Bill McCann

Bill McCann


Li Zi Chuang

Lǐ Zì Chuǎng



























When history is forgotten, the future is lost.
  • Emperors of China
  • Blue Plaques
  • Catholic Popes
  • Shakespeare
  • Hallowe'en
  • Islam

The Emperors of China in a Nutshell

This series of books will cover the reigns of all the emperors of China from the semi-legendary Yellow Emperor (Huáng Dì) who reigned from 2627 to 2527 BC to the end of the Qing Dynasty in AD 1912.

The following Volumes are available:

Volume 1: From the Yellow Emperor to the Xia Dynasty.

Volume 2: The Shang Dynasty

Volume 3: The Zhou and Qin Dynasties



London's Blue Plaques in a Nutshell

Theatrical Plaques Musical Plaques Literary Plaques

London's Blue Plaques in fewer than 170 characters – including spaces! Never has a nutshell been bursting with such wisdom, humanity, dreams realised, and dreams dashed.
The heart of London's Blue Plaques in a Nutshell lies in the aphorism – a short, pithy summing up of essential facts. The life and achievements of the subject of each plaque is summarised in a number of  aphorisms, none of which contains more than 170 characters. Crammed into this nutshell you will find the character, achievements, peccadilloes and humanity of the great and good (and the not so great and not so good) who once lived and thrived in the great metropolis that is London.
The Blue Plaques have now become part of the tradition of London, but a very special part. They are an adventure. They can be a planned adventure or a rollercoaster of discovery where the shades of London's past are waiting around practically every corner of the metropolis to delight and inform you.
Part of the delight in walking the streets of London is the discovery of a Plaque on a house where someone famous once lived, and the sudden realisation that you are sharing a little bit of what was their daily view of the world. Less of a delight is the discovery of a plaque to someone whose name you are vaguely familiar with, but about whose life or achievements you can recall very little, or even nothing at all. Then there is the discovery of someone of whom you have never heard but who is tantalisingly briefly described on plaque itself.
Experiences such as these provide stimuli to discover more, but very often, by the time we get home and have been distracted by other things, the stimulus has lost much of its power. Even if we make the effort to go to a library, or search the internet, there is no guarantee that we will find all the relevant, or most interesting, information. This is where Blue Plaques in a Nutshell comes in.
This book is aimed at the habitué of London who walks the streets in fine weather or who sits on the top deck of a London bus on a rainy day, and at the tourist who tries to cram as much of London as possible into a short visit. It is designed to provide the essential information about each blue plaque instantly.
Indeed it does more than that. For the armchair traveller or historical explorer, it provides a handy and ready source of information on the doings and undoings of the almost 900 residents of London who have made significant contributions to the historical, cultural, scientific and economic development of the western world over the past six centuries.
Now revised updated in a series of lavishly illustrated individual volumes, the new edition includes all map and GPS coordinates to allow the modern traveller to precisely locate each plaque.

The following Volumes are available:

Volume 1: Theatrical Plaques

Volume 2: Musical Plaques

Volume 3:Literary Plaques


The Catholic Popes in a Nutshell

The Age of Persecutions The Age of Heresies The Coming of Age

The Catholic Church is the largest and oldest Christian Church. It is the fount from which the eastern Orthodox Churches and all Christian sects have sprung. It is impossible, absolutely impossible, to underestimate the influence of this Church on the birth and development of so-called Western civilisation and culture. One does not have to be a Catholic, or a Christian or, indeed, a believer in religion at all, to recognise this.
Western civilisation and culture are, of course, European civilisation and culture. And, despite its origins in first century Palestine, and despite its universality, the Catholic Church is a European Church at heart. Its centre has always been at Rome, the city it has done so much to build and beautify – and protect from outright destruction during the last dark days of the Second World War.
The social mores of Eurasia, much of Africa and the New World are ultimately based on the moral teachings developed in the first centuries of this Church. These years were not easy years, either in the doctrinal or the political sense, as we will see in the first couple of volumes of this series. The sufferings, spiritual, mental and physical, of the early Fathers of this Church are ill-repaid by the fierce, not to say vicious, anti-Catholic hostility that one still finds in some of the derivative Christian sects that owe their own moral and doctrinal foundations to those heroic souls.
The influence of this Church on the development of European history was unquestionably immense. It was the influence of the Catholic Church that dragged Europe from the age of lawless and barbaric tribes into the regulated and, at least relatively, more humane age of the kingdoms of Europe. It was Irish Catholic monks who preserved for us the writings, the learning and the teachings of the ancient Greeks and the Romans during the turbulent, frightening and almost catastrophic centuries of the so-called Dark Ages. Without these intellectual treasures, the glories of European culture and civilisation as we know them would have been impossible. Without these treasures, the Renaissance, that great outpouring of Thought, of Art, of Music, of Theatre, of Humanism and of Science would have been stillborn.
And without the Catholic Church the glories of Thought, of Literature, of Art, of Architecture, and of Music in particular, would have been impossible. Through her direct participation, indirect inspiration and, most especially, liberal patronage she bequeathed us those things that we now treasure as signifiers of an educated and cultural man. Without these we would not today be able to enjoy the visual masterpieces of Michelangelo or Caravaggio or Leonardo da Vinci, for example, nor could we enjoy the Masses of Haydn and Mozart, Handel's Messiah or the Requiems of Faure, Brahms, Berlioz or Verdi, to give but a very few examples of the huge musical debt European Culture owes to the Catholic Church.
Of course, the Catholic Church is a human institution and, like all human institutions, she has suffered, and suffers yet, from the whole kaleidoscope of human frailties, foibles and failings. To expect anything else would be unrealistic, to attempt to define the Church wholly in terms of those human weaknesses, as many in the sects that grew out of the Reformation still do, is utterly ridiculous.
If those frailties, foibles and failings are to be found in the men who nurtured, developed and governed the Catholic Church, then so too are the faith, fidelity and fearlessness without which no human undertaking can survive. Of those men, the most conspicuous have been the 266 Popes who have led the Catholic Church from its beginning in AD 32 to the present day.
It is with the lives and the deaths, the triumphs and the failures, the manipulations and the machinations, the sanctity and the hypocrisy of those 266 men that the present series of little books will deal. With them, and through them, we can distil into a nutshell the whole panorama of the development of the European moral, political and cultural order on which our modern Western world is built.

