First Man In: Leading from the Front by Ant Middleton – digested read

‘I broke my ankle carrying 200 kilos on a 60-mile hike. So I broke the other one to even up the pain’

You think you know me. You don’t know me at all. The me you see in the SAS TV reality show Who Dares Wins is the me I want you to see. Only I know the real me. That’s what makes me a leader. A winner.

Let’s start with The Question. The one everyone wants to ask but daren’t. Because they do not know me. In case you’d forgotten, no one knows me but me. So look me in the eyes and say it. You can’t, can you? Very few people can look in the eyes of a killer. A killer and a leader. That’s me.

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The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson – digested read

‘I’m President Jonathan Duncan, a war hero and not a draft-dodger. Everything
Bill Clinton would like to have been’

‘Damn it,” I cry. “The vice-president and the speaker are trying to impeach me for saving a terrorist and I can’t even say why I did it because I’m too busy trying to save the USA from the greatest cyber attack in global history.”

“Why are you using random italics everywhere?” my trusted aide Carolyn replies.

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Even the elephants gave Gavin Williamson the cold shoulder | John Crace

Also this week, David Davis gets lost at a festival and Roseanne Barr’s racist tweets

My children’s ability to surprise me shows no sign of letting up even now both are well into their 20s. Earlier this year, our daughter told us she would be getting married in the UK in October. About a fortnight ago we got a call to say there had been a change of plan. She and her partner, Robert, would now be getting married in Minnesota in 10 days’ time while they were visiting his parents. Cue mini-panic as my wife and I set about cancelling various previous arrangements and booked a weekend trip to Minneapolis. The ceremony itself took place in Robert’s parents’ kitchen and was conducted by his uncle, who had managed to get himself his own ministry the week before. It was somehow both something I had never imagined but also just ...

The Neighborhood by Mario Vargas Llosa – digested read

‘Marisa, Chabela and Quique celebrated the end of the bombing with another juddering three-way orgasm’

“Please indulge an elderly Nobel laureate,” begged Mario. “Let me start this novel with a cliched lesbian sex scene.”

“Oh look,” cried Marisa. “Both our husbands are away and you’ve just missed the curfew. You’d better stay the night in my bed, Chabela.”

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Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff by Sean Penn – digested read

‘Bob wakes up to the thrum of his throbbing thesaurus in search of ever more aggravating alliteration’

Sheriff’s Blotter, Woodview County, California – December 2003. Helen Mayo, resident of Upper Sweet Dog Lane, reports that her neighbour, Bob Honey, is doing weird stuff.

Cactus Fields, a care home in the desert that has been deserted – summer 2016. A man takes out a mallet and kills three old people.

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Rebel Prince by Tom Bower – digested read

‘What shall I do?’ Prince Charles asked his mother when news broke about Diana’s death. ‘Forked if I know,’ she replied. ‘I want to watch the racing on TV’

This book tells the untold truth of the last 20 years of Prince Charles’s life. Up till now, everyone assumed the heir to the throne was a much-respected and well-loved man. But thanks to my research – trawling through the cuttings and speaking to 120 people who don’t like him very much but refused to go on the record – I can now exclusively reveal that he is a bit of a pampered, out-of-touch loser who likes homeopathy and despises modern architecture. As someone who knows Prince Charles well told me: “He has never recovered from being bullied by his father – and with any luck he won’t recover from being bullied by you.”

In July 1996, Prince Charles ...

Unmasked by Andrew Lloyd Webber – digested read

‘Beethoven telephoned to say that the key change in Don’t Cry for Me Argentina was like a message from God himself’

I had originally intended to write my autobiography as a single, slim volume. But then I remembered how marvellous I had been throughout my life and have ended up with a 500-page doorstop that judders to a halt with the first night of Phantom of the Opera, my record-breaking musical of 1986 about which no less a talent than Mozart was moved to write: “Andrew Lloyd Webber is a genius.”

I grew up in South Kensington. By the age of eight, many of my teachers considered me to be a prodigy. My essay on Victorian churches won several global prizes and the opera I composed for the school play was premiered at the Royal Albert Hall, with Arturo Toscanini, no less, conducting. Afterwards I was lucky ...

Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb – digested read

‘Say what you like about Hitler – but at least he topped himself when it all went wrong. That’s skin in the game’

You’ve missed me. You almost certainly don’t know that, but you have. And the reason you don’t know is, first, because you’re almost certainly a schmuck who doesn’t get probability theory – and, second, because you don’t have skin in the game. Me, I always have skin in the game. That’s what makes me special. That’s why I made millions as a financial trader. That’s why I’m so much cleverer than everyone else. If you take just one thing away from this book, make it this: Big Nick knows best and is doing you a favour by writing it.

