Books

(Photo: Getty)

Lonely little emperors: secrets of China’s only children

Books

As Xinran’s Buy Me the Sky reveals, China’s one-child policy has resulted in a grotesquely distorted population tortured by guilt

Federer

Roger Federer helped me through my nervous breakdown, says William Skidelsky

Books

But why has such a boringly perfect tennis player inspired so many writers, wonders Edmund Gordon (worried by his own fascination with Andy Murray)

Music

While I was wining and dining bands, the future of the music industry was stealing CDs in North Carolina

Books

We 1990 record executives didn’t know what was about to hit us. Stephen Witt’s How Music Got Free explains it all

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The dark side of Delhi

Books

Lucy Beresford’s heroine investigates her husband’s death while uncovering the truth about India’s missing millions in her compelling novel Invisible Threads

Morning mist in the valleys of northeast Dartmoor, seen from the summit of Brent Tor

What can we do with Dartmoor?

Books

There have been conflicting plans for this wilderness, going back to the 18th century, as Matthew Kelly’s Quartz and Feldspar reveals

Victoria as a child, by Richard Westall

Queen Victoria was born to be a novelist — this book proves it

Books feature

Few monarchs could become novelists. They wouldn’t be able to develop the practice, or possess the necessary temperament. No monarch could sit in the corner of a room observing, or walk the streets unnoticed. They don’t have much of a… Read more

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Owen Sheers disregards the first commandment of novel-writing: to show, not tell

Books

Repetitive and highfalutin, I Saw a Man, involving a distant drone strike and close-ups of a failing marriage, feels rushed and undeveloped

Author Steve Toltz (Photo: Getty)

If a novel about failure fails, does that make it a success?

Books

With Quicksand, a flaccid carrier bag of a comic romp, I fear that Steve Toltz is trying to find out

Tallulah Bankhead — at home in louche Maidenhead

Oscar Wilde, Christine Keeler, Ivor Novello and Isambard Kingdom Brunel make unexpected companions on the Great Western

Books

In Station to Station, former commuter James Attlee finds romance and malarkey along the line to Bristol

Catherine Lampert, 1986

Frank Auerbach: frightened of heights, dogs, driving, swimming — but finding courage through painting

Books

Catherine Lampert’s revelations about Frank Auerbach include the astonishing claim that, as an orphan, he never felt the need of parents

Stephen King (Photo: Getty)

Finders Keepers is not so much a book as a shot-by-shot description of a future film

Books

Stephen King’s latest foray into hard-boiled detective fiction has a definite whiff of Elmore Leonard — without the humour

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New ways to destroy the world

Books

The more we know about environmental damage, according to Michael McCarthy’s The Moth Snowstorm, the more of it we seem to do

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What’s wrong with the Victoria Cross

Books

Gary Mead highlights the many problems involved with awarding the VC. How can courage be graded? And who should be the judge?

Béla Bartók recording folk songs with villagers in Hungary, 1907

Bartók would have made history even if he’d never composed a note

Books

Béla Bartók cannot really be considered Hungary’s ‘national’ composer at a time when borders were constantly being redrawn — but he was an undoubted hero when it came to collecting folk music

San Domenico church, Palermo

Palermo: city of jasmine and dark secrets

Books

Two new books on Sicily celebrate the island’s rich history, from the ancient Greeks to Cosa Nostra (but both are wrong about Leonardo Sciascia)

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Online trolls: ‘cultural dung beatles’, revelling in society’s ordure

Books

Two new books on internet trolling reveal that the geeks, hackers and misanthropes who are wrecking people’s lives are mainly young, male Americans — but with a fair smattering of Brits and Aussies

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Bond would be bored in today’s MI6, says Malcolm Rifkind

Books

Stephen Grey’s The New Spymasters traces an astonishing transformation in MI5, MI6 and GCHQ — but at least some of the old rules apply

The battle of Lepanto, October 1571

From Barbary corsairs to people-traffickers: the violence of the Mediterranean

Books feature

With summer on its way, thoughts turn south to olive groves and manicured vineyards, to the warm water and hot beaches of the Mediterranean. But this sea that is a place of rest and beauty for some of us is… Read more

Portrait of Emperor Nicholas II by Boris Michaylovich Kustodiev, 1915 (Photo: Getty)

All might have been well had Nicholas II only listened to a tiny cosmopolitan elite

Books

The best way to govern a country is through an educated aristocracy: Dominic Lieven’s provocatively old-fashioned view, applied to the end of Tsarist Russia

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Fathers and sons — seen from multiple angles

Books

Stuart Evers’s 12 short stories on the theme of fathers and sons are full of good ideas — not always well executed

Lucian Freud in his bedroom in Notting Hill, May 2011

Falling in love in the Musée Gustave Moreau

Books

Meades takes issue with some of Barnes's speculations on the art that will and won't survive - but both agree conceptual art is dead in the water

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

Books

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

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

Books

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

Books

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

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

Books

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

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

Books

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

Books

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

Nautilus

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