BOOKS / Recommended

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The Independent Culture
The Civilisation of Europe in the Renaissance by John Hale, HarperCollins, pounds 25. Panoramic description of a brilliant and bloody century. Review by Robert Winder, 31 December.

Paddy and Mr Punch by R F Foster, Allen Lane, pounds 22.50. A rich and humane collection of essays on diverse cultural connections between English and Irish culture. Review by G J Watson, 1 January.

Travels with Virginia Woolf, edited by Jan Morris, Hogarth Press, pounds 17.99. Beautifully presented, eloquent extracts from Woolf's diaries and letters. Review by Natasha Walter, 12 January.