Alan Bullock in Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives (Harper Collins, £20) has written one of the great historical works of the century. It was an idea of genius to trace the careers of those two ogres in alternate sections of this vast book which leaves one in no doubt about the power of personality and the gullibility of the masses — a terrifying story of evil, brilliantly told.
Not many people in the West, since T.E. Lawrence, are particularly fond of the Arabs. Albert Hourani's A History of the Arab Peoples (Faber, £25) may not change minds but at least explains why they have come to be what they are. It is a scholarly, illuminating and highly readable book.
Finally, on a lighter note, I commend for bedside reading Alan Watkins' blow by blow account of the fall of Mrs Thatcher — A Conservative Coup (Duckworth, £14.99) — not a dull page and some surprising revelations.