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The Independent Culture

by Roy Jenkins (Macmillan, pounds 20). Illuminating, vigorous portrait of the Grand Old Man that manages to keep up with its moving target.

The Penguin Book of Erotic Stories by Women

ed. A Susan Williams and Richard Glyn Jones (Viking, pounds 17.99).

Scholarly and literary odyssey of erotic writing from Kathe rine Mansfield and Edith Wharton to post-Punk priestesses.

The Heart of India

by Mark Tully (Viking, pounds 16). Accomplished storytelling debut by India's most respected and best-loved Englishman.

On Being Jewish

by Julia Neuberger (Heinemann, pounds 16.99). Liberal and human, the case for Judaism in the modern world.

Constantinople: City of the World's Desire

by Philip Mansel (John Murrary, pounds 25). Consummate portrait of the sophisticated pearl at the heart of the Ottoman Empire.

Vera Brittain: A Life

by Paul Berry and Mark Bostridge (Chatto pounds 20)

Fastidiously researched and beautifully written sympathetic biography of a chilly and single-minded woman

The Liquidator

by Ferdinand Mount (Heinemann pounds 14.99)

Contrived but winning chiaroscuro from the post-Imperial twilight, yoking a turn-of-the-century missionary to the fading fortunes of a modern-day accountant