Two famous Englishmen, two hundred years or so apart, tried to emigrate to America and failed. One was Oliver Cromwell, who in 1634 found himself in so much debt that he sold up much of his property and decided to sail off to Connecticut for a life in the New World. Unfortunately, he was denied permission to leave England, and never got on the boat, leaving historians to wonder what would have happened (or wouldn’t have) had he been issued a passport. The other was Rudyard Kipling, who fared rather better.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, two Jewish cartoonists brought the term “graphic novel” to the mainstream. Will Eisner’s A Contract With God tells the story of poor Jewish immigrants in New York tenements while Art Spiegelman’s Maus depicts two storylines that center around the Holocaust. These books address heavy subjects and differ from the lighter fare in comic books, which are usually thinner, magazine-like publications. The term graphic novel has come to refer to non-fiction, not just fiction.

Most urban populations in the world are far removed from the unfolding and the consequences of global warming. Therefore, their reflections on global warming tend to revolve around corporate greed, economic policies and the nature of expectations people have from development. In her book, Caring for Glaciers: Land, Animals, and Humanity in the Himalayas, Karine Gagné turns to the community of elderly farmers and herders in Ladakh to understand how they make sense of the melting of the glaciers, a phenomenon directly visible to the people living there. She finds that their responses to questions about the melting of the glaciers invariably involve the words “One day the Pakistanis came …”.

French investigative journalist Roger Faligot has been writing about Chinese spying and intelligence for more than thirty years. His encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Communist China’s intelligence services is on full display in his book Chinese Spies, originally published in France in 2008 (and later updated in 2015) and now in an English translation by Natasha Lehrer.

Hagiography. What a fascinating word; at one time I thought the “hag” implied the study of witches! The word, which of course literally means “writings on [the lives of] saints”, has also taken on a pejorative meaning, in the sense that since saints are supposedly exceptionally good people, even considered “perfectly-formed at birth” as Alexander Gardner puts it, admiringly servile biographies which flatter exceptionally bad people or even mediocrities must also be hagiographies, because they make those people look like saints.