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The Independent Culture
The Railway Man by Eric Lomax (Cape, pounds 15.99). Moving, unsentimental memoir by an ex-PoW who meets his Japanese tormentor 50 years after the war.

Collected Poems Volume 1 by Peter Reading (Bloodaxe, pounds 9.95). Reading's vision is dark and uncompromising, but his technical brilliance is unmatched.

Aurel Stein: Pioneer of the Silk Road by Annabel Walker (John Murray, pounds 25). Delightful biography of a fearless 19th century adventurer.

Why the Allies Won by Richard Overy (Cape, pounds 20). Well-argued study of how a combination of better technology and superior leadership secured victory in the Second World War.

King David by Alan Massie (Cape, pounds 15.99). One of the best Old Testament stories excitingly retold.