Books

‘Lumps of speculation cast down from the computer of a time-starved architect’

The social cleansing of London — and other capital crimes

19 March 2016 9:00 am

You have to get nearly halfway through this book before it starts to show some life. Until that point, as…

Republican troops surrender during the Spanish Civil War (Photo: Getty)

Franco’s bloody finale

19 March 2016 9:00 am

One afternoon in the early 1990s, an elderly gentleman from Alicante told me of the tragedy that had occurred at…

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Love like Salt: a memoir of music, motherhood and magical thinking

19 March 2016 9:00 am

Helen Stevenson’s daughter Clara has cystic fibrosis. Love Like Salt is an account of living with the disease, but it…

EdL-yet-again!

What makes the white working class angry? Twits like Hsiao-Hung Pai

19 March 2016 9:00 am

This is a quite remarkable book. Badly written, devoid of anything even vaguely approaching a methodology, patronising, hideously mistaken on…

The coronation of Henry IV by the Master of the Harley Froissart

Henry IV: unsightly usurper and megalomaniac

19 March 2016 9:00 am

Poor old Henry IV: labelled (probably unfairly) as a leper, but accurately as a usurper, he has been one of…

Heroin or cocaine drug line

Hitting rock bottom in LA

19 March 2016 9:00 am

The title of this book tells you a lot. Jack Sutherland, who grew up in London and Los Angeles, worked…

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A senile Putin becomes a parody of his own parody

19 March 2016 9:00 am

The decrepitude of old age is a piteous sight and subject. In his second book Michael Honig — a doctor-turned-novelist…

Did criticism kill John Keats? Sketch by Joseph Severn of the poet in his last illness

Aphorisms and the arts: from Aristotle to Oscar Wilde

19 March 2016 9:00 am

The author of this jam-packed treasure trove has been a film critic at the New York Times since 2000 and…

Ford Madox Brown celebrates 17th-century advances in science in his painting ‘William Crabtree watches the Transit of Venus in 1639’

A.C. Grayling reduces history to a game of quidditch

12 March 2016 9:00 am

The 17th century scores highly  — especially England’s part in it — in A.C. Grayling’s ‘points system’ of history. If only the study of the past were that simple, says Ruth Scurr

Author Karl Ove Knausgaard (Photo: Getty)

Karl Ove Knausgaard describes nothing happening — wonderfully

12 March 2016 9:00 am

It is hard to explain the contents of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s vast series My Struggle because not much happens. Or…

Chapter 1 written on old typewriter.

First novel choice: the American connection

12 March 2016 9:00 am

At the beginning of this year I underwent a complete literary detox: an absolute, cold-turkey abstention from cutting-edge fiction of…

The Green Man on a roof boss in Norwich cathedral

The Green Man's journey from Nazi to sweetcorn salesman

12 March 2016 9:00 am

The other day I visited a psychic medium in Croydon, south-east London. Mavis Grimstick (not quite her real name) boasted…

Author China Mieville (Photo: Getty)

Is China Miéville becoming a bit too inscrutable?

12 March 2016 9:00 am

China Miéville’s work is invariably clever, inevitably dense and usually interwoven with hard-left political and social concerns, but its author…

Harris and Klebold practise at a rifle range two weeks before the Columbine massacre

Are all moody teenagers potential Columbine killers?

12 March 2016 9:00 am

On an April morning in 1999, two teenagers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, walked into Columbine High School in Colorado…

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Neil Jordan: as seductive a novelist as film-maker

12 March 2016 9:00 am

The first and most important thing to say about The Drowned Detective is that it’s a very good novel and…

T.S. Eliot (Photo: Getty)

T.S. Eliot’s crisis year: exhaustion, hair loss and a wrecked marriage

12 March 2016 9:00 am

F.R. Leavis once denounced the Twickenham edition of Pope’s Dunciad for producing a meagre trickle of text through a desert…

Greta Garbo in New York in 1955

Olivia Laing: homeless and tempest-tossed in the Big Apple

12 March 2016 9:00 am

Like a lot of people, Olivia Laing came to New York to join a lover. Like a lot of people,…

A mask of the Kwakiutl, a native American clan on the West coast of Canada (Photo: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty)

Tug of war over the world’s heritage

12 March 2016 9:00 am

Isis’s blowing up of the Roman theatre at Palmyra should concentrate our minds: our world heritage is vulnerable. Not that…

Bohumil Hrabal (Photo: Getty)

The very Czech (and very funny) brilliance of Bohumil Hrabal

12 March 2016 9:00 am

‘A crane fell on top of me in Kladno in 1952, after which my writing got better,’ Bohumil Hrabal (who…

The Bridgeman Art Library

Laurence Oliphant: oddest of Victorian oddballs

12 March 2016 9:00 am

As an erstwhile obituarist, I pity the poor hack who had to write up the life of Laurence Oliphant —…

David Quantick (far left) receives his Writers Guild Award for Veep (Photo: Getty)

David Quantick’s The Mule: lost in the world of translation

12 March 2016 9:00 am

For those who read the weekly music press during the 1980s, David Quantick’s was a name you could rely on.…

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A mother-son relationship that made me feel sick

12 March 2016 9:00 am

A boy, a car, a journey, a question: the first sentence of Elizabeth Day’s new novel goes like this: From…

The British give the Chinese a taste of their own medicine in the First Opium War

Why has China taken so long to make its mark?

12 March 2016 9:00 am

‘China is a sleeping lion,’ Napoleon reportedly remarked. ‘When it wakes, the world will tremble.’ There is no need to…

Left: The main gate to the mighty citadel has withstood centuries of invasion. Now much scarred, it presides over a bombed-out city, including the wrecked medieval souq (above), until recently the world’s largest and most vibrant covered historic market and Unesco world heritage site

Syria's Stalingrad: how Aleppo slipped from tolerance to terrorism

5 March 2016 9:00 am

Justin Marozzi on the bitter irony of Aleppo’s ancient motto

The swinging sixties (Photo: Getty)

Anthony Quinn’s Freya: an engaging costume drama

5 March 2016 9:00 am

The name Freya is derived from the old Norse word for ‘spouse’, perhaps Odin’s. As a goddess she is variously…