Lead book review

More than just a pretty face: Elizabeth Jane Howard in 1968 with husband Kingsley Amis – the biggest leech of all

Elizabeth Jane Howard and the men who let her down

24 September 2016 9:00 am

D.J. Taylor welcomes a sympathetic and comprehensive new biography of the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard

Will there be free will in a brave new bioengineered world?

3 September 2016 9:00 am

The idea that death may prove a mere ‘technical problem’ in the future just makes me want to hole up in front of Netflix and eat crisps, says Steven Poole

Conceptual image of Lactobacillus acidolphus that occurs naturally in the gastrointestinal tract and mouth

Want to feel better? Be kind to your bugs

27 August 2016 9:00 am

There are more bacteria in your gut than there are stars in our galaxy. Ed Yong’s book explaining their possibilities is as wondrous as a sacred text, says Kate Womersley

Illuminated manuscript c.1335 depicting seven fiery red seraphim, the highest order of angelic beings

The power and glory of red

20 August 2016 9:00 am

The colour contains the greatest contradictions, the richest play on nuances and goes further back than any other. Paul Keegan follows the red thread through history

‘I met more kindness in Trieste than I ever met anywhere else’, said James Joyce (left), referring to his friend — and lookalike — Italo Svevo

The fairy-tale friendship of James Joyce and Italo Svevo

13 August 2016 9:00 am

Philip Hensher celebrates one of the happiest, if most surprising, of literary friendships — the one between James Joyce and Italo Svevo that began in Trieste before the first world war

George Plimpton training with the Detroit Lions at Cranbrook Academy, Bloomfield Hills, MI (March 1963)

A gentleman of letters competes with the players

6 August 2016 9:00 am

George Plimpton threw himself into the game and turned sports journalism into an art. Ben Markovits welcomes the reissue of six of his classics

Just two of many controversial Games: Hitler’s racist jamboree in Berlin (above right); and the Stockholm Olympics, in which the brilliant Native American Jim Thorpe — sometimes regarded as the greatest athlete of all time — was stripped of his gold medals

The modern Olympics have always been a fiasco

30 July 2016 8:00 am

There’s nothing new about lying and cheating at the Olympics. Scandal has dogged the Games for well over a century, says David Horspool

‘The Road to Siberia’ by Sergei Dmitrievich Miloradovich

Siberia: always a byword for despotism

23 July 2016 8:00 am

Owen Matthews on the horrific early history of the largest open-air prison in the world

Evelyn Waugh in the 1920s

50 years on, here comes Evelyn Waugh's nicer side

16 July 2016 9:00 am

It is 50 years since the death of Evelyn Waugh. Mark Amory wonders if there is anything we don’t know about him

‘Three Mackerel’ (oil on board), Sara Hayward, private collection Bridgeman Art Gallery

Squirrel pie? Now try freshly beheaded turtle

9 July 2016 9:00 am

Elisabeth Luard chews over the relationship between food and place, but her rich concoction doesn’t quite hit the spot, says Philip Hensher

‘Stack building, Malvern Hills’, by Laura Knight

A.E. Housman: the laureate of repression

2 July 2016 9:00 am

A.E. Housman’s poems leave us with the impression of fire that has been carefully wrapped in ice, says Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

How my father plotted against Gaddafi — by Hisham Matar

25 June 2016 8:00 am

Hisham Matar’s family memoir of terrible deeds — and of love, loyalty and courage — simply must be read, says Horatio Clare

The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha: engraving of a drawing by Gustave Dore (1833–1883)

Cervantes was a genius, yes – but the inventor of fiction?

18 June 2016 9:00 am

Sam Leith admires a smart, thoughtful book with a big idea at its heart – marred only, perhaps, by its ambitious claims for Don Quixote

Portrait of Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach

Martin Luther: one man who changed the world

11 June 2016 9:00 am

After Luther, the Christian world would never be the same again. David Crane on the bruising, paradoxical, charismatic, appalling Augustinian monk from Mansfeld

Striking camp in Canada, March 1820

Annie Proulx is lost in the woods

4 June 2016 9:00 am

You can’t see the wood for the trees in Annie Proulx’s epic novel of logging and deforestation in North America, says Philip Hensher

How Siddhartha Mukherjee gets it wrong on IQ, sexuality and epigenetics

28 May 2016 9:00 am

A clear, accurate, up-to-date pop science book on genetics would have been most welcome, says Stuart Ritchie. Sadly, this isn’t it

Nazis in the dock: Hans Frank replies to questioning during the Nuremberg Trials

Genocide is named and shamed

21 May 2016 9:00 am

Prosecution for genocide or crimes against humanity is now a given in international law. But before the Nuremberg Trials, these two groundbreaking notions didn’t exist. Daniel Hahn describes their origins and inspiration

The city’s beauty has often been described as ‘melancholic’, ‘sinister’ or ‘dreamlike’

‘The finest architectural delusion in the world’

14 May 2016 9:00 am

It took the madness of genius to build such a wonderful impossibility. Patrick Marnham reviews a delightful new literary guide to Venice

Florence's black Medici prince: a drama worthy of Shakespeare

7 May 2016 9:00 am

The life – and violent death – of a very unusual Renaissance prince has Alex von Tunzelmann enthralled

‘Street in Auvers-sur-Oise’ by Vincent van Gogh

Why we love unfinished art

30 April 2016 9:00 am

An unfinished painting can provide a startling glimpse of the artist at work. But the common tendency to prefer it to a finished work is being taken to extremes, says Philip Hensher

The interior of the Swan Theatre, Southwark, in 1596, based on a sketch by a Dutch traveller, Johannes de Witt, and probably the best indicator of what the Globe Theatre would have looked like.

William Shakespeare: all things to all men

23 April 2016 9:00 am

The best new books celebrating Shakespeare’s centenary are full of enthusiasm and insight — but none plucks out the heart of his mystery, says Daniel Swift

T.E. Lawrence: from young romantic to shame-shattered veteran

16 April 2016 9:00 am

T.E. Lawrence is seen as a ‘metaphor for imperialism, violence and betrayal’ in the Middle East. But woeful Arab leadership has also been to blame for the region’s problems, says Justin Marozzi

The life of Thomas De Quincey: a Gothic horror story

9 April 2016 9:00 am

Frances Wilson’s biography of Thomas De Quincey, the mischievous, elusive ‘Pope of Opium’, makes for addictive reading, says Hermione Eyre

‘Like Georgia O’Keefe, Mapplethorpe eroticised flowers — possibly finding them more biddable than his frisky partners in gimp masks and chains.’ Left: Self-portrait, 1982. Right: Calla Lily

Robert Mapplethorpe: bad boy with a camera

2 April 2016 9:00 am

Robert Mapplethorpe made his reputation as a photographer in the period between the 1969 gay-bashing raid at the Stonewall Inn…

Preparing for modern warfare: Indian infantrymen c. 1940

The making of modern India

26 March 2016 9:00 am

The sacrifices made by India on the Allies’ behalf in the second world war would profoundly affect the country’s future for better or worse, says Philip Hensher