Did you know that if you rest on your laurels, you're imitating a complacent Roman general? If you eavesdrop, you're likely to get wet? If you're taken aback, you should, strictly speaking, be a sailing ship? Lots of fun questions like that are answered here, not to mention why turkeys sometimes need to be cold and how pies came to be humble.
Michael O'Mara Books
An easy five stars. A guide for booklovers, booktrailers and book people of all kinds who love to delve deeper into books and the lives of writers. The classics are all here such as Dickens and Chaucer but this book brings you Zadie Smith and more modern tales and the mix is simply divine. There's so much to see and do and it would be wonderful to do this trail for real. ***** review on Amazon
A lovely book for browsing. Beautifully written and illustrated. ***** review on Amazon
My first fully illustrated book - ‘brought to life by colour destination photographs and illustrations from the British Library’s collection’, as the blurb says. Also my first to boast a foreword by Tracy Chevalier, which is a real honour.
Exploring gardens, monuments, museums and churches, with walks both urban and rural, the book takes you on an evocative tour of the UK’s literary sites and landscapes. These are the real-life settings of fantastical worlds, the places that inspired our best-loved stories, and, of course, their authors’ favourite writing spots. Start with Chaucer, Dickens and Larkin in Westminster Abbey. Spend an afternoon at Colliers Wood Nature Reserve in Nottinghamshire and take in the lake D. H. Lawrence described as ‘all grey and visionary, stretching into the moist, translucent vista of trees and meadow’. Venture south to the Cornwall
of Poldark and Daphne du Maurier and work your way up to the Scottish Highlands with Macbeth, taking detours to Northern Ireland in the west and Norfolk in the east. Wherever you are in the United Kingdom, you’re never far from something associated with a good book.
The British Library
Reading this was like selecting chocolates from a deluxe box, perhaps decorated with gold leaf... An absolute delight. ***** review on Amazon
If you’re looking for a gift for that someone who is hard to buy for and loves the English language / literature/ and loves new things - this is perfect. ***** review on Amazon
Lovely little read and great conversation starter, I make sure it's front and centre of the kallax! ***** review on Amazon
Crestfallen at chicanery and circumlocution? Have no truck with tomfoolery and twaddle? Or omniscient about obloquies and opsimaths?
Whether you answered ‘Yes,’, ‘No’ or ‘Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that’, this could be the book for you. It offers words that flow exquisitely off the tongue, or are just fun to say, like liquefaction or luxuriate. Words that sound clever (deuteragonist, anyone?) or are perfect for their meaning, like the heavy-sounding galumph. In other words, it’s a book to delight bibliophiles and blatherskites alike.
‘As a record of what it was like to be a child at that time, Wartime Summer is unbeatable.’ Daily Mail
We take summer holidays for granted but, back in the 1940s, the picture was very different. War had gripped Britain. Wave after wave of bombs fell, beaches were closed off, and petrol was rationed by the forbidding question, 'Is your journey really necessary?' Following on from my Christmas at War, here are more first-hand, eyewitness stories of what summer was like when you were encouraged to take your holidays in your own back yard and when fish-paste sandwiches and some berries from the hedgerows were the height of picnic luxury.
Sometimes tragic, occasionally hilarious, always touching, it shows British civilians soldiering on as only they knew how.
John Blake Books
Thirty-five multiple-choice quizzes to help you build your vocabulary (or to show off how good it is already). With words ranging from abject to zombie and categories from Words from French to Words that Express Disapproval (always fun, those), there's lots of opportunity to learn new words, resolve confusions and pick up a little etymology. And, as with most of my books, there's a fair bit of trivia thrown in along the way.
Michael O’Mara Books
‘Enthralling…Taggart supplies just the right amount of background information, before allowing the people who were there to speak for themselves.’ Reader’s Digest
‘Interviews with people who were actually there at the time make Caroline Taggart's book both hard-hitting and nostalgic in a good way…a true eye-opener.’ readersfirst.co.uk
‘…an important book in that it is a lasting resource of the memories of those who have contributed to it .’ 5-star review on Amazon
‘What a treasure of a book!’ 5-star review on Amazon
No turkey. No fruit to make a decent pudding. No money for presents. Your children away from home to keep them safe from bombing; your husband, father and brothers off fighting goodness knows where. How in the world do you celebrate Christmas?
That was the situation facing the people of Britain for six long years during the Second World War. For some of them, Christmas was an ordinary day: they couldn’t afford merrymaking - and had little to be merry about. Others, particularly those with children, did what little they could.
