Books

A ‘nurse log’ — a tree stump in which a seed has germinated, thereby avoiding browsing herbivores and the overshading of undergrowth. From Uncommon Ground by Dominick Tyler

Fizmer, feetings, flosh, blinter - enjoy these words and forget them immediately, advises Adam Nicolson

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Wolfsnow is a dangerous blizzard at sea; slogger the sucking sound made by waves against a ship’s sides; ammil the sparkle of morning sunlight through hoar-frost; af’rug the reflection of a wave after it has struck the shore; blinter is… Read more

French mathematician Cedric Villani Photo: Getty

How could anyone enjoy Cédric Villani’s ‘Birth of a Theorem’? I think I’ve worked it out

Books

Alexander Masters finds a great mathematician’s ‘popular’ book impenetrable from page four

Sonic Youth in happier days in 2003. Left to right: Lee Ranaldo, Jim O’Rourke, Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley

Sonic Youth turns sour: a tarnished marriage band

Books

Tracey Thorn is surprised that Kim Gordon, once the embodiment of cool, should be sounding off so publicly about her husband’s infidelity

Kazuo Ishiguro Photo: Getty

Ogres, pixies, dragons, goblins... Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel in ten years is a strange beast indeed

Books

James Walton, reviewing The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro finds it more admirable than enjoyable

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Reading one book from every country in the world sounds like fun - until you come to North Korea

Books

A review of Reading the World by Ann Morgan finds a year-long blog also makes a brilliant, unlikely book

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Michael Arditti is the Graham Greene of our time

Books

A review of Michael Arditti’s Widows and Orphans suggests that we are all waifs and strays now in our broken society

Portrait of Lord Dufferin, 1893

The first Lord Dufferin: the eclipse of a most eminent Victorian

Books

A review of the Lost Imperialist by Andrew Gailey wonders how Queen Victoria’s distinguished proconsul, who met everyone from Sitting Bull to Bismarck, could have slipped so far into oblivion

After the driverless car — will airplanes be next?

Don’t buy The Glass Cage at the airport if you want a restful flight, warns Will Self

Books

Will Self,  reviewing Nicholas Carr’s The Glass Cage, predicts the inexorable rise of the computer in a defiantly soulless society

Gillray’s satirical etching of 1795 entitled ‘The Zenith of French Glory — The Pinnacle of Liberty. Religion, Justice, Loyalty and all the Bugbears of Unenlightened Minds, Farewell!’

The revolutionaries behind the Reign of Terror were themselves living permanently in terror, says Ruth Scurr

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For his holiday reading in the summer of 1835, the literary and political journalist John Wilson Croker packed the printed lists of those condemned to death during the Reign of Terror in revolutionary France. The several thousand guillotined in Paris… Read more

Poster for an exhibition of Mayakovsky’s works, 1930

A Futurist in despair: Vladimir Mayakovsky shot himself aged 36, appalled by the hollow slogans of Stalinism

Books

A review of Mayakovsky by Bengt Jangfeldt reveals how the great avant-garde Russian poet lost his voice to Soviet doublespeak

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With suicide a dominant theme, Nobody is Ever Missing is a misery novel which still manages to be funny

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Nobody is Missing by Catherine Lacey, a novel of extremes about a woman on the very edge, is a stylish rendering of acute suffering

Isaak Israelevich Brodsky’s depiction of the execution of the ‘26 Martyrs’, painted in 1925 and already the stuff of Soviet legend

From Reggie to Ronnie: the intriguing story of the British Intelligence officer who changed his name and vanished from view for 70 years

Books

A review of Most Secret Agent of Empire by Taline Ter Minassian explores the lengths one British spy went to to avoid the long arm of Soviet vengeance

Elvis

Music’s unsung heroes: we owe a debt of gratitude to the passionate talent-spotters who actually discover the stars

Books

A review of Cowboys and Indies by Gareth Murphy pays tribute to the men behind the scenes in the music industry

Emer O'Toole on This Morning showing off her pits

Emer O’Toole is a joyless bore compared with my heroine Caitlin Moran, says Julie Burchill

