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Books

Who’s in, who’s out: George Bernard O’Neill’s ‘Public Opinion’ depicts a private view of the annual exhibition at the Royal Academy

The age of the starving artist

Books feature

What remains of art is art, of course; and what chiefly interests us is the creative talents of a painter or a sculptor. What we forget is that the work of art wouldn’t be there without some kind of engagement… Read more

A boy named Marion: John Wayne pictured on the set of Stagecoach (1939)

I was John Wayne's driver

Books

A review of John Wayne: The Life and Legend, by Scott Eyman. It borders on hagiography but for Wayne fans that’s no flaw

A derelict building in Jaffna – part of the legacy of Sri Lanka's years of civil war. Photograph: Luis Ascui/Getty Images

Tip-toeing through Sri Lanka

Books

A review of Noontide Toll, by Romesh Gunesekera. One of the most delicate contemporary prose stylists tackles one of the most intractable conflicts

Title-Stories-Divine-Comedy-by-Dante-Aligheri
Dean Inge, one of the last Victorians. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Daring? No. Well written? Yes

Books

A review of The Last Victorians, by W. Sydney Robinson. Ignore the misleading blurb and revel in the research, writing and bizarre characters in this portrait of four 20th-century eccentrics

Left: ‘Blackbere’ from Helmingham Herbal and Bestiary, c. 1500. Right: Common Hoopoe, c. 1789, by William Lewis

The British countryside in prints and paper-cuts

Books

A review of Of Green Leaf, Bird and Flower, by Elizabeth R. Fairman. The images are mostly astounding but the essays are a mixed bag

The eyes of a killer? Vincent Poklewski Koziell relates, in his reminiscences, the story of a chimpanzee stabbing a butler during a dinner party. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Lenin, Hitler, Sloane Square – a Polish noble's 20th-century Odyssey

Books

A review of The Ape Has Stabbed Me: A Cocktail of Reminiscence, by Vincent Poklewski Koziell. A hilarious tale of hats, hous­es, drinks and direc­torships

A pea-souper in Covent Garden. Perfect for murder. Photograph: Lacey/General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

Main villain: the aftermath of war

Books

A review of The Reckoning, by Rennie Airth, a thriller that leaves your nerves unshredded but thoughts haunted

Nixon

The many lives of Richard Nixon

Books

A review of The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority, by Patrick J. Buchanan. Tricky Dicky’s time in the wilderness was key to his success

‘A Sounding Line’ (2006–7). Detail of de Waal’s 66 porcelain vessels in white and celadon glazes, Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

How good an artist is Edmund de Waal?

Books

A review of Edmund de Waal, by A.S. Byatt, Colm Toibin, Peter Carey, Emma Crichton Miller and others. A book of discursive essays, short stories and photographs that explores the potter’s many paths and influences

‘There is nothin’ like a dame’ — nice songs, shame about the lighting: Mitzi Gaynor in ‘South Pacific’, 1958

Why movie musicals matter – to this author anyway

Books feature

Do movie musicals matter? Most readers, even those who love them, will embark on Richard Barrios’s short history of the genre with the thought: not much. They’ll very likely, I’m afraid, finish it holding much the same opinion. But not… Read more

British author and socialite Margot Asquith. Photograph: Sasha/Getty Images

This diary of a prime minister's wife offers a front-row seat to the Great War

Books

A review of Margot Asquith’s Great War Diary, 1914–1916: The View from Downing Street, edited by Michael and Eleanor Brock. As you’d expect, the cast of characters is worthy of a Shakespearian history play

PrestonWD

The author’s father didn’t want you to read this book. It’s hard to understand why

Books

A review of A Dog’s Life, by Michael Holroyd. This thinly veiled portrait of Holroyd's family is more an exercise in self-chastisement than vanity

DeasWD

In the empire stakes, the Anglo-Saxons were for long Spain’s inferiors

Books

A review of World Without End: The Global Empire of Philip II, by Hugh Thomas. This history of the Spanish Empire seems more interested in the conquerors than the conquered but still makes its argument well

St Enodoc Church overlooking St Enodoc golf course and the sea beyond, Rock, Cornwall. John Betjeman lies buried in the graveyard

The ultimate guide to Cornwall

Books

A review of Cornwall, by Peter Beacham and Nikolaus Pevsner. Uniting two classic guides by Pevsner and John Betjeman, Beacham has left no fernbanked lane or secret drive unexplored