Skin in the Game is the latest in my collection of works that I’ve grandiosely called Incerto. Remember Antifragile and The Black Swan? They were mine. People said ...

Wallis in Love: The Untold True Passion of the Duchess of Windsor by Andrew Morton – digested read

‘There is no reason to suggest she was a lesbian. I merely mention it as a way of getting your attention’

This is the untold story of the Duchess of Windsor. Providing you skip past the stories that have already been told many times over. Wallis Simpson is perhaps one of the most notorious and, I believe, most misunderstood women of the 20th century. She is credited with being the temptress that brought down a king. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, it is possible to see her as a saviour of the British monarchy; a heroine who nobly sacrificed herself by becoming King Edward VIII’s lover and, in being the leading lady in his abdication, prevented Britain from having a Nazi appeaser as its monarch.

As a child in Baltimore, Wallis Warfield was subject to many girlhood passions. She fell madly in love with two teachers ...

Wallis in Love: The Untold True Passion of the Duchess of Windsor by Andrew Morton – digested read

‘There is no reason to suggest she was a lesbian. I merely mention it as a way of getting your attention’

This is the untold story of the Duchess of Windsor. Providing you skip past the stories that have already been told many times over. Wallis Simpson is perhaps one of the most notorious and, I believe, most misunderstood women of the 20th century. She is credited with being the temptress that brought down a king. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, it is possible to see her as a saviour of the British monarchy; a heroine who nobly sacrificed herself by becoming King Edward VIII’s lover and, in being the leading lady in his abdication, prevented Britain from having a Nazi appeaser as its monarch.

As a child in Baltimore, Wallis Warfield was subject to many girlhood passions. She fell madly in love with two teachers ...

Lullaby by Leïla Slimani – digested read

‘The children are dead and the nanny is in a coma. The police can’t explain it. And nor can I’

The baby is dead. The little girl soon will be too. There is screaming from upstairs. It is the mother who has come home early. A neighbour talks to the police. “It was the nanny who killed them,” she says. In the bathroom upstairs, the nanny has slashed her neck with a knife. She is unconscious. No one knows if she will die too.

Paul and Myriam are the perfect couple with the perfect flat in Paris. Paul is a successful music producer. Myriam stays at home to look after their children, Mila and Adam. But they are not happy. Paul wonders if it is because they are always described in clipped sentences. Sentences that make them curiously unformed and unsympathetic as characters. Myriam insists it is because she is ...

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B Peterson – digested read

‘Here’s a rule that’s catnip for right-wingers everywhere: do not bother children while they are skateboarding’

Just a few years ago, I was an unknown professor writing academic books that nobody read. Then, with God’s help, I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and develop my potential. Pinkos and wishy-washy liberals had cornered the market in cod psychology, so I guessed there must be a huge hunger for a self-help book, backed up with religion, mythology, CAPITAL LETTERS and stating the obvious – one directed at responsible, socially minded conservatives craving some pseudointellectual ideology to prop up their beliefs. And bingo! Here are my 12 Rules for Life.

1 Stand up straight with your shoulders straight
Most lobsters are complete bastards left to their own devices. Most humans are complete bastards left to their own devices. This proves there is a God who wants us to have Order. Order ...

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff – digested read

‘On election night, Melania wept with despair. Now I’ll have to stay with the creep for another four years, she sobbed’

On a snowy January evening in 2017, disgraced head of Fox News Roger Ailes and Donald Trump’s right-hand man Steve Bannon met for dinner in a New York brownstone. “We’ve got a problem,” said Bannon. “Trump doesn’t get it. He doesn’t realise the bad guys are the bad guys.”

“There’s only one thing for it,” replied Ailes. “We’ve got to bring in Michael Wolff to write a book about him. He can be relied on to be as unreliable as the Donald. Hopefully, no one will believe a word.”

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A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind by Shoukei Matsumoto – digested read

‘Have a haircut on the 4th, 9th, 14th, 19th, 24th and 29th of every month. Unless you are bald’

Japanese people take cleaning very seriously. When we have finished cleaning everything in the house, we go back to the beginning and start again. Cleaning isn’t about cleaning. It’s about filling in time usefully before you die. Buddhist monks have a motto: “Live to clean and clean to live.”

