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Books

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

187630609

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

Author, Caitlin Moran Photo: Getty

A coming of age novel? Or an age of coming novel?

Books

A review of How to Build a Girl, by Caitlin Moran. Even before she came across a pleasing reference to herself, Julie Burchill loved this hyperactive novel

Lillian Hellman chats with her lover, author Dashiell Hammett Photo: Time & Life/Getty

Lillian Hellman lied her way through life

Books

A review of Lillian Hellman: An Imperious Life, by Dorothy Gallagher. This disloyal Stalinist has not been blessed with a biographer who likes her

Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx with Jenny, Eleanor and Laura Marx, 1864

Caught between Marx and a monster

Books

A review of Eleanor Marx, by Rachel Holmes. Forget her shit of a husband and her father Karl and marvel at Eleanor’s own contributions

Gay Pride, London, 1970s

The soundtracked novel that won’t sit still

Books

A review of The Emperor Waltz, by Philip Hensher. An intriguing misstep aside, this is a rich and captivating book

Dignity

The cruellest present you could give a hated old in-law

Books

A review of Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir, by Roz Chast. Nothing is sacred in this graphic memoir of the author’s parents

Ursula, photographed by Cecil Beaton on the eve of the second world war

From Edwardian idyll to meetings with Nehru: the life of Lady Ursula D’Asbo

Books

A review of The Girl with the Widow’s Peak, by Lady Ursula d’Abo, with a foreword by John Julius Norwich. A very English tale of 20th-century upper-class comings and goings

China's President Xi Jinping and Zambia's President Michael Sata

What are the Chinese up to in Africa?

Books

A review of China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa, by Howard French. A revealing and colourful set of first-hand essays that seek to understand the Chinese takeover

Portrait of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, with his pet monkey, attributed to Jacob Huysmans

Thug, rapist, poetic visionary: the contradictory Earl of Rochester

Books feature

Despite being an earl, Rochester is very nearly a major poet. His poems and letters were torn up by a zealous mother after his death, bent on destroying anything obscene or scandalous. A good deal was lost, but a lot… Read more

Slaves planting cane cuttings in Antigua, 1823, by William Clark

Only tourists think of the Caribbean as a ‘paradise’

Books

A review of Empire’s Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day, by Carrie Gibson. A vivid and thought-provoking synthesis of the disparate histories of the islands of the West Indies

A meeting between the Vichy and Nazi chiefs, 1941 Photo: Popperfoto/Getty

The cold, remote plateau of Vichy France where good was done

Books

A review of Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France, by Caroline Moorehead. Parallel to the squalid map of Vichy was a map of decency

Books

Maigret's new clothes – this month's best new crime novel, published 1931

Books

Plus: The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair? It's not a Great American Novel. But it is a decent thriller

Portrait of Dante by Domenico di Michelino

A divine guide to Dante

Books

A review of Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity, by Prue Shaw. This companion to the life and work of the Italian genius will make you blink in wonder

Photo: Artpuppy/Getty

Having a moral compass just gets in the way of being smart

Books

A review of Think Like a Freak: How to Think Smarter About Almost Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. The authors of Freakonomics want to teach you to think less like the kind of people who read books

‘He thought he could have made it as a visual artist — if only more people had liked his work.’ Above: John Arlott reading (1977) and Kathy and Jessy (1963)

The gentle intoxications of Laurie Lee

Secondary Feature

He was always lucky, and he knew it: lucky in the secure rural intimacy of the upbringing described in Cider with Rosie; in the love of some passionate, clever women, whose guidance and support get rather less than their due… Read more

J.K. Rowling Photo: Getty

J.K. Rowling is just too nice – and too lucky – to satirise publishing

Books

As a result, Robert Galbraith's The Silkworm is a toothless and inept novel

The headquarters of Britain's MI6, London

You know something’s up when MI6 moves its head office to Croydon

Books

A review of Inside Enemy, by Alan Judd. A thriller that is plausible, curiously old-fashioned and deceptively calm in its build-up – and one of Judd’s best

booko

The Australian literary icon who fooled her family

Books

A review of The House of Fiction: Leonard, Susan and Elizabeth Jolley: A Memoir, by Susan Swingler, ‘a story of sex, love, family secrets and deception’

Portrait of a young woman with a bible in her hand by Johannes Thopas, 1680–85

No special pleading needed for this disabled Dutch master

Books

A review of Deaf, Dumb and Brilliant: Johannes Thopas, Master Draughtsman, by Rudi Ekkart. Thopas was an equal of his peers - his disability shouldn’t even come into it