Lead book review

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

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

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

An unconventional biography of the visionary architect Frank Lloyd Wright

19 October 2019 9:00 am

Stephen Bayley welcomes a sprawling life of Frank Lloyd Wright – cad, fantasist, genius

Three remarkable sisters at the heart of 20th-century Chinese politics

12 October 2019 9:00 am

Hilary Spurling tells the tale of three remarkable siblings and their influence on politics in 20th-century China

Man’s first instinct has always been to return to the sea

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Even before the ancient Greeks, men rejoiced in the sea as a source of food, trade, adventure, conquest and plunder, Horatio Clare discovers

For millennials, pre-Thatcher Britain must seem another — quite mystifying — country

28 September 2019 9:00 am

No other political leader would have dared send the Task Force to the South Atlantic, says Charles Moore. But for Margaret Thatcher, daring and winning went together

The best of journeys: Justin Marozzi’s monumental trek through the history of the Muslim world

21 September 2019 9:00 am

Jason Burke wonders what went wrong with Islam, as Justin Marozzi proves that its civilisations once far outstripped the West

No one held Susan Sontag in higher esteem than she did: Her Life reviewed

14 September 2019 9:00 am

There was no one more convinced of her overpowering intellect than Susan Sontag herself, says Philip Hensher

What made Lucian Freud so irresistible to women?

7 September 2019 9:00 am

By his early twenties, Lucian Freud was already putting Casanova in the shade, as Craig Raine reveals

Did Christianity make the western mind — or was it the other way round?

31 August 2019 9:00 am

As Christianity became more organised and hierarchical, it grew increasingly hostile to both mysticism and empirical science, says Jonathan Sumption

George Orwell. Credit: Getty Images

Novel explosives of the Cold War

24 August 2019 9:00 am

Humour, satire, drama and poetry proved explosive weapons in the fight against Stalinism, says Nicholas Shakespeare

Migration in Europe is the ripple effect of the second world war

17 August 2019 9:00 am

Waves of migration in Europe are nothing new. The continent has been on the move since 1945, says Kapka Kassabova

Homage to Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor

10 August 2019 9:00 am

David Crane celebrates the genuinely pious emperor who united medieval Europe by fire and sword

Web of deceit: disinformation could prove the most powerful weapon of all

3 August 2019 9:00 am

Does a powerful, disembodied and totally deniable attack by one country on another constitute war? If so, will we ever have peace again, wonders Daniel Hahn

Not far fom the Dozier School, a small cemetery with 31 metal crosses is thought to contain further unmarked graves of children murdered by the staff

America’s brutal borstals: The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead, reviewed

27 July 2019 9:00 am

Based on a notorious reform school in Florida whose staff tortured and even murdered the adolescents in their care, The Nickel Boys is heartbreakingly good, says Philip Hensher

Words of war: interviews with the children who survived Hitler’s invasion of Russia

20 July 2019 9:00 am

Charlotte Hobson is much moved by the harrowing testament of Russia’s last wartime survivors in Svetlana Alexievich’s extraordinary collection of interviews

The tragic story of Witold Pilecki, whose reports from Auschwitz fell on deaf ears

13 July 2019 9:00 am

Witold Pilecki risked his life to bring news of Auschwitz to the Allies, but his detailed reports fell on deaf ears. Caroline Moorehead celebrates his extraordinary persistence and courage

The glory and the misery of Louis XIV’s France

6 July 2019 9:00 am

Louis XIV raised the prestige of France above that of any other European nation – even if he did leave the country starving and bankrupt, says David Crane

A snapshot of George holding his infant daughter on Chapel Sands provides a key to the family mystery.

Solving the mystery of my mother’s kidnapping

29 June 2019 9:00 am

Andy Miller on a haunting story of love, loss and lies in a small Lincolnshire village

Polari, the secret gay argot, is making a surprising comeback

22 June 2019 9:00 am

Polari, the facetious gay argot that flourished in Britain until the 1970s, is making a surprising comeback, says Philip Hensher

Heroism in a hopeless cause: why the crusades remain fascinating

15 June 2019 9:00 am

The crusaders’ motto rings hollow today, but we can’t condemn the Middle Ages for having different values from our own, says Jonathan Sumption

Hostility to Islam has disguised a host of other prejudices

8 June 2019 9:00 am

For centuries in the West, Islam was condemned by philosophers and pamphleteers as well as by the Church. But there was often a hidden agenda, says Tom Holland

Toy theatres on the stage: the set designs of Maurice Sendak

1 June 2019 9:00 am

Maurice Sendak’s move from children’s books to set designs was full of psychoanalytical significance, says Philip Hensher

The flood-prone megacity of Wuhan on the Yangtze now has permeable pavements and artificial wetlands to soak up the water like a sponge

Towards a technological utopia

25 May 2019 9:00 am

Ingenious innovations in science and engineering could make for a healthier future for us all, says Simon Winchester