The Secret Life of Books: Series Two

Discover The Secret Life of Books in this second series getting behind the pages of six more books.

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There are some novels, poems and works of non-fiction that are so important that they become more than just literature – they define their age in a way that history books never can, and have shaped the imagination of Britain.

This second series of The Secret Life of Books tells the story of six more key masterpieces, showing just why they are still so vital.

Amongst the eclectic mix are a memoir of drug addiction, an epic Elizabethan poem, a collection of nonsense verse, a Victorian classic, a children’s adventure tale, and a nostalgic hymn to rural life.

The presenters include legendary punk poet, John Cooper Clarke; actor and director Fiona Shaw; undisputed national treasure, Nicholas Parsons; novelist and sharp-eyed observer of provincial life, Joanna Trollope; former political journalist, John Sergeant; and cultural historian Dr Nina Ramirez.

As part of a journey that takes them across the length and breadth of the British Isles, each presenter goes back to the original manuscript or rare first edition of their chosen book to unwrap its hidden history and explore why it was of such importance in its time – and why it continues to matter today.

The books in this series

Find out which six books were featured in the first series of The Secret Life of Books.

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The Faerie Queene

Dr Nina Ramirez with manuscripts from the Faerie Queene Copyrighted image Copyright: © BBC Dr Nina Ramirez unravels Edmund Spenser's Elizabethan epic poem The Faerie Queene to reveal how this fantasy world of elves, nymphs, and questing knights was written in the midst of the brutal Tudor occupation of Ireland and how the writer's growing disillusionment with the conflict was coded into the poem's restless verse. 

This episode firsts broadcasts on Tuesday 13 October 2015 at 8.30pm on BBC FourMore information and a link to watch again later will be available from the BBC programme page.

Episodes in this series

Episode Description
Swallows and Amazons 6 of 6: Explore the secret life of Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons with John Sergeant. Read more
Cider With Rosie 5 of 6: Uncover the secret life of Laurie Lee's rural world with Joanna Trollope. Read more
Confessions of an English Opium-Eater 4 of 6: John Cooper Clarke explores Thomas de Quincey’s memoirs of addiction. Read more
The Mill on the Floss 3 of 6: Fiona Shaw discovers the scandal behind George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss. Read more
Edward Lear's Nonsense Songs 2 of 6: Edward Lear's reconstruction of poetry is explored by Nicholas Parsons. Read more
The Faerie Queene 1 of 6: Discover the secret life of Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene with Janina Ramirez. Read more