Tomatoes and melons from the garden of the Prince Bishop of Eichstatt (German school, 17th century)

The return of Granite Beauty, Cherokee Purple — not to mention the forgotten Hoekurai turnip


Rose Prince welcomes the return of knobbly tomatoes in all sizes and colours that taste of her childhood


Top scientists (including Einstein) regarded the idea of black holes as a monstrosity which Nature would somehow find a way to avoid


The idea of black holes sounds modern — but it’s been around since 1784, says Pippa Goldschmidt

Simon Armitage (Photo: Getty)

‘Do you write your own poems?’ and ‘Shall I introduce you again in case people have forgotten who you are?’ — bracing questions for Simon Armitage on his coastal walk


Simon Armitage’s self-deprecation makes for a charming, funny account of plodding through too many combes on the South West Coast Path


By, with, of and for Kim Kardashian — keeping up with Kulture


You’ll know Kim Kardashian’s body better than your own lover’s after gawping at this collection of selfies


Elizabeth Day urges women to be more ‘me first’, less ‘no, no, after you’


Reading Paradise City reminds Laura Freeman of her own stressful experiences working for a newspaper on Kensington High Street

Albanian Primeminister Enver Hoxha (Photo: Getty)

The museum which once displayed Enver Hoxha’s pyjamas now houses a pro-democracy radio station


Albania has come a long way in three decades — transformed from a Stalinist dictatorship into a functioning democracy —but it has been at considerable cost, says Will Nicoll


The toughest, smartest, strangest creatures ever to evolve are nearing the end of their continental shelf life

Books feature

The oceans cover seven-tenths of our planet, and although it may not seem like it above the surface, they are very busy. Helen Scales and Christian Sardet are marine biologists: Sardet is apparently known as Uncle Plankton, and those multitudes… Read more

Make up: Setting us apart from other mammals?

Terror Management Studies is a brand new area of research — and it’s not about IS or Boko Haram


The Worm at the Core is too excited about overcoming the fear of death to bother with the enjoyment of life

Lankily elegant and exquisitely dressed: Peter Watson (right) with Oliver Messel

Peter Watson: exquisite taste in art, if not in men


Peter Watson, the 1930s playboy who wafts in and out of other biographies, at last takes centre stage

Primula auricula

How 18th-century gardeners ordered their plants after a great storm, a terrible drought and ‘a little ice age’


The enchanting illustrations alone are worth the price of this hefty book — which is more for the coffee table than the bedside

Irish-born soldier and adventurer Colonel Thomas Blood (Photo: Getty)

Colonel Blood: thief turned spy and Royal pensioner


Robert Hutchinson glamorises the ‘mapcap, harum-scarum escapades’ of Thomas Blood, but this 17th-century rogue was no Scarlet Pimpernel

Barbara Pym (Photo: Getty)

Barbara Pym: a woman scorned


All hell broke loose when the editors at Cape turned down Barbara Pym’s seventh novel (even though it wasn’t much good)

Edward Thomas (Photo: Getty)

Edward Thomas: the prolific hack (who wrote a book review every three days for 14 years) turned to poetry just in time


The first world war, as well as inspiring some wonderful poetry, provided Edward Thomas with an elegant end to a messy life

‘We will achieve abundance’ promises a propaganda poster of 1949. But by 1952 most free Soviet citizens shared the same diet as the inhabitants of the Gulag

Stalin understood the power of terror so well because he constantly feared for his own life


Stalin’s latest biographer dispenses with the myths and gives us all the facts — which far surpass any fabricated horror

Portrait thought to be of Francis Barber by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Francis Barber: the runaway servant who inherited his master’s fortune — and promptly lost it


Dr Johnson’s Jamaican man-servant remains Gough Square’s invisible man, despite Michael Bundock’s years of research

Author Amitav Ghosh (Photo: Getty)

An epic journey (in Hobson-Jobsonese) through the first Opium War to the British seizure of Hong Kong


