The Pilgrims’ Way by Leigh Hatts (Cicerone Press, £12.95). The author has written an excellent guide for walkers tackling the ancient pilgrim routes from Winchester and London to Canterbury. He includes many points of interest, accompanied by maps, illustrations of pubs, churches and villages en route, as well as fascinating information about the history of this pilgrimage. There are useful lists of suitable accommodation, as well as facilities and transport links. The Winchester route is 141 miles in 15 stages. The Southwark one is 90 miles over 10 stages. This English “Camino” is best walked in late spring or summer.
Bristol Georgian Cookbook edited by the monks of Downside Abbey (Downside Abbey Press, £15). This delightful recipe book, dating from 1793, was discovered last year in the Downside Abbey archives. It has now been published in a lavish edition that includes more than 100 original recipes and many facsimiles of the original pages. All collectors of historic recipe books will want to include this among their treasures. Donated to the abbey in 1887 by a prominent Bristol family, the cookbook includes many mouth-watering recipes.
The Ice Age by Luke Williams (Scribe, £12.99). Williams, an Australian freelance journalist who was researching crystal meth addiction, chose to experiment with the drug and became addicted himself. This book recounts his descent into psychosis, his recovery and his investigation into the prevalence of this drug today. A synthetic drug (unlike, say, opium), crystal meth is a terrifying new addition to the world of illicit pharmacopeia. The author, following the modern trend, mixes autobiography with his research, concluding that “it was only through this process … that the lack of meaning in my own life and my deepest callings became clear.”
Close But No Cigar by Stephen Purvis (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, £18.99). This is a book worth reading by all those who ever thought Fidel Castro’s regime was a kindly form of socialism. The author, an English architect who spent a decade in Cuba with his family, helping to modernise its buildings and infrastructure, was suddenly arrested in a 2012 purge by Raúl Castro, accused of selling state secrets and kept for more than a year in a brutal top-security prison. Released in 2013, Purvis has written a gripping and sardonic description of a corrupt and dictatorial country behind the tourist façade.
The Intimate Universal by William Desmond (Columbia University Press, £54). The search for the universal – some all-encompassing principle, telos, or worldview, has been, as Desmond writes, the “preferential option” through most of the history of philosophy. It has become a little stale, even unfashionable, but Desmond seeks to reinvent it – moving away from abstraction to an intimate sense of the universal rooted in our particularity. A tall order, to be sure, but that’s the fun part and Desmond’s journey through art, politics and religion is a bravura philosophical performance.
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