Books

The refrigerator takes centre stage at a 1920s luncheon party

Cooling is as important to civilisation as making fire — only much harder

Books

Chilled, Tom Jackson’s enthralling history of how refrigeration changed the world, takes us from Mesopotamian ice-houses to the Large Hadron Collider

The Clouded Yellow, especially vulnerable to cold, wet weather, is rare in Britain and usually confined to the South Downs and south coast

We all love butterflies — so why are we wiping them out?

Books

Two new books — Rainbow Dust by Peter Marren and In Pursuit of Butterflies by Matthew Oates — celebrate the powerful myths surrounding these ravishing ephemera

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A novel to cure fear of missing out

Books

Left of the Bang, Claire Lowden’s sparky fictional debut, is a comic exposé of the non-glamour of London life, where no one’s having fun

A shopping centre is engulfed in flames during the Los Angeles riots, 1992 (Photo: Getty)

The gangs of LA are caught in an unending bloody vendetta

Books

All Involved, Ryan Gattis’s buzzing thriller about riots and racial tension in 1992, might just as well have been set yesterday

Riots occur in Uighur, the muslim capital of Xinjiang (Photo: Getty)

China’s repressive policy towards its Islamic fringe has badly backfired

Books

There was no Islamic extremism in China until Beijing inadvertently created it, according to Nick Holdstock’s measured history of the Uighurs of Xinjiang

Illusions of grandeur: Roy Strong as a Stuart king (Charles I, after Sir Anthony Van Dyck)

Camp carnival: Roy Strong’s 80th birthday pageant

Books

Sir Roy poses as Henry VIII, Rasputin, Tennyson and other assorted princes, priests and poets in a series of mock masterpieces by the photographer John Swannell

This year Alice in Wonderland celebrates its 150th anniversary (Photo: Getty

Green djinns and a green boy: the best summer reading for children

Books

Melanie McDonagh’s selections include adventures in Wonderland and in space

Rabdentse, near Pelling, the ruined former capital of Sikkim, with Mount Kanchenjunga in the distance

The story of Sikkim’s last king and queen reads like a fairy tale gone wrong

Books

Glamour, romance and a deposed monarch are vividly evoked in Andrew Duff’s nostalgic history of the beleaguered Himalayan former kingdom

Author Paul Murray (Photo: Getty)

A broad farce about banking’s dirty secrets in post-Celtic-Tiger Dublin

Books

The Mark and the Void, Paul Murray’s follow-up to the much acclaimed Skippy Dies, is sharp, satirical and utterly of the moment

A Sikh member of the Indian Army Services Corps at Dunkirk, 1940

Britain didn’t fight the second world war — the British empire did

Books

Yasmin Khan’s superlative The Raj at War finally does justice to the crucial contribution of the Indian army to Hitler’s defeat, says William Dalrymple

Anxious young mother — Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby

The opposite of a self-help book

Books

Francis O’Gorman’s Worrying: A Literary and Cultural Guide finds not much hope for the human race — but at least worriers, being sensitive to others, apparently make good team mates

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Helen Vendler is full of condescending waffle (and not just when she’s attacking me)

Books

Daniel Swift takes ‘the Queen of Formalism’ to task over her scientific approach to poetry in her spiky new collected essays, The Ocean, the Bird and the Scholar

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Bletchley Park was decades ahead of Silicon Valley. So what happened?

Books

Two new books on intelligence — Intercept by Gordon Corera and Why Spy? by Brian Stewart and Samantha Newbery — find that had Britain been less hidebound by secrecy it could have led the world in computer science

floral

Rory McEwen: man of many talents — and among the greatest of all flower painters

Books

McEwen’s extraordinary botanical works, beautifully illustrated in this volume from Kew, glow with life and individuality that repay the closest scrutiny

Author Harry Mount

Harry’s Homer — a humorous history

Books

Harry Mount scatters alpha anecdotes as he swelters up Mediterranean hillsides (in a slightly silly hat) on the track of his legendary hero, in Harry Mount’s Odyssey

