Books

Massacre of the tuna. ‘To eat a tuna is equivalent to eating a tiger’ says Jonathan Balcombe

Fish are not so cold-blooded after all

7 January 2017 9:00 am

The recent furore over a freakshow ice rink in Japan, with hapless fishes embedded beneath the skaters’ feet, was inexplicable…

Emile Zola: disgusted of Norwood

7 January 2017 9:00 am

Michael Rosen, a poet, journalist and prolific author of novels for children, has written an account of Emile Zola’s year’s…

Günter Grass, who died last year, photographed in 1981

Günter Grass: from enfant terrible to Grand Old Man

31 December 2016 9:00 am

Günter Grass was a mischief-maker, who set out to eclipse his equally brilliant fellow writers, says Rachel Seiffert. But his early novels – The Tin Drum, especially – fully deserved the limelight

The full horror of the siege of Leningrad is finally revealed

31 December 2016 9:00 am

Stand aside, Homer. I doubt whether even the author of the Iliad could have matched Alexis Peri’s account of the…

The colourful life of ‘Mad Madge’, Duchess of Newcastle

31 December 2016 9:00 am

There has never previously, I believe, been a novel about Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, one of the 17th century’s…

The cradle of Henri IV, made from a turtle shell edged with silver, is displayed under the royal flags of France and Navarre

Falling standards and flagging spirits

31 December 2016 9:00 am

Did you know that 190 out of 200 nations in the world have either red or blue on their flags?…

The horrifying life of the African guerrilla

31 December 2016 9:00 am

When George Omona first saw soldiers in the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army, he was amazed. The scary fighters who had…

Is The Evenings really the best Dutch novel of all time?

31 December 2016 9:00 am

Most of us lead lives of quiet desperation. So we’re told. Frits van Egters apparently leads a life more desperate…

Tippi Hedren in a publicity still for The Birds

Tippi Hedren gives nothing away

31 December 2016 9:00 am

‘The Birds is coming’ screamed the posters for Tippi Hedren’s only famous film. Well, the cats is coming in her…

There is life out there, insists the astrobiologist Jon Willis — though it won’t be turning up in flying saucers. There’ll be a meeting of microbes rather than a meeting of minds

Why are astronomers so desperate to believe in aliens?

10 December 2016 9:00 am

Why are astronomers so keen to believe in extraterrestrial life? Is it just a story they want to hear, wonders Tom Holland

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…