The Mammoth Book of Journalism ed. Jon E Lewis (Robinson, £7.99, 546pp)
Coming in a series that also includes The Mammoth Book of Egyptian Whodunits, this book would not normally get reviewed. Despite the clichéd introduction ("All human life is here"), this is an enjoyable and ambitious anthology, ranging from an educational exposé by Charles Dickens (1852) to a brief, devastating report on Iraq by Robert Fisk from last March.
Other highlights include an early scoop on Guantanamo by Stephen Crane (1899) and Maureen Cleeve's revealing profile of John Lennon, which includes the "We're bigger than Jesus" quote that alienated Middle America. The Sixties, shown to be a golden age of journalism, are represented by Tom Wolfe on Ken Kesey, Michael Herr on Vietnam and that coolest of hipsters William Rees-Mogg attacking Jagger's drug bust: "Many people resent the anarchic quality of the Rolling Stones ... and broadly suspect them of decadence."
The book is a useful reminder that a hack's fame is evanescent as smoke. Who now remembers such star hacks as D Sefton Delmer, Rene Maccoll or Ed Murrow? John Crosby's cringe-making piece on Swinging London is a mysterious inclusion. On the plus side, there is a dazzling example of Clive James's TV criticism, while Ian Jack's portrait of Scouse rag-pickers is keen-eyed and perceptive. Martha Gellhorn's account of a lynching in Mississippi still brings shivers: "I saw a huge tree ... it stood by itself and had a curious air of usefulness."
Will You Please Be Quiet, Please by Raymond Carver (Vintage, £6.99, 181pp)
The prose equivalent of Edward Hopper's faintly ominous paintings, Raymond Carver's short stories often concern people at moments of domestic crisis. A father discards, then tearfully retrieves, his dog, but then the dog discards him. In a letter, a woman expresses profound unease about her son, a successful politician: "I should be the proudest mother in all the land but I am only afraid." A writer is assailed with story ideas, concerning his own misbehaviour, by the owner of a house he hired: "It doesn't need Tolstoy." First published in 1975, these stories resonate long after you've read them.
Samuel Pepys: The unequalled self by Claire Tomalin (Penguin, £8.99, 499pp)
After buttonholing the reader with a prologue describing a ferocious domestic between Pepys and his misused wife, Tomalin never lets go. Her book is superbly researched and a masterly display of storytelling. Though he is great company, Pepys emerges as an unscrupulous self-seeker. His seduction of a rival's daughter "was a matter of power and humiliation of his enemy rather than attraction". Puzzled by his own flaws, the ambitious Pepys emerges as a distinctly modern type. Great value, Tomalin's enthralling masterpiece is the perfect holiday read.
Blue Note Records by Richard Cook (Pimlico, £10, 276pp)
Blue Note is a jazz label so hip that there is even a book devoted to its cover art. Though Cook tells the story well, he faces a problem in that many of Blue Note's top stars - Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk - did their best work away from the label. Coltrane was almost never there at all because the office cat jumped out of a window when he was about to sign a contract. Nevertheless, Blue Note displayed an unparalleled gift for discovering new talent and Cook's lively account of works by Jimmy Smith, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and other greats will have jazz buffs reaching for their credit cards.
The Art of the Siesta by Thierry Paquot, trans. Ken Hollings (Marion Boyars, £8.95, 91pp)
This slender pamphlet considers snoozing in art, mythological zizzes, the assault on naps by capitalist timetables, the importance of slow living ("well being in patience") and rouses itself with a clarion cry for the individualisation of time: "Brothers and sisters! Seize the siesta." Paquot's daydream of a book stutters to a close with a series of reflections: "I remember so many siestas about which I have nothing to say." This rich, distinctly French essay is just the ticket to while away a sultry afternoon, and its author won't feel remotely distressed if you happen to nod off.Reuse content