Henry Coxwell and James Glaisher in their balloon car, studying the moisture content of the atmosphere

The weather: a very British obsession


Brave Victorian eccentrics risked their lives and fortunes pioneering a reliable storm-warning system, as Peter Moore reveals in his gripping The Weather Experiment

Renata Adler, 1987 (Photo: Getty)

Pricking the pomp of American society


The wonderfully funny, acute Renata Adler is almost as good an essayist as a novelist, as her collected non-fiction After the Tall Timber reveals


The definitive literary guide to mixed martial arts


Kerry Handley’s riotously entertaining and perceptive Thrown makes something marvellous from the triumphs and disasters of fighters Sean Huffman and Erik Koch

Henrietta Bingham holds the whip hand with Stephen Tomlin at Ham Spray, home of Lytton Strachey and Dora Carrington

Good stories of bad Bloomsbury behaviour

Books feature

In March 1923 a large birthday party was held in a studio in Bloomsbury. It is often assumed that the eponymous Group was habitually glum or intense; but there were a lot of parties. The artists were Vanessa Bell and… Read more

Portrait generally thought to be of Ghenghis Khan

Was Genghis Khan the cruellest man who ever lived?


Frank McLynn’s latest biography is too lenient to the ‘Ruler of the Universe’, whose reign of terror was responsible for nearly 40 million deaths


From conspiracy to childhood secrets: a choice of recent crime fiction


A troubled marriage, global conspiracy, Swedish noir and the Mau-Mau in Kenya — from Renée Knight, David Shafer, Christoffer Carlsson and William Shaw

‘Jeddah from the sea’— sketch by Thomas Machell in one of his journals

A Victorian sailor is the new love of my life


In Deeper than Indigo, Jenny Balfour Paul confesses to having an out-of body experience with the 19th-century adventurer and indigo hand, Thomas Machell

Family Tree

Seeds of a mystery in a great-aunt’s will


Scarlett Thomas’s The Seed Collectors is a clever, chaotic, filthily gorgeous, satirical Aga-saga


Making do on frogs’ legs and 4,500 brace of grouse


The British beat second world war shortages at home by adapting inventively, and in some cases carrying on much as before, according to Duff Hart-Davis’s Our Land at War


How really to annoy the neighbours: build a basement swimming-pool


Rachel Johnson’s latest novel delves deep into the lives of Notting Hill’s super-rich. What Fresh Hell will it bring?

Interior Minister Talaat Pasha, who ordered the arrests of the Armenians during the Armenian genocide (Photo: Getty)

The long shadow of genocide: Armenia’s vengeance years


In Operation Nemesis Eric Bogosian shows how, in the 1920s, the world turned a blind eye to widespread revenge killings for the 1915 Armenian massacres

Jews from the Warsaw ghetto surrender to German soldiers after the uprising (Photo: Getty)

A moving tribute to Janusz Korczak, hero of the Warsaw ghetto


Jim Shepard’s novel The Book of Aron tells (with the bitterest black humour) the little-known story of a real-life paediatrician who devoted his life to the orphans of the Warsaw ghetto


Trials of the century: sex, sodomy, espionage, theft and fraud


Jeremy Hutchinson, who successfully defended some of the most notorious figures of the 20th century, had a criminal record himself — for accidentally shooting a policeman


Shunned, slighted and starving in Sheffield — the Indian immigrants who have become Britain’s untouchables


Sunjeev Sahota’s novel, The Year of the Runaways, highlighting the horrific plight of Indian immigrants to Britain, is the best novel of the year, says Cressida Connolly

Flamboyant intellectuals: René Descartes (main picture) and Bernard-Henri Lévy (below), in 1978

Liberty, philosophy and 246 types of cheese

Books feature

Sudhir Hazareesingh’s bold new book is built on the assumption that ‘it is possible to make meaningful generalisations about the shared intellectual habits of a people as diverse and fragmented as the French’. France, as General de Gaulle pointed out,… Read more

(Photo: Getty)

The Boston marathon bombers: Muslim radicals or ordinary American citizens?


In The Tsarnaev Brothers Masha Gessen tells the alarming story of a family who didn’t belong anywhere  — but were determined to make their mark

‘The Duel after the Masquerade’ by Jean-Léon Gerome was exhibited to great acclaim in Paris in 1857, and a year later in London. The art historian Francis Haskell has suggested that the mysterious duelling figures from the commmedia dell’arte are characters in a story by Jules Champfleury

Crossed swords and pistols at dawn: the duel in literature


Whether dutiful, chivalrous, flamboyant or just plain quarrelsome John Leigh’s literary duellists make engaging subjects in Touché.

Milan Kundera, Prague 1973 (Photo: Getty)

Milan Kundera’s fun-free festival


The Festival of Insignificance, Milan Kundera’s first novel in a decade, is short, defiantly self-conscious — and fatally lacking in enjoyment

There may be an unknown somebody even more wonderful

The smartphone is like having a singles bar in one’s pocket 24/7


Stand-up comedian Aziz Ansari reveals some very unromantic modern mating practices in Modern Romance

James Rhodes (Photo: Getty)

Sound and fury — the pianist James Rhodes is very angry indeed


Instrumental is an unflinching misery memoir about abuse from early childhood — but James Rhodes’s anger seems equally directed at himself

The new Imperial Royal Austrian Light Infantry c.1820

The honour of the Habsburgs was all that mattered to the imperial Austrian army


Talleyrand should not have sneered at the Austrian regiments — they actually won a surprising number of battles, as Richard Bassett’s For God and Kaiser shows

Iain Sinclair

Iain Sinclair and me — Michael Moorcock meets his semi-mythical version


Sinclair is one of our finest writers, says Michael Moorcock, and London Overground is one vast, pumping, blaring, rattling, melancholy, celebratory cultural circus

Sir Thomas Browne (Photo: Getty)

It’s amazing how many different subjects Sir Thomas Browne’s latest biographer doesn’t care about


Hugh Aldersey-Williams ‘wrenches’ the brilliant 17th-century polymath into the 21st century — simply in order to express his own disappointment with the modern world


From ambrosia to zabaglione — now with added slavery

Books feature

Should sugar be taxed? Some of the contributors to The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets seem to think so. Sugar certainly appears less appealing than it used to. Its negative effect on our teeth is undeniable, and it now… Read more

(Photo: Getty)

The ‘art’ of stealing presented as English heritage


Simon & Schuster should be ashamed to have published Bob and Brian Tovey’s The Last English Poachers. There is nothing romantic about stealing from the rich — it’s a crime like any other

English novelist and journalist Angela Huth (Photo: Getty)

An Austenesque Aga saga with hints of postmodernism


There are too many wrong notes in Colouring In, Angela Huth’s latest novel about a woman who tries to have it all


Which comes first — the chicken or the pig?


Two new books claim equal significance for their chosen subject as the driving force of civilisation

Training Corps from Lahore, march with rifles during a training exercise (Photo: Getty)

The forgotten army: abandoned by the British to the horrors of Partition


Raghu Karnad’s moving memoir Farthest Field makes triumphant redress for the injustices suffered by his fellow Indians in the Burma Campaign