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Books

‘Me as Dorothy’ by Grayson Perry —but what’s with the frocks?

If you hate art-world show-offs, Grayson Perry, what's with the frocks?

Books

A review of ‘Playing to the Gallery: Helping Contemporary Art in its Struggle to be Understood’, by Grayson Perry. Perry’s Reith Lectures asked pertinent questions but didn’t bother with serious answers

A group of boys riding in an army tank on the roundabout at the Hampstead Heath Fairground in 1944.  (Photo by Harry Shepherd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Beer and skittles and Lucian Freud and Quentin Crisp – a Hampstead misery memoir

Books

A review of ‘Slideshow: Memories of a Wartime Childhood’, by Marjorie Ann Watts. It’s at its best when channelling the voice and mind of a child

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And one more for the road – excerpts from Roddy Doyle’s latest

Secondary Feature

9-12-12 — See the spacer died. —Wha’ spacer? —The Sky at Night fella. —Bobby Moore. —Patrick Moore. —That’s him, yeah. Did he die? —Yeah. —That’s a bit sad. He was good, wasn’t he? —Brilliant. Very English as well. —How d’yeh… Read more

Cecil Beaton, self-portrait, 1936

Cecil Beaton, the bitch

Books

A review of ‘Cecil Beaton: Portraits and Profiles’, edited by Hugo Vickers. Katherine Hepburn had ‘rocking horse nostrils’; Mae West was a ‘nice little ape’. The photographer was a natural writer – and snob

The front door of 10 Downing Street. Photo: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

Andrew Marr thinks he’s a novelist. I don’t

Books

A review of ‘Head of State’, by Andrew Marr. Fantastical, cumbersome and unentertaining, Marr’s debut suggests he should definitely stick to his day job

David Hockney, photographed by Christopher Simon Sykes

David Hockney, our most popular and hardworking living artist, returns to the easel

Books

A review of ‘Hockney: The Biography, Volume II’, by Christopher Simon Sykes. He’s got grumpier with old age, but still Hockney retains his youthful curiosity and energy

The six books shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013. Will there be more books by American novelists in future years? Photo: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

Keep the Man Booker Prize British

Books feature

I am nothing if not patriotic. Like most Americans, I am convinced that mine is the freest, most beautiful country on earth. But I cannot pretend to be happy that two of us have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.… Read more

Tenements in the Gorbals area of Glasgow — considered some of the worst slums in Britain — are replaced by high-rise flats, c. 1960

Corrie and ready-salted crisps: the years when modern Britain began

Books feature

In Burberry’s on Regent Street on a dank December day in 1959, David Kynaston records, ‘a young Canadian writer, Leonard Cohen [...] bought a not-yet-famous blue raincoat’. For those joining Kynaston’s groaning historical wagon train for the first time, this… Read more

River Kenmare

A Troubles novel with plenty of violence and, thank heaven, some sex too

Books

A review of Ashes in the Wind, by Christopher Bland. It's not all arson, ambushes, beatings and murders. Just mostly

Lu Kongjiang, taking part in a ‘bee beard’ competition in Shaoyang, Hunan Province, China, 2011 From In Praise of Bees: A Cabinet of Curiosities by Elizabeth Birchall (Quiller Publishing, £30, pp. 255, ISBN 9781846891922)

Bees make magic: an inspirational case for biodiversity

Books

A review of A Buzz in the Meadow, by Dave Goulson. This bumble specialist narrates the lurid life histories of insects – and the devastating decline of the bee – with the enthusiasm of a young Gerald Durrell

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A flashlight into the cellar of the lawless ‘dark net’

Books

A review of The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld, by Jamie Bartlett. Essential reading for anyone engaged with the web and the effects it is having on our culture

Henry VI did at least fulfil one function of kingship — that of ‘sacerdos’. Kneeling behind him is his uncle Henry Cardinal Beaufort, and standing (bearded) is another uncle, the ‘good Duke’ Humphrey

