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The best reads that have landed on our desks this week

Published on November 1st 2011.


Conspiracy Theories: A Critical Introduction by Jovan Byford

Byford introduces the continued importance of understanding conspiracy theories by initially familiarizing his readers with the beliefs of Augustine Barruel (1799), Winston Churchill (1920), Senator Joseph McCarthy (1967) and Mahathir Mohammad (2010). He projects the idea that such theories are an important and significant aspect of civilization, that people have grown accustomed to the notion that historical and political events have at times been subjected to the secret intentions of small yet powerful groups of people.

Byford leads us to the popular assertion that today we live in an ‘age of conspiracism’ (Alter, 1997) and in doing so he sets up his critical introduction so that it outlines the most common arguments, rather than simply his own. From this point onwards, the reader is blessed with a sense of confidence that he or she can venture into the rest of the book with the contractions of the nature of conspiracy theories already in place. The introduction claims the need for such theories to address everyday concerns and word wide anxieties and the reader cannot help but grant the right straight away.

Whilst highlighting the idea that society has become prone to fits of paranoia, Byford uses such a theory to his benefit by associating the importance of conspiracy theories with the overshadowing impact of ‘an election result, economic figure, death of a public figure, terrorist attack, natural disaster, plane crash, political assassination, military conflict, meteorological anomaly or flu pandemic’. He proceeds to outline what the book does not aim to do before welcomingly stating that the chapters will revolve around six fundamental questions in order to ‘cut to the core of conspiracy theories as a global, social, cultural phenomenon’ and ‘deconstruct their logic.’

He analyses the questions so that they provide a broader scope to the nature of conspiracy theories in modern society. Anyone who is familiar with Derrida might shudder at the promise of deconstruction, however be rest assured that Byford is not trying to outsmart his readers with convoluted intellectual jibberish. Rather, he is explaining the necessity of understanding the nature of conspiracy theories in the world we live in today, particularly in terms of style, tradition and persistence. He boldly asks whether such theories are necessarily ‘bad’ and provides a well-rounded outlook with a consideration of consequences as well as just causes.

Released 12 October 2012 and available at Amazon.co.uk


Shakespeare Thefts Cover

The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios by Eric Rasmussen

The Shakespeare Thefts is the exciting account of Eric Rasmussen and his bizarre expedition around the world, meeting interesting and eccentric people in order to uncover and record Shakespeare’s infamous missing First Folio’s, published in 1623. These first edition collected works are one of the most valuable collection of books in the world, with originally 160 First Folio’s listed in 1902, fouteen were stolen and only two of these have been found.

As the book unfolds, the reader is reminded of the rarity of the First Folio and its vast social importance, for example without these we would have never had plays such as The Tempest and Twelfth Night. Rasmussen delves deep into Shakespeare’s private life, investigating strange occurrences, educating the reader with the stories involving each copy of the Folio, especially the more complicated and violent cases, for example the censoring of the Folio’s, the destruction of some and the large amount that are stained with a curious red substance. The author also looks into the life of the Earl of Pembroke, who is said to be Shakespeare’s boyfriend, to whom the First Folio is in fact dedicated to.  

Rasmussen’s creation has a mixture of detective elements, alongside a wide knowledge of Shakespearian history. There have always been exciting myths and stories involving Shakespeare for centuries and Shakespeare Thefts does not disappoint. With the authors hunt for Folio’s that may have illegitimate owners or a secret past, we are given many accounts of numerous thefts and inaccessible copies in the hands of unconventional billionaires and fantastic anecdotes. The Shakespeare Thefts unearths some of the thrilling secrets of one of the most desired collection of books in the world.

Released 10 November 2011 and available on Palgrave Macmillan’s website


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