Monday, 28 September 2009

The far-right nation - or not?

One surprising piece of news from today’s Sydney Morning Herald shows that, despite Australia’s exceptionally poor greenhouse gas emissions, there is as much support for reductions as in any country in Eurasia or North America. In fact, most Australians seem to think less cheap energy is acceptable in this quest, and 94 percent believe more should be dome than Rudd’s woeful five percent reduction.

Still, one should not be too excited. It is apparent many Australians realise change will never come from the ballot box with the country’s monopolisation of world energy supplies and consequently powerful road and fossil fuel lobbies. It can only come via protest and/or tax resistance by which people refuse to pay a single cent of tax on roads or to helping car or fossil fuel corporations.

Moreover, as you should know if you have read this blog, a tenable state of affairs would permit Australia only a very small fraction the per capita carbon emissions of Eurasia, North America or New Zealand. It would have Australia paying, not one percent of total OECD fuel taxes (for equal volumes) but more like fifty percent alone, or twenty-five times more fuel tax per litre than Eurasia, North America or New Zealand need to pay. Would most Australians realise how ecologically fair this would be, even if it does not diminish the culturally devastating selfishness and greed of Eurasia, North America and New Zealand today??

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Reagan Era making a comeback - does this reflect Leaf's view?

The Mercury News, from Los Angeles, is arguing here that the culture of the Reagan Era is making a comeback. It bases its argument on the fact that movies based on such 1980s titles as Transformers (which I can recall very sourly from my childhood because of ads I even then thought dreadful), G.I Joe, The A-Teen, Fame and Teen Wolf are being shown again.

However, the article notes that:
Aside from these three [Michael Jackson, U2, Whitney Houston] and the ever-adapting Madonna, though, most 1980s music acts have already been relegated to the nostalgia niche: strictly a thing for their contemporaries, with little of the cross-generational appeal Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix have displayed.
Jonathan Leaf in The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Sixties suggests that the same thing is true of the really popular singers of the 1960s like Bobby Vinton, Dean Martin, and Herman's Hermits. However, if one looks to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, one sees that the large number of popular artists who were inducted first ballot from the 1960s suggests that more popular artists from that era have been able to maintain influence among younger generations, like:
  • The Beatles
  • The Beach Boys (from Pet Sounds to the end of the decade)
  • The Rolling Stones
  • The Kinks (who became less popular for not following hippie fashion and are not in Leaf's book at all)
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • James Brown
  • Jefferson Airplane (reached #3 in the chart with Surrealistic Pillow)
  • Bob Dylan
  • The Band
  • Isaac Hayes (reached #1 with Shaft)
The mere trouble that bodies like the Rock Hall have with Reagan-era music suggests that in fact the Reagan Era was very musically conservative in most of the United States, unless one views the extremely free sexual morals found in MTV pop metal of the time as an indication of cultural radicalism - a perspective of which I can definitely make sense but which is seldom suggested.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Long runs of primes without a full period prime

Having had an on-and-off interest in primes for a very long time, I have recently come to learn a great deal more about prime numbers in recent years.
One topic that I have become curious about is the periods of various recurring decimals. Recurring decimals like 0.2727272727272727272727272727272727.... were a topic extensively covered in school mathematics, but those with periods longer than two were never discussed, so that a fraction like 0.142857142857142857142857142857...... remained unknown to me until I looked seriously at primes on the web.

Since that time, I have learned a great deal about recurring decimals that I was never taught in schools. The most basic thing to learn is:
  1. the period of reciprocal of every prime number p divides into p-1
  2. that if the remainder of p when divided by 40 is 1, 3, 9, 13, 27, 31, 37 or 39
  3. then p-1 divide by the period of reciprocal will be even
  4. whilst if the remainder of p when divided by 40 is 7, 11, 17, 19, 21, 23, 29 or 33
  5. then p-1 divide by the period of reciprocal will be odd
  6. a prime with period p-1 is a full period prime
It is known that something like three-eighths of primes will be full-period primes, though for certain sequence of primes the proportion is zero (above) whilst for others it is very high. For instance:
  • Of the primes in the sequence 23, 143, 263, 383, 503, 623, 743, 863 (red numbers are composite)
  • the first prime that is not full-period is 20903, which has period of reciprocal 2986.
In recent times I have been curious as to what the longest sequence of primes without a full-period prime is. I have known of the sequence from 3037 to 3121 and the earlier one from 751 to 809 because of the short-period prime 3061 which is the number of wickets taken by the great bowler John Thomas Hearne. However, I had no idea about larger sequences until recently, when because I found it so strange that there were no full-period primes among those eleven.

