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The ultimate reading list, created by librarians

At this year’s UKSG conference we asked our librarian delegates to help us build the perfect library by answering one simple question: which one book couldn’t you live without? Whilst the instructions were straightforward – write your chosen title on one of our book stickers and stick it on our bookshelf – the question itself proved challenging for the majority of our exceptionally well-read participants.

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Yeats, Kipling, and ‘fin-de-siècle malaise’

‘I don’t like disparagement of the Nineties,’ W.B. Yeats told the Oxford classicist Maurice Bowra towards the end of his life. ‘People have built up an impression of a decadent period by remembering only, when they speak of the Nineties, a few writers who had tragic careers. They do this because those writers were confined within the period’. But, as Yeats explained, those who survived the decade and ‘lived to maturity’ were the principal authors today. ‘The Nineties was in reality a period of very great vigour,’ he concluded, ‘thought and passion were breaking free from tradition.’

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Yorkshire: the birthplace of film?

Any assertions of ‘firsts’ in cinema are open invitations to rebuttal, but the BBC has recently broken news of a claim that the West Yorkshire city of Leeds was in fact film’s birthplace. Louis Le Prince, a French engineer who moved to Leeds in 1866, became one of a number of late 19th-century innovators entering the race to conceive, launch, and patent moving image cameras and projectors.

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Hey everybody! Meet Yasmin!

Please welcome another newbie to the Social Media team at Oxford University Press, Yasmin Coonjah, who joined the gang in May 2015 as an OUPblog Editor and Social Media Marketing Assistant!

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Speak of the Devil: Satan in imaginative literature

Al Pacino is John Milton. Not John Milton the writer of Paradise Lost, although that is the obvious in-joke of the movie The Devil’s Advocate (1997). No, this John Milton is an attorney and — in what thus might be another obvious in-joke — he is also Satan, the Prince of Darkness. In the movie, he hires a fine young defense attorney, Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves), and offers him an escalating set of heinous — and high-profile — cases to try, a set of ever-growing temptations if you will. What will happen to Kevin in the trials to come?

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Hey everybody! Meet Dan!

Please welcome another newbie to the Social Media team at Oxford University Press, Dan Parker, who joined the gang in May 2014 as the new UK OUPblog editor and Social Media Marketing Executive. He has been working at OUP since February 2012. You can learn more about Dan below

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Which book changed your life?

We’re continuing our examination of what a book is this week, following the cultural debate that the Amazon-Hachette dispute has set off, with something a little closer to our hearts. We’ve compiled a brief list of books that changed the lives of Oxford University Press staff. Please share your books in the comments below.

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The amoeba in the room

By Nicholas P. Money
The small picture is the big picture and biologists keep missing it. The diversity and functioning of animals and plants has been the meat and potatoes of most natural historians since Aristotle, and we continue to neglect the vast microbial majority.

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How to stop looking for a French Michelangelo

By Phillip John Usher
British comedian Eddie Izzard — known for his Francophilia and for performing standup in French and in France — once made a quip during a show in New York that at first seemed rather Franco-sceptic: why, he asked, do we talk about the “Renaissance” using a word of French origin when France itself had no such moment of Re-birth?

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To memorize or not to memorize

I have a confession to make: I have a terrible memory. Well, for some things, anyway. I can name at least three movies and TV shows that Mary McDonnell has been in off the top of my head (Evidence of Blood, Donnie Darko, Battlestar Galactica), and rattle off the names of the seven Harry Potter books, but you take away that Beethoven piano score that I’ve been playing from since I was 14, and my fingers freeze on the keyboard.

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The curious appeal of Alice

By Peter Hunt
The recent appearance of Fifty Shades of Alice, which is (I am told) about a girl who follows a vibrating white rabbit down a hole, made me reflect, not for the first time, that children’s literature is full of mysteries.

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The Oxford Companion to the London 2012 Opening Ceremony

Many questioned how the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games Opening Ceremony was going to make a mark after the spectacular Beijing Olympics only four years earlier. While Beijing presented the Chinese people moving as one body — dancing, marching, and presenting a united front to the world — the British answer was a chaotic and spirited ceremony, shifting from cricket matches to coordinated dance routines, Mr Bean’s comedic dream to a 100-foot Lord Voldemort.

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Enid Blyton

Happy Birthday Enid Blyton! This giant of children’s literature was born on 11 August 1897. To celebrate, here is an edited extract from the Enid Blyton entry by David Rudd in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature edited by Jack Zipes (© Oxford University Press 2006).

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What Makes a Hero?

The latest edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, published on 27 May, includes a special focus on people remembered for acts of civilian heroism. Here, Philip Carter, one of the ODNB’s editors, considers what these and other lives tell us about changing attitudes to popular heroism over the last 250 years.

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