Paperbacks

I May Be Some Time by Francis Spufford (Faber, pounds 7.99) Despite Capt Oates's breezy note to his mother that he was off to the South Pole ("The climate is very healthy, though inclined to be cold"), the psychological background to the ill-fated Scott expedition was complex, stemming from a peculiarly British strain of romanticism. Original and perceptive, Spufford's exploration of this uncharted mental terrain touches on Burke's discovery of the "sublime", the disasterous Franklin expedition and the Victorian obsession with eskimos.

Innocence by Paul Lynton (Sceptre, pounds 6.99) Martyn Fenton, young boy from the Fens, soon learns that home is not a pleasant place to be. Fleeing the unwelcome advances of his brutish father, he arrives in Ely where he falls straight into the hands of some equally lascivious clerics. This powerfully imagined novel of 17th-century nastiness is energetically told, though the regularity with which people want to slip their hands down Martyn's breeches eventually strains belief.

A Handful of Summers by Gordon Forbes (HarperCollins, pounds 5.99) Sparkling memoir of the tennis circuit in the Fifties, when the courts were still populated by humans rather than over-paid backhand machines. It's unlikely that this year's SW19 jamboree will see the likes of Tappy Larsen ("he never trained, smoked a lot, drank beer, slept in the dressing room") or Abie Segal, who had problems on court after eating a massive meal followed by a dose of Eno's ("Throughout the match, he retained an intense, anticipatory look ... as if not quite sure of his immediate future"). Modest, engagingly written, this book is an ace.

The Touch by Julie Myerson (Picador, pounds 5.99) Myerson writes about unusual love affairs. Her first novel, Sleepwalking, famously featured a heavily pregnant woman. The Touch is a sexy, scary tale involving Donna, a young woman with a twisted spine who is persuaded by her sister and boyfriend to seek the help of a local faith-healer. But her miraculous recovery comes at a high price.

Vice Versa by Marjorie Garber (Penguin, pounds 12.99) After probing transvestism in Vested Interests, Garber, a professor of English, has turned her attention to bisexuality. As ambiguous as its subject, this voluminous study roams far and wide in pursuit of sexual omnivorousness. Shakespeare rubs shoulders with pop band, Living Colour, Mick Jagger with Henry James. Though occasionally sharp - she notes that "Michael Jackson has gone from being Peter Pan to J M Barrie" - Garber reads too much into the fact that Calvin Klein sold 80,000 pairs of women's boxer shorts (with fly) in 90 days.

You Are What You Eat by Kirsten Hartvig and Dr Nic Rowley (Piatkus, pounds 9.99) Having scared us to death with Superbug, an inventory of horrible diseases, Rowley and Hartvig are now redressing the balance by explaining how we can improve our chances of longevity by changing what we eat. Dr Nic's "naturopathic" advice is perfectly sound and seems unsettlingly easy to follow: enjoy the food that's good for you, stop worrying about the food that's bad for you, don't take vitamins, do have sex and, above all, think organic.

Pooh and the Philosophers by John Tyerman Williams (Mandarin, pounds 5.99) What a mystery that this exercise in ponderous whimsy should be a bestseller, translated into 13 languages. Do readers experience a self-congratulatory thrill for spotting the subtle humour in "For Winnie-the-Pooh's demonstration of the Principle of Verifiability we turn again to the episode of the HUNNY jar"? Destined for the smallest room of a million middle-class households, it should at least ensure that no one will linger there for long.

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