'Winning is everything', so they say. But actually second can be thrilling, intriguing, heroic and pure. You may not have heard of John Landy, Juerg Marmet or 'You Better Run', but that doesn't mean they're not worth knowing about. They are, respectively, the second man to run a sub-four-minute mile, the leader of the second team to conquer Everest, and the second video played on MTV. 'The Book of Seconds' will tell the stories of the nearly-men and nearly-women, not to mention the nearly-skyscrapers, nearly-moon missions, and nearly-whales: the people and things who until now have sat in the shadow of the firsts.