The writer of an official history faces multiple dilemmas. Should the history be focused narrowly upon the institution, or seek to place the institution within some wider context? Should the institution's archives dictate the shape of the history, or should a broader range of original sources be consulted? Above all, should the history be sanitised and celebratory or frank and critical?
My Happiness reads very much like a journey of discovery. Can you say something about your own journey in writing it?
Taha Muhammad Ali's poetry was what sent me out on this trail: when I first encountered it, through my husband Peter Cole's translations, like thousands of other readers I was immediately fascinated by its humanity, wisdom, humour, vital music and rich relationship to place - a place, I should say, that both is and isn't the place I also call home.
While some of his fellow MPs were busy racking up expenses, Michael Meacher was preoccupied with astronomical figures of a different kind, such as the rate of expansion of the universe, or its temperature moments after the Big Bang.
The veteran left-winger, who entered the Commons 40 years ago last month, has written a book, whose title, boldly alluding to Darwin, proclaims its intellectual ambition. The product of 15 years' work on and off, it asks the question: is there a purpose to the universe or are we all here by chance?
By Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman Princeton University Press, £20.95
For a biography of a man who never went to war, never ran for public office, never endangered his health with drugs or alcohol, never indulged a passion for fast women, but mostly taught religion and, before that, dreamed of being an engineer, The Rebbe tells an at times riveting story. The question is whether it is an entirely true story.
By Vasily Grossman (Trans: Robert and Elizabeth Chandler) Harvill Secker, £16.99
As a war reporter accompanying the Red Army during its pyrrhic victory over the invading German forces, Vasily Grossman was present at the siege of Stalingrad. He also witnessed the consequences of the Holocaust at Treblinka. What he saw became the source material for his masterpiece Life and Fate, a novel which, in terms of its theme, scope and humanity, is not unreasonable to compare with War and Peace.
How can Holocaust survivors talk about their experience? This is the question at the heart of Yann Martel's new book. That, and: how do you follow your first novel when that was a prize-winning, stonking great hit?
Was France's greatest leader of the 20th century antisemitic? The question hangs over Charles de Gaulle 40 years after his death. It is easy to reach such a conclusion of a man who spoke at a press conference in the Élysée Palace in 1967 of Jews as an "elite people, domineering and sure of themselves" who, once they had gathered in a state, were destined to show "burning and conquering ambition". But, after studying the question while writing a new biography of the General, I think the verdict should be more nuanced.