History: Return of A King: The Battle for Afghanistan by William Dalrymple, published by Bloomsbury
For anyone who wants perspective on our presence and imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan, Return of a King is the definitive analysis of the First Afghan War in the mid 19th century. Told through the lives of unforgettable characters on all sides and using for the first time contemporary Afghan accounts of the conflict, prize-winning and bestselling historian William Dalrymple’s masterful retelling of Britain’s greatest imperial disaster is a powerful and important parable of colonial ambition and cultural collision, folly and hubris, for our times.
In the spring of 1839, the British invaded Afghanistan for the first time. Led by lancers in scarlet cloaks and plumed shakos, nearly 20,000 British and East India Company troops poured through the high mountain passes and re-established on the throne Shah Shuja ul-Mulk. On the way in, the British faced little resistance. But after two years of occupation, the Afghan people rose in answer to the call for jihad and the country exploded into violent rebellion. The First Anglo-Afghan War ended in Britain’s greatest military humiliation of the nineteenth century: an entire army of the then most powerful nation in the world ambushed in retreat and utterly routed by poorly equipped tribesmen.
Reviews for the book are what you would expect for such a revered writer. Max Hastings of The Sunday Times says “This sorry saga has been recounted many times, but never that I can recall as well as by Dalrymple. He is a master story-teller, whose special gift lies in the use of indigenous sources, so often neglected by imperial chroniclers.”
Self & Health: On Looking: Eleven Walks With Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz, published by Simon & Schuster.
AirMayfair picked this as a Good Read for anyone who needs to step outside of themselves, even when they’re flying on their private charter jet…
According to Horowitz you are missing at least eighty percent of what is happening around you right now. You are missing what is happening in your body, in the distance, and right in front of you. In marshalling your attention to these words, you are ignoring an unthinkably large amount of information that continues to bombard all of your senses.
This ignorance is useful: indeed, we compliment it and call it concentration. It enables us to not just notice the shapes on the page, but to absorb them as intelligible words, phrases, ideas. Alas, we tend to bring this focus to every activity we do. In so doing, it is inevitable that we also bring along attention’s companion: inattention to everything else.
This book begins with that inattention. It is not a book about how to bring more focus to your business meetings; it is not about how to multitask while flying on your private charter jet. It is about attending to the joys of the unattended, the perceived ‘ordinary’. Even when engaged in the simplest of activities – taking a walk around the block – we pay so little attention to most of what is right before us that we are sleepwalkers in our own lives. This book is about that walk around the block (or down the aisle of your private charter jet!) and how to rediscover the extraordinary things that we are missing in our ordinary activities.
Fiction: Dead Man’s Land by Robert Ryan, published by Simon & Schuster
Deep in the trenches of Flanders Fields, men are dying in their thousands every day. So one more death shouldn’t be a surprise….
But then a body turns up with bizarre injuries, and Sherlock Holmes’ former sidekick Dr John Watson – unable to fight for his country due to injury but able to serve it through his medical expertise – finds his suspicions raised. The face has a blue-ish tinge, the jaw is clamped shut in a terrible rictus and the eyes are almost popping out of his head, as if the man had seen unimaginable horror. Something is terribly wrong.
But this is just the beginning. Soon more bodies appear, and Watson must discover who is the killer in the trenches. Who can he trust? Who is the enemy? And can he find the perpetrator before he kills again?
Surrounded by unimaginable carnage, amidst a conflict that’s ripping the world apart, Watson must for once step out of the shadows and into the limelight if he’s to solve the mystery behind the inexplicable deaths.