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A crime novel so incompetent it might have been written by a child

Books

Nigel Williams’s editor should have returned R.I.P. with the words ‘do it again’

William Waldegrave (Photo: Getty)

William Waldegrave: too nice ever to have been PM

Books

In his memoir A Different Kind of Weather, the gifted Tory politician and man of letters William Waldegrave comes across as a noble soul full of misplaced self-reproach

Atticus Finch (played by Gregory Peck) with his children Scout and Jem in the 1962 film version of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Go Set a Watchman should never have been hyped as a ‘landmark new novel’, says Philip Hensher

Books feature

This is an interesting document, and a pretty bad novel. I don’t know why anyone thought it would be otherwise. In 1960, Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird. It was an important statement, as well as a very good… Read more

Harriet Howard, Duchess of Sutherland, by William Corden the Younger, after Franz Xavier Winterhalter. ‘What a hold the place has on one,’ she observed of Cliveden

Love nest or den of iniquity? Cliveden has always been shrouded in mystery and scandal

Books

The Mistresses of Cliveden by Natalie Livingstone explores the great house’s exotic history, ending with Christine Keeler, the swimming pool and the Profumo Affair

War games

Welcome to the world of Big Byz

Books

A searing satire set in a dystopic future,Victor Pelevin’s 2011 S.N.U.F.F. — now brilliantly translated into English — has been hailed as a prescient warning of Russia’s intentions in Ukraine

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Rich, thin and selfish in Manhattan

Books

Wednesday Martin’s Primates of Park Avenue mocks New York’s high-maintenance ‘mommies’ who worry sleeplessly over money, infidelity and dieting. But they are a much stranger breed than this memoir makes out

Israeli soldiers treat hostages after they were held for a week at Entebbe airport after the highjack of an Air France plane, 1976 (Photo: Getty)

Was Operation Thunderbolt the most daring mission in history?

Books

Tension mounts in Saul David’s compulsive chronicle of hijacked Air France Flight 139 and the rush to save the hostages in Entebbe 40 years ago

Supporters pay tribute to Charlie Hebdo before a match at the Mayol stadium in Toulon (Photo: Getty)

France’s favourite bedtime story: a sanitised version of the French Revolution

Books

The more inconvenient, bloodstained événements of French history are dismissed as ‘aberrations’, organised by ‘enemies of the fatherland’, according to Jonathan Fenby’s latest History of Modern France

Looking idiotic: Cathy Fechoz performs ski ballet at the Olympic Games, Albertville, 1992. The sport no longer exists

Anyone for eel-pulling?

Books

In his survey of the world’s most ludicrous and best-forgotten sports, Edward Brooke-Hitching reveals the extraordinary cruelty and inventiveness of mankind at play

Sneer of cold command: Velázquez’s portrait of the Count-Duke of Olivares, Philip IV’s ‘Ozymandias-like vizier’ (detail)

Spain’s golden age — with a silver lining

Books

Columbus’s discovery of America led to a glorious literary and artistic flowering in early modern Spain, according to Robert Goodwin’s Spain: The Centre of the World, 1519–1682

Mexican soldiers stand amidst poppy flowers and marijuana plants (Photo: Getty)

The war on drugs is stupid and counter-productive

Books

According to Zero Zero Zero by Roberto Saviano and Dreamland by Sam Quinones, the flow of Class A drugs around the world is now unstoppable, and traffickers have grown increasingly violent. If only the trade were regulated, all this could change

Boccaccio and Petrach

The constant inconstancy that made Italians yearn for fascism

Books feature

This hefty volume is misleadingly titled. It is not an escapist sort of travel book, ushering the visitor around the homelands and houses of the Italian literati. It is a selection of the author’s previous literary articles, mostly book reviews… Read more

Author Ken Kalfus (Photo: Getty)

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and other characters to make you cry with laughter

Books

In Coup de Foudre, the title novella of Ken Kalfus’s collection of stories, the ex-head of the IMF sends an email apologia to the chambermaid