Confronting The Classics by Mary Beard (Profile, £9.99)
The reason we should learn Latin and Greek, Beard argues, is to read what is written in those languages. She cites the popularity of the worlds of Ancient Rome and Greece to us now (just count the films), and though her book largely follows the Simon Schama/David Starkey approach of character-led history, it is an appealing read.
Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris (Little Brown, £8.99)
Sedaris makes the writing of personal stories - and, even more than that, the writing of personal, laugh-out-loud stories - look horrifyingly easy and has no doubt inspired a whole generation to think they can do it too. But there are deeper things in his tales - racism and homophobia and class difference - that are less easy to discuss.
The First World War by Hew Strachan (Simon and Schuster, £9.99)
THIS controversial but magisterial history of the First World War is part of an increasing move to view that conflict not as the avoidable waste of young lives, but as necessary as the war that succeeded it 20 years after its end. Strachan also links its genesis, an act of terrorism, to 9/11 and the "war on terror".
All The Way by Marie Darrieussecq (Text Publishing, £8.99)
Darrieussecq has never been an easy writer to read, but this novel about young French girl Solange's sexual awakening is more accessible than her previous work, even if its more graphic sexual content is meant to disturb rather than titillate us, as she reminds us what a powerful force sex can be.