Books

Will Self’s memoir of drug addiction is a masterpiece of black humour

7 December 2019 9:00 am

Well, it was always going to be called Will. More than once in this terrifying, terrific book, Will Self refers…

The people’s Prince: even as a teenager the musician charmed everyone he met

7 December 2019 9:00 am

Many pop stars are easy to imagine as children, as it’s a profession that doesn’t really reward growing up. Elton…

The first Puritans weren’t so much killjoys as ardent believers in honest living

7 December 2019 9:00 am

‘Puritan’ is a term of abuse, and we tend to use it to refer to such figures as the nightmarishly…

Lydia Davis, like an inspirational teacher, tempts her readers into more reading

7 December 2019 9:00 am

A good indicator of just how interesting and alluring Lydia Davis’s Essays proved might be my recent credit card statement.…

The Great War was enough to make grown men weep

7 December 2019 9:00 am

Following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo it took a mere six weeks for the diplomats of Europe’s…

James Baldwin’s radicalism was part Marxist, part Christian

7 December 2019 9:00 am

Great biographies try to answer questions about the complicated relationship between their subjects’ inner life and outer workings. How did…

When Cartier was the girls’ best friend

30 November 2019 9:00 am

For most of the last century, the family firm of Cartier was the go-to jewellers for those with deep pockets and a taste for Art Deco elegance, says Anne de Courcy

The old monster Elton John appears charmingly self-deprecating

30 November 2019 9:00 am

I don’t care for Elton John. A cross between Violet Elizabeth Bott and Princess Margaret, his temper tantrums are legendary,…

The exotic Silk Road is now a highway to hell

30 November 2019 9:00 am

This engaging book describes the Norwegian author’s travels round the five Central Asian Stans — a region where toponyms still…

Poland was no walkover for the Reich

30 November 2019 9:00 am

‘The victor will never be asked if he told the truth,’ Hitler remarked on the eve of invading Poland in…

Could Leslie Jamison please stop sitting on the fence?

30 November 2019 9:00 am

Leslie Jamison is creating quite a stir in America. Her first collection of essays, The Empathy Exams, went straight to…

It’s yellow, not green, that’s the colour of jealousy

30 November 2019 9:00 am

Making attributions to Leonardo da Vinci,  the great art historian Adolfo Venturi once remarked, is like ‘picking up a red-hot…

What do we really mean by the ‘language’ of animals?

30 November 2019 9:00 am

The reality of animal communication (or, more precisely, our belief in that reality) is a fact underwritten not by science…

Nostalgia for old Ceylon: lush foliage and tender feelings from Romesh Gunesekera

30 November 2019 9:00 am

Empires are born to die; that’s one source of their strange allure. An untenable form of society judders, in technicolor…

The carnage inside Charlie Hebdo: an eyewitness’s account of the attack

23 November 2019 9:00 am

Douglas Murray describes the brutal attack, almost five years ago, on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris

Angels and daemons: Children’s books for Christmas

23 November 2019 9:00 am

Sometimes I have to admit the reason I read children’s books with pleasure is that I’m essentially puerile —and look,…

Capturing the mood of the English landscape: the genius of John Nash

23 November 2019 9:00 am

‘If I wanted to make a foreigner understand the mood of a typical English landscape,’ the art critic Eric Newton…

Make it an applefest this Christmas — the best of the year’s cookbooks

23 November 2019 9:00 am

If it were not for a banker with a hangover, we would not have Eggs Benedict. Or so one of…

Books of the year – part two

16 November 2019 9:00 am

Continuing from last week, our regular reviewers choose the books they have enjoyed reading most — and sometimes least — in 2019

Yalta was a carve-up — and the Poles are understandably still bitter about it

16 November 2019 9:00 am

‘The strong do what they can. The weak suffer what they must.’ Thucydides’ principle expresses an uncomfortable truth. The eight-day…

Eleanor of Aquitaine is still as elusive as quicksilver

16 November 2019 9:00 am

Eleanor of Aquitaine is the most famous woman of the Middle Ages: queen of France and England, crusader, mother of…

Ben Lerner’s much hyped latest novel reads like an audit of contemporary grievances

16 November 2019 9:00 am

Things keep recurring in the novels of Ben Lerner — snatches of conversation, lines of poetry, Lerner himself. But in…

Children’s questions about death are consistently good fun

16 November 2019 9:00 am

What strikes me most about the Christmas gift-book industry — for industry it surely is, as I can confirm, having…

Friends forever: the inside story of the American sitcom classic

16 November 2019 9:00 am

Here is a test to tell you whether you will like this book or not: when I write ‘So, no…

Tips for Christmas tipples

16 November 2019 9:00 am

It’s telling that perhaps the best wine book of last year, Amber Revolution by Simon Woolf, was self-published, though you’d…