Walking Aloud: Rambles in the Cherwell Valley

Kim Taplin (Wychwood Press, £9.99)

Anyone picking this up in the hope of finding suggestions for pub walks will be sorely disappointed. Taplin describes herself as “a life member of the Amblers” and her writing is certainly discursive. This collection of prose ruminations about exploring on foot is centred on the author’s home village of Tackley, but roams widely, from Dorset to British Columbia, from her London childhood and love of words to reflections on our place in the natural world. The chapters are introduced with charming line drawings by Oxfordshire artist Rachael Sherlaw-Johnson.

A Warrior’s Tale: Raymond Williams Dai Smith (Parthian, £12.99)

Williams — author of Culture and Society and The Long Revolution — is now fashionable again, but few people know that, as well as being a great cultural commentator and literary critic, he was also a novelist. Smith looks at the first 40 years of Williams's life on the Welsh borders, and presents some dense family research explaining how the Cambridge don came to be one of the great champions of working-class culture in post-war Britain. Smith also looks at Williams’s wide-ranging, but little known, fictional writing, arguing that, despite his success as a social and literary commentator, Williams thought of himself above all as a playwright and novelist.

Memory: A Very Short Introduction Jonathan K. Foster (Oxford University Press, £7.99)

The illustrations in this slim, but satisfying book are an education in themselves. ‘Assassination of JF Kennedy’, ‘Fugue State, as depicted in the Hitchcock film Spellbound’ as well as ‘Multiple Personality: Jeckyll and Hyde’. The most satisfying thing is that after wide, and fascinating digressions, Foster sums up the theory with a very practical and down-to-earth guide, useful for exam revision and for old people who fear they are losing their marbles, as well as their wallet and spectacles.

The Meaning of Madness Neel Burton (Acheron Press, £14.99)

This book by an Oxford psychiatrist really does what it says on the cover, looking behind the usual categories to ask: why does this condition exist and what evolutionary advantage did it give to the human race? It’s an interesting way of looking at things, and one that puts a positive spin on illnesses which are usually portrayed as being nothing but negative. As well as outlining different western theories, Burton also looks at other cultures, providing a refreshing overview.