Avoiding 'Frank' at the Lido Photo: Heritage/Getty

Rod Liddle reminds me of old women moaning on the bus


Richard Littlejohn, on the other had, has a great story about a guy called Frank the Bummer. A review of Selfish, Whining Monkeys, by Rod Liddle and Littlejohn’s Lost World, by Richard Littlejohn

Carol White in Jeremy Sandford’s BBC play Cathy Come Home. Watched by 12 million, the drama’s hard-hitting depiction of homelessness and unemployment made a huge impact on its shocked audience in 1966

From Anthony Trollope to Meryl Streep: the theatre of politics on stage and screen


A review of A State of Play, by Steven Fielding. A well researched, judiciously selective and fastidiously politically correct history of political productions

Raspberry and quince by Sarah Simblet

Warning: the beautiful trees in this book may very soon be extinct


A review of The New Sylva: A Discourse of Forest and Orchard Trees for the Twenty-first Century, by Gabriel Hemery and Sarah Simblet. John Evelyn, the father of modern forestry, provides the starting point for a silvological exploration - but it could all be gone by 2100

President Bush Tours CIA Headquarters

The American who dreamed of peace for the Arabs – but was murdered in their midst


A review of The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames, by Kai Bird. One of the best nonfiction books ever written about the West’s involvement in the Arab world

Composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle Photo: Redferns

The yes-no-maybe world of Harrison Birtwistle


A review of Harrison Birtwistle: Wild Tracks, a conversation diary with Fiona Maddocks. In search of a composer

John Burnside Photo: Getty

My desert island poet


A review of I Put a Spell on You, by John Burnside. A book about love at its most bewitching, deranging and dangerous

Constant Lambert at the piano

The wit, wisdom and womanising of Constant Lambert

Books feature

We owe Constant Lambert (1905–1951) a huge amount, and the flashes of brilliance that survive from his short life only suggest the energy with which he established the possibilities for English culture. What we remember about this extraordinary man are… Read more

Karl Marx Photo: Getty

Piketty’s decaff Marxism would be just as oppressive and intrusive as the old variety


A review of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty. The French economist’s proposals are as shaky as the analysis to which they are precariously connected

The Little Mermaid, illustrated by Ivan Bilibin

The fairytale life of Hans Christian Andersen


A review of Hans Christian Andersen, by Paul Binding. The writer spent his whole life trying to run away from his miserable childhood

Jane Gardam Photo: Getty

No one would want to live in Jane Gardam's stories – but they're an amazing place to visit


A review of The Stories, by Jane Gardam. The people in this novel may be a dying breed, but there is nothing old-fashioned about the storytelling

Author P.J. O'Rourke Portrait Session at Book Soup

The man who went to Hell and back – for a laugh


A review of The Baby Boom, by P.J.O’Rourke. Like all the best memoirs, Baby Boom stirs suppressed memories in the reader

The success of the Flashman series owed something to the inspired choice of Arthur Barbosa as designer of the covers

The derring-do that created Flashman

Secondary Feature

I met George Macdonald Fraser when he was the features editor of the Glasgow Herald. He was a very good newspaperman on what was a fine daily paper. James Holburn was the editor, Reggie Byers his deputy, Chris Small the… Read more

Odysseus and the Sirens

If you ever wanted a Homeric jump-start, this is your book

Books feature

As a teenager, like many of his class and generation, Adam Nicolson encountered Homer in Greek lessons. The subject matter seemed remote and uninteresting — ‘like someone else’s lunchtime account of a dream from the night before’ — and the… Read more


Depression – an agony more powerful than love


A review of Black Rainbow: How Words Healed Me — My Journey Through Depression, by Rachel Kelly. A harrowing memoir of how a sea of monsters took hold of a successful woman


The Snow Queen crawls at snail’s pace – and you wouldn’t want it any other way


A review of The Snow Queen, by Michael Cunningham. He takes 90 pages to describe the first hour of a weekday morning - and it's a joy

