Books

Books of the year – part one

9 November 2019 9:00 am

Our regular reviewers choose the books they have enjoyed reading most — and sometimes least — in 2019

Vladimir Nabokov confesses to butterflies in the stomach

9 November 2019 9:00 am

Not every novelist has opinions. Some of the greatest have a touch of the idiot savant, such as Adalbert Stifter,…

It’s a dull world in which children don’t challenge their parents

9 November 2019 9:00 am

On the Shoulders of Giants consists of 12 essays that the late Umberto Eco gave as lectures at the annual…

Picturing paradise: the healing power of art

9 November 2019 9:00 am

Some 35 years ago I visited the National Gallery of Sicily in Palermo on the hunt for the ‘Virgin Annunciate’…

Rescuing the great British Cheddar

9 November 2019 9:00 am

Gastronomy is one of the deepest forms of culture. If you’ve grown up in France you know this, to the…

How to message a Martian

9 November 2019 9:00 am

Apparently the first audio message broadcast into space with the ostensible purpose of communicating with aliens was the sound of…

A tribute to the grandes dames of gardening — Beth Chatto and Penelope Hobhouse

9 November 2019 9:00 am

There is no longer much point buying strictly practical gardening books, such as were a staple of the publishing industry…

There’s no end to the wonders of the human body, says Bill Bryson

9 November 2019 9:00 am

Bill Bryson has come a long way from being the funniest, most irreverent travel writer around. He’s still as amiable,…

Dieting to death: a black comedy of boarding school life

9 November 2019 9:00 am

It sounds in bad taste, but Scarlett Thomas has written a riotously enjoyable novel about a boarding school full of…

When atheists stole the moral high ground

9 November 2019 9:00 am

In 1585, Jacques du Perron presented to the court of the French king Henry III, as a kind of after-dinner…

Liberty depends on a delicate balance between state and society

9 November 2019 9:00 am

Liberty is a fragile thing. For thousands of years, civilisations have risen, flourished and fallen, and most of them have…

Meet Dr Love: the infallibly seductive, pioneering French gynaecologist

2 November 2019 9:00 am

Adam Begley describes how three colourful Frenchmen, over from Paris on a spree, captivated London in June 1885

Crime fiction: a sole survivor is haunted by a family tragedy on a remote Scottish island

2 November 2019 9:00 am

James Sallis has a modus operandi: never to waste a word. Sarah Jane (No Exit Press, £8.99) follows this stricture…

As well as being a mythic tale, Moby-Dick is a superb guide to oceanography

2 November 2019 9:00 am

Anyone who has read Moby-Dick will recognise the moment, 32 chapters in, when their line of attention, hitherto slackly paying…

Kathleen Jamie’s luminous new essays brim with sense and sensibility

2 November 2019 9:00 am

There is a moment in one of the longer pieces in Surfacing, Kathleen Jamie’s luminous new collection of essays, when…

The real villain of the House of York was Richard III’s elder brother

2 November 2019 9:00 am

Trying to describe the outcome of the Wars of the Roses — the fall of the House of York —…

My short, bitter-sweet marriage to the radical historian Raphael Samuel

2 November 2019 9:00 am

In a telling moment early on in A Radical Romance, Alison Light admits that she once identified with the character…

Spooky stories for Halloween

2 November 2019 9:00 am

It is surely significant that Ed Parnell’s first novel The Listeners was an updated examination of themes latent in Walter…

The daring curiosity of Blondie’s Debbie Harry

2 November 2019 9:00 am

My admiration for Deborah Harry goes back a long way and — fittingly for a woman who even as a…

Is there no field in which the Jewish mindset doesn’t excel?

26 October 2019 9:00 am

David Crane describes the astonishing explosion of Jewish talent in the arts, sciences, politics and philosophy – just as anti-Semitism in Europe was plumbing new depths

London has a genius for self-renewal — but what do we miss as a result?

26 October 2019 9:00 am

In the autumn of 1987, after London had been hit by a fierce storm, Simon Jenkins wandered through Bloomsbury and…

Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination was one of the century’s blackest farces

26 October 2019 9:00 am

The story of Jamal Khashoggi’s death is well known. A prominent Saudi journalist, he walked into his nation’s consulate in…

A cross between Joyce Grenfell and Frida Kahlo: Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins

26 October 2019 9:00 am

In 1971, Tove Jansson paid one of her many visits to London, where 1960s fashion hangovers made the whole city…

A sublime lyricist, but no letter writer: Cole Porter’s correspondence is sadly wit-free

26 October 2019 9:00 am

‘In olden days, a glimpse of stocking/ Was looked on as something shocking’, carolled the company of Cole Porter’s 1934…

Whatever happened to glasnost and perestroika?

26 October 2019 9:00 am

This is a timely book. It addresses the challenges of a fractious and fractured Europe. The first word of the…