Billy Butlin, a Canadian born in 1899 in South Africa, first had the idea for his holiday camps between the wars. He noticed that in Britain it always rained, and yet families were locked out of their dismal boarding houses during the day and had absolutely nothing to do. 'Everyone has a right to leisure', he insisted, not only the idle rich, who anyway could always escape the downpours by travelling abroad.
The bear who liked a beer! Not forgetting a constipated llama, the giraffes who took a stroll through London and other astonishing tales from the world's most famous zoo
Isobel Charman's account of how London Zoo was founded in the 19th century is a very personal one, told through the eyes of seven of the people involved. First up is Sir Stamford Raffles, who, in 1824, returns to Britain from his role with the East India Company a broken man: four of his five children have died. The one thing keeping him going is the dream of founding a menagerie in London. His wife, Sophia, encourages this, knowing the pleasure Raffles got from their collection of animals in the East. The couple share 'joyful memories of their children playing with the young tigers in the nursery... how they had all traipsed through the aviary, dodging flapping wings and bullets of excrement'.
The poet and playwright Glyn Maxwell has taught at Princeton, Columbia and New York universities, and it is an imaginary poetry seminar that provides the framework for his latest book on the who, why and how of poetry. If you love poetry, you should read this. But if you think poetry is too hard, too boring, too old-school, then you must read it. It might just change the way you see the world.