Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Round-up of 2011

With New Year's Eve already a fast-fading memory, it's time for a look back at Aurum's 2011. Here are some of the books we were most excited about last year...

Britain's Lost Cricket Grounds by Chris Arnot

One of last year's biggest books for Aurum was Britain's Lost Cricket Grounds by Chris Arnot. In this sumptuously illustrated volume, Arnot takes a journey to forty of the country's former cricket grounds. In their heyday, they were cherished focal-points for their local communities, but each of them now has its own sad story of demise and abandonment. The Hastings ground has been replaced with a shopping centre; another, in Sheffield, made way for an expanding football stadium. What unites them all is that magical missing sound: the crack of leather on willow.

Following the success of Britain's Lost Cities and Lost Victorian Britain, Chris Arnot tours the length and breadth of the country, hears the reminiscences of former players and spectators and unearths what is left of their once-loved grounds. The result is a rueful and reflective exploration of our lost sporting heritage.

You can read Steve James's review of Britain's Lost Cricket Grounds for the Daily Telegraph here.

"A beautifully written volume that is rich in history and anecdote... some magnificent photos will invoke poignant memories."

"Chris Arnot’s heady romantic hymn to a variety of once famous fields is a coffee-table classic for and of posterity. Everyone will mourn for a personal vanished favourite." The Guardian

Britain's Lost Cricket Grounds is available to buy here.

The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay

2011 also saw the release in paperback of The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay. This critically acclaimed title, which was a surprise hit of 2010 in hardback, tells the story of the men and women whose code-cracking efforts were a decisive turning-point in the Second World War.

While Bletchley Park may be famous for its work in breaking the Enigma code machine, McKay also brings to life the memories of the ordinary people who found themselves stationed at this secretive Buckinghamshire country home. Through the accounts of Bletchley Park's surviving residents, the book tells tales of winters spent skating on the estate's frozen lake, high-jinks in the accommodation blocks and lives of implacable secrecy. It is the most revealing insight yet into a unique, intriguing and distinctly British episode in history.

You can read Keith Lowe's review of The Secret Life of Bletchley Park for the Daily Telegraph here.

"McKay has succeeded in honouring a genuinely remarkable group of people in a solid, often entertaining and above all warm-hearted way." Daily Mail

"A remarkably faithful account of what we did, why it mattered, and how it all felt at the time." Patricia Brown, wartime Bletchley Park worker, The Guardian

The Secret Life of Bletchley Park is available to buy here.

Fred Trueman: The Authorised Biography by Chris Waters

Throughout his cricketing career in the 50s and 60s, Fred Trueman was known for his fearsome fast bowling and fiery personality. Described by Prime Minister Harold Wilson as 'the greatest living Yorkshireman', he played with a fierce, full-blooded determination to win. Later in life, he would become known as an outspoken commentator for Test Match Special, cementing his status as a cricketing legend.

Chris Waters' perceptive new biography, however, portrays a more complex and troubled figure than anyone might have expected. Drawing on dozens of new interviews with those who knew him best, Waters tells the story of the self-doubting personality beneath Trueman's apparent bravado. This balanced, authoritative study of Fred Trueman's life will surprise - maybe even shock - his many admirers, but also confirms him as an English folk hero.

You can read Rob Bagchi's review of Fred Trueman: The Authorised Biography for the Guardian here.

"His multi-coloured life is given sharper focus by the meticulous research and unforgiving anecdotes of Chris Waters. The strengths of the book lie in the breadth of insights from those closest to Trueman, along with Waters’ own sharp conclusions." The Cricketer

"Perceptive biography… Waters has done a good job in disentangling the man from the myths, many of which were eagerly promoted by Fiery Fred himself." Indpendent on Sunday

Fred Trueman: The Authorised Biography is available to buy here.

And finally...

Sign Language: Travels in Unfortunate English from the Readers of the Telegraph

We have a feeling that Sign Language might have been tumbling out of a few Christmas stockings this year. Full of titillating translations, unintended innuendo and side-splitting spelling mistakes, it's bound to have been raising a few chuckles.

You can catch up with the Daily Telegraph's Sign Language photo galleries here.

Sign language is available to buy here.

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