Amitav Ghosh’s Opium Wars trilogy reaches a deafening finale with Flood of Fire

Out of the woods: American forces attack a German machine gun post, December 1944. The grim determination of the Allies, whose heroism kept the Germans at bay, helped pave the way for the final Russian advance on Berlin

Monty’s arrogance nearly lost us the war: an alarming angle on the Ardennes offensive

Books feature

Christmas Eve 1944 found thousands of Allied — mostly American — troops dug into trenches and foxholes along the Belgian front, where they sucked at frozen rations and, in some places, listened to their enemies singing ‘Stille Nacht’. Their more… Read more

Incline your upper body slightly forward and place your feet on a low foot rest. Then all the angles are correct

Digestion may be disgusting, but it makes for fascinating — and apparently now fashionable — reading


Three studies of the gut give a whole new meaning to toilet books, says William Cook. They’re actually worth reading

Charlotte and Susan Cushman as Romeo and Juliet c. 1849. Now comparatively obscure,Charlotte was widely considered the most powerful actress on the 19th-century stage

Shakespeare’s stagecraft — and his greatest players


Henry Hitchings enjoys two new books on Shakespeare (to add to the 12,554) — and especially a description of Edmund Kean’s electrifying, drunk Hamlet in 1814


How to Skin a Lion is full of ingenious solutions to unusual problems — but give me Dear Mary any day


Claire Cock-Starkey’s collection of outmoded advice from volumes in the British Library is published too early in the year — it would have made a great Christmas loo book

Curator Richard Cork looks up at Jacob Epstein's sculpture 'Rock Drill' (Photo: Getty)

The shallow vanity of modern artists — not a pretty picture


Artists are so dull and self-important these days — witness Richard Cork’s and Hans Ulrich Obrist’s turgid, witless interviews with them, says Stephen Bayley

Poirot won’t be drawn

The sad demise of the amateur sleuth: it’s all the fault of better policing


The Golden Age of crime writing is over and all the great fictional detectives are gone. Call it Inspector Lestrade’s revenge, says John Sutherland

James Gillray’s ‘Maniac Ravings or Little Boney in a Strong Fit’ (published 24 May 1803). From Bonaparte and the British: Prints and Propaganda in the Age of Napoleon by Tim Clayton and Sheila O’Connell (The British Museum, £25, pp. 246, ISBN 9780714126937). The book accompanies an exhibition at the British Museum until 16 August

Man of destiny: Napoleon was always convinced he was the chosen one


Patrice Gueniffey’s 1,000-page biography of Napoleon may exhaust even the most ardent enthusiast, says Conrad Black —who counts himself as one. And there are another three volumes to come.

Tracey Thorn (Photo: Getty)

My advice to Tracey Thorn: take up busking


Tracey Thorn voices her anxieties in Naked at the Albert Hall,  a haunting memoir of singing and stage-fright

The unentertaining fact is that resurrecting animals that died out 65 million years ago is likely to remain far beyond the bounds of possibility for a very long time to come

If we recreate the mammoth, it will be 99.999 per cent white elephant


Even if we could bring back the woolly mammoth (for one), where would it live?, asks Caspar Henderson. And do we really want it anyway?

Leonardo da Vinci: ‘La Belle Ferronière’ 1495–1499 (Musée de Louvre, Paris) and (left) Follower of Leonardo da Vinci: ‘La Belle Ferronière’ c. before 1750 (Private Collection)

The great dilemma of the art forger: how to fool the public and be recognised as Leonardo’s equal


The duped party in a forgery is not all that duped, says Jonathan Meades. He is mutely complicit with the swindler

A sign common in Johannesburg in 1956 (Photo: Getty)

Pink, tan or honey-coloured? Whatever Christopher Hope’s hero is, he’s ‘not the right sort of white’ for South Africa


Jimfish, Christopher Hope’s caustic new satire on South Africa, has a surprisingly upbeat finale — but Patrick Flanery is unconvinced


The New Yorker’s grammar rules (and how to break them)


Mary Norris’s Between You and Me takes a charmingly pragmatic approach to its own eccentric advice