Jay Parini

Wire Power

The Men Who United the States: The Amazing Stories of the Explorers, Inventors and Mavericks Who Made America

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William Collins 463pp £25 order from our bookshop

Simon Winchester is one of those quintessentially British writers who will go anywhere, literally and figuratively. He is perhaps most famous for his bestselling The Professor and the Madman, a wholly original and compulsively readable book in which he explored the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. But he has also, in the course of many decades as a journalist and writer of nonfiction books, walked around Korea on foot, studied the violence of the Balkans up close and sat in prison in Argentina at the time of the Falkland mayhem of 1982

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