Books

In a review of Girls will be Girls by Emer O’Toole Julie Burchill dismisses the feminist now most famous for her hairy armpits

Joseph Stalin Photo: Getty

Philby’s case officer was playing for high stakes when he fled to the United States

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A review of Stalin’s Agent by Boris Volodarsky unearths many nuggets of gold about 20th-century Russian intelligence history

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All roads lead to Blackpool in Andrew O’Hagan’s latest novel, The Illuminations

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A review of The Illuminations praises Andrew O’Hagan’s equally vivid portrayals of an old woman with dementia and a young squaddie home from Afghanistan

Author, Alexandra Fuller

Alexandra Fuller now lives in America, but it is always the Africa of her childhood that comes across most vividly in her memoirs

Books

A review of Alexandra Fuller’s Leaving Before the Rains Come celebrates a writer born to capture the tragi-comedy of her deeply eccentric family life

Roman mosaic from Pompeii depicting Darius III at the Battle of Issus (333 BC), in which he was defeated by Alexander the Great

Darius III: Alexander’s stooge

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In 1891, George Nathaniel Curzon, ‘the very superior person’ of the mocking Balliol rhyme, and future viceroy of India, arrived at Persepolis. Torched in 330 BC by Alexander the Great, it had once been the nerve-centre of an empire that… Read more

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They sought paradise in a Scottish field — and found hunger, boredom and mosquitoes

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A review of The Utopia Experiment by Dylan Evans reminds us that designs for living always end in tears, or worse

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Murder, mystery and sexual obsession

Books

Following S.J. Watson’s bestselling Before I Go to Sleep, Second Life provides a similarly compelling, claustrophobic slice of domestic noir

Still life in the old slogan: Maurice Saatchi’s famous 1978 poster was adapted three decades later when the unemployment figures were announced in March 2009

Even the people who make political adverts aren’t sure they work

Books

A review of Mad Men and Bad Men by Sam Delaney suggests that the admen in charge of political campaigns are the first to doubt their effectiveness

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Anne Tyler Photo: Getty

A pointillist painting in prose

Books

In a review of A Spool of Blue Thread, Anne Tyler’s latest and possibly last novel, Susan Hill is captivated by the everyday lives of an unremarkable Baltimore family

Admiral Dönitz, left in charge of the Reich after Hitler’s suicide, was lucky to have escaped the noose at Nuremberg

The madness of Nazism laid bare

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A review of After Hitler by Michael Jones describes the last defiant days of the German Reich and how the SS continued to massacre women and children to the bitter end

A live broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin shown in a restaurant in Moscow Photo: Getty

Sugar-daddy, gangster and Tsar: Vladimir Putin is all things to all men

Books

A review of Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev describes the chilling world of modern Russia where the aim is to fool all the people all of the time

John Galliano at Paris Fashion Week 2010

Drink, drugs and dressing-up: behind the scenes of the fashion industry

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It’s a curious subject, fashion, and those who write about it rarely want to jeopardise future access to it on the altar of clear-eyed analysis. The business must pretend that there is a single genius at work here, whose vision… Read more

The politician, Baron Brougham, directing a fire-hose onto gas flames issuing from the mouth of Nelson's former captain, Thomas Cochrane by George Cruikshank Photo: Getty

Filthy commerce: scandals have rocked the City ever since the Napoleonic wars

Books

A review of Forging Capitalism by Ian Klaus covers 200 years of theft and fraud in the City

The Sixtus V cabinet: the supreme example of the art of pietra dura

A passion for pietre dure: a very English 18th-century obsession

Books

A review of Roman Splendour, English Arcadia by Simon Swynfen Jervis and Dudley Dodd celebrates one of the great achievements of Renaissance craftsmanship

‘Chelsea pensioners reading the Waterloo Dispatch’ by Sir David Wilkie

The Iron Duke with flecks of rust: Wellington emerges as a lesser soldier than Napoleon

Books

A review of Went the Day Well? by David Crane singles it out as the best book so far to mark the bicentenary of Waterloo