JonesWD

From slaves' rectums to porn vids, there are few places people haven't tried to conceal secret messages

Books

A review of Prisoners, Lovers and Spies: The Story of Invisible Ink from Herodotus to al-Qa’eda, by Kristie Macrakis. The ancients hid their intel in hares' bellies; today, jihadis use porn

Joining the old rogue on his 80th birthday, from left to right, Bevis Hillier, Antonia Fraser, Hamilton, James Pope-Hennessy, James Reeve, and the Spectator’s current book editor, Mark Amory

The long and disgraceful life of Britain's pre-eminent bounder

Books

A review of The Man Who Was Norris: The life of Gerald Hamilton, by Tom Cullen. The great thing about this book is that Cullen rarely makes the mistake of taking Hamilton (once described as ‘the wickedest man in Europe’) at his own word

MooreWD

The Russian literary celebrity who begged Tolstoy to spare Prince Andrei

Books

A review of Subtly Worded, by Teffi. Her remarkable short stories, full of characters that teeter on the edge of an abyss, deserve to be better known

An anti-Soviet rally in Moscow, February 1991: Gorbachev’s reforms resulted in the rise of his nemesis, Yeltsin

Public joy and private panic: How the world's powers responded when the Soviet empire fell

Books feature

Vladimir Putin calls it ‘the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century’, a viewpoint which explains much of his recent behaviour. Few others anywhere in the world, particularly people who live around Russia’s borders, would agree that the collapse of… Read more

From ‘Amateur Gardener’, c. 1890, showing the much sought after suburban garden at its most perfect

A paean to the British passion for our very own ‘castles’

Books

A review of Everyman’s Castle: The story of our cottages, country houses, terraces, flats, semis and bungalows, by Philippa Lewis. From inglenooks to top-shops, from boarding houses to bedsits, this compendium covers it all (almost)

Author Graham Swift Photo: Getty

You’ll never look at dried pasta in the same way again

Books

A review of England and Other Stories, by Graham Swift. These masterful tales about loss and absence conspire to bittersweet ends

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A guide to marriage, moving and fatherhood – and also not a bad tool with which to beat your solicitor to death

Books

A review of How to be a husband, by Tim Dowling. There’s only one joke in this 300-page book – that Dowling’s a terrible husband – but it’s a corker

Close-up of Genghis towering 40 metres over his home pastures near the Mongol capital, Ulaanbaatar – the world’s biggest equestrian statue

Genghis Khan was tolerant, kind to women – and a record-breaking mass-murderer

Books

A review of The Mongol Empire: Genghis Khan, His Heirs and the Founding of Modern China, by John Man. The Mongols made China, argues this book, which means it’s unlikely to get a Chinese translation any time soon

Lake Lucerne Photo: Davide Seddo/Getty

The nervous passenger who became one of our great travel writers

Books

A review of Pleasures and Landscapes, by Sybille Bedford. Bedford journeyed through Italy, Switzerland, France, Denmark, Portugal and Yugoslavia and vividly noted the postwar evolution of Europe

Mass Protests Are Held During The G20 World Leaders Summit

A gangster called Capitalism and its vanquisher The Common Good

Books

A review of Mammon’s Kingdom: An Essay on Britain, Now, by David Marquand. An interesting diagnosis of why the secular Left failed Britain - with a shy attempt at a solution

Portrait Of Elvis Presley

A tribute to the King – or a compendium of journalistic bad habits?

Books

A review of Elvis has Left the Building: The Day the King Died, by Dylan Jones. The GQ editor provides a lot of padding to the basic story, and makes no attempt to disguise it

Illustration, from World War I in Cartoons, Mark Bryant, Grub Street.

The completely ludicrous – and sometimes believable – world of the First World War spook

Bookends

There can’t have been this many books about the first world war since — just after the first world war. One publishing craze of the 1920s was books about spying, in which retired war spooks gave away their trade secrets… Read more

Pasternak

Doctor Zhivago's long, dark shadow

Books feature

For most Russians, Boris Pasternak is one of their four greatest poets of the last century. For most Anglophone readers, he is the man who won the Nobel Prize for Doctor Zhivago. The first four chapters of The Zhivago Affair… Read more