Books

The Marx Brothers owed their vaudeville success to sharp wits, slapstick and a willingness to trade on the pervasive humour of ethnic stereotypes

Is Jewish humour the greatest defence mechanism ever created?

25 November 2017 9:00 am

Jewish humour has always been a defence mechanism against pain and persecution, says Keiron Pim

Portrait of Queen Caroline by Joseph Highmore, c.1735

Caroline of Ansbach: the best of the Hanoverians

25 November 2017 9:00 am

It can sometimes seem — unfairly but irresistibly — as if the sole function of the myriad Lilliputian German statelets…

The BBC’s battle for Britain

25 November 2017 9:00 am

The camouflage-painted, smoke-blackened entrance to London’s 1940s Broadcasting House, moated with sandbags and battered by bombs, provided its staff with…

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, photographed by Annie Leibovitz (From Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005–2016)

Sex and the city: the best art books of the year

25 November 2017 9:00 am

‘I should like,’ Edgar Degas once remarked, ‘to be famous and unknown.’ On the whole, he managed to achieve this.…

Wonder is all around

25 November 2017 9:00 am

Different people find different things impressive. Some claim, for instance, to experience a sense of wonder at the fact of…

Milton’s blinding reading list

25 November 2017 9:00 am

In December 1996 Martin Amis told listeners of the BBC’s Desert Island Discs what would relieve his solitude were he…

A crime novel that continues to puzzle

25 November 2017 9:00 am

His Bloody Project, Graeme Macrae Burnet’s previous novel, had the sort of success that most authors and creative writing students…

Drugs and drag queens in New York’s vanished clubland

25 November 2017 9:00 am

In 2014 Michael Alig, impresario, party promoter and drug provider, was released on parole after 17 years in prison for…

More books of the year

18 November 2017 9:00 am

A further selection of the best and most overrated books of 2017, chosen by some of our regular reviewers

How can I prevent my husband from burning all my post?

18 November 2017 9:00 am

Our own dear Mary wishes Giles wouldn’t automatically assume that everything she’s sent is junk mail

Roman mosaic from the Villa of the Nile, Leptis Magna, Libya (2nd century AD)

Holy mackerel! Civilisation begins with fishing

18 November 2017 9:00 am

Fish. Slippery, mysterious creatures. They are mysterious because of where they live, in vast waters, and because they elude the…

Sex and sycophancy at Rolling Stone

18 November 2017 9:00 am

Many moons ago, I worked at the New Musical Express magazine, which transformed me from virgin schoolgirl to the fabulous…

Lettice had the same thin face as Queen Elizabeth I, and the same shock of thickly curled, fiery red hair

The great Tudor catfight

18 November 2017 9:00 am

Apart from glorying in a memorable name, Lettice Knollys has chiefly been known for her connections — with her second…

The 67 words that ensured endless bloodshed

18 November 2017 9:00 am

If books about the Israeli-Arab conflict were building blocks, the Palestinians would have their own state already and then some.…

Horatio Clare breaks the ice with the taciturn Finns

18 November 2017 9:00 am

In this slim travel book Horatio Clare voyages as a guest on the Finnish icebreaker Otso (Bear), ‘mostly in darkness,…

Scallops with seaweed butter, from The Sportsman

Menus on the wild side

18 November 2017 9:00 am

The terroir of the Kentish coast is faultlessly represented in The Sportsman (Phaidon, £29.95), a book of recipes from an…

Susie Boyt neatly skewers the self-help trends

18 November 2017 9:00 am

Grief is not being able to eat a small boiled egg. ‘Could you face an egg?’ the widowed Jean asks…

More menace - and magic - on the moors

18 November 2017 9:00 am

Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney was one of the surprise stand-outs of last year, and a worthy winner of the…

Michael Caine in Get Carter

Ted Lewis: the great British crime writer you’ve never heard of

18 November 2017 9:00 am

If you search Google Images for Ted Lewis, the results show an American jazz-age band-leader in a battered top hat,…

Books of the year

11 November 2017 9:00 am

A selection of the best and most overrated books of 2017, chosen by some of our regular reviewers

An anti-Stalinist painting of the 1940s shows the tyrant’s face composed of starving Russians, against a backdrop of the Gulag

A decade of famine and purges: the murderous 1930s under Stalin

11 November 2017 9:00 am

He stood five feet seven in his boots — the same height as Napoleon and an inch shorter than Hitler.…

Reaping the whirlwind of climate change

11 November 2017 9:00 am

I spent part of the summer sailing around Ithaca and the Ionian Sea. It was a good reminder of how…