Sparky, clever guides to “all you need to know” about everything

All You Need to Know guides

Connell Publishing

“My shelves and conscience groan in unison under the weight of huge history books for which I’ve never found the stamina,” says Helen Brown in the Daily Mail. So three cheers for the “All You Need to Know” series of “easily digestible” bluffer’s guides produced by Connell Publishing. Most similar works are “written in the dry, bullet-pointy style of GCSE textbooks”, but editor Jolyon Connell (MoneyWeek’s founder and editorial director) has enlisted a group of experts who “maintain their literary verve and sharp opinions in short form”.

Max Hastings book on World War II, for example, “whisks us through the timeline” while delivering “thumbnail verdicts on the major players” and giving “engaging space to the experiences of ordinary people” – such as the US Marine Corps lieutenant who wrote home dreaming of pyjamas, eggs, milk and flush toilets.

The series of 12 “thin volumes on big subjects” covers a wide range of topics, says The Economist. Charlie McCann’s volume on the history of sexuality, for example, “cavorts through more than

two millennia of fluid exchanges using humour, deft selection of fascinating anecdotes and an admirable resistance to polemics to accomplish what most of her predecessors have failed to do: provide a guide through the ever-shifting constellation of meanings orbiting around sex in the West”. Sexuality is a “welcome, entertaining and very smart romp through a complex subject”. If sex is, as they say, “always on our minds”, this book “helps us know what we are thinking”.

Those looking for a present for a nephew, niece, or grandchild at school or university will also find them useful, says Allison Pearson in The Daily Telegraph. Although children “are drilled to pass exams”, no-one teaches them grammar, let alone “how to produce a vivid piece of work”. So How to Write Well by Tim de Lisle, “one of the best editors of his generation”, will “give young readers the confidence that writing “is like driving, in that it can be learnt”. Adults would also benefit from reading this “sparky, clever, but never intimidating” work.

The full list of Connell Publishing’s All You Need to Know guides, which includes works on Stalin, slavery, World War I, the Third Reich, and the British empire, can be found at allyouneedtoknowbooks.co.uk.