Books

Family photo of Saul Bellow

How Saul Bellow made his life the stuff of great fiction

Books feature

Saul Bellow died in 2005. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976. The first installment of Zachary Leader’s exemplary, scrupulous, dispassionate, detailed, well-read, enthralling biography runs to over 800 pages and takes us only as far as 1964.… Read more

British officers in a modern motor car drive against the current of horsemen of the Arab army entering Damascus on 1 October 1918. Anglo-Arab policies were equally at cross purposes following the fall of the city

The Ottoman empire: the last great casualty of the first world war

Books

According to Eugene Rogan’s The Fall of the Ottomans, the collapse of the millennium-old empire triggered most of the problems that plague the Middle East today

Churchwell

Racism, paedophilia and an inverted Snow White

Books

Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child offers disappointingly flimsy answers to some seriously important questions, says Sarah Churchwell

American teenagers in the 1940s: part of the Silent Generation — so called for conforming to the norm and focusing on careers rather than activism

It isn’t cool to be adult now: the twenties are the new teens

Books

We can stop worrying about all those twentysomethings still living with their parents, according to Steven Mintz’s The Prime of Life. In an age of profound generational turmoil, they’ll probably do best in the end

'The Cuckoo Crying before Dawn’ (1943) is Edward’s largest known watercolour.

The world of Thessyros: an icky erotic fantasy

Books

Chris Fletcher wonders whether the couple who took over Kelmscott Manor during the 1940s noticed there was a war going on at all: they were too blitzed on sex, booze and Benzedrine to care

John Knox (Photo: Getty)

John Knox: like the blast of 500 trumpets

Books

Jane Dawson’s biography of John Knox suggests that the strident leader of the Scottish Reformation may have had a sensitive side after all, says Eric Anderson

Battle of Waterloo (Photo: Getty)

A lull in hostilities for Matthew Hervey

Books

It’s peacetime and it’s snowing in the 12th instalment of Allan Mallinson’s tales of a cavalry officer: time for our hero to pause and review his career

Self-portrait as Falstaff. Sher finds drawing a form of therapy and infinitely preferable to acting

Antony Sher: a surprisingly reluctant actor

Books

According to Antony Sher’s Year of the Fat Knight — his account of playing Falstaff with the RSC — acting is a conveyor-belt job and not half as much fun as drawing or writing

Left to right: Piers Paul Read, Derek Marlowe, Peter Bergman and Tom Stoppard, members of Literarisches Colloquium

Before we were famous: Tom Stoppard describes sharing a bedsit in Sixties London with Derek Marlowe

Books

Derek was straight out of Scott Fitzgerald, recalls Tom Stoppard, and his idea for a thriller about a double agent ordered to kill himself was absolutely brilliant

Dublin’s docks were shelled from the Liffey by the British admiralty gunboat, the Helga, during the Easter Rising

Ireland’s getting ready to forget the real Easter Rising

Books feature

As Lytton Strachey remarked of the Victorian era, writing the history of the Irish revolution is inhibited by the fact that we know too much about it. As the centenary of the 1916 Rising approaches, an avalanche of books, articles and… Read more

St George as depicted in The Golden Legend

St George: patron saint of England, patronised by all

Books

Not much is known about St George, says Christopher Howse, reviewing Samantha Riches’s biography, except that he had many lookalikes (including Islamic) — and his dragon was a bit of an afterthought

Snooker World Champion Steve Davis (Photo: Getty)

What did Steve Davis do to succeed at snooker? Everything his dad told him

Books

Steve Davis was so boring Spitting Image nicknamed him Interesting — giving him the title for his third autobiography to date

Fatal attraction: a four-year-old picks her favourite handgun at the NRA’s annual meeting in Milwaukee, 2006

An inalienable right to bear arms in the States: the enduring mystique of the Second Amendment

Books

Americans have an almost mystical belief that guns are synonymous with freedom, says Michael Moorcock, reviewing Gun Baby Gun. Every time there’s a call for stricter arms control, the sales of guns rocket

(Photo: Getty)

Monopoly is fascinating – as long as you don’t try to play it

Books

I lose the will to live if forced to play Monopoly. But the story of the game’s invention, as related in Mary Pillon’s The Monopolists — now there’s a thing...

