Books: Paperbacks

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The Independent Culture
The Change: Women, Ageing and the Menopause by Germaine Greer, Penguin pounds 6.99.

This study of the upheavals of the menopause ranges across anthropology, gynaecology, literature, psychology and witchcraft as it separates facts from fictions. Greer's anti-doctor stance gets extreme at times, and she has a tendency to generalise from a sample of one, but this is a valuable and challenging view of a still-taboo subject.

Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990 by Stephen E Ambrose, Simon & Schuster pounds 9.99.

'Well, I screwed it up real good, real good, didn't I?' said Tricky Dick after Watergate. This gripping account of the fall and rise of the most complex man to have occupied the White House is one of the finest biographies of our generation. The author shows great empathy with the loner who, when not bugging and burgling, ended the war in Vietnam and sought detente with Russia.

Darwin by Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Penguin pounds 9.99. The most decent and lovable of modern revolutionaries paid the price of his own fame with 40 years of vomiting, migraines and more mysterious illness. His is the best- documented of lives; every note and jotting survives. The achievement of this biography is to set Darwin's public certainties and private doubts in the matrix of late-Victorian conflicts over political power and scientific knowledge.

The Invention of Tradition eds Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, Canto pounds 6.95. The kilt was invented by an Englishman in the 18th century; the daffodil became a symbol of Welshness only in 1907; the coronation of Queen Victoria was so perfunctory an affair that two of the trainbearers talked right through it: so much for venerable national traditions. This collection of iconoclastic essays from six leading historians learnedly explores the modern need to create totems of nationhood.

Last Animals at the Zoo by Colin Tudge, OUP pounds 7.99. As our human population climbs to perhaps 12 billion in the next century, there will be few places left for other creatures to survive. We must try to protect their habitats, but we must also, Colin Tudge argues, take them into our zoos (and reinvent such zoos) until, in a new millennium, we can return them to the wilderness. An intelligently argued thesis, which bears sadly little relation to the current realities of London Zoo.

The Best of Plimpton, Simon & Schuster pounds 7.99. There aren't many writers who can profile Marianne Moore and Muhammad Ali; there aren't many literary editors who like to birdwatch; there aren't many sports journalists who participate (eg box against a light heavyweight world champion). In fact, there's only one George Plimpton, whose sharpness and enthusiasm make this 400-page collection a delight.

There Was a Young Man from Cardiff by Dannie Abse, Penguin pounds 5.99. A poet's fictional autobiography, sequel to Ash on a Young Man's Sleeve: South Wales schooldays, a doctor's odd caseload, Welsh Jews and a 'stark ravin' Welsh Red Indian. The episodic tranches (a couple of poems are thrown in) have a curiously haunting, at best Chekhovian power.