I will now list sequences of primes not full-period. In red are primes that are not full-period by virtue of the remainder when divided by 40.
  • 3037, 3041, 3049, 3061, 3067, 3079, 3083, 3089, 3109, 3119, 3121
  • (11 primes)
  • 37483, 37489, 37493, 37501, 37507, 37511, 37517, 37529, 37537, 37547, 37549, 37561, 37567, 37571, 37573
  • (15 primes)
  • 84871, 84913, 84919, 84947, 84961, 84967, 84977, 84979, 84991, 85009, 85021, 85027, 85037, 85049, 85061, 85081
  • (16 primes)
  • 104707, 104711, 104717, 104723, 104729, 104743, 104759, 104761, 104773, 104779, 104789, 104801, 104803, 104827, 104831, 104849, 104851
  • (17 primes)
  • 113921, 113933, 113947, 113957, 113963, 113969, 113983, 113989, 114001, 114013, 114031, 114041, 114043, 114067, 114073, 114077, 114083, 114089
  • (18 primes, but only three could potentially have full period)
  • 133117, 133121, 133153, 133157, 133169, 133183, 133187, 133201, 133213, 133241, 133253, 133261, 133271, 133277, 133279, 133283, 133303, 133319, 133321, 133327
  • (20 primes, but only five could potentially be full-period)
  • 461413, 461437, 461441, 461443, 461467, 461479, 461507, 461521, 461561, 461569, 461581, 461599, 461603, 461609, 461627, 461639, 461653, 461677, 461687, 461689, 461693, 461707, 461717, 461801, 461803
  • (25 primes - note the two-prime century - of which only four could be potentially full-period)

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Expanded Rock Hall ballot

To my considerable surprise, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced last weekend that there would be twelve artists on the 2009/2010 ballot as opposed to the nine placed on the ballots for 2006/2007, 2007/2008 and 2008/2009.

Most commentators on the Rock Hall have welcomed this decision, and I do too, at least if the judges have even a reasonable ability to judge what is important in rock history and what is not.

Let us now go back to my June prediction for the 2009/2010 ballot and look at the "Bubbling Under" artists. If you read my comment here, you will see I had
  1. The Stooges
  2. Donna Summer
  3. Deep Purple
  4. Yes
in my "bubbling under" list and I think those four do have a strong chance of filling places. I still have a question mark over how the Nominating Committee will view the Stooges after seven failed inductions, even though Future Rock Legends said I was predicting Randy Newman (my suggested replacement for the Stooges), the Meters and Dick Dale "at my own risk". I have pointed out the theory on which this is based, though, and I don't feel I have enough evidence to discard it.

When we move onto my own "bubbling under" candidates, I can currently see strong possibilities in
  1. The Hollies, who have been much hyped and certainly possess the popular credentials and reputation on classic-hits radio
  2. T. Rex, whose importance in the protopunk glam movement and their recognisable hit "Get It On" should make them a chance
  3. The Sugarhill Gang, who with rap coming into its own might be rated the best chance of my "bubbling under" artists.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

What if government spending causes urban sprawl?

In today‘s Age, there is an interesting article about how the outer suburbs of Sydney are the ones least affected by the recent economic downturn.

On the whole, it is far from surprising that the outer suburbs are least affected by the economic downturn. Most of the economy of these outer suburbs is concentrated in sectors which are not dependent on good climatic conditions (like farming) or fluctuations in global market prices (like mining or tourism and also farming).

What is surprising, however, is the fact that – in spite of the highly conservative politics that results from their low living costs – the following quotes demonstrate a fact I never even suspected beforehand:
“I think we’re probably one of the least affected because we have a really high percentage of people in the the public service,” including 9000 teachers and 8500 health services workers, she said. “They’re people we need regardless of the economic climate.”
This revelation is food for thought that I have never noticed before. If outer suburbs have a very high proportion of public sector employees compared to the rest of Australia, it stands to reason that reduced government spending and regulation might actually discourage urban sprawl for the simple reason that there would be too few private sector jobs in sparsely settled suburbs.

I had always thought that eliminating government regulation and drastically cutting spending to simple military, intelligence, police and administration services would be a sure way to increase sprawl because the public tends to prefer the great housing space offered by sprawling suburbs. Today’s Age revelation thus is a serious challenge for both left and right, and one I would be eager to see serious discussion and comparisons from abroad.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

It shows what Australia is when an American conservative turns to the Sydney Morning Herald!

