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Cleopatra's Wedding Present by Robert Tewdwr Moss (Duckworth, pounds 8.99)

From the opening chapter, when Moss runs foul of the heroically drunk Daniel Farson in Aleppo, this droll, seductive ramble round Syria is the very best kind of travel book, spiced with high comedy and sexual adventure. Often the two are combined, as when Tewdwr Moss itemises the drawbacks of his Arab lover: "The electric bed, the police and now a legless uncle." Though the author makes preciousness into an art-form ("Perfume is the only luxury I allow myself when travelling into the unknown"), this elegant work stands comparison with early Evelyn Waugh. Tewdwr Moss was murdered in London on the day of its completion. A great loss.

Ten Men by Elisa Segrave (Faber, pounds 6.99)

In her first book, The Diary of a Breast, Elisa Segrave recorded what it was like coming to terms with cancer. Afraid of death, she was even more afraid of never making it as a writer. But she needn't have worried. Her second novel, a semi-autobiographical account of a young girl's initiation into Sixties sex, shows Segrave entirely at home in the comic form. Perhaps the funniest character in the book is the girl's father - an ex-naval attache obsessed with the sexual act ("Spermia"), and the fact that his dead mother used two sponges when washing (one for her body, and one for her bottom).

The Handbook of British Archaeology by Lesley and Roy Adkins (Constable, pounds 14.99)

From mesolithic fish hooks to medieval boot-lace tags, the authors offer a guide to our ancestors' bric-a-brac. We learn that Roman surgical instruments included artery forceps and their horses wore iron sandals. The authors strike a drily ironic note in their sceptical observation that Professor Thom's research into standing stones "has stimulated a great deal of speculation, although not all maintaining his standards". Though primarily aimed at professionals, the book contains much of interest for amateurs. Did you know that forks are found in neolithic sites, but were "not generally used" in medieval times?

Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah (Penguin, pounds 6.99)

Jung Chan/Amy Tan junkies will lap up Adeline Yen Mah's memoirs of life as a "Fifth Younger Daughter". The child of a Shanghai business tycoon. Adeline lost her mother at six weeks old, and was raised by an evil, half- French stepmother. Deprived of the choice dumplings and fashionable hairdos enjoyed by her half-brothers and sisters, Adeline was sent away to a remote boarding school, just as Communist troops marched on Beijing. A starkly told tale, but one rich with exotic settings, menus and acts of "Bunty- esque" cruelty.

Four-Iron in the Soul by Laurence Donegan (Penguin, pounds 6.99)

How do you get to tread the greens of the European professional golfing circuit alongside Faldo and Ballesteros, even if you wouldn't get picked for a school team unless there was "a nuclear holocaust in neighbouring towns"? Donegan's answer was to caddy for journeyman pro Ross Drummond, ranked 438th in the world (he rises to 196 by the end of the book). Like Harry Thompson on non-league football, Donegan's refusal to leave any gag uncracked achieves the miraculous feat of eliciting great entertainment from this inexplicable pastime.

Love Invents Us by Amy Bloom (Picador, pounds 5.99)

Elizabeth Taub is a fat little Jewish girl with harlequin glasses and an attitude problem. Ignored by her parents, she searches for affection wherever she can: in the appreciative glances of Mr Klein (her mother's furrier), on the back seat of her English teacher's car and, in the arms of Huddie Lester, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Bloom makes even the geekiest love seem exciting.

Wainwright: The Biography by Hunter Davies (Penguin, pounds 7.99)

Like fellow Lakelander, Beatrix Potter, A W Wainwright resorted to self- publication when offering his first book to the world. Now a copy of the relevant Wainwright is as essential in a fell-walker's backpack as a bar of Kendal Mint Cake. Straight from a miserable childhood into a miserable marriage, this municipal accountant from Blackburn first visited the Lakes at the age of 23 - and the sight of the Langdale Pikes from Orrest Head probably saved his life. Striding Edge, Haystacks and Harter Fell became the great passions of his life - until at the age of 58 he fell in love with a divorcee from Appleby (his wife wisely turned down his offer of remaining on as housekeeper). A sympathetic and frank biography.

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