These first-hand reminiscences tell of making crackers with no crack in them and shouting ‘Bang!’ when they were pulled; of carol-singing in the blackout, torches carefully covered so that no passing bombers could see the light, and of the excitement of receiving a comic, a few nuts and an apple in your Christmas stocking. They recount the resourcefulness that went into makeshift dinners and hand-made presents, and the generosity of spirit that made having a happy Christmas possible in appalling conditions.
John Blake Publishing
From There’s husbandry in heaven (a sophisticated thing to say on a dark night) to Be a bush if you can’t be a tree (encouraging someone to make the most of their talents), this is a collection of some of the wisest and wittiest quotations we should all have at our fingertips. Whether you want inspiration from Maya Angelou, smart-aleckery from Dorothy Parker or a seductive line from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, here are hundreds of great lines to work into your conversation.
Michael O’Mara Books
‘Very enjoyable, lots of fun facts…an excellent way to tell history!’ donnasbookblog
‘…written in a charming way, never too heavy, but full of detail. This is a book to have near you at all times. It will tempt you to go and see places you have never visited before or to return to known venues with fresh knowledge.’ 5-star review on Amazon from breakawayreviewers.co.uk
Most of us are fascinated by royalty, past and present. Whether glamorous or sordid, merrie or morose, our monarchs and their families have led lives very different from ours - and all too often they’ve held the Fate of the Nation in the palms of their hands. They’ve married for diplomatic reasons and created diplomatic incidents when they divorced. They’ve waged war against their neighbours and their cousins; built frivolous summer palaces and formidable fortresses (and imprisoned their cousins in them). In so doing, they’ve left their mark all over Great Britain, in castles and churches, on battlefields and stained glass windows. Their stories are written all across our landscape, if we know where to look for them.
And that’s just what I’ve done in this book - gone looking. I’ve been to Bosham where Canute failed to hold back the sea, to Boscobel, where Charles II hid in an oak tree and Bannockburn, where the Scots hammered the English in a battle Edward II would have preferred to forget. And that’s only the Bs...
‘As always with Caroline Taggart, this is both informative and entertaining.’ 5-star review on Amazon
Continuing my misadventures with the English language, I try to address one of the big problems with punctuation: that all too often we’re told it can be left to our own judgement. But if we’ve never been taught the difference between a colon and a semicolon, or where those wretched apostrophes go, frankly what is the use of that?
If you’re not confident about throwing punctuation marks around willy-nilly (or should that be willy nilly?), this book is for you.
Michael O’Mara Books
978-1-78243-820-5also available as an ebook: 978-1-78243-821-2
‘A lovely collection of witty essays on English usage.’ Haggard Hawks Words (@HaggardHawks)
‘The perfect gift for anyone who speaks English!’ Lancashire Evening Post
Last Christmas my sister gave me a mug that said, ‘I am silently correcting your grammar.’ She thought, for some reason, that it might amuse my friends. I was in the throes of writing this book at the time, and was listening even more obsessively than usual to the way people express themselves. In the course of my research I heard howling errors of grammar in BBC documentaries and discovered truly inventive ways that the young use to express themselves in txtspk. I discovered foreign words that we really really need in English: one of my favourites is the Japanese tsundoku, literally ‘reading pile’, the result of buying books and not reading them - with, presumably, associated guilt. And I became hot under the collar about modern gobbledygook along the lines of new technologies and social media that permit ‘tremendous outreach to the global public’ (whatever that means).
So this book is part a guide to some of the more confusing aspects of grammar and punctuation; part a rant against jargon and sloppiness; and part a celebration of the sheer joyousness that (sometimes) goes into the English language.
Michael O’Mara Books
‘Her Ladyship again offers profound advice to the tongue tied and socially unsure.’ Review on Twitter
‘One of those dinky little hardbacks that fits nicely into a pocket, and makes a good present. If you’re one of those people who never know what to say to strangers, this could come in very handy.’ Magnet
From parties and dates to interviews, business lunches and online encounters, the potential pitfalls of meeting people and not knowing what to say are many. Her Ladyship offers guidance on the essentials of good conversation in any social situation, including: how to avoid awkward silences, what to say (and not to say) on formal occasions; graceful ways to end a boring conversation; and how to be entertaining without oversharing.
A fun addition to the Her Ladyship series, with a gorgeous new style of cover. The earlier titles have all been reissued with covers in this style - scroll down the page and look out for my favourite Her Ladyship’s Guide to Greeting the Queen with lots of little corgis!
