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A Fez of the Heart by Jeremy Seal (Picador, pounds 6.99)

Hats are the stepping stones of Turkish history, Seal suggests. After the abolition of the turban in 1826, the fez came to symbolise Turkey until it too was banned in 1925. In a marvellous melange of travel and history, Seal pursues the lingering remnants of "fez culture" in order to probe the complex character of

modern Turkey. Original and beautifully observed, the book reads like Chatwin with jokes.

Journals 1982-1986 by Anthony Powell (Heinemann, pounds 9.99)

These jottings make you wish the novelist had kept a diary all his life. Along with much waspish wit, there is broad comedy as Powell, 80, tangles with the modern world. Mistakenly thinking Mrs Thatcher a fan of Apollinaire, he perplexes her by referring to the poet whenever they meet. Fascinated by genealogy, he muses about pop star Roger Daltrey, "a Lincolnshire name, connected with my mother's family, I think."

The Last Great Frenchman by Charles Williams (Abacus, pounds 12.99)

So intransigent during wartime exile that Churchill referred to him as "the beast of Hampstead", de Gaulle saw himself as France personified. By taking power in 1958, he "almost certainly saved the country from civil war". Charles Williams believes that he never forgave Britain for defeating Sudan in 1898. This absorbing work reveals the introspective intellectual hidden behind the unbending public facade.

A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper by John Allen Paulos (Penguin, pounds 6.99)

As you would expect of a maths prof, Paulos deprecates the lazy thinking and statistical illiteracy he finds in the daily blats. He notes that a recipe claiming to provide 761 calories per serving is "meaningless precision". Chaos theory, Paulos says, explains why forecasts are often inaccurate: the best are short-term, simple and hazy. A revealing, if bitty, critique, user-friendly to the innumerate.

Sunrise with Sea Monster by Neil Jordan (Vintage, pounds 5.99)

Neil Jordan's third novel is as sensuous as any of his films. Locked together in a terraced house above the Irish Sea, father and son find unexpected release with the arrival of a young piano teacher and the outbreak of war. A quietly melodramatic book that catches German submarines, sea monsters and lost love in one tight net.

Remembering My Good Friends by George Weidenfeld (HarperCollins, pounds 7.99)

Fresh from Nazi Vienna, George Weidenfeld compared entry into English society to stepping into a series of Turkish baths; but quicker than he could say ''Vita Sackville-West'', he was living it up in Fitzrovia, the Savoy and Oxfordshire. His fruitily avuncular autobiography revels in encounters with the posh (The Longfords) and the good (The Pope).

The Virago Book of Women Travllers, edited by Mary Morris (Virago, pounds 8.99)

An unusually entertaining anthology of pieces by women travellers who took the bull by the horns, or in one case, the horse between the legs. Gems include Margaret Fountaine on chasing butterflies (and men) in Calabria; and the aptly named Ethel Brilliana Tweedie on the perils of riding side-saddle.

Married Love by Marie Stopes (Gollancz, pounds 6.99)

Marie Stopes's classic exploration of sex and women's ''sorrow'' is still a fascinating read nearly 90 years after its first publication. Wonderfully lyrical when it comes to women's ''moon-month'' rhythms and ''sex-tides'', Stopes isn't afraid of naming mucus membranes or tumescent parts. An advocate of the revitalizing benefits of separate bedrooms and Alpine air.

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