Checking my e-mail today, I had a surprise when Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher directed me to an article about Evelyn Waugh.

Ever since I began talking to my mother and brother about the Politically Incorrect Guides, Evelyn Waugh has been a major topic of discussion. Elizabeth Kantor described Waugh as
“one of the last really first-rate English novelists”
and said that we can learn the following two things from him:
“Without religion, human beings are disgustingly selfish and shallow”
“The loss of the Christian faith means death of Western civilisation”
Arthur Brooks' cultural study of modern Europe manifestly demonstrates the first claim. I imagine Waugh and other aristocratic Catholic converts like Edith Sitwell and Graeme Greene knew that Europe's secular urban working class was in 1926 (when Waugh became a Catholic) as selfish and shallow as Kantor says and Brooks proves. (History shows stricter and deeper piety among the aristocracy could not slow, let alone reverse, the secularisation of ordinary Europeans).

The latter point is, looking deeply, more doubtful since one would need to explain more rigorously how pre-Christian societies survived and declined.

When an American journalist turns as Dreher did to the Sydney Morning Herald to find an article about Evelyn Waugh from 100 years after he was born it starkly reveals how conservative Australia is vis-à-vis the rest of the OECD. Though Waugh’s novels remain popular even amongst people like my mother and brother who detest religion, it is very surprising that somebody from the United States would turn to an Australian journal for an appreciation of him. However, if we realise that Australia has not had (at least not to the same extent) political correctness controlling what is taught in schools, then we can see Australia's culture as growing far apart from from Europe’s or North America’s or New Zealand’s. A piously Catholic writer deploring the idleness and philistinism of Europe's working class would not get an audience in Europe, Canada or New Zealand today, and would have a tough time in most of the US under Obama. Australia, however, remains a different story.

How the “Great Sagittarius Conjunction” relates astrologically to the twentieth century as it was

In my previous post, I noted the 1899 “Great Sagittarius Conjunction” as astrologically symbolising the "culture wars" that have been a prominent feature since the conjunction.

In this post, I will aim to see if national and sub-national charts for this “Great Sagittarius Conjunction” can give some idea as to how the century evolved. The problem is defining what point to use, since by the time of the New Moon, Venus had already entered Capricorn and the features of the conjunction were already decaying. Thus, I have decided to base my charts on the midpoint of the period when the following were all in Sagittarius:
  1. the Sun
  2. the Moon
  3. Mercury (retrograding at inferior conjunction between the Sun and Earth)
  4. Venus
  5. Mars
  6. Saturn
  7. Uranus
  8. Ceres
  9. Pallas
This central point was as fifty-four minutes after noon on the second of December 1899 Greenwich Mean Time.

If we look at the charts of various countries for this point when converted to local time, we can come to some interesting conclusions about the evolution of the twentieth century:
  1. With Europe, we notice that whilst at London selfless, spiritual Pisces was rising, in continental Europe where most people of the modern EU nations live self-centred, individualistic Aries was on the Ascendant.
    • This symbolises the story of twentieth-century Europe as a continent of atheists largely ruled until the 1980s by a religiously-oriented elite trying to preserve traditions which had not the slightest hold on the urban population.
  2. Russia, with sceptical Gemini rising and the conjunction in the materialistic seventh house, directed its passion to secular materialism more firmly than any other nation with the Bolshevik Revolution and Comintern
  3. The United States, except for Alaska and Hawaii, had Sagittarius or Scorpio rising, which accords with the more religious character of its culture
  4. Most Latin American nations had Capricorn rising, which agrees with the somewhat similar trends they have had to Europe, though much more subtle due to the conjunction being in the twelfth house as opposed to the worldly seventh
    • Brazil (Aquarius rising with the conjunction in the tenth and eleventh) was similarly exposed to cultural quests for independence and individualism, and was a centre for major political conflicts and military coups
  5. Leo rising and the conjunction being in the fifth house symbolises Australia's rise to a major force owing to its huge supply of light (lithophile) metals impossible to smelt before electrolysis
  6. Western Australia was Cancer rising, which fits perfectly with its role as the source for the world's growing economy via iron ore, bauxite and titanium a metal never economically smelted at the time of the conjunction
  7. Taurus or Aries rising with the conjunction in the seventh or eighth houses symbolises the role of the Middle East as the “producer” of the world via its oil and phosphate reserves – as well as its status as the main centre both of wars and major diplomatic issues
  8. Leo rising again – but with the conjunction in the less powerful fourth house – explains the pragmatic power of East Asia as that subcontinent industrialised off of Australia’s minerals
  9. Late Gemini or Cancer rising with the conjunction in the sixth house symbolises the modest ambitions and traditionalism of South and Central Asia
  10. New Zealand (Virgo rising) in contrast, has very modest ambitions and has remained relatively self-focused
  11. Most of Africa had Pisces rising, which explains why that continent never experienced the changes and advances in culture and economy found everywhere else