Before you start to clean, you must get rid of all your rubbish. Remember, though, nothing starts out as rubbish. Rubbish only becomes rubbish when people treat it as rubbish. So learn to respect your rubbish. First, try to find a place for it where you think it will be happy and then tell it how sad you are to be saying goodbye to it.

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Over and Out by Henry Blofeld – digested read

‘In the commentary box were several cases of vintage claret – we were squiffy for the entire five days. At a guess, Australia won by an innings and 112 runs’

My dear old things, how awfully kind of you to join us as a pigeon circles overhead and three red buses make their way down the Harleyford Road. What’s that? Oh, I’m most terribly sorry, we’re not at the Oval at all. We’re at Old Trafford so there aren’t any buses. Anyway England are 43-2 with Joe Root rebuilding the innings on 17 not out and someone whose name I can’t pronounce is bowling. Which reminds me of the time when I once went to Alf Gover’s cricket school for a lesson and Alf never appeared because he had got himself locked in the lavatory.

Where was I? Oh yes, it dawned on me one day this summer that ...

Over and Out by Henry Blofeld – digested read

‘In the commentary box were several cases of vintage claret – we were squiffy for the entire five days. At a guess, Australia won by an innings and 112 runs’

My dear old things, how awfully kind of you to join us as a pigeon circles overhead and three red buses make their way down the Harleyford Road. What’s that? Oh, I’m most terribly sorry, we’re not at the Oval at all. We’re at Old Trafford so there aren’t any buses. Anyway England are 43-2 with Joe Root rebuilding the innings on 17 not out and someone whose name I can’t pronounce is bowling. Which reminds me of the time when I once went to Alf Gover’s cricket school for a lesson and Alf never appeared because he had got himself locked in the lavatory.

Where was I? Oh yes, it dawned on me one day this summer that ...

The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young – digested read

‘Every summer we would have a sports day, as cows are very athletic. One
year, Bob the Bull twisted his ankle while jumping over the moon’

My family started rearing cattle in 1953 and since that time I have become a close observer of how cows like to behave. Take Harriet. Harriet was the best-natured cow you could hope to meet, but if you tried to take her out of her barn between 7.00 and 7.15 in the evening when The Archers was on Radio 4 she would kick up rough. She hated that Rob Titchener from the off, which shows you that cows can be very good judges of character.

From the very beginning, we decided to let the cows choose how they wanted to be reared. They were all given a questionnaire and those that said they preferred to be intensively farmed and force-fed antibiotics were ...

The Vanity Fair Diaries 1983-1992 by Tina Brown – digested read

‘Immediately sacked two people before ordering a skinny latte and going to the gym where I bumped into Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Cruise’

I am here in NYC at last. I feel I am in the right place. My life at home was just too drab. Sure, I had been to Oxford and met Auberon Waugh and Martin Amis, got married to Harold Evans, my boss at the Sunday Times – quel scandale! – and turned Tatler from a third-rate operation selling just 246 copies a month into a must-buy magazine with a circulation of three million. But something was missing. I needed to turbocharge my supersonic career. And where better than in the glitziest, sexiest city in the galaxy?

After breakfast in the Algonquin, I bought an Oscar de la Renta couture number on my way to meet Condé Nast head honcho, Si Newhouse. “Hi,” I said. ...

Rude by Katie Hopkins – digested read

‘People often compare me to Hitler. I take that as a compliment’

I appreciate that many people think I am a twat. And I can see why. My whole career has been founded on people believing that I am a twat. But I am not a twat. Honestly. If you were to meet me in person, you would probably think I am not as much of a twat as you thought I would be. The bar really is that low.

Vagina. Women don’t say the word vagina nearly enough. I am proud of my foof. A vagina is empowering. Too many women go through life playing the victim card. There’s no point moaning when a man puts his hand on your knee. Rather, you should take it as a compliment. Unless the man touching you up is a Muslim. In which case he should be thrown in prison or deported.

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How to Stay Alive by Bear Grylls – digested read

‘Nipping out for milk? Take a 12-inch knife, a defibrillator, three chicken tikka masalas and a solar-powered microwave oven’

The world is a dangerous place. More than 151,600 people die each day. You could be one of them if you don’t learn a few basic survival tips. Here are the rules on how to stay alive.

Never Leave the House Without a 100kg Bergen Rucksack Thousands of people get lost in forests each year on what they thought was a simple walk from their house to buy a carton of milk. Travelling with the right supplies can mean the difference between life and death. I always take a gallon of drinking water, a 12-inch knife, a defibrillator, three Sainsbury’s heat-up chicken tikka masalas, and a solar-powered microwave oven.

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