Books

Trailing a lost masterpiece through the alleys of Havana

6 May 2017 9:00 am

On 27 May 1939, the German liner St Louis docked in Havana with 937 passengers on board: all but a…

Why is turning 40 so traumatic for a single female New Yorker?

6 May 2017 9:00 am

In an early chapter of All Grown Up, the narrator Andrea says to her therapist: ‘Why is being single the…

The 19th-century craze for mesmerism led to séances that were more freak shows than scientific demonstrations

A mesmerising doctor and his Victorian freak show

6 May 2017 9:00 am

The history of modern medicine is a roll call of brilliant minds making breakthrough discoveries. We rarely hear about the…

Ida Nettleship, aged 24, the year she married Augustus John

The ordeal of being married to Augustus John

6 May 2017 9:00 am

What will we do when there are no longer caches of letters to piece together and decipher; only vague memories…

Saint Helena and the Emperor Heraclius restore the Holy Cross to Jerusalem after its recapture from the Persians. Altarpiece by Miguel Jimenez and Martin Bernat, c.1485

From Tree of Death to Tree of Life: the history of the cross

29 April 2017 9:00 am

Among Christians, the cross is seen as an instrument of execution and an emblem of victory. Christopher Howse explores the paradox

Jon McGregor’s village life is part-Archers, part-Midsomer Murders

29 April 2017 9:00 am

Jon McGregor’s first novel, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, a surprise inclusion on the 2002 Booker longlist that went…

The betrayer’s betrayed in Hanif Kureishi’s latest novel

29 April 2017 9:00 am

Perhaps the least necessary piece of advice ever given to a Hanif Kureishi protagonist comes in 2014’s The Last Word.…

‘Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze...’ The infamous lynchings in Marion, Indiana, inspired the song ‘Strange Fruit’ and Laird Hunt’s weird novel

A notorious lynching lies at the end of The Evening Road

29 April 2017 9:00 am

Southern trees bear a strange fruit in Laird Hunt’s seventh novel, a dark historical fiction filled with dreams and visions…

A Kalash girl in traditional dress

Search for the Yeti at your peril

29 April 2017 9:00 am

This book, according to its author Gabi Martínez, is ‘a non-fiction novel’. It tells the story of Jordi Magraner, a…

Lisa McInerney’s young drug dealer longs to get clean

29 April 2017 9:00 am

Lisa McInerney found a brilliant way to turn heads and hone her craft as the ‘Sweary Lady’ behind the ‘Arse…

How to capture in words the bittersweet sport of boxing?

29 April 2017 9:00 am

Thirty years ago, Russell Davies wrote a weekly sporting column in the New Statesman. It proved unsustainable and was soon…

Rostock, in north Germany, joined the Hanseatic League in 1251. It has one of the oldest universities in Europe and was a major ship-building city for the Baltic

Germany’s history might have been as peaceful (and dull) as Switzerland’s

29 April 2017 9:00 am

Go into any high street bookshop and find the European history section. There’s usually a shelf or two on France…

Fighting talk — but little action — from Ernest Hemingway

29 April 2017 9:00 am

On 11 May 1937, at the Gare St-Lazare in Paris, Ernest Hemingway said goodbye to a friend who was leaving…

The beginning of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, 1876 , by the Oglala-Lakota artist Amos Bad Heart Bull

The sins of the Founding Fathers

29 April 2017 9:00 am

‘What makes the Red Man red?’ the Lost Boys asked in Disney’s Peter Pan (1953). According to Sammy Cahn’s lyric,…

‘An inconceivable operation of the gigantic forces of nature’: a total solar eclipse sweeps across Indonesia in March 2016

Darkness visible – the wondrous power of eclipses

22 April 2017 9:00 am

Marek Kukula was surprised to find himself moved to tears when he first witnessed a solar eclipse

Before the 17th century, all carrots were red, white and yellow. Orange ones were a new species. Image: Rex Images

Anyone for apple pie - with orchard birdsong and a squirt of perfume?

22 April 2017 9:00 am

After reading Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating, you might, as I did, sit for a bit wondering what a…

Donald Trump is beyond satire

22 April 2017 9:00 am

I think we’re all agreed about Donald Trump — by which I mean all of us who read the literary…

Fabulous music and the vinyl fanatics

22 April 2017 9:00 am

Every year at this time, as trees come into bud and flowers bloom, middle-aged men (and a few women) sleep…

The chick and the dead: Clare Holman plays the pathologist Dr Laura Hobson in Inspector Morse. Rex images.

The perfect place to fall in love? The mortuary

22 April 2017 9:00 am

I grew up with a skeleton in the attic. My mother’s clinical training bestowed on our family a short man’s…

How the Osage Indians were murdered for their oil

22 April 2017 9:00 am

In the early 1920s, while the United States was entering its crazed phase of prohibition and prosperity, a group of…

The latest first novels are full of violence, loss and grief

22 April 2017 9:00 am

If you go down to the woods today… That is the starting point for Idaho by Emily Ruskovich, who grew…

Tall tales from the Durrells of Corfu

22 April 2017 9:00 am

When I was at boarding school in the early 1970s, the Durrells, or at least Gerald, were immensely popular. My…

An English merchant bargains with an Indian in a 16th-century cotton tapestry

From yob to nabob: the astonishing rise of the Tudor merchant adventurer

22 April 2017 9:00 am

Tudor merchants — shivering in furs in tiny creaking ships, sailing through the ice of unknown winter seas — knew…

Leonora Carrington’s adventures in surrealism

15 April 2017 9:00 am

The surrealists’ muse and a distinguished artist in her own right, Leonora Carrington captivated all who met her, says Jane Rye

What do Joan Rivers and Enoch Powell have in common?

15 April 2017 9:00 am

This is a gem of a book for Radio 4 lovers, particularly those of us who work out which day…