(Photo: Getty)

Lonely little emperors: secrets of China’s only children


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


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


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


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


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

(Photo: Getty)

The dark side of Delhi


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?


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


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


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?


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


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


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


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


New ways to destroy the world


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


What’s wrong with the Victoria Cross


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


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


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)


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


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


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


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


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


Fathers and sons — seen from multiple angles


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


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


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