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Paperbacks

All Is Song by Samantha Harvey (Vintage, £8.99)

I loved Harvey's The Wilderness and this is a similarly slow, patient build-up through the loss of a parent, although here it's to something more controversial, as the rather rootless and more cautious Leonard finds his brother William is involved in a kind of fundamentalist terrorism. Lovely observations on a sibling relationship.

Shopping, Seduction And Mr Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead (Profile, £8.99)

BBC One's rather insipid The Paradise has been followed by ITV's Mr Selfridge, a coincidence that may owe something to the consumer boom of the past 10 years. Woodhead's history is pleasingly fact-filled and contains a salutary warning that the once-glamorous entrepreneur and businessman Harry Selfridge ended his days in penury.

Just Send Me Word: A True Story Of Love And Survival In The Gulag by Orlando Figes (Penguin, £9.99)

Almost 1500 letters between Lev and Svetlana Mischenko survive intact and, remarkably, uncensored from the eight years they spent apart in different labour camps during Stalin's reign. It seems trite to say they were two ordinary people living during extraordinary times, but it's true, and these letters, lovingly and only occasionally despairingly written, sustained them.

The Philosophical Life: Twelve Great Thinkers And The Search For Wisdom, From Socrates To Nietzsche by James Miller (One World, £9.99)

Miller deplores the lack of knowledge about the lives of philosophers, arguing that from their approach to life we can learn something about that ever-elusive thing, the "self". Where once people looked to philosophers for guidance, now we turn to self-help guides, it seems. Miller's is an accessible history, entertaining and informative.

Lesley McDowell

Paperbacks

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