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The Independent Culture
Byzantium: The Decline and Fall by John Julius Norwich (Viking, pounds 25). A tumultuous, humane and eminently readable history of a glittering civilisation.

Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life by Daniel C Dennett (Allen Lane, pounds 25). Brilliant philosophical defence of Darwinian theory.

The Redress of Poetry: Oxford Lectures by Seamus Heaney (Faber, pounds 15.99). The new Nobel Laureate offers the best lectures by an Oxford Professor of Poetry since WH Auden's 40 years ago.

HG: The History of Mr Wells by Michael Foot (Doubleday, pounds 20). Empathetic biography of 'probably the most influential writer of the modern era'.

John Betjeman: Letters Volume 2, 1951-84 edited by Candida Lycett Green (Methuen, pounds 20). Engrossing correspondence which ranges from the endearingly silly to the unbearably moving.

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson (Doubleday, pounds 15.99). The best- selling travel writer turns his

witty, searching eye on Blighty.

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