The following Volumes are available:

Volume 1: The Age of Persecutions

Volume 2: The Age of Heresies

Volume 3: The Coming of Age

Stories From Shakespeare

The present book is the first volume in each of two new additions to the Nutshell Books stable; The Nutshell Shakespeare and the Nutshell ESL Readers series.
The first three volumes in the Nutshell Shakespeare will present a retelling of the stories behind the plays; too many people, especially younger people, now find the language of the 16th. Century very difficult to understand and, as a result, the glories of Shakespeare remain a blank page to them. This first volume presents the stories behind the eleven Tragedies.
The approach to the story telling has not being to write a prose version of the plays, rather to write the stories as if they were the material on which the plays are based. The overall aim is to retain the core story, and the trajectory of the drama, without cluttering it with the theatrical necessities of sub-plots and minor characters.
The famous Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare, which was first published in 1807, presented the stories of twenty of the plays, especially written for children. Unfortunately, in the 21st. Century even the language of early 19th.Century England is difficult for many readers young and old today.
Whilst many native speakers find the language of Shakespeare, and even the 19th. Century, difficult to understand, it is more or less incomprehensible to learners of English as a second language. This is true not only of Shakespeare but of the folk-tales, fairy tales and nursery rhymes that underpin the native speaker's command of the language. The Nutshell ESL Readers Series is designed to provide these learners with accessible versions of these, and other, foundation texts.

Available Volumes:

Volume 1: The Tragedies.

Hallowe'en in a Nutshell

Since the last quarter of the twentieth century Hallowe'en has become big business – very big business. In the USA alone, more than $20 million dollars are spent every year on this annual celebration. Thanks to globalisation it is now celebrated even in the People's Republic of China, at least by the younger generations.
But what exactly are all of these people celebrating? What IS Hallowe'en? Ask anyone you meet in disguise on October 31st and they will m

utter some vague references to American traditions and witches and black cats and trick or treat.
In fact Hallowe'en has very ancient roots that have nothing at all to do with the USA and that have everything to do with the heritage of Europe. When we inquire into its history, and follow all the strands that are woven into this tapestry of ghosts and witches and black cats and tricks and pumpkins we discover much about the origins and development of the spiritual aspects of Western Civilisation.
This little book attempts to record the real story of Hallowe'en and show how it is intimately connected with one of the deepest obsessions of humankind.

Halloween ina Nutshell cover

Also available in a Kindle edition


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Islam in a Nutshell

To many Europeans, perhaps to a great many, Islam is something of a puzzle. In the news media and on the Internet they witness scenes of great piety during the hajj in Mecca, but also witness scenes of great barbarity in that same holy city itself and in other great cities and the deserts of Islam.
They can experience the glorious and highly sophisticated architectural, horticultural and culinary delights of Moorish Spain, but are then faced with evidence of corruption, depravity, and terrible slaughter within and by the Muslim communities in their own cities.
And now, in the 21st century fear and hatred have returned to the streets in the cities of Europe. Modern Europeans are themselves experiencing that hate and those fears that once stalked the pages of their mediaeval history. And they ask why?
This book seeks to understand Islam. Not to defeat it, but to answer the question – why? Is there anything in this religion that encourages the use of the barbaric violence that we are now witnessing in its name?
Its conclusions may anger some, and irritate others, but they should surprise no one.


Islam in a Nutshell cover

Also available in a kindle edition


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