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The Independent Culture
Becoming a Mother by Kate Mosse (Virago, pounds 7.99). Pregnant women are suckers when it comes to BabyLit, consuming the Boots mother and baby catalogue with a seriousness usually reserved for Melanie Klein. This series of anecdotes on the pregnant state, largely compiled from the tea tables of south-east London, shows its author no better informed than your average NCT-card-holding mum. Not that this will put readers off: sensible advice on pain relief, midwives and Vitamin K is interspersed with tips on surviving hospital cuisine (Marmite sandwiches under the bed) and marital breakdown (ditto). As Kate Mosse braves the choppy waters of the birthing-pool with Lee, Fran and Sasha, first-time mums be warned. These "real life" birth stories (like epidurals and new slippers) only really make sense when it's all too late.

Debrett's Wedding Guide, The Planning and Etiquette of a Modern Wedding by Jacqueline Llewelyn-Bowen (Headline, pounds 8.99). From the ermine-clad folk at Debrett's, some surprisingly down-to-earth advice on planning for the Big Day. Good food, good drink, and chairs for the grannies: YES. Heart- shaped canapes, artificial flowers and receiving lines: NO. Wedding organiser Llewelyn-Bowen gets to grips with wedding announcements (how to style divorced, widowed and separated parents), seating plans (where to put great-aunt Effie) and the terrors of the free-wheeling cherry tomato. Sections on civil weddings, Jewish weddings and male members (ie ushers) make this book as useful for couples planning a small reception as for those intent on a Hello! centrefold spread.

Dirty Tricks by Michael Dibdin (Faber, pounds 5.99). Karen Parsons lives out by the Oxford ring road and listens to Richard Clayderman records. Alison Kraemer sings in a madrigal group and owns a house in the Dordogne. The novel's narrator, a deliciously nasty EFL teacher, lives in Botley and ends up poking them both. Michael Dibdin's reissued Oxford thriller may feature a traditional cast of OUP editors, waspish dons and precocious schoolgirls, but owes more to Martin Amis than Colin Dexter. As the social climbing and dinner parties get out of hand, so do the punting accidents and trips to dodgy moat houses. Funny and readable, Dibdin traces the road from the "arctic wastes" of Kidlington to the bosky reaches of the Banbury road with enviable precision.

Odd Man Out by Martyn Harris (Pavilion, pounds 12.99). If the poncy notion of "collected journalism" sticks in the craw (it would have done for Martyn Harris), make an exception for this scintillating mix of articles. A graduate of Paul Barker's New Society - that nursery for first-class troublemakers - Harris took his genius for slaying sacred cows to the Telegraph. In that unlikely home, he flourished. Spendidly acerbic features, columns and profiles (eg a notorious set-to with Lauren Bacall) give way, in a shocking shift of gear, to bulletins on his cancer and chemotherapy. The wit, the clarity, the hatred of hype or gush survive; the emotions deepen as "the gossamer stuff of ambition and money and possessions falls away". Martyn Harris died last October; he never wrote a dull sentence, or a dishonest one.

The BBC News General Election Guide edited by Richard Bailey (HarperCollins, pounds 5.99). Why not boycott TV and radio and read this lucid primer by Auntie's finest (Snow, Oakley, Jay et al)? Facts, figures, all The Ishoos and some damn fine trivia: in Cambridgeshire South, the presenter of One Man and His Dog stands for the Referendum Party. Did someone mention Barking (Labour majority 7,180)?

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