Books

Some novels are aptly named – Distortion is one of them

6 October 2018 9:00 am

Coming 12 years after his acclaimed debut, Londonstani, Gautam Malkani’s second novel Distortion features a vivid argot, complicating and defamiliarising…

Is it possible to talk about wine without sounding like a prat?

6 October 2018 9:00 am

There are only two British television wine presenters taxi drivers have heard of, Jilly Goolden and Oz Clarke. Who can…

Oleg Gordievsky, the ultimate spy story — and Ben Macintyre, the best writer to tell it

6 October 2018 9:00 am

Spy stories, whether the stuff of fictional thrillers or, as in the case of Sergei Skripal, the real deal —…

L’ecrivain irlandais Oscar Wilde, by Max Beerbohm

An old-school biography, a big subject, and a book as heavy as a house brick, Oscar reviewed

6 October 2018 9:00 am

In the autumn of 1897, after two years in jail on a charge of ‘gross indecency’, Oscar Wilde absconded to…

‘Portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche’, Edvard Munch, c. 1906

Nietzsche’s intense friendship with Wagner forms the core of Sue Prideaux’s excellent new biography

29 September 2018 9:00 am

In 1945, with the second world war won bar the shouting, Bertrand Russell polished off his brief examination of Friedrich…

Myth-making from ancient to modern – but Metamorphica doesn’t quite live up to Ovid

29 September 2018 9:00 am

‘My spirit moves me to speak of forms changed into new bodies,’ proclaimed Ovid at the beginning of the Metamorphoses:…

The English clergy at their oddest – a compendium

29 September 2018 9:00 am

As the wordy title of this book and the name of its author suggest, this is a faux-archaic, fogeyish journey…

Thomas Cromwell, c. 1530, Holbein School

Diarmaid MacCulloch delves deep into the soul of Thomas Cromwell – administrator, henchman and evangelical

29 September 2018 9:00 am

The final moments of Hilary Mantel’s magnificent Wolf Hall see its central protagonist, Thomas Cromwell, trying to banish ghosts. Assailed…

Home at last – a celebration of 200 years of the Travellers Club

29 September 2018 9:00 am

The Travellers Club was founded in 1819 to provide congenial surroundings for those who had ‘travelled outside the British Islands…

Kyle Walker in front of England fans at this year’s World Cup in Russia

Two football books examine where money is taking the modern game

29 September 2018 9:00 am

‘Football holds a mirror to ourselves,’ Michael Calvin asserts in State of Play. Modern football is angrier, more brutal, more…

The Arctic shipwreck in Edwin Landseer’s ‘Man Proposes, God Disposes’, 1864

Michael Palin follows the Erebus – an historic ‘adventure’ with a tragic outcome

29 September 2018 9:00 am

In May 1845, HMS Erebus and her sister ship HMS Terror set sail for the Arctic, never to be seen…

Sarah Perry’s Melmoth is a great read, but not a great novel

29 September 2018 9:00 am

‘What might commend so drab a creature to your sight, when overhead the low clouds split and the upturned bowl…

A hedge-fund protagonist – Gary Shteyngart takes aim in Lake Success

29 September 2018 9:00 am

‘We lived in a country that rewarded its worst people. We lived in a society where the villains were favoured…

Berlin in ruins, 1945

Ian Kershaw recounts Europe’s recovery from WWII – have the good times run their course?

29 September 2018 9:00 am

When I reviewed the first volume of Sir Ian Kershaw’s wrist-breaking history of the last 100 years of Europe, To…

Self-Help goes mainstream – can Marianne Power survive her own quest?

29 September 2018 9:00 am

Is there anyone left who’d still be mortified to have it known that they’d purchased, or maybe even benefited from,…

John Smeaton’s Eddystone Lighthouse, Devon, 1850

Lights – stories of the sea, and those whose mission is to save us

29 September 2018 9:00 am

The story — or rather, stories — of how the British lighthouses were built has already withstood heavy and repeated…

Mount Longdon, Falkland Islands, where members of the 3rd Parachute Regiment died in fighting on 11–12 June 1982

Helen Parr’s intimate portrait of the Parachute Regiment – Our Boys – captures the essence of modern Britain

22 September 2018 9:00 am

An intimate portrait of the Parachute Regiment manages to capture the history of modern Britain – Rachel Seiffert loved it

The assassination attempt on Napoleon, in the Rue Saint-Nicaise, Christmas Eve 1800

The history of Britain’s secret war on Napoleon is astonishing, inspiring and disturbing

22 September 2018 9:00 am

Laws and sausages, we know, are better not seen in the making; and neither are ‘black ops’. Waterloo may have…

Wampanoag chief Metacomet (c.1639 - 1676) who, after years of tolerating the colonists in Massachusetts, finally rebelled against their continued encroachment upon his lands, in what became known as King Philip's War (he was called King Philip by the settlers)

Good first novels without ends leave one wanting more

22 September 2018 9:00 am

Novels today do not want to be done. Thank Anthony Burgess and John Fowles for this, most immediately, but alternate…

Lord Dyson, on right: there is a book to be written about the contribution that the offspring of Jewish refugees have made to English law

Two legal big hitters consider the appropriate distribution of governmental power in Britain

22 September 2018 9:00 am

Sir Stephen Sedley read English at Cambridge and Lord Dyson Classics at Oxford. Both switched to law and achieved high…

Julie Burchill is bored by Robin Green’s account of her time at Rolling Stone – and says hippies still stink

22 September 2018 9:00 am

The last time I saw a copy of the New Musical Express — the ferociously influential 1970s pop paper which…

Sons and haters: Henry II was much aggrieved by his acquisitive sons

Two new books explore the triumphs and tribulations of an underrated king – Henry II

22 September 2018 9:00 am

Poor old Henry II: once fêted as one of England’s greatest kings, he has long been neglected. Accessible books on…

The majority of sexual encounters in giraffes involve two males necking

Humans are animals, and our extinction is inevitable – but we’re still pretty amazing

22 September 2018 9:00 am

Ever since enlivenment of the primordial blob, before thoughts were first verbalised, all nature has always been motivated by a…

‘Achilles has a dispute with Agamemnon [following Briseis being taken away, and Achilles refusing to fight until she is returned]’, J.H. Tischbein, 1776, oil on canvas. (Bridgeman Images)

Pat Barker travels to Troy, but finds herself diverted somewhere outside Ypres

22 September 2018 9:00 am

Sing muse, begins The Iliad, of the wrath of Achilles. We are dropped straight into the tenth year of the…

Author Kate Atkinson attending the Costa Book Awards for her novel Life After Life

Kate Atkinson’s new novel Transcription asks us how carefully we are paying attention

22 September 2018 9:00 am

Transcription, Kate Atkinson’s 11th novel, sees her returning to the detective fiction she honed in her series about Jackson Brodie,…