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The forgotten (undiscussed) 1899 “Great Sagittarius conjunction”

On astrological websites, there is a great deal of information on the 1962 “Great Aquarius Conjunction” that is often seen by people in the astrological community as marking the transition into the “Age of Aquarius”. There is also information about the conjunction in Taurus in 2000, which is however not regarded as nearly so significant by astrologers.

However, when one looks through ephemerides before the 1962 Aquarius conjunction, one notices that in the last month of 1899 there was an alignment in Sagittarius (and late Scorpio) that was even tighter than the 1962 conjunction in Aquarius.

That this “Great Sagittarius Conjunction” was denser than the 1962 Aquarius alignment can be seen from the fact that
  • not only the classical planets were aligned within its 35 degree span, but also
  • Uranus
  • the dwarf planet Ceres
  • and Pallas, the third-largest asteroid.
Uranus is particularly significant because, though not identified as a planet until well after telescopes were discovered, it is bright enough that it was almost certainly seen by ancient people. Ceres and Pallas are never visible unaided but are normally brighter than Neptune when at opposition and Ceres is within binocular visibility at all elongations. In contrast, during the 1962 Aquarius conjunction:
  • Uranus was in Leo opposite the stellium
  • Ceres and Vesta were in Taurus square the stellium
  • Pallas was in Pisces semisquare the stellium
During the 2000 Taurus conjunction :
  • Uranus was square the stellium in Aquarius
  • Ceres was trine the stellium in Virgo
  • Pallas was square the stellium in Leo
  • Vesta was in late Capricorn making a dissociate square to the stellium
The only thing that prevented this 1899 “Great Sagittarius Conjunction” from being a perfect jackpot is that 4 Vesta, the brightest asteroid and capable of being brighter than Uranus ever gets on occasions, was well out from the conjunction. I am sure that no conjunction of all classical planets with Uranus and Vesta (in other words, every Solar System body potentially brighter than magnitude 6.0) has occurred for many thousands of years.

The charts shown for the 1899 “Great Sagittarius Conjunction” are strangely or not, with the exception of criminal Bruno Hauptmann of almost entirely unknown people. Even a search through Wikipedia does not reveal any other person of fame.

The concentrated energy in Sagittarius and late Scorpio (I date the conjunction as beginning when Venus entered Sagittarius), however, can be seen as symbolic of the “culture wars” that were beginning to dominate Europe due to the decimation of its religious peasant class and its replacement by a highly secular (ultimately socialistic) industrial working class. Scorpio and Sagittarius are signs that prefer truth to tact or compromise, and they can become exceedingly passionate about belief systems. The war between traditional Christianity and Marxian/Nietzschean secularism fits with this perfectly. With Neptune, planet of spirituality, opposing the conjunction in worldly, sceptical Gemini, it is easy to see why most ordinary Europeans were beginning to reject Christianity even if their ruling classes did not do so until the 1980s and even today are much more religious than the majority.

The most frequently misheard lyrics - but I never heard them as such

Recently I discovered on the BBC a list of the most frequently misheard lyrics in music.

They included:
  1. the Police: "you make the best of what's still around" is misheard as "you make the best homemade stew around" from "When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around"
  2. the Bee Gees: "it's alright, it's okay, you may look the other way" is misheard as "it's alright, it's okay, you make love the other way" from "Staying Alive".
  • There is also the familiar:
  • "the girl with colitis goes by" for "the girl with kaleidoscope eyes"
  • "a year has passed since I broke my nose" for "a year has passed since I wrote my note" from the Police's "Message in a Bottle"
  • "you're gonna be the one at Sainsbury's" for "you're gonna be the one that saved me" from Oasis' "Wonderwall"
  • "will you do the banned tango?" for "will you do the Fandango?" from "Bohemian Rhapsody"
The strange thing is that as a child I never made these common mistake, but I did hear as a eight-year old "message in a parcel" instead of "message in a bottle" and from "Bohemian Rhapsody" I heard "the alley puss has a devil put aside for me" instead of "Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me"!

I have never really though how I came to hear all these lyrics on the radio when a boy, and why these errors that so many people submit never came to me whilst others nobody seems to know did for years and years.

