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Prescribed reading: Five of the best books by doctors

22 November, by Hannah Jane Parkinson[ —]

As Adam Kay’s This Is Going to Hurt wins a readers’ choice award, we recommend five other author physicians. Please add to our notes

Congratulations to Adam Kay, who has triumphed in the Books Are My Bag awards as readers’ choice of the year. This Is Going to Hurt, his diary of life as a junior doctor, was voted for by 40,000 fans. Kay joins a long tradition of author physicians. It makes sense, sort of – doctors and writers share a sense of focus; a detached, objective perspective; and a process of trial and error that hopefully resolves things. For those who enjoyed Kay’s book, here are five more medical reads by medics …

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The art of Terry Pratchett's Discworld – in pictures

https://www.theguardian.com/books/terrypratchettplay episode download
22 November, by Paul Kidby[ —]

The author’s ‘artist of choice’ Paul Kidby introduces some of the images he produced during their decades-long collaboration

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The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman review – an enchanting prequel to Practical Magic

22 November, by Helen Falconer[ —]

Hoffman displays her magic touch once again as she relates the witchy sisters’ family backstory in a novel set in 1950s New York

The almost supernaturally prolific American author Alice Hoffman has taken a busman’s holiday this year to pen a little fan fiction: a prequel to her own bestselling novel Practical Magic. The original book became the 1998 Hollywood romantic comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as witchy sisters Gillian and Sally Owens. Now, in The Rules of Magic, set in 1950s New York, we are treated to the backstory of Gillian and Sally’s great-aunts, Frances and Jet.

Like all the females in the Owens family tree, Frances and Jet are witches descended from Salem escapee Maria Owens. More than 300 years ago, the teenage Maria was seduced and abandoned by Salem trial judge John Hathorne (real-life great-great-grandfather of Nathaniel Hawthorne, who added a “w” in his name to deflect the inevitable question).

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Top 10 books about mental hospitals

22 November, by AF Brady[ —]

From the horrors of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to hopeful stories of recovery, here are some of the best books about these much feared institutions

Both real and fictional psychiatric institutions are often described in books as places filled with fear, manipulation and danger. Authors frequently take creative liberties to up the intrigue, and frighten their readers with tales of abuse, hauntings and corruption. Although these themes may have been closer to reality in generations past, one hopes that as a society we are progressing toward better treatment and better facilities.

I have worked in many mental health and addiction treatment facilities in my career as a psychotherapist, and my experiences in these places helped inform my first novel, The Blind. Its protagonist, Dr Samantha James, works at Typhlos, a fictional psychiatric institution in Manhattan that is suffering from overcrowding and underfunding. Despite feeling caught up in red tape, Sam is an intrepid clinician, doing everything in her power to reach and help her patients – something that is, happily, also a common reality. Typhlos acts as the backdrop for her journey, teetering on the edge of mental illness, and her experience is mirrored in the chaos of the institution itself.

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Women and Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard review – the poison of patriarchy

22 November, by Jacqueline Rose[ —]

In this brilliant book, the classicist charts misogyny from ancient Greece and Rome to today, and issues a clarion call that it is not women but power that must change

At the end of Mary Beard’s SPQR – A History of Ancient Rome of 2015, she describes taking her kids to the Colosseum in Rome, where she agrees to pay for them to be photographed with “chancers” dressed up as gladiators, buys them helmets and, “turning a blind eye to the cruelties of the modern world”, reassures them that “we do not do anything as cruel as that now”. Given the relentless, vicious misogyny to which Beard has been exposed, it is not surprising that, in her books on classical life and history, such personal moments are rare.

But this one speaks volumes. Beard is our most famous classicist, with a gift for bringing ancient Greece and Rome alive on the page like no one else. She is a writer of exceptional erudition and biting wit, and reading her is always a pleasure. This latest manifesto, Women and Power, originally delivered as two lectures, in 2014 and 2017, under the auspices of the British Museum and the London Review of Books, is no exception. Beard is consistently asking the same question: what is the relationship between the ancient past and today? In the Colosseum, she falters, finding it unbearable, as any mother might, to admit to her children that killing and torture are not long-lost memories ripe for play-acting, but rather the hallmark of the world they will inherit.

