Books

‘Street in Auvers-sur-Oise’ by Vincent van Gogh

Why we love unfinished art

30 April 2016 9:00 am

An unfinished painting can provide a startling glimpse of the artist at work. But the common tendency to prefer it to a finished work is being taken to extremes, says Philip Hensher

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The Wicked Boy is finally redeemed

30 April 2016 9:00 am

During the heatwave in the summer of 1895, the Gentlemen v. Players match at Lords Cricket Ground on 8 July…

The famous rip tide in French Pass, Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

Across the river... and into the trees

30 April 2016 9:00 am

Water accounts for 70 per cent of your planet, and 60 per cent of your body. Yet when do you…

Without mankind, dogs wouldn’t stand a chance

What dogs are really up to

30 April 2016 9:00 am

Before I read this book, I thought I knew what a dog was. It barks, it wags its tail, it…

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A real-life Tristram Shandy – found in a skip

30 April 2016 9:00 am

Most modern biographers feed off celebrity like vampires let loose in a blood bank. That is why their books sell:…

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Nothing Nazi about Nietzsche

30 April 2016 9:00 am

Had you been down at Naumburg barracks early in March 1867, you might have seen a figure take a running…

Members of the Red Guards carry portraits of Mao Tse Tung as they parade through the streets of Beijing (Photo: Getty)

Chairman Mao devours his foes

30 April 2016 9:00 am

Frank Dikötter, professor of humanities at the University of Hong Kong and winner of the Samuel Johnson prize in 2011,…

Harry Farr, a soldier with the 1st Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, was executed for cowardice, aged 25, in 1916 when he refused to fight, despite almost certainly suffering from shell shock

The shocks and shells of the Somme

30 April 2016 9:00 am

In the final months of 1914, medical officers on the Western Front began seeing a new kind of casualty. Soldiers…

Author Jenny Diski (Photo: Getty)

The race from the Big C to the Big D

30 April 2016 9:00 am

The ‘journey’ — at least the one played out in public — begins with an announcement that you are incurable.…

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Training the horse from hell

30 April 2016 9:00 am

There were moments while reading this sprawling, ambitious novel when I thought I was reading a masterpiece. But at other…

The interior of the Swan Theatre, Southwark, in 1596, based on a sketch by a Dutch traveller, Johannes de Witt, and probably the best indicator of what the Globe Theatre would have looked like.

William Shakespeare: all things to all men

23 April 2016 9:00 am

The best new books celebrating Shakespeare’s centenary are full of enthusiasm and insight — but none plucks out the heart of his mystery, says Daniel Swift

‘Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh...’ (From The Merchant of Venice)

O, vengeance! Why, what an ass am I!

23 April 2016 9:00 am

Given this year’s 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, there was always going to be a slew of new publications; few,…

Roberto Bolano (Photo: Getty)

Sex, violence and anticlimax in 16 (very short) chapters

23 April 2016 9:00 am

‘Now I am a mother and a married woman, but not long ago I led a life of crime,’ begins…

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A Tokyo police procedural with a brilliant twist

23 April 2016 9:00 am

The plot of Hideo Yokoyama’s Six Four begins in 1989, with the murder of Shoko, a seven-year-old girl. Fourteen years…

Male bowerbirds’ creations look like little art galleries — built to impress the females

Which came first — the bowerbird or the egg?

23 April 2016 9:00 am

What is it about birds? They are the wild creatures we see most often, their doings and calls a daily…

Author Irvine Welsh (Photo:  Getty)

From Jekyll back to Hyde: the changing face of Begbie

23 April 2016 9:00 am

Irvine Welsh’s 1993 debut novel Train-spotting flicked a hearty V-sign in the face of alarm-clock Britain. ‘Ah choose no tae…

Scientology founder L. Ronald Hubbard (Photo: Getty)

At last – Going Clear is over here

23 April 2016 9:00 am

At last! It has taken over two years, but a British publisher has summoned up the nerve to bring out…

The obelisk in the Place de la Concorde. Its transport from Luxor to Paris took seven years and involved the destruction of an entire village

Are Egypt’s obelisks more stunning even than the pyramids?

23 April 2016 9:00 am

On the banks of the River Thames in central London, an ancient Egyptian obelisk, known as Cleopatra’s Needle, reaches towards…

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T.E. Lawrence: from young romantic to shame-shattered veteran

16 April 2016 9:00 am

T.E. Lawrence is seen as a ‘metaphor for imperialism, violence and betrayal’ in the Middle East. But woeful Arab leadership has also been to blame for the region’s problems, says Justin Marozzi

The French frigate Surveillante blows up the British frigate Quebec in a minor but famously furious engagement on 6 October 1779

The waves that wrecked Britannia

16 April 2016 9:00 am

Military history is more popular than respected. It is not hard to see why. It is masculine history, a trifecta…

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All at sea — trying hard to stay afloat

16 April 2016 9:00 am

‘This happens to other people.’ The Guardian journalist Decca Aitkenhead says she had heard the phrase countless times, interviewing the…

The aftermath following airstrikes in Syria (Photo: Getty)

Further dispatches from Syria’s maelstrom

16 April 2016 9:00 am

The mechanic, blinded in one eye by shrapnel, spent three days searching for his family in the destroyed buildings and…

St James by the Master of Mambrillas (early 16th century)

A pilgrim’s progress to Santiago

16 April 2016 9:00 am

In his friendly and beguiling voice, Jean-Christophe Rufin explains (in a way that reminded me of the pre-journey relish of…

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Life gets faster — as the Earth slows down

16 April 2016 9:00 am

Modern life is too fast. Everyone is always in a hurry; people skim-read and don’t take the time to eat…

Author Nicola Barker (Photo: Getty)

The Cauliflower®: Nicola Barker’s divine comedy

16 April 2016 9:00 am

Nicola Barker is both prodigiously talented and admirably fearless. I have loved her books. But for some time I had…