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On The Wealth of Nations

A New York Times Bestseller

As P. J. O’Rourke says, ‘It’s as if Smith, having proved that we can all have more money, then went on to prove that money doesn’t buy happiness. And it doesn’t. It rents it.’

Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations was first published in 1776 and almost instantly was recognized as fundamental to an understanding of economics. It was also recognized as being really long and as P. J. O’Rourke points out, to understand The Wealth of Nations, the cornerstone of free-market thinking and a book that shapes the world to this day, you also need to peruse Smith’s earlier doorstopper, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. But now you don’t have to read either, because P. J. has done it for you.

In this hilarious work P. J. shows us why Smith is still relevant, why what seems obvious now was once revolutionary, and how the division of labour, freedom of trade and pursuit of self-interest espoused by Smith are not only vital to the welfare of mankind, they’re funny too. He goes on to establish that far from being an avatar of capitalism, Smith was actually a moralist of liberty.

How to Be Normal

Normal people are extremely unusual. Think of all the people you know and ask yourself how many are normal. None of them! In fact you’re probably the most normal of the lot and, let’s face it, even you’re not that normal.

All normal people believe they are a little bit different, a little bit unique and a little bit special. On the other hand no one wants to be abnormal, so it’s a fine line to tread. Happily, this brilliantly funny book shows everyone exactly how to be uniquely normally normal.

Is it normal to:

… hold the banister with both hands?
… find the green man at crossings mildly attractive?
… drive a shopping trolley on the right?
… be afraid of aggressive hand dryers?
… wonder what coconut milk is actually for?

Find out the answers to these and a million other perfectly normal questions in another beautifully funny, surprisingly wise and consistently heart-warming book from the best-selling Guy Browning.

Sh*t Towns of New Zealand

Based on the hugely popular Facebook page ‘Shit Towns of New Zealand’, this book describes New Zealand’s towns and suburbs from the affluent to the effluent, the rural to the urinal, profiling all the best places not to visit, or heaven forbid, live.

Slagging off our towns is as much a national pastime as binge drinking and ball sports. Ever since a Dutch bloke in a sailboat did a drive-by and claimed to have discovered the place, New Zealanders have revelled in taking the mickey.

The towns and cities reviewed here have been carefully selected using an exacting set of scientific criteria, combined with extensive field research and a healthy sense of humour.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

My dearest darling-

That partridge, in that lovely little pear tree! What an enchanting, romantic, poetic present! Bless you and thank you.

Your deeply loving Emily

Everyone knows the ‘Twelve days of Christmas’, but not as rewritten by John Julius Norwich in this delightful correspondence, which records the daily thank-you letters from one increasingly bemused young lady to her unseen admirer. And who but Quentin Blake could exploit the full comic possibilities of this hilarious debacle as first birds, then maids and finally the full percussion section of the Liverpool Philharmonic create mayhem in the calm of an English country Christmas?

The British Constitution

Exactly eight hundred years ago, Magna Carta established the right not to be thrown in the Tower of London for being slightly irritating, which is the closest we’ve ever got to a written constitution. But come on! Things have moved on since King John. Isn’t it time we had another bash at setting down a few laws and principles for us all to live by? Isn’t it time we knew how to queue properly, how to banter within the limits of decency, how to handshake in a regal fashion, how to appropriately and committedly observe the weather, and how to competitively own pets?

It will no doubt confuse the Taliban, perplex the Americans and move the French to shrug their shoulders and say bof, but for the good people of this island, this first draft of the British Constitution sets out and celebrates the very best bits of being British.

Pretty Girl In Crimson Rose

Half a million people a day do it in the Telegraph. The Times claims almost as many, and the Guardian 300,000. Most people remember their first time, and everyone has a favourite. You can do it in bed, standing up, or on a train. You can do it alone, with a loved one or in groups. The Queen does it in the bath. It is not illegal, immoral or fattening. In fact it tops the Home Office list of approved entertainments for prison inmates. Crosswords are a very British obsession.

Crosswords are a very British obsession. Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose is a personal reminiscence and a guide to solving crossword puzzles. But it is much, much more than a ‘how-to’ book. Each chapter is starts with a clue, and uses anecdote, history and autobiography to solve it, in the process describing something of what it means to love England. In the process, we encounter The Best Crossword Clue Ever, The Most Beautiful Clue in the World ‘Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose’ and the eccentric personalities behind such legendary compilers as the Guardian‘s Araucaria and The Times‘Ximenes.

