Books

Portrait of Hans Sloane by Stephen Slaughter (1736)

Hans Sloane collected everything – from acupuncture kits to zebras

27 May 2017 9:00 am

Hans Sloane’s passion for collecting led to the foundation = of the British Museum. But missing – until now – has been the man himself, says Jonathan Keates

My father, the gun-toting Catholic priest

27 May 2017 9:00 am

This is one of the most remarkable, hilarious, jaw-droppingly candid and affecting memoirs I have read for some time —…

Palmyra was one of the ancient world’s great entrepots, trading in myrrh, incense, ivory, pearls and silk

The lovely ruins of Palmyra were destroyed out of spite

27 May 2017 9:00 am

In the welter of Syrian bloodshed, why should we remember the death of a single man? Because he was the…

Jogging in winter with your shirt off will help you in the long run

27 May 2017 9:00 am

All animals, Scott Carney tells us, seek comfort. But human beings are a bit different. We don’t need to spend…

David Sedaris — doyen of deadpan drollery

27 May 2017 9:00 am

The bestselling humourist and New Yorker essayist David Sedaris is renowned for an almost hypnotic deadpan drollery and maybe especially…

‘Return of the Staghunt’ by Edwin Landseer, 1837 (from Highland Retreats)

The Highland dream — from picturesque cottage to fantasy castle

27 May 2017 9:00 am

As well as being a leading architectural historian Mary Miers is an editor at Country Life. For her latest book…

Colm Tóibín makes the most pitiless Greek myths seem poignant

27 May 2017 9:00 am

‘A shudder in the loins engenders there/ The broken wall, the burning roof and tower/ And Agamemnon dead’ intoned W.B.…

Maxwell Knight with his favourite pet, Goo the cuckoo

Maxwell Knight — a great spymaster and an honourable man

27 May 2017 9:00 am

I once asked Baroness Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5, what she did to relax. Nailing me to the wall…

What exactly was the CIA up to in Laos in the 1960s?

27 May 2017 9:00 am

I once spent an evening, back in the mid-1980s, with William Colby, the legendary spy and director of the CIA.…

The 80-year-old queen is caricatured in the French satirical magazine Le Rire, greeting her nephew the Kaiser (December 1899)

Queen Victoria — burdened by grief and six-course dinners

27 May 2017 9:00 am

In 2015 a pair of linen drawers belonging to Queen Victoria sold at auction for over £12,000. In old age…

How many of us has a forebear who died of Spanish flu?

27 May 2017 9:00 am

The symptoms of the Spanish flu could be ghastly. Perhaps Laura Spinney should have chosen her title with more care…

Whatever happens next, Havana will always be Havana

20 May 2017 9:00 am

With more than a million visitors every year, Havana is now a fabulous, half-derelict human zoo, says John Gimlette

Part of a Quran originally bought in Fez in 1223, and removed from the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu for safety in 2012

Whispers of scandal over the rescue of Timbuktu’s manuscripts

20 May 2017 9:00 am

Timbuktu. Can any other three syllables evoke such a thrill? For travellers, explorers and historians of Africa, the ancient desert…

The fast, gaudy world of the modern spy thriller

20 May 2017 9:00 am

Jack Higgins’s writing routine was said to start with dinner at his favourite Italian restaurant in Jersey, followed by writing…

Extended family warfare in quiet, leafy Hampstead

20 May 2017 9:00 am

I like novelists who don’t try to do everything in their novels, but just to do something well. This is…

After the abdication of the Tsar, imperial soldiers join the revolution in 1917

China Miéville’s take on the Russian Revolution is wonderfully dated

20 May 2017 9:00 am

Of the many books published this year to mark the centenary of the Russian revolution, this is perhaps the most…

The strange cases of Mr Justice McCardie

20 May 2017 9:00 am

Justice McCardie was anything but a conventional High Court judge. He left school at 15 and was called to the…

Lou Reed takes a walk on the wild side in 1972

When real rock stars roamed the world

20 May 2017 9:00 am

David Hepworth is such a clever writer — not just clever in the things he writes, but in the way…

The writing’s on the wall in Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s first novel

20 May 2017 9:00 am

This daintily dress-conscious and rewardingly heavyweight novel is set mainly in a half imaginary stately home in Oxfordshire. The story…

The Eurasian skylark (Alauda arvensis) in song flight, Sussex, April 2012

The sad truth about why birds sing

20 May 2017 9:00 am

Whether it’s Coleridge’s nightingale or Petrarch’s, Ted Hughes’s wren or Shelley’s skylark, Helen Macdonald’s hawk or Max Porter’s crow, literature…

In a notorious case of 1822, the Bishop of Clogher was discovered soliciting the soldier John Moverley in the White Lion public house, off the Haymarket. The bishop was deprived of his see, skipped bail, fled to France and ended up living incognito in Edinburgh until his death in 1843

London’s gay past will always be a mystery

13 May 2017 9:00 am

It needs guesswork and intuition to write a history of gay London – because for centuries no one was talking, says Philip Hensher

Teasing the French academy to death

13 May 2017 9:00 am

On 25 February 1980, Roland Barthes, the great French intellectual, was run over by a laundry van in Paris. He…

George Landseer’s portrait of Alexander Gardner — adventurer, outlaw and mercenary, who took unseemly pride in parading decapitated heads

The fantastic adventures of the tartan-turbaned colonel

13 May 2017 9:00 am

In the 1860s, when British visitors first began to explore the high altitude pleasures of Kashmir, it was not just…

Two refugee lovers take on the world

13 May 2017 9:00 am

Every nation has the right to control its borders, but we in the West are getting a bit too comfortable…

The books the Nazis didn’t burn

13 May 2017 9:00 am

For one who has, since boyhood, regarded the secondhand bookshop as a paradise of total immersion, it is quite shocking…