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Mythos review – the Greek myths get the Stephen Fry treatment

22 November, by Edith Hall[ —]

Fry’s retellings have stiff competition, are limited in selection and sometimes appear to be set in North London. But they have real charm

Ever since William Godwin persuaded Charles Lamb to retell The Odyssey as a novel for younger readers in The Adventures of Ulysses (1808), the myths of ancient Greece have been retold in contemporary prose by every generation. Most of these retellings were originally poetry – the epics of Hesiod, Homer and the philhellene Latin poet Ovid, the Athenian tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides – in Mythos, Stephen Fry has narrated a selection of them in engaging and fluent prose. But do we need another version of the Greek myths in an already crowded market? Such treasured collections as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales (1853), Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes (1942) and Robert Graves’s The Greek Myths (1955) are still in print. Countless family car journeys are enlivened by Simon Russell Beale’s audiobook of Atticus the Storyteller’s 100 Greek Myths. So should a reader looking for an initiation into the thrilling world of the ancient Greek imagination choose Fry’s book?

People who enjoy Fry's media personality and particular style of post-Wodehouse English drollery are in for a treat

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Helen Garner, Peter Carey and Alexis Wright on what they're reading in November

https://www.theguardian.com/books/australian-booksplay episode download
22 November, by Helen Garner, Peter Carey, A.S. Patrić, Alexis Wright, Alex Miller, Richard Fidler, Kári Gíslason, Garry Disher, Fiona Wright, Nick Toscano and Beau Donelly[ —]

In our monthly round-up of Australian books, Richard Fidler, Alex Miller and Fiona Wright talk up their new releases – and the ones they’re looking forward to

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Doctor's diary This is Going to Hurt wins public vote for book of the year

https://www.theguardian.com/books/autobiography-and-memoirplay episode download
21 November, by Danuta Kean[ —]

Adam Kay’s firsthand account, first published as a rebuke to the health secretary during the dispute with junior doctors, takes readers’ choice award

A doctor’s irreverent and heartbreaking diaries, published as a rebuke to the government in the pay dispute with junior doctors, has been voted the nation’s favourite book of the year. Adam Kay’s This Is Going to Hurt came top in a poll of readers to win the Books Are My Bag readers’ choice award.

Voted for by 40,000 members of the public through bookshops, Kay’s book saw off competition from 2017 Man Booker prize winner George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo and Philip Pullman’s hotly anticipated La Belle Sauvage.

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Helen Dunmore's final poems lead shortlists for 2017 Costa prizes

https://www.theguardian.com/books/biographyplay episode download
21 November, by Alison Flood[ —]

Inside the Wave, in which the poet reflected on her own impending death, joins diverse contenders in poetry, fiction, biography and children’s books

Helen Dunmore’s final poetry collection, in which the award-winning author contemplates her terminal cancer diagnosis and impending death, has been shortlisted for the Costa poetry award.

The line-up for this year’s Costas, which set out to reward the year’s “most enjoyable” books across novels, first novels, biographies, poetry and children’s books, is female-heavy, with 14 women on the 20-strong list.

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Sodomy’s low profile in Lady Chatterley trial | Letters

21 November, by Letters[ —]
It is not clear how many understood they were defending a book that centred on illegal acts that could draw severe prison sentences, writes Sue Roff

In 1960, heterosexual sodomy was illegal. But it was central to the plot of the third version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover that was on trial at the Old Bailey for being obscene. Oddly, the prosecution counsel, Griffith-Jones, made only a slight reference to it, saying, somewhat unfortunately: “Not very easy, sometimes, not very easy, you know, to know what in fact he is driving at in that passage.”

In his commentary on the 50th anniversary edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, in 2010, Geoffrey Robertson QC, who wrote your obituary of Lord Hutchinson of Lullington (15 November), wrote that “Ignorant of the facts as well as of the facts of life, Griffith-Jones failed even to recognise Lawrence’s paean to anal sex.” According to Robertson, “Under the 1959 Act, purple passages, even on the subject of heterosexual buggery (still the ‘abominable crime’), no longer necessarily meant a guilty verdict. Jurors had to ask themselves the commonsense question of whether publication as a whole would do any harm, and if so, whether its literary merit might redeem it.” But the point is, this was not tested in the trial. No witnesses were examined on the issue and it is not clear how many understood they were defending a book that centred not only on promiscuity, adultery and the use of particular words, but on illegal acts that could draw severe prison sentences.

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