Off the shelf
THE well-received first volume of Doris Lessing's autobiography, Under My Skin (Flamingo $96), is now out in paperback. The book examines her childhood days in Africa, her early political activism and finishes with her move to London in 1949.
Also out in paperback is Hanif Kureishi's Black Album (Faber $85). The theme is cross-cultural relationships and how a young Pakistani-British student copes with the pressures of Muslim fundamentalism and his love for a white lecturer.
A Simple Path, compiled by Lucinda Vardey (Rider $120), provides advice from Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity. They advocate a path through life which focuses on helping others and encouraging love of fellow humans rather than hate. Chapters focus on faith, service and peace.
Another set of guiding thoughts is provided in William Bennett's The Moral Compass (Simon & Schuster $300). Editor Bennett's target is the young and how adults can equip children with a character and outlook that can tackle life head-on. He collects up the thoughts of writers and philosophers from around the world. Bennett previously produced the best-selling Book of Virtues.
Skunk Works (Warner $119) offers the inside story on the development of the F-117 Stealth fighter plane. Written by the late Ben Rich, who led the operation from 1975 to 1991, and Leo Janos, the book traces the history of the secret American aerospace research and development programme from its Cold War roots to the Gulf War and reveals what it was like to work on one of the country's most confidential projects. Pictures included.
Christmas is but 44 days away and publishers are thinking of ways to get readers to toss some money their way. One of the first into the arena is another James Finn Garner collection of revised stories. This time he's created some Politically Correct Holiday Stories (Macmillan $100) to fit in with the festive proceedings. Among his subjects are Rudolph the Nasally-Empowered Reindeer and Frosty the Persun of Snow. Don't imagine Santa Claus gets away with his usual jolly image either.
The Bedside Book of Bigheads, edited by William Cole (John Murray $136), is a collection of monstrous, ego-stroking quotations from the famous about one of their favourite subjects: themselves. Poets, artists, entertainers, writers and politicians queue up to sing their own praises on these pages. Here's what painter Salvador Dali thought of himself: 'Every morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure - being Salvador Dali.' And Gertrude Stein? 'Think of the Bible and Homer, think of Shakespeare and think of me.' Meanwhile reappearing after 13 years is humour travel writer Bill Bryson's Bizarre World (Warner $76). It's a small-format collection of odd-ball disasters from newspapers in the US and Britain and other sources. Anecdotes include the man in Argentina who tried to hijack a bus to Cuba; and the six armed men who stormed an airport's high-value cargo storage room - and took off with a packet of sandwiches.
The Hounding of John Thomas, by Craig Brown (Arrow $72), is a comic sequel to D H Lawrence's classic novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover, based around the child of Mellors the gamekeeper and Constance Chatterley. The offspring covers up his parents' past and becomes a Member of Parliament until his secret is eventually exposed.