Valentine typewriter, 1969

Ettore Sottsass, Jnr: more than just a funny name


A review of Sottsass, by Philippe Thomé. This book of essays is the perfect tribute to the Italian godfather of modern design


A lost treasure of Japanese fiction – pocket-sized but world class


A review of The Hunting Gun and Bullfight, by Yasushi Inoue, translated by Michael Emmerich. Whether exploring the distanced and reflective or edgy and jagged, this Japanese author is a modern master

Gertrude Bell with Sir Percy Cox on a visit to Mesopotamia in 1917. ‘She was never actually a member of the Foreign Office; rather a semi-detached and useful wartime extra’. mansell/time&life pictures/getty images

The Foreign Office's long war on women


A review of Women of the World: The Rise of the Female Diplomat, by Helen McCarthy. Until the second half of the 20th century, female diplomacy meant wives and dresses

Baroness Trumpington and Lord Harris of High Cross.  Defiant pipe and cigar smokers from both houses of Parliament light up to mark national no-smoking day. Photo: William Conran/PA Images

From Bletchley Park to Take Your Pick – this baroness’s memoir is a blast


A review of Coming Up Trumps: A Memoir, by Jean Trumpington, who moved through life with the sceptical wit of a highly intelligent scullerymaid

Three of the best: Edward Thomas (left), Wilfred Owen (above right) and Edmund Blunden

Look again – the first world war poets weren't pacifists

Books feature

If the poets of the first world war probably enjoy a higher profile now than they have done at any time in the last 100 years, it has not been a smooth passage. When Wilfred Owen was killed in the… Read more

What! Has John Sutherland really not read Don Quixote from cover to cover?

Judge a critic by the quality of his mistakes


A review of How to be Well Read, by John Sutherland. The occasional drift from accuracy shows that Sutherland is both well read and reads well, argues Christopher Howse

Photo: Vetta / Getty

Mid-life crisis, 13th-century style


A review of The Ten Thousand Things, by John Spurling. This intricately wrought study of medieval Chinese scholar-artists is wonderfully well imagined

Italian students who have volunteered for military service, parade through the streets of Rome, carrying Italian and German flags Photo: Getty

The Italians who won the war – against us


A review of Target: Italy, by Roderick Bailey. Whatever their deficiencies on the battlefield the Italian secret service outwitted British Intelligence during the second world war

Josefa Duran, the flamenco dancer known as ‘Pepita’

Wealth is no guarantee of happiness. Look at the Sackville-Wests


A review of The Disinherited: A Story of Love, Family and Betrayal, by Robert Sackville-West. This biography of the famous family does not end well

Jonathan Meades Photo: Getty

Exclamation marks, no; aertex shirts, yes!


A review of A Curious Career, by Lynn Barber, and An Encyclopaedia of Myself, by Jonathan Meades. Two biographies to delight a dandy

One of three portraits of Dylan Thomas by Alfred Janes

Dylan Thomas: boozer, womaniser, sponger, charlatan — or master craftsman?

Secondary Feature

Who the hell was Dylan Thomas? Boozer, womaniser, sponger, charlatan — or master craftsman, besotted husband, generosity personified and one of the greatest literary talents of the 20th century? Or all of these? Fifty years ago (in November 1964) the… Read more

The sober-suited Georgie with Elsa . ‘She wore fur coats fashioned from brown river rat’

Jorge Luis Borges and his ‘bitch’

Books feature

When Jorge Luis Borges died in 1986, at the age of 87, he left behind 100-odd slender fictions and as many poems, but no novels. Compared with the blockbusting authors of our age, this was a small (if perfectly formed)… Read more

The most romantic winter resort in Europe: Taormina, with Mount Etna in the background, by Edward Lear

The fruitcake island of Sicily and its legion of literary visitors


A review of Sicily: A Literary Guide for Travellers by Andrew and Suzanne Edwards. Is there anything that Sicily has not seen and does not know?