The paperback version of As Right as Rain, which various kind people on Amazon have described as super interesting, cool and informative. It’s about what the various bizarre expressions we all use every day mean and where they come from - just the ticket for any Tom, Dick or Harry with a love of the spoken word.
Michael O’Mara Books
ePub format: 978-1-78243-093-3
Mobipocket format 978-1-78243-094-0
One of the Guardian’s stocking-filler books of the year 2015
‘Friendly yet informative.’ Best of British magazine
‘Fascinating and enlightening. A compelling compendium of extraordinary etymological delights.’ Lancashire Evening Post
The English language is a versatile and agile thing. When we need a word for something new - television, for example, or aspirin - we are pretty good at inventing them. But sometimes we take an easier route and adopt or adapt existing terms. New Words for Old follows this intriguing route, tracing the development of red from the days when it simply referred to a colour, and web when it was something spiders made, and considering what happened when we put advertisement and editorial and emotion and icon together to form an advertisement disguised as an editorial feature (advertorial) and an icon that helped to convey the writer’s feelings (emoticon).
‘...particularly helpful for words that are similar or often confused... interspersed with witty asides. An essential book for word lovers.’ Tim Graham, Good Reading magazine, Australia
‘As a graduate linguist, I found this to be a refreshing and intriguing book and I would recommend it to everyone, particularly those doing English A-Level or above.’ *****review on Amazon
‘A perfect present for students and a great book to put in the Christmas stocking!’ *****review on Amazon
‘Bought as a present and I wish I’d had one in my youth.’ *****review on Amazon
Want to ameliorate your atavistic lexicon, indulge in a little badinage or sound as if you were one of cognoscenti? Then indulge yourself in this cornucopia of words you probably know but aren’t quite sure how to use (kudos, nemesis), words you might like to know (callipygian, shibboleth) or words that just roll beautifully round the tongue (truculent, rambunctious, perspicacious).
‘A witty, no-nonsense approach to better English,’ the publishers say! This little book contains a lot of things you need to know about English but were afraid to ask, including clarification of all that fuss about I and me, less and fewer, who’s and whose. It seems to have become fashionable lately to say that lots of the rules are out of date and that what most people say can’t be wrong; what I’ve tried to do in this book is explain the rules and express an opinion on when they matter and when they don’t. Then you can break them or not, just as you choose.
‘...a very funny and also useful book that will be a godsend for any young person about to strike out into society who needs to know the do’s and don’ts of life. From how to behave at work to how to deal with unwanted admirers, it's a brilliant little book that would make a fun birthday or leaving home gift.’ ***** review on Amazon
Despite the change of title, this is another in my ‘Her Ladyship’ series, this time on everything from basic good manners to entertaining or being entertained by the Queen. It deals with what to wear to a garden party (whether at Buckingham Palace or your next-door neighbour’s house); how to descend from a carriage elegantly or, should your carriage be unavailable, use public transport with good grace; and the vexed question of how to make your guests go home when they look as if they are going to stay all night.
‘Engaging, greedy and droll’ Bee Wilson in the Sunday Times
‘A rich and intriguing history of rivalries, passions and genius.’ Rose Prince
‘A wonderful account of where our beloved British bakes came from.’ Edd Kimber, winner of The Great British Bake Off
‘A delight - fruity, spicy, seasoned and well presented.…This is a cut and come again book - you read it once from cover to cover and then return to try the recipes.’ Amazon review
This is ‘the cake book’ that I’ve been talking about for so long. It’s a travel book with recipes, taking me round the country from Cornish Cream Teas to Aberdeen Butteries (with Bath Buns, Welsh Cakes, Eccles Cakes and Grantham Gingerbread in between), investigating the British teatime treats that have largely been knocked off the plate by the muffins and pains au chocolat of coffee-shop culture. The blurb describes it as ‘a glorious and gluttonous celebration of our traditional teatime fare’.
For many years, the Season was an excuse for young ladies to dash from one select social event to another in pursuit of an eligible husband. Nowadays marriage may not be the priority, but the events - from the Chelsea Flower to Cowes, from Glorious Goodwood to Glyndebourne - still exist and can be a social minefield for the uninitiated. Who better to guide you through than Her Ladyship?
‘Taggart’s conversational style is well judged, and her research superb.’ londonist.com
‘If you love London you'll love this book. If only History at school was like this book!’ ***** review on Amazon
Ever wondered if Cheapside is really cheap, what you do in Threadneedle Street, or who the knights of Knightsbridge were? Take a trip down narrow lanes, through cobbled streets and crowded markets to discover the meanings behind their names. Following last year’s Book of English Place Names, this cheerful book, with its frequent digressions into the gossipy side of London’s history, will enable you to see our capital city in a new light.
