Books

The children looked like a cross between the Von Trapps and the aliens in The Midwich Cuckoos

How to become a successful cult leader: offer love, and then withdraw it

10 December 2016 9:00 am

When I was 22 I met a man called Yisrayl Hawkins who said his coming had been prophesied in the…

Young Couple Holding Hands Outside

Inbreeding and schizophrenia make for double trouble in Salley Vickers’s lastest novel

10 December 2016 9:00 am

Cousins is a curious novel. If I’d been a publisher’s reader, I’d have consigned it to the rejection pile after…

Charles Burns’s Last Look.

Dark tales, graphically told

10 December 2016 9:00 am

A woman birthing bloated speckled eggs from her supernaturally swollen womb. Sushi screaming and squirming. A skull-shaped sweet, bearing the…

‘Snow scene in the Garden of a Daimyo’. Triptych by Hiroshige and Uagawa Kunisada

The terrible beauty of snow

10 December 2016 9:00 am

Here is William Diaper in 1722, translating Oppian’s Halieuticks (a Greek epic poem on the loves of the fishes): As…

British journalist and author Clare Hollingsworth (Photo: Getty)

How to make it as a female war correspondent

10 December 2016 9:00 am

In August 1939, Clare Hollingworth, a 28-year-old aid-worker, had been employed as a reporter for less than a week by…

St Mary’s, Mundon, Essex. From Tiny Churches by Dixe Wills

Tiny churches can be as uplifting as cathedrals

10 December 2016 9:00 am

Here are two approachable and distinctive books on our churches, great and small. Simon Jenkins’s cathedrals survey follows his earlier…

Dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet perform Swan Lake (Photo: Getty)

The secret of the Bolshoi style will always be safe

10 December 2016 9:00 am

In 2013, Pavel Dmitrichenko, disgruntled principal dancer of the Bolshoi, exacted a now infamous revenge on the company’s artistic director,…

Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in Easy Rider

Freewheeling round the world

10 December 2016 9:00 am

In these books, two handsome and popular telly adventurers consider, from viewpoints that are sometimes overly autobiographical, the culture of…

Frank Buckland at home with his caged monkeys

Anyone for pickled horse tongue, boiled elephant’s trunk or rhinoceros pie?

10 December 2016 9:00 am

Forgotten? Though I can rarely attend their dinners (in Birmingham), I am a proud member of the Buckland Club (motto:…

Regent’s Park Zoological Gardens in 1835

Depressed monkeys, constipated llamas and suicidal kangaroos: the dark age of London Zoo

10 December 2016 9:00 am

If you’ve ever read a history of the early days of the Foundling Hospital, you’ll remember the shock: expecting to…

Samurai

Leslie Downer’s romantic novel of 19th-century Japan is a brilliant blend of fact and fiction

10 December 2016 9:00 am

All readers know that good novels draw us into other worlds. I cannot think of another, however, which so alarmed…

Above and below: Quentin Blake’s illustrations for The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — not the happiest of pairings

The lonely genius of Beatrix Potter

10 December 2016 9:00 am

The story of the extraordinary boom in children’s literature over the last 100 years could be bookended with a ‘Tale…

Old Whiskey

A toast to centuries of champagne colonialism

10 December 2016 9:00 am

Cometh the hour, cometh the book, and so Christmas brings us once again a tidal wave of titles relating to…

Crime Scene Investigation

Period crime for Christmas

10 December 2016 9:00 am

Imagine receiving an anonymous suicide note addressed to you by mistake. Would you try to find that person, to help…

Bela Lugosi and Helen Chandler in the 1931 film Dracula

The grisly life of Dracula’s creator

10 December 2016 9:00 am

Legends cling to Bram Stoker’s life. One interesting cluster centres on his wife, Florence. She was judged, in her high…

Eton and Harrow schoolboys arriving for the cricket match between the two schools at Lord's cricket ground, 1928 (Photo: Getty)

We’re all snobs — however much we deny it

10 December 2016 9:00 am

D.J. Taylor’s clever dissection of snobs is really two books in one. Scattered throughout are entertaining, delicious (initially), solemnly related…

spot-author-400

Spot the British Author

10 December 2016 9:00 am

Answers to ‘Spot the British Author’

10 December 2016 9:00 am

1. Kingsley Amis 2. Beatrix Potter 3. Graham Greene 4. Salman Rushdie 5. Nick Hornby 6. Arthur Conan Doyle 7.…

Happy days: Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in the late 1970s, photographed in the garden of Tversky’s house in Stanford, California

The great intellectual bromance of the last century — between Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky

3 December 2016 9:00 am

Two brilliant psychologists in the 1970s changed our understanding about the way we think and the choices we make – with momentous consequences, says Steven Poole

(Photo: Getty)

Rifling through Elena Ferrante’s writing desk

3 December 2016 9:00 am

Frantumaglia isn’t strictly a book by Elena Ferrante. Frantumaglia isn’t strictly a book at all. It’s a celebration of the…

The garden at Thenford, Northamptonshire

The best gardening books of 2016

3 December 2016 9:00 am

Garden design usually breaks out of its confines to become part of the general consciousness only in Chelsea Flower Show…

‘The Cheesemonger’ by Eric Ravilious.

Round and ripe: the role of cheese in global history

3 December 2016 9:00 am

‘Blessed are the cheesemakers.’ The line from Life of Brian is followed by: ‘It’s not meant to be taken literally.…

‘... and of course I can’t leave clever Bill Davis and my purse.’
From William Nicholson’s Clever Bill

Children’s books for Christmas

3 December 2016 9:00 am

Maurice Sendak, no mean judge, observed that William Nicholson’s Clever Bill was ‘among the few perfect picture books for children’.…

Storm and lighthouse

Cynan Jones’s Cove is an unforgettable adventure

3 December 2016 9:00 am

If there’s one shared characteristic of the so-called ‘new nature writing’ it is a failure, with a few notable exceptions,…

Julie Harris in the 1963 film The Haunting, based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson, high priestess of horror, finally gets the recognition she deserves

3 December 2016 9:00 am

A film critic friend, astonished that I had never heard of Shirley Jackson, told me to go and read her…