What the books are about

Breaking the Spell

Professor Dennett is a philosopher and an expert on consciousness who writes from the perspective of a Darwinian. I also need to put aside another of Dennett’s mostly irrelevant preoccupations in this otherwise carefully considered and nearly exhaustive examination of religion, namely that of the power of memes. Coined by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976), a meme is, on the one hand, a fancy word for ‘idea’ and the results of ideas, and on the other hand, a kind of cultural gene or virus that replicates itself through the activities of living things, especially humans. In other words, Dennett believes the term ‘meme’ can be extremely useful by helping us to understand cultural evolution.

Mr Dixon Disappears

Israel Armstrong, one of literature’s most unlikely detectives, returns for more sleuth-solving adventure in this hilarious second novel from The Mobile Library series. Mr Dixon Disappears once again features the magnificently hapless Armstrong — the young, Jewish, duffle-coat wearing librarian who solves crimes, mysteries, and domestic problems all whilst driving a mobile library around the coast of Northern Ireland. Dixon and Pickering’s, County Antrim’s legendary department store, is preparing to celebrate its centenary. But the elderly Mr Dixon — a member of the Ulster Association of Magicians — has gone missing, along with £100,000 in cash. It smells, pretty badly, of a kidnap. Israel becomes a suspect in the police investigation and is suspended from his job by his boss, the ever-fearsome Linda Wei. He’s having to fight to clear his name. Does Israel’s acclaimed five-panel touring exhibition showing the history of Dixon and Pickering’s in old photographs and artefacts perhaps hold the key to Mr Dixon’s mysterious disappearance?

The Case of the Missing Books

This title introduces Israel Armstrong, one of literature’s most unlikely detectives in the first of a series of novels from the author of the critically acclaimed Ring Road. Israel is an intelligent, shy, passionate, sensitive sort of soul: he’s Jewish; he’s a vegetarian; he could maybe do with losing a little weight. And he’s just arrived in Ireland to take up his first post as a librarian. But the library’s been shut down and Israel ends up stranded on the North Antrim coast driving an old mobile library. There’s nice scenery, but 15,000 fewer books than there should be. Who on earth steals that many books? How? When would they have time to read them all? And is there anywhere in this godforsaken place where he can get a proper cappuccino and a decent newspaper? Israel wants answers...

Muhammad: Prophet...

From the best-selling writer of The History of God and the widely acclaimed Islam — A Short History, comes Karen Armstrong’s Muhammad. Armstrong has become one of our most important and relevant commentators on religious world affairs today, consistently providing a scholarly but accessible approach to humanity’s relationships with God and religion. To date, there have been very few books written on the Islamic prophet of the religion that is followed by over the 1.2 billion Muslims who make up a fifth of the world’s population. Muhammad’s staggering achievements as a human being quite simply altered the course of history as we know it and continue to this day to inspire humanity.

The Prophet Muhammad

The Prophet Muhammad is a hero for all mankind. In his lifetime he established a new religion, Islam; a new state, the first united Arabia; and a new literary language, the classical Arabic of the Koran, for the Koran is believed to be the word of God revealed to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. A generation after his death he would be acknowledged as the founder of a world empire and a new civilisation. Any one of these achievements would have been more than enough to permanently establish his genius. To our early twenty-first century minds, what is all the more astonishing is that he also managed to stay true to himself and retained to his last days the humility, courtesy and humanity that he had learned as an orphan shepherd boy in central Arabia. If one looks for a parallel example from Christendom, you would have to combine the Emperor Constantine with St Francis and St Paul, an awesome prospect. Barnaby Rogerson’s elegant biography not only looks directly at the life of the Prophet Muhammad, but beautifully evokes for western readers the Arabian world into which he was born in 570 AD.