Books

A drawing of the massacre by Eduard Thöny for the satirical German magazine Simplicissimus, January 1920

Bloodbath at Baisakhi: the centenary of the Amritsar massacre

6 April 2019 9:00 am

On 10 April 1919, the peppery governor of the Punjab, Sir Michael O’Dwyer, ordered the immediate arrest of two leaders…

The creation of Adam and Eve, depicted in a 12th-century Byzantine mosaic from Monreale, Sicily

How much of the Bible are Christians expected to believe?

30 March 2019 9:00 am

Christians could learn much from Judaism’s imaginative interpretations of its own sacred texts, says the former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway

While Dutch schools ban birthday cakes, the British pine for the next Bake Off

30 March 2019 9:00 am

The Way We Eat Now begins with a single bunch of grapes. The bunch is nothing special to the modern…

The final fanfare for the caliphs before the coming of the Mongol hordes. A manuscript miniature from al-Hariri’s Maqamat, showing the caliph’s mounted standard bearers

The Arabs before Islam: a rich, exotic history

30 March 2019 9:00 am

In his first book, published in 1977, Tim Mackintosh-Smith described mentioning the idea of travelling to Yemen while studying Arabic…

Demonstration of right-wing ‘patriots’ in Lower Saxony, 2019. Credit: Rex Features

Where is the rise of neo-Nazism around Europe leading?

30 March 2019 9:00 am

‘Why would anyone write a historical study of it?’ asks Gavriel Rosenfeld about the Fourth Reich at the start of…

Statue of Socrates at the Academy of Athens

Socrates the romantic hero?

30 March 2019 9:00 am

If western philosophy is no more than ‘footnotes to Plato’, so, arguably, is the myth of its founding hero, Socrates.…

Maneki-neko at the Gotokuji Temple in Tokyo. A common Japanese talisman thought to bring good luck to its owner, the ‘welcoming cat’ is often displayed in shops, restaurants and other businesses

What makes Kim Jong-il cute — and Barack Obama not?

30 March 2019 9:00 am

Ordinarily, I love books that answer questions I’ve never asked, but Simon May’s baffling book has blown my mind. The…

Philip Kerr, photographed in Paris in 2012. Credit: Getty Images

Farewell Bernie Gunther: Metropolis, by Philip Kerr, reviewed

30 March 2019 9:00 am

Philip Kerr’s first Bernie Gunther novel, March Violets, was published 30 years ago. From the start, the format was a…

The cruise of a lifetime: Proleterka, by Fleur Jaeggy, reviewed

30 March 2019 9:00 am

Near the start of Fleur Jaeggy’s extraordinary novel Proleterka, the unnamed narrator reflects: ‘Children lose interest in their parents when…

Robert A. Heinlein: the ‘giant of SF’ was sexist, racist — and certainly no stylist

30 March 2019 9:00 am

Like someone who has bought a first computer, then reads the manual from front to back but never actually gets…

By September 1942, Hall was being hunted as one of the Allies’ ‘most dangerous’ agents

The Lady with the Limp: homage to the one-legged Virginia Hall, SOE’s ‘most dangerous’ agent

30 March 2019 9:00 am

‘This seems to be in your rough area. I mean, it contains wooden legs and everything…’ my commissioning editor at…

The outcome of Diderot’s discussions with Catherine was that she largely ignored his advice. Engraving from François Guizot’s Histoire de la France

How Diderot’s pleas to end despotism fell on deaf ears in Russia

23 March 2019 9:00 am

When Diderot was invited to the Russian court he expected to discuss more than literature with Catherine the Great, says Ruth Scurr

A plague of locusts in North Africa. Colin Everard himself describes driving on desert roads in a race against a 35-square-mile swarm

Days of the locust: our continuing battle with an ancient plague

23 March 2019 9:00 am

Carried on monsoon winds across the Red Sea, vast swarms of desert locusts have posed a deadly threat to the…

Writing as revenge: Memories of the Future, by Siri Hustvedt, reviewed

23 March 2019 9:00 am

Why are people interested in their past? One possible reason is that you can interact with it, recruiting it as…

Laila Lalami

A Mojave desert mystery: The Other Americans, by Laila Lalami, reviewed

23 March 2019 9:00 am

Late one night, on a dimly lit stretch of highway in a small town in the Californian Mojave desert, an…

A fallen woman in a vicious world: Jack the Ripper’s last victim, depicted in Le Petit Parisien

Why are we so obsessed with Jack the Ripper, but care so little for his victims?

23 March 2019 9:00 am

Before she was the subject of true-crime mythologising, Catherine Eddowes made her living from it, selling ballads based on real-life…

The short, happy life of the long playing record

23 March 2019 9:00 am

On 19 June 1948, the modern LP was unveiled at a press conference by the Columbia Records president Ted Wallerstein,…

Brexit can be surprisingly thrilling, as Alan Judd’s latest spy novel demonstrates

23 March 2019 9:00 am

The long gestation period of Brexit has allowed authors to plan and write and publish novels in time for the…

The Englishman who saved Japan’s cherry blossoms

23 March 2019 9:00 am

Between 1639 and 1853, seeds and scions of flowering cherry trees travelled across Japan to Edo (present-day Tokyo). Each came…

How Polynesia came to be inhabited is still one of the world’s great mysteries

23 March 2019 9:00 am

Later this month, a boat builder from Lake Titicaca in Bolivia will fly to the Russian city of Sochi to…

Nina Stibbe. Credit: Alecsandra Raluca Dragoi

Further adventures of a dysfunctional family: Reasons to be Cheerful, by Nina Stibbe, reviewed

23 March 2019 9:00 am

My ex-dentist resembled a potato wearing a Patek Phillipe. In those precious moments between the golf course and the cruise…

The empress who was just too imperious: portrait of Matilda from the Golden Book of St Albans, 1380

The queen of England who never was: the life of the Empress Matilda

23 March 2019 9:00 am

The Empress Matilda, mother of the Plantagenet dynasty, is the earliest queen of England who never was; by rights she…

Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Credit: Rex Features

Missive from a living fossil: Little Boy, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, reviewed

23 March 2019 9:00 am

In his adopted city of San Francisco, the poet, publisher and painter Lawrence Ferlinghetti is venerated to levels nearing those…

In the pavilion of fun: Bowlaway, by Elizabeth McCracken, reviewed

23 March 2019 9:00 am

Bowlaway, Elizabeth McCracken’s first novel in 18 years, is a great American candy-colour Buddenbrooks, a multi-generational epic spanning almost 100…

The seducer and the spy: left, a reproduction of Anatoly Gorpenko’s portrait of the ‘master spy’;above, a Soviet commemorative stamp to mark Sorge’s ‘rehabilitation’ in 1961

Richard Sorge: the Soviet Union’s master spy

14 March 2019 9:00 am

Owen Matthews unveils the Soviet super spy who used ostentation as the ultimate camouflage. Nicholas Shakespeare takes a look