Lead book review

The Bob Baker trails the Thunder through six-metre swells

Today’s pirate gold is the Patagonian toothfish

17 March 2018 9:00 am

Philip Hoare describes a thrilling game of cat and mouse through the storms and drift ice of the high seas off Antarctica

Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz by François Gérard

Napoleon’s dazzling victories invited a devastating backlash

10 March 2018 9:00 am

For five years after Austerlitz, Napoleon seemed invincible. But his relentless victories risked an inevitable backlash, says David Crane

Saul Bellow (centre): ‘He said he felt like Valjean, pursued by Inspector Javert through the sewers of Paris,’ says James Atlas. Above and left: Graham Greene and Anthony Powell were both better biographers than biographees

Biography is a thoroughly reprehensible genre

3 March 2018 9:00 am

Why do biographers insist on making neat patterns of their subjects’ lives? Roger Lewis finds it rigid, invasive and wrong

Debussy appears to have had no real sympathy for, or interest in, other people

Debussy: the musical genius who erupted out of nowhere

24 February 2018 9:00 am

That was Debussy’s guiding principle – and his music has been a lifelong pleasure for Philip Hensher, too

The Nazis had a genius for staging, inventing the procession of the Olympic torch from Athens to the host city

Hitler’s charm offensive at the Berlin Olympics was a sinister cover for his main offensive

17 February 2018 9:00 am

At the Berlin Olympics, Hitler set out to seduce the world. But his main purpose was to buy time for war preparations, says Simon Kuper

Emmeline Pankhurst is carried bodily from a demonstration outside Buckingham Palace in 1914

When persuasion failed, force seemed the only option for women to get the vote

10 February 2018 9:00 am

Jane Ridley describes how campaigners for female suffrage in Britain tried every tactic in vain. It took a world war to secure even a limited number of women the vote

Aerial view of the ‘Salt Pit’, the CIA’s clandestine detention centre north of Kabul, which opened in September 2002. Detainees were kept chained in total darkness, with loud music playing constantly

Do the Americans know who they’re fighting in Afghanistan — or why?

3 February 2018 9:00 am

For the past 16 years, America’s war in Afghanistan has been a dismal tale of ignorance, atrocity and error, says Jason Burke

The neglected house on Downshire Hill had been Allan Chappelow’s home from childhood

The murder of a harmless Hampstead eccentric remains shrouded in mystery

27 January 2018 9:00 am

For weeks the battered body of an elderly eccentric lay undiscovered in the heart of Hampstead. Philip Hensher believes the wrong man was charged with murder

Eva Braun dieted obsessively, but didn’t hold back on the pilfered champagne

Culinary cold war at the White House

20 January 2018 9:00 am

The women whose ‘food stories’ Laura Shapiro chooses to tell are an odd bunch. Rose Prince wouldn’t want all six round her own table

Bligh and crew are set adrift from the Bounty, in a painting by Robert Dodd

Australia was ruined the moment Europeans set foot there

13 January 2018 9:00 am

William Bligh’s was not the only astonishing open-boat voyage in the Pacific in the late 18th century. There were others just as desperate, says Nicholas Shakespeare

Laura Ingalls Wilder, aged 20

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s little house of horrors on the prairies

6 January 2018 9:00 am

Laura Ingalls Wilder helped mythologise the life of the heroic American pioneer. But there was nothing remotely romantic about her upbringing, says Sarah Churchwell

Portrait of Ulysses Grant by Ole Peter Hansen Balling

It’s time to rehabilitate Ulysses S. Grant — scorned hero of the Civil War

16 December 2017 9:00 am

Amanda Foreman is in no doubt that Ulysses S. Grant, for all his faults, is one of the great men of history

The making of a happy home: cold milk for tea. A 1930s advertisement for General Electric

How cool is your fridge?

9 December 2017 9:00 am

The fridge may have saved us from food poisoning, but is it now poisoning the planet, wonders Stephen Bayley

Reinventing Baku: one of the three Flame Towers, comprising apartments, offices and a hotel, which dominate the old town. The project, costing an estimated US$350 million, was completed in 2012

Reading Norman Davies’s global history is like wading through porridge

2 December 2017 9:00 am

Following Norman Davies’s explorations is like travelling, mildly jet-lagged, from one air-conditioned lounge to another, says Philip Hensher

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

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

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

Reza Aslan: personable, charismatic and a keen self-publicist. He could be wearing togas and flying around in a private jet in five years’ time

Reza Aslan doesn’t fear God. But should he fear his fellow Muslims?

4 November 2017 9:00 am

Do not fear God, Reza Aslan tells us. You are God. But preaching this form of pantheism can be dangerous, warns Alexander Waugh

George Eliot, photographed in 1858

Which writers really deserve to be called ‘outsiders’?

28 October 2017 9:00 am

The women writers Lyndall Gordon presents as brave ‘outsiders’ had easy lives compared with many other struggling authors one can name, says Philip Hensher

Cross-dressing in the Met. Policemen don women’s clothes to catch the Whitechapel murderer. Charles West (far right) leads the search in Jack the Ripper, 1974

What do Robin Hood, Jack the Ripper and Winston Churchill have in common?

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Houdini, Antarctica, a maternity ward, the electric chair – they’re all subjects of failed musicals. But it’s impossible to predict what will work, says Roger Lewis

Blue and Yellow Macaw, c.1834

Edward Lear: where art and nonsense collide

14 October 2017 9:00 am

Peter Parker on the modest, melancholy and astonishingly gifted painter and author

A wall painting in an 18th-century rural synagogue in Germany depicts the Lion of Judah and the temple of Jerusalem.The itinerant folk artist was Eliezer ben Solomon Sussman

Simon Schama’s latest history is a Technicolor blockbuster

7 October 2017 9:00 am

Simon Schama’s great, boisterous history has the Technicolor drama – and crude simplicity – of a Hollywood blockbuster, says Bernard Wasserstein

Anthony Powell, by Henry Lamb (1934)

Anthony Powell gets the superb new biography he deserves

30 September 2017 9:00 am

Hilary Spurling impressively captures the essence and the spirit of Anthony Powell, his writing and his era, says Philip Hensher

Bristol ablaze: anger at the Lords’ rejection of the Second Reform Bill sparked riots in Queen’s Square, Bristol, October 1831 (William James Muller)

Britain über alles: Victorious Century reviewed

23 September 2017 9:00 am

The 19th-century belonged to us, according to David Cannadine’s ambitious new history. Jane Ridley is mesmerised by it

‘Adam and Eve in Paradise’, by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1531)

The ‘biography’ of the creation myth: The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve reviewed

16 September 2017 9:00 am

Steven Greenblatt’s cultural road trip is a compelling story of myth, theology and belief