-packed dictionary of its size available. With spelling, grammar and pronunciation help included, the Essential Dictionary gives you all the everyday words plus help with English grammar and usage that you will need.
Up-to-date language coverage along with practical guidance on effective English for everyday use.
The text is compiled using the latest information on current English from Collins Corpus - our unique and constantly updated 4.5-billion-word database - ensuring the most up-to-date language coverage available. And, with all entry words and spelling forms in clear type, modern definitions, you can be sure to find all the information you need in the quickest time possible.
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In Other Words is at heart a love story - of a long and sometimes difficult courtship, and a passion that verges on obsession: that of a writer for another language. For Jhumpa Lahiri, that love was for Italian, which first captivated and capsized her during a trip to Florence after college. Although Lahiri studied Italian for many years afterwards, full mastery had always eluded her. So in 2012, seeking full immersion, she decided to uproot herself, her husband and two children, and move to Rome for 'a trial by fire, a sort of baptism' into a new world and way of being.
Over the course of three years, Lahiri read, spoke, wrote - even in her journal - solely in Italian, slowly beginning to feel she could not only communicate in Italian, but fully express herself, even in fiction. In spare and luminous prose, and drawing, too, on Lahiri's parent's own experiences with another culture when they first came to America, In Other Words explores the often emotionally fraught links between identity and language. It is a book about exile, linguistic and otherwise, written with an intensity and clarity not seen since Nabokov.
A startling act of self-reflection; a powerful exploration of a surprising, life-changing passion; and a provocative, piercingly eloquent book that showcases a remarkable writer's signature gifts, it is her most intimate, revealing and exciting book to date.
At the beginning of the 1650s, England was in ruins – wrecked by plague and civil war. Yet shimmering on the horizon was a vision of paradise: Willoughbyland.
Ever since Sir Walter Ralegh set out in 1595 to claim the ‘Beautiful Empire of Guiana’ for the English crown – and to find the legendary city of El Dorado – adventurers had struggled against the fierce jungle of the Wild Coast in search of their fortune.
Now, in the lush landscape between the great Amazon and Orinoco rivers, a group of Cavaliers, expelled by Oliver Cromwell, had established a new colony named after its founder – Sir Francis Willoughby.
This is the untold story of Willoughbyland’s spectacular rise and fall, set at a pivotal moment in British and world history. Here are the indigenous ‘Indian kings’ and their people, both friend and foe to the new arrivals. Here is Fifth Baron Willoughby himself, like his colony a mass of contradictory extremes. And here is Aphra Behn – later one of the most successful dramatists of the Restoration stage – sent to spy on a man with whom she will fall in love, transforming the fate of this entire enterprise.
In the blissfully warm and fragrant air, these adventurers and exiles found a land of unimaginable freedom and natural beauty. Yet, as planters and traders followed explorers, and mercenaries and soldiers followed political dissidents, it would become a place of terror and cruelty, of sugar and slavery. As Matthew Parker reveals, the history of Willoughbyland is a microcosm of the history of empire, its heady attractions and fatal dangers.
As an antidote to more sober accounts of Scotland's history, Ian Crofon offers a colourful chronology of the eccentric, the infamous, the bawdy, the horrific and the hilarious people and events that have spattered across the pages of our nation's story.
From the Royal High School riot to Marocco the Wonder Horse, from the War of the One-Eyed Woman to the MP cleared of stealing his ex-mistress's knickers, A History of Scotland Without the Boring Bits includes a host of little-known tales that you won't find in more conventional works of history,
'Gripping and wonderfully informative' Tom Holland, New Statesman Adored by children and adults alike, Tyrannosaurus is the most famous dinosaur in the world, one that pops up again and again in pop culture, often battling other beasts such as King Kong, Triceratops or velociraptors in Jurassic Park. But despite the hype, Tyrannosaurus and the other tyrannosaurs are fascinating animals in their own right, and are among the best-studied of all dinosaurs.
Tyrannosaurs started small, but over the course of 100 million years evolved into the giant carnivorous bone-crushers that continue to inspire awe in palaeontologists, screenplay writers, sci-fi novelists and the general public alike. Tyrannosaurus itself was truly impressive; it topped six tons, was more than 12m (40 feet) long, and had the largest head and most powerful bite of any land animal in history.
The Tyrannosaur Chronicles tracks the rise of these dinosaurs, and presents the latest research into their biology, showing off more than just their impressive statistics - tyrannosaurs had feathers and fought and even ate each other. This book presents the science behind this research; it tells the story of the group through their anatomy, ecology and behaviour, exploring how they came to be the dominant terrestrial predators of the Mesozoic and, in more recent times, one of the great icons of biology.