first edition –  The best of the latest paperbacks

news: first edition -  The best of the latest paperbacks

Shooting History by Jon Snow in paperback at 12 euros

Channel 4 News anchorman Jon Snow’s Shooting History is, like John Simpson’s acclaimed books, a foreign correspondent’s story: Snow has been reporting news for thirty years and for most of that time was a foreign correspondent with ITN, beaming back pictures from war zones in South and Central America, Africa, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Washington, where he was ITN’s top US correspondent for some years. His proximity to America and its wars, plus his innate sense of justice – leads him to be critical of US foreign policy and the reluctance of recent US administrations to learn from the perceived mistakes of their predecessors. Reading about the proxy wars fought by the US in Central America and the overthrow of Iraq’s democratically elected government in a CIA backed coup, it’s hard not to be persuaded by his argument that the northern hemisphere in general – and the US in particular – need to take more account of the plight of the poor to the south of us.

Warm, witty and engaging, Snow’s story is also mildly self-deprecating: he seems comfortable discussing mistakes that he feels he has made and conflicts he feels guilty to have neglected in his long career. Regular viewers of Channel 4 News will recognise his easy tone, but don’t expect reams of backroom gossip from his years as the presenter of the broadsheet news programme: over three quarters of the book is given over to his foreign adventures and it’s clear that he sees himself as a currently static foreign correspondent. Given his clear affection for the people that he has met along the way, his anger about the injustices they have faced, and his manifesto for a better world (delivered in the final few pages), it’s easy to see why he believes reporting from the field to be the way journalists can make a real difference. Shooting History is a riveting memoir, a damning indictment and an excellent read for anyone interested in current affairs.

Olive Harvest by Carol Drinkwater in paperback at 10.50 euros

‘The stars shimmer like spilled handfuls of glitter. The day is beginning to rise with a faint mist. As I turn my head, ghostly halos, auras of light, appear and disappear and I cannot tell if it is caused by my light-headedness or if it is a freak of nature. The silence is truly awesome. Not a bird, not a whisper of wind, nor a breath of life. Only the two of us, a most implausible pair, standing shoulder to shoulder and gazing upon an awakening heaven’.

Returning to their home in the Provence after an extended absence, Carol and her husband Michel are looking forward to a summer together on the farm. A shocking blow leaves Carol alone and the future uncertain.The Olive Harvest takes us beyond the perimeters of her olive groves to where hunters, poets, bee-keepers, boars and gypsies abide.

This is the third of Carol’s books documenting her idyllic life in the South of France, but despite the title speaking of plenty and abundance, there was no harvest, no husband and no easy life. Carol Drinkwater is an admirable woman with stoic determination and a certain acceptance of life; she soldiers on and writes about it honestly and warmly. This is a lovely book.