Editor's Choices: August Non-Fiction

Editor's Choices: August Non-Fiction

Book of the Month:
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (£16.99, Jonathan Cape, 7th)
“As the days passed and I put myself in the hawk’s wild mind to tame her, my humanity was burning away.” From the age of seven, Macdonald – a “watcher” of a child – nurtured a deep and obsessive desire to become a falconer. Years later, poleaxed by grief after the sudden death of her father, she buys a juvenile goshawk for £800, calls her Mabel and takes her home to Cambridge. Filling the freezer with hawk food, she unplugs the phone and embarks on a long and fiendishly difficult quest to train a wild, wild bird. What she hasn’t bargained for is the profound spiritual journey upon which she herself has embarked, leading to the unleashing of her deepest, untamed self. Nature-writing, but not as you know it. Astounding. 
 
Editor’s Picks: 
Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Science of Hedonism and the Hedonism of Sciene by Zoe Cormier (£12.99, Profile, 14th)
A brilliant factual orgy of the science which lies behind hedonism, including sexual attraction; drugs (legal and illegal); and music (“how can wordless collections of sounds send shivers down our spines and tickle ancient parts of our brains we share with reptiles?”). Cormier is head of communications for Guerilla Science which aims to bring science to a lay audience in a fun and accessible way. 
 
1914: Goodbye to All That: Writers on the Conflict Between life and Art edited by Lavinia Greenlaw (£7.99, Pushkin Press, 7th)
Wide-ranging collection of reflective essays to mark the First World War centenary, in which a broad spectrum of writers address some of the issues raised in Robert Graves’ book, including how to live, how to live with each other and how to write. The brilliant list of contributor includes Ali Smith, Jeanette Winterson, Elif Shafak, NoViolet Bulawayo, Colm Toibin and Kamila Shamsie. Published in association with the 14-18 NOW campaign and the Imperial War Museum. 
 
The Moth: This is a True Story by The Moth (£12.99, Serpent’s Tail, 7th)
The Moth is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling (it will launch in the UK this summer). Since it began in New York in 1997, thousands of true stories laying bare a vast range of human experience, told live and without notes have been performed in packed rooms worldwide. This is a collection of just 50 of them, prefaced with an introduction by Neil Gaiman. Some are by established writers like Nathan Englander and Malcolm Gladwell – other by “ordinary” people. I was agog reading every one of them. A book for which the phrase “you couldn’t make it up” could have been invented. 
 
In Monmatre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris: 1900-1910 by Sue Roe (£20, Fig Tree, 7th)
The story of the birth of Modernism in Paris is enthrallingly told in this sparkling account of the early 20th century cross-fertilisation of painting, writing, music and dance which produced a “panorama of activity” from such luminaries as Picasso, Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck, Modigliani, the Ballet Russe and Gertrude Stein. 
 
Gin, Glorious Gin: How Mother’s Ruin Became the Spirit of London by Olivia Williams (£14.99, Headline, 28th)
Delightful, junper-scented history of London, refracted through the delicious but ruinous spirit of its most characteristic drink. Williams leads us through Restoration London via the Gin Craze, and in and around prohibition, with a detour via the Empire, to the contemporary Ginaissance, encountering Dickens, Churchill, Hogarth and Hemingway along the way. “A social history with gin goggles”, as Headline dubs it.