Britain’s own game of thrones

Books

A review of The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors, by Dan Jones, who says it's all Henry VI's fault

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art

It’s not easy for a middle-aged woman to get inside the head of a 12-year-old innkeeper’s son in 1914

Books

A review of Mr Mac and Me, by Esther Freud. Though it sounds promising, Freud’s second novel doesn’t get the tone right

British Jewish author and journalist Howard Jacobson Photo: Hindustan Times via Getty

Howard Jacobson’s J convinced me that I’d just read a masterpiece

Books

But on reflection is it really imaginable that Britain will have anti-Semitic pogroms within the next few years?

Margaret Atwood Photo: Toronto Star via Getty Images

Margaret Atwood settles her accounts with this new short story collection

Books

A review of Stone Mattress, by Margaret Atwood. These sharp, wry, humane tales mark a return to form from the acclaimed author

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The jilted bride

Charles Saatchi’s new book of photos makes me feel sick

Books

A review of Known Unknowns, by Charles Saatchi. An old-fashioned chamber of horrors in the mould of Ripley’s Believe It or Not

Rachel Cusk

When Rachel Cusk went to Greece: would she be nice or nasty?

Books

A review of Outline, by Rachel Cusk. A surprisingly compelling, dream-like new novel from the acclaimed but difficult author

Screenwriter William Goldman Photo: Getty

How dare this author trash one of the great screenwriters of the 20th century?

Books

A review of William Goldman, by Sean Egan. Cursorily researched and wretchedly written, this biography needn’t be taken seriously

Scenes from a long life. Left to right: the vulnerable young queen, in thrall to Prince Albert; overcoming her demons with the help of John Brown — depicted in a popular souvenir cut-out; and the matriarch as Empress of India

Idle, depressed, weird – and wonderful: what Queen Victoria was really like after Albert

Books feature

Do we really need a thumping new life of Queen Victoria? She seems to be one of our most familiar figures, the subject of countless books; but the surprising fact is that there hasn’t been a full, authoritative study since… Read more

A British patrol advancing along the Waw river, Burma Photo: Getty

The forgotten flank of the forgotten corps of the Forgotten Army

Books

A review of Another Man’s War, by Barnaby Phillips. A book about courage and friendship that transcends time, distance and race

David Mitchell Photo: Getty

How on earth did David Mitchell's third-rate fantasy make the Man Booker longlist?

Books

A review of The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell. This restless new novel is full of student satire and undercooked fantasy

‘Some find their death by swords and bullets; and some by fluids down the gullet’. Thomas Rowlandson’s illustration of ‘The English Dance of Death’ by William Combe, 1815 — a satire on the evils of drinking gin

Enjoy gin but don’t read books? Or read them only while drinking gin? This is the book for you

Books

A review of Gin Glorious Gin, by Olivia Williams. A diverting, if not remotely scholarly, history that charts the social ascent of this spirit, from dram shop to the Queen Mother’s handbag

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A book about human nature that makes your head spin – in a good way

Books

Vincent Deary’s How We Are is crammed with ideas. William Leith can’t wait for the next two volumes

A demonstrator dressed in a Rupert Murdo

Owen Jones’s new book should be called The Consensus: And How I Want to Change it

Books

A review of The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It, by Owen Jones. The analysis is better when it is ideological rather than historical

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Improbable, unconvincing and lazy - Ian McEwan’s latest is unforgivable

Books

A review of The Children Act, by Ian McEwan. The characterisation is scant and the writing poor, and he never gives religion a chance

A romanticised portrait of Goethe by J.H.W. Tischbein

Germans see the best of their soul in Weimar. Everyone else, on the other hand...

Books feature

Thuringia, a region of former East Germany, occupies a special place in the thoughts of Germans, who like to regard it as the origin of all their best virtues. It’s an alluring place, full of wonderfully untouched stretches of densely… Read more