Books 31 October 2013 Books in Brief: Catherine Merridale, Matthew Kneale and Chickenshed Theatre Three new books you may have missed. Print HTML Red Fortress: the Secret Heart of Russia’s History Catherine Merridale The Kremlin is more than just a place, writes Catherine Merridale: it is an idea. Created in the 12th century as a military fortress (much of the compound was designed by Italian architects), it has been a symbol of absolute power for the best part of 1,000 years. Its roles have included palace, religious centre, military operations hub and very centre of both monarchies and communism. Along the way, it has stored the Russian crown jewels and, in 1941, a cache of radium. In the minds of Russians and the rest of the world alike, the Kremlin is Russia in bricks and mortar. Allen Lane, 528pp, £30 An Atheist’s History of Belief Matthew Kneale Matthew Kneale is an atheist but not a militant one. In this unusual and personal history, he seeks not to disprove belief in its various forms but to discover why we believe and what has shaped those beliefs. He looks at the great faiths and at other, less numinous creeds, such as Marxism. Kneale is a former Man Booker Prizenominated novelist. He structures his book as a collection of stories, lucidly told. He is not interested in institutions but in religion as a fundamental need – it is, he argues, “humankind’s greatest imaginative project”. Bodley Head, 272pp, £16.99 Chickenshed: an Awfully Big Adventure Elizabeth Thomson The Chickenshed Theatre Company was founded in 1974 by Jo Collins, a musician and composer, and Mary Ward, a teacher and director, in the belief that everyone has a talent that can be put to good use. Their inclusive model has attracted support – both financial and moral – from Alan Bennett, Elaine Page and Guy Ritchie (“This is the England I want,” Ritchie has said). Their story is told in this celebratory coffee-table book, with spotlights on individual company members and an affectionate foreword by Judi Dench. Elliott & Thompson, 248pp, £25 › Bridget Jones has more vitality in one cuticle than James Bond does in his whole body Books on the beach in Sydney, Australia. Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images. Michael Prodger is an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman. He is an art historian, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Buckingham, and a former literary editor. Subscribe This article first appeared in the 23 October 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Russell Brand Guest Edit More Related articles Beautiful and the damned: a spellbinding oral history of Hollywood The Romanovs’ only loyalty was to absolute power Shylock Is My Name brings Shakespeare to the present – but is it too clever for its own good?