‘...tongue-in-cheek funny & great fun. it's going to make the perfect birthday gift for some of my girl friends!’ ***** review on Amazon
Following the success of her Guide to the Queen’s English, Her Ladyship moves into Mrs Beeton territory with this inimitable guide for the modern household manager. Whether it is planning a dinner party or sorting out domestic storage, cleaning up spilt wine or finding an au pair who won’t send your heating bills through the roof, Her Ladyship’s wit and wisdom will help you run your home with a minimum of angst.
Have you ever been embarrassed by not knowing the answer to something that seems absolutely basic? By not being sure what a prime number is or the difference between climate and weather or the Incas and the Aztecs? If so, this is the book for you.
Michael O’Mara Books
I Used to Know That is the most successful book I have written, so here is an activity book based on all the painful memories it awoke: Pythagoras’ theorem, punctuation problems, the half-life of plutonium and who wrote Wuthering Heights. But fear not: it doesn’t have to be painful (unless you want it to be): the answers are all there at the back of the book.
Michael O’Mara Books
An illuminating and funny look at why we say some of the things we say in management, marketing, IT and other aspects of business. If you have ever wondered whether you have hit the glass ceiling or become bogged down in the marzipan layer, what to do about the elephant in the room or if a cubicle monkey will respond to mushroom management, this is the book for you.
Michael O’Mara Books
‘This amiable volume’ Guardian
‘Will enliven a journey through even the dullest parts of the country’ Lonely Planet
‘Informative and interesting. Quite a history lesson in the origins of the place names! Great fun looking up places of special interest or just looking at random.’ ***** review on Amazon.co.uk
Working round England region by region, the book uncovers the rich history behind our place names, from legends of giants to long-forgotten Saxon chiefs whose names are still enshrined in the places they ruled. Some place names merely tell us that the place was built on a hill or by a babbling brook; one suggests that there used to be goblins here and another is inspired by Baghdad, but all have a story to tell.
A light-hearted guide to all the those things that are half floating around in the back of your mind: how photosynthesis works, what quadratic equations are and the names of Henry VIII’s six wives, not to mention inertia, the continents of the world, the plots of David Copperfield and Jane Eyre, the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Wonders of the World, Roman numerals, the works of Bach and Michelangelo and the value of pi.
Michael O’Mara Books
As spin-offs from this title (not written by me but with me as Series Editor), there are five individual-subject titles:English by Patrick Scrivenor, History by Emma Marriott, Geography by Will Williams, General Science by Marianne Taylor and Maths by Chris Waring
Ideal for those who can’t tell when a sentence contains more clichés than they have had hot dinners, don’t know if a preposition is a bad thing to end a sentence with and are unable to immediately spot a split infinitive.
Remind yourself what an adverb is and why you should be wary of dangling modifiers.
Michael O’Mara Books
Also still available as a hardback at £9.99
Proverbs are pithy, well-known sayings that offer advice, encouragement or warning. Yet they are often used without any thought being given to their origins, meaning or usefulness. Do (or should that be ‘does?’) early to bed and early to rise really make a man healthy, wealthy and wise? Is the grass genuinely always greener on the other side of the fence? And who says that beauty is in the eye of the beholder? Find the answers to all these questions and more.
‘The author makes reading a pleasure.’ ***** review on Amazon
Latin? Greek? Why should we care about them? Well, in the 21st-century Western world, classical influences are all around us. Our language is full of references to Herculean tasks and the Midas touch, while any civic building that looks serious and important is likely to be in a ‘classical’ style. The Greeks invented most of maths and philosophy as we know it - all bona fide reasons why we should still take note of them.
From the Bible to the popular song, via Shakespeare, advertising slogans and political campaigning, we seem always to have used questions that neither seek nor require an answer. This book turns that idea on its head by providing answers to such puzzlers as Is the Pope a Catholic?, Can the leopard change his spots?, What does a woman want? and What’s new, Pussycat?
Michael O’Mara Books
There’s no getting away from it, English is full of pitfalls. Many of us weren’t even taught ‘correct’ English at school. Fortunately, Her Ladyship is on hand to help out. She takes readers gently by the hand and leads them through the minefield of basic grammar, confusibles and problems of spelling, pronunciation and social intercourse.