by Christopher Hirst
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The Independent Culture
Desert Places by Robyn Davidson (Penguin, pounds 7.99) This personal account of a trek with rajas and nomads infects you with wanderlust and provides a bitter antidote. Within a page, Davidson can be both brilliant (the hindrances of Indian life are "like reading Tristram Shandy") and rather silly - "cultures which touch their own faeces have a greater understanding of ... our alpha and omega".

Rogue Trader by Nick Leeson (Warner, pounds 5.99) In this heavily ghosted memoir, Leeson reveals why he was keen to avoid incarceration in Singapore. He had been in a Singapore nick before, arrested for mooning. He switches between family knees-ups and muck sweat at the looming black hole: "Since February I'd absorbed (ie "lost") pounds 300m of funding."

Hilaire Belloc by AN Wilson (Mandarin, pounds 9.99) Wilson offers a sprightly life of the prolific author. Like most radical satirists, Belloc ended up as a crusty right-winger. Noisy and amusing, he held that civilisation depended on property-owning Catholicism. Equally eccentric was his technique with champagne corks: "Cut off flush with the bottle. Then pull out as an ordinary cork." Oddly, Belloc's Cautionary Tales, his only work still read, is allocated less than one page.