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Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

A lecture explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens Its important for people to tell you what side they are on and why, and whether they might be biased. A declaration of members interests, of a sort. So, I am going to be talking to you about reading. Im going to tell you that libraries are important. Im going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. Im…

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100 best nonfiction books: No 80 – The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne by Gilbert White (1789)

This curates beautiful and lucid observations on the wildlife of a Hampshire village inspired generations of naturalists The Rev Gilbert White was that now extinct species, the unmarried Oxbridge don in holy orders. A lifelong curate and a fellow of Oriel College, White devoted himself to observing flora and fauna at large in the natural world, a sequence of observations for which he became world famous. In 1755, after the death of his father, he returned to the family home in Selborne, settling for comfortable obscurity in a remote Hampshire…

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Crimes of the Father by Thomas Keneally review something rotten in Catholicism

The Booker prize winners powers remain undimmed, as he shines a light on institutionalised abuse, and denial, in the Catholic church, It is over half a century since a young the church turns a blind eye. Psychologist and monk Father Frank Docherty is, his younger brother says (and no doubt speaking for the author), the real bloody deal as far as priests go. Exiled by his home cardinal in Sydney as a young priest in the 1970s, on account of his radicalism, opposition to apartheid and the Vietnam war, he…

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Why we fell for clean eating

The long read: The oh-so-Instagrammable food movement has been thoroughly debunked but it shows no signs of going away. The real question is why we were so desperate to believe it In the spring of 2014, Jordan Younger noticed that her hair was falling out in clumps. Not cool was her reaction. At the time, Younger, 23, believed herself to be eating the healthiest of all possible diets. She was a gluten-free, sugar-free, oil-free, grain-free, legume-free, plant-based raw vegan. As The Blonde Vegan, Younger was a wellness blogger in New…

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Henry David Thoreau by Laura Dassow Walls review radical, unsettling, relevant

A superb new biography of the seer of Walden Pond reconsiders his reputation as tax-refuser, recluse, environmentalist and writer In March 1845, Henry David Thoreau borrowed an axe and set off for Walden Pond, near his home in Concord, Massachusetts. He was going to build a hut, and he knew exactly where: on a spot near the water, backed by a pine grove and fronted by smaller pines and a chestnut tree. Before stopping for his first lunch break, Thoreau had cut and trimmed enough of these pines to make…

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Unlearning the myth of American innocence

The long read: When she was 30, Suzy Hansen left the US for Istanbul and began to realise that Americans will never understand their own country until they see it as the rest of the world does My mother recently found piles of my notebooks from when I was a small child that were filled with plans for my future. I was very ambitious. I wrote out what I would do at every age: when I would get married and when I would have kids and when I would open…

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The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness review a tale of betrayal by the church

Graham Caveneys defiant, important memoir details how the Catholic establishment fails abuse victims Pope Francis has taken great strides in challenging all sorts of entrenched attitudes and prejudices in the Vatican that have given the Catholic church such a bad name of late. Progress has been disappointingly slow, however, on the commission he appointed in 2014 to tackle the appalling scandal of clerical sexual abuse. In March of this year bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99…

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100 best nonfiction books: No 79 The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano (1789)

The most famous slave memoir of the 18th century is a powerful and terrifying read and established Equiano as a founding figure in black literary tradition Black literature begins with the slave memoirs of the 18th century. Equianos Interesting Narrative is the most famous of these, especially once it was taken up by supporters of the abolition movement, but he was not the first African slave to publish a book in England, or, if we remember Dr Johnsons manservant, Mary Prince in 1831 (The History of Mary Prince, a West…

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Partition, 70 years on: Salman Rushdie, Kamila Shamsie and other writers reflect

More than a million were killed and many millions more displaced by Indian partition. Authors consider its bloody legacy and the crises now facing their countries Pankaj Mishra Pankaj Mishra. Photograph: Windham-Campbell Prize To think about partition on its 70th anniversary is to think, unavoidably, about the extraordinary crisis in India today. The 50th and 60th anniversaries of one of the 20th centurys biggest calamities were leavened with the possibility that India, liberal-democratic, secular and energetically globalising, was finally achieving the greatness its famous leaders had promised. In contrast to…

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Bernard MacLaverty: The story you have just finished is of little help to writing the next one

Acclaimed Northern Irish writer Bernard MacLaverty has taken 16 years to finish his latest novel. A lot of things just got in the way, he says In his jacket endorsement for Bernard MacLavertys Midwinter Break, the celebrated American novelist Richard Ford describes the new book as much-anticipated. It is a polite way of saying that MacLavertys fifth novel has been taken its time in coming. Sixteen years, to be precise, since his last, The Cone Gatherers, which finally came to nought when the producer behind the project died; a collection…

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Der Spiegel removes ‘antisemitic’ book from bestseller list

Finis Germania by Rolf Peter Sieferle has been withdrawn from influential list over right-wing extremist content The influential German news magazine Der Spiegel has deleted from its bestseller list a book that one of its own editors had pushed up the rankings, after it was found to be antisemitic and historically revisionist. Finis Germania, or The End of Germany, collects the thoughts of the late historian Rolf Peter Sieferle on the position of Germany, including how it deals with the Holocaust. The book is currently Herfried Mnkler said the book…

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Amazons chat fiction app Rapids ties up with Amazon Studios with launch of Signature Stories

Todays kids arent just reading books. Theyre also tapping and playing with interactive stories on tablets as preschoolers, then delving into instant messaging-like chat fiction apps as teens. Amazons entry in this space, Amazon Rapids, was announced late last year as a way to bring this style of interactive fiction to readers in the 5 to 12 age range. The company more recently introduced a new program called Signature Stories that aims to make its stories more appealing by integrating characters from TV shows kids already know and love. The…

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Amal Awad: ‘Arab women have traditionally been written about in a very patronising way’

In our series Beauty and the books, we chat to those who love both books and beauty products. Here the author talks about her enduring love of kohl eyeliner, Marian Keyess novel Watermelon and speaking up for Arab women With insight into both the western and Arabic worlds, the author Amal Awad explores how these cultures intersect and what it means for women like her. She interviewed more than 60 women in Australia and the Middle East about feminism, religion, love, culture and more for her latest book, Beyond Veiled…

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