Books

The only way to travel (Photo: Getty)

For fashionable Victorian travellers, the only way was Norway

4 June 2016 9:00 am

‘The only use of a gentleman in travelling,’ Emmeline Lowe wrote in 1857, ‘is to take care of the luggage.’…

Kathleen Kennedy arrives in London

Kathleen Kennedy kicks over the traces

4 June 2016 9:00 am

Kathleen Kennedy and her elder brother JFK were the grandchildren of upwardly mobile Irish Catholic immigrants. John F. Fitzgerald, ‘Honey…

Huw Wheldon (Photo: Getty)

A good man at the 1970s BBC

4 June 2016 9:00 am

When I saw this book, a biography of Huw Wheldon, who was managing director of BBC Television between 1968 and…

Above and below: From Robin Dalton’s My Relations: ‘My second cousin, Penelope Wood, is an artist, or at least hopes to be one. She is only 16, but she has done some beautiful little paintings. I have one hanging in my room now. It is a landscape and is one she did when only 12 years old’

When mother killed the plumber — and Nellie Melba came round to sing

4 June 2016 9:00 am

Here’s a pair of little books — one even littler than the other — by Robin Dalton (née Eakin), a…

Illustration by Arthur Rackham for Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle

Do myths and folklore damage children’s brains?

4 June 2016 9:00 am

Children’s fantasy literature has never been just one thing. Animal fables, folk and fairy tales were not originally intended for…

'Comrade! Your efforts will help us raise the flag of victory over Berlin!', 1944 (Photo: Getty)

The hopeless wasteland of modern Russia

4 June 2016 9:00 am

‘Gilded doorknobs,’ spits a Party diehard as she contemplates the blessings of the Soviet Union’s collapse. ‘Is this freedom?’ Dozens…

Monmouth’s charm and dark, mesmerising beauty made him an object of international fascination

James Duke of Monmouth: perhaps the best king we never had

4 June 2016 9:00 am

In Pepys’s famous words, James, Duke of Monmouth was ‘the most skittish, leaping gallant that ever I saw, always in…

Novelist Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio (Photo: Getty)

Le Clézio’s The Prospector: from tropical beaches to the trenches of the Somme

4 June 2016 9:00 am

It is not easy to avoid clichés when writing about J.M.G. Le Clézio. Born in Nice in 1940, the recipient…

A poster from the 1930s advertising Shanghai

'Wicked old Paris of the Orient': a portrait of 1930s Shanghai

4 June 2016 9:00 am

Here’s the Mandarin for ooh-la-la! As Taras Grescoe, a respected Canadian writer of nonfiction, shows in this marvellous, microscopically descriptive…

Computer illustration of double-stranded DNA molecules

How Siddhartha Mukherjee gets it wrong on IQ, sexuality and epigenetics

28 May 2016 9:00 am

A clear, accurate, up-to-date pop science book on genetics would have been most welcome, says Stuart Ritchie. Sadly, this isn’t it

Author Philip Hensher (Photo: Getty)

Elegiac and exuberant: short stories from Philip Hensher and Helen Oyeyemi

28 May 2016 9:00 am

Discussions about the short story too often fall into a false dichotomy that can be characterised, in essence, by a…

‘The Letter’ by Rex Whistler

The dying days of the English country house

28 May 2016 9:00 am

Contrary to popular myth, the exuberant flame of life in the English country house was not extinguished by tears at…

Diego Maradona runs past English defender Terry Butcher just before scoring his second goal during the World Cup quarterfinal, 1986

Why Juan Villoro is the best football writer you've never heard of

28 May 2016 9:00 am

Football, unlike cricket, has for the most part been ill served by its writers. For every Brian Glanville and Ian…

Patricia Highsmith (Photo: Getty)

Crime pursues the crime writer

28 May 2016 9:00 am

Patricia Highsmith was an accretion of oddities — a woman who doted on her pet snails and carried a selection…

Chris Herzfeld’s message: apes are really just like us

Going ape with boredom in captivity

28 May 2016 9:00 am

King Kong, the story of a violently amorous gorilla, Me Cheeta, the autobiography of a slanderous Hollywood chimpanzee, and now…

A crowded Nevsky Prospect in St Petersburg (Photo: Getty)

Sexual tension and Siberian magic mushrooms

28 May 2016 9:00 am

On her arrival in Russia in 1914, Gerty Freely finds it refreshingly liberal compared to her native Britain: here servants…

Bridge Club (Photo: Getty)

No place for sissies among the Bridge Ladies of Connecticut

28 May 2016 9:00 am

Not a single line of this highly distinctive memoir happens out of doors. All of it takes place in rooms:…

Alex Otto, the German actor and theatre director, as King Lear c. 1920

Sneers and jeers over Lears

28 May 2016 9:00 am

In the 18th century, as Shakespeare began to take on classic status, editors began to notice differences between the texts…

St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai

Breaking the commandments on Moses’s mountain

28 May 2016 9:00 am

A medieval party of 800 Armenians at the top of Mount Sinai suddenly found themselves surrounded by fire. Their pilgrim…

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Equipped for life with a copy of Thucydides

28 May 2016 9:00 am

‘What distinguishes Cambridge from Oxford,’ wrote A.A. Milne in 1939, is that nobody who has been to Cambridge feels impelled…

Author Nina Stibbe (Photo: Getty)

Chaos among the commodes in Nina Stibbe’s old folks’ home

28 May 2016 9:00 am

A card in a shop window — ‘non-unionised, auxiliary nurses sought… 35p per hour. Ideal for outgoing compassionate females’ —…

Bradford protestors tie a copy of The Satanic Verses to a stake in Bradford and try to incinerate it

How The Satanic Verses failed to burn

28 May 2016 9:00 am

This is a book which, as one eyes its lavish illustrations and dips into its elegant prose, looks as if…

Nazis in the dock: Hans Frank replies to questioning during the Nuremberg Trials

Genocide is named and shamed

21 May 2016 9:00 am

Prosecution for genocide or crimes against humanity is now a given in international law. But before the Nuremberg Trials, these two groundbreaking notions didn’t exist. Daniel Hahn describes their origins and inspiration

Francesca Simon’s dark novel The Monstrous Child tells the story of Hel, Queen of the Underworld — like Proserpina, only monstrous

Sinister summer reading for children

21 May 2016 9:00 am

Martin Stewart’s Riverkeep (Penguin, £7.99) has a list of books and writers on the cover: Moby-Dick, The Wizard of Oz,…

Industrial Britain: The British Steel industry plunged into crisis after Tata Steel announced it would begin selling its plants in the UK (Photo: Getty)

How capitalism really works

21 May 2016 9:00 am

Deirdre McCloskey has been at work for many years on a huge project: to explain why the world has become…