Reviews for Pretty Girl In Crimson Rose

‘An extraordinary memoir… a positive page turner… A mesh of journeys and destinations, politics and romance, it touches what is beyond words.’
Sophie Ratcliffe, The Times

‘You don’t have to be a crossword nut to appreciate Sandy Balfour’s tremendously beguiling Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8).’ John Walsh, Independent

‘A little gem of a memoir… The book adds up to more than a sum of its parts and lingers in the memory long after the final page’ Val Gilbert, Sunday Telegraph

‘Charming, knowledgeable and gripping’ Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

‘A touching tribute to his partner… you close it feeling you have encountered a modest man of humour, compassion and common sense, who wears his wisdom lightly’ Economist

‘A real charmer… this reviewer’s verdict on Balfour’s book: Touching success when foils clash at Elsinore (1,8,3) – A PALPABLE HIT’ Kevin Jackson, Spectator

‘A book to make writers curse themselves for not having thought of the idea first, but to make readers hug themselves that Sandy Balfour did. A delight’ Alan Coren’Sandy Balfour’s memoir Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8) is like a great crossword clue – I couldn’t put it down until I’d worked it out.’ Clive James

The Cat that Could Open the Fridge

The advent of the home computer has made Christmas round robin letters ubiquitous.

Where once the hot news about Tamsin’s A levels would be sent in a short note, now it’s not unusual to get a letter that includes several pages of misery – emergency operations, dead relatives, sackings, rainy holidays and so forth – decorated with jolly snowmen and smiling Santas. Some people go further and send out whole booklets. Computers have also made it possible to include photographs of the family eating paté in their Provencal garden, or sitting in a hot tub in California.

Simon Hoggart gets hundreds of round robin letters sent to him every year and has collected the funniest, most irritating, most surreal extracts into this hilarious short book. Along the way he considers why people hate these letters so much and what they tell us about the British middle classes. What, exactly, lies behind the impulse to write about Roger’s decision to cycle to work for health reasons, or Jeremy’s trip to Tasmania, or the replacement pet rabbit?

The Hamster that Loved Puccini

Simon Hoggart is back with a new treasure trove of Christmas round robins. And this time they illustrate the seven deadly sins of their writers, including boastfulness (dazzlingly clever children who play the saxophone and ski for Britain); smugness (their job, their house, their holidays are all perfect); tiny-mindedness (do we really need to be told how to start a jigsaw by looking for the straight bits?); whimsy (letters written by pets or babies); and the dreaded over-sharing, in which every illness and operation is described in minute, unwanted detail. Accompanied by Hoggart’s wicked commentary, The Hamster that Loved Puccini invites us to ponder what compels people to pen these letters, and what they tell us about them – and ourselves. The Hamster that Loved Puccini is outrageously funny and the perfect Christmas gift for readers of all ages.

I Say Nothing (3)

This delightful book explores the world of the cryptic crossword clue, a place where nothing is quite as it seems. From reflections on his children’s musical tastes (might ABBA be an Old Testament citation?) to veiled digs at Labour’s foreign policy (‘What could be subtler during search for weapon!’ 7, 4), each of Sandy Balfour’s perfectly proportioned essays is a joyful investigation of these devilishly difficult puzzles and the life they punctuate.

The Hands of History

‘Simon Hoggart is the P. G. Wodehouse of Westminster.’ — P. J. O’Rourke

Simon Hoggart’s fans know him as the wittiest of all the commentators on Parliament and its key figures, and for thousands of people his daily column in the “Guardian” is the kick-start they need in the morning. “The Hand of History” brings together his finest writing to create a portrait of the man at the centre of the last decade in British politics – and the rivals, enemies and friends around him. In it, you’ll find the high drama, the low farce, the soap opera and the situation comedy that happens at Westminster every day. Read about Blair the Maharishi, Prescott the enemy of the English language, Brown the bruiser, Michael Fabricant the wig-wearer, and the magnificent figure of Sir Peter Tapsell, whose words are not written up in Hansard but cast in bronze. And read about the security alert that led to the confiscation of the mint imperials. Altogether, “The Hand of History” is an unmissable account of Tony Blair’s weird, baffling, sometimes inexplicable, and almost always hilarious decade in power.