Monday, 7 September 2009

A politically correct top 110 books

Today, I discovered that over a year ago the English newspaper The Telegraph had compiled a list of 110 books it considers to be essential reading. The books cover all of Western history and are subdivided into a number of sections.

The most refreshing feature is the inclusion of special sections that almost all lists of books fiction or non-fiction avoid, most notably science fiction and children's literature, whose development I know from my librarianship studies to have been highly significant in the context of the development of modern Western languages. The sections are in fact some of the highlights of the whole list.

What is perhaps rather unsurprising to me but still almost annoyingly obvious, however, is the extent to which political correctness motivates the Telegraph's choices. Having read the Politically Incorrect Guides and Benjamin Wiker's books, I can see the political correctness so clearly in the inclusion of:
  1. Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince
  2. Thomas Hobbes Leviathan
  3. Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species
  4. William Ruddiman, whose history of the Crusades is debunked very easily by Serge Trifkovic
  5. Das Kapital
  6. Sigmund Freud
  7. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  8. Toni Morrison
I will confess here that the inclusion of Marx can be forgiven given that he is clearly the most important influence on the modern culture of Europe and Canada (plus to a lesser extent East Asia, New Zealand and even Latin America). However, when one sees Marx on the list, one asks where many other artists whose ideas influence modern culture are.

Where for instance is Nietzsche, who is after Marx probably the second most influential thinker on modern European culture? Where is Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebooks, which swept aside Christianity among Europe's Boomers? Where is Silent Spring? Where in The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money? Where is State and Revolution, which proved the model for every Communist regime?

The omission of the following also shows the political correctness of the list:
  1. The Bible
  2. Economics in One Lesson or Capitalism and Freedom
  3. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
  4. G.K. Chesterton
  5. Whittaker Chambers' Witness
Even such Christian writers as Austen, Tolkien, Lewis, Eliot, Chaucer and Blake are most likely included simply because of their popularity in an ultra-secular culture, rather than for any other reason (the author do admit popularity was an influence on their choices.

The biography section, too, seems a little strange, though that may be because the biographies I know about (like The Seven Storey Mountain) or have read (like the brilliant Helen and Teacher) are not known to the people who compiled the list. I would certainly have to see whether I find these biographies interesting, though perhaps I tend to judge biographies more by the person than the biographer.

Full List:

  • The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer
  • The Barchester Chronicles by Anthony Trollope
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • Sonnets by William Shakespeare
  • Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffery Chaucer
  • The Prelude by William Wordsworth
  • Odes by John Keats
  • The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake
  • Collected Poems by W. B. Yeats
  • Collected Poems by Ted Hughes
Literary Fiction:
  • The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  • A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust
  • Ulysses by James Joyce
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  • Sword of Honour trilogy by Evelyn Waugh
  • The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark
  • Rabbit series by John Updike
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • The Human Stain by Philip Roth
Romantic Fiction:
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • Le Morte D'Arthur by Thomas Malory
  • Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos
  • I, Claudius by Robert Graves
  • Alexander Trilogy by Mary Renault
  • Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
  • Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • The Plantagenet Saga by Jean Plaidy
Children's Books:
  • Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R. R. Tolkien
  • His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  • Babar by Jean de Brunhoff
  • The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
  • Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
  • Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Science fiction:
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
Crime fiction:
  • The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
  • The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré
  • Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • Killshot by Elmore Leonard
Books that Changed the World:
  • Das Kapital by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
  • The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine
  • The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
  • On War by Carl von Clausewitz
  • The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
  • Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
  • On the Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
  • On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
  • L'Encyclopédie by Denis Diderot, et al
Books that Changed Your World:
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
  • How to Cook by Delia Smith
  • A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
  • A Child Called "It" by Dave Pelzer
  • Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
  • Schott's Original Miscellany by Ben Schott
  • The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
  • A History of the English-Speaking Peoples by Winston Churchill
  • A History of the Crusades by Steven Runciman
  • The Histories by Herodotus
  • The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
  • Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence
  • The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
  • A People's Tragedy by Orlando Figes
  • Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution by Simon Schama
  • The Origins of the Second World War by A.J.P. Taylor
Biography and Autobiography:
  • Confessions by St Augustine
  • Lives of the Caesars by Suetonius
  • Lives of the Artists by Vasari
  • If This is a Man by Primo Levi
  • Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man by Siegfried Sassoon
  • Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey
  • A Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves
  • The Life of Dr Samuel Johnson by Boswell
  • Diaries by Alan Clark