Bigger mouths and longer legs—all the better to bite you with, and run away

Bigger, better bedbugs bite back with a vengeance

Books

However hard we try to eradicate bedbugs, they constantly outwit us, according to Brooke Borel’s Infested — and from Horace to Henry Miller they infest literature too

Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas (Photo: Getty)

Social comedy Peruvian-style

Books

Two innocent men face kidnapping, death threats and haunting by the devil — and The Discreet Hero is Llosa-lite — a mere jeu d’esprit

Gore Vidal (Photo: Getty)

Brothels, hashish, a poisonous scorpion, a cursed necklace: all excuses for macho antics in the Valley of the Kings

Books

Gore Vidal’s deservedly forgotten pulp thriller, now resurrected after 60 years, is so bad it’s good

Charity Storeroom

Working is good for you — even if it’s unpaid, in a charity shop — or writing book reviews for The Spectator

Books

You don’t want to end up like those sour-faced children of the idle rich who invariably go to the bad, says Julie Burchill, reviewing All Day Long, by Joanna Biggs

Mary Shelley by Richard Rothwell

There’s something about Mary (Wollstonecraft and Shelley)

Books

If only Charlotte Gordon's Romantic Outlaws would let Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley speak for themselves

Bernard Berenson (Photo: Getty)

The private aesthete and the public servant

Books

The 34-year correspondence between Bernard Berenson and Kenneth Clark was a substitute for a friendship that didn’t happen, says Duncan Fallowell, reviewing My Dear BB, edited by Robert Cumming

Psychoanalyst Carl Jung (Photo: Getty)

Carl Jung meets David Icke (and writes a book of bonkers business-speak)

Books

Move Up is a torrent of random words arranged into perfectly focused falsehood

An Armenian orphan in 1915. Hundreds of thousands of Christian women and children who survived the genocide suffered forced conversion to Islam

At last: a calm, definitive account of the Armenian genocide

Books feature

For most of us, the centenary of the Great War means recalling the misery and sacrifices of the Western Front: Ypres, the Marne, Arras, Verdun, Passchendaele, the Somme. Few of us give as much thought to the Eastern Front and,… Read more

ThinkstockPhotos-158771953

The miracle of modern flight, by a 747 pilot with a poet’s sensibility

Books

In a review of Skyfaring, a memoir by Mark Vanhoenacker, Stephen Bayley overcomes his nervousness on the subject of flying and is entranced by a pilot’s poetic vision

Superstar curators like Hans Ulrich Obrist tour the world making items desirable through their selection alone, while paranoically insisting that what they do is ‘work’. Study for Tate Modern Sign (Bill Burns, 2012)

Spoilt for choice: we are all curators now

Books

Curating embraces everything these days — including sandwiches — says Jack Castle, and the superstar curators of exhibitions have become far more important than the artists themselves

Lord Shaftesbury (Photo: Getty)

Murder on Grub Street

Books

M.J Carter’s The Infidel Stain, set in the dark alleys of Dickensian London, combines pornography and the Chartist movement in high Victorian melodrama

ThinkstockPhotos-463185431

Between town and country

Books

The perpetual dilemma of where to live is explored in Melissa Harrison’s vibrant novel of roots and belonging

Gyalo Thondup (right) pictured with the Dalai Lama on their arrival in India in 1959

From diplomacy to disillusion with the Dalai Lama’s big brother

Books

Gyalo Thondup, brother of the Dalai Lama, recalls in detail his many years directing Tibet’s foreign policy. But can we believe him?, asks Jonathan Mirsky

Latrines dating from the second century at Ostia Antica, outside Rome

How the Romans went about their business

Books

We know a lot about Roman baths, says Peter Stothard, but not so much about their lavatories. Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow in The Archeology of Sanitation in Roman Italy has the subject comprehensively covered