Books

Who is monitoring the 200 million videos available daily on YouTube?

17 March 2018 9:00 am

On 25 April 2005, Jawed Karim sent an email to his friends announcing the launch of a new video site…

A nightmare scenario in the city of dreaming spires

17 March 2018 9:00 am

‘Dreaming spires’? Yes, but sometimes there are nightmares. Brian Martin, awarded the MBE for services to English literature, is at…

Jigsaw discussion, from Clifford V. Johnson’s The Dialogues

Quantum physics made fun

17 March 2018 9:00 am

We all know that physics and maths can be pretty weird, but these three books tackle their mind-bending subjects in…

Frankenstein’s monster is more frightening than ever

17 March 2018 9:00 am

On the wall of her tumbledown house in central Baghdad, an elderly Christian widow named Elishva has a beloved icon…

A Roman mosaic showing the crushing of grapes — but we don’t know what the wine tasted like

What did the Romans ever do for us when it comes to viticulture?

17 March 2018 9:00 am

Taste has a well-noted ability to evoke memory, so it is curious how infrequently most wine writers mine their pasts…

Lucy Mangan has enough comic energy to power the National Grid

17 March 2018 9:00 am

After three hot-water-bottle-warmed evenings of highly satisfying bedtime reading, I can confirm that, even in a world where Francis Spufford’s…

Our gallant second world war pigeons have been unjustly ridiculed

17 March 2018 9:00 am

Operation Columba was one of the most secretive arms of British Intelligence during the second world war. Between April 1941…

The Maigret novels are perfect for the train. Just don’t let their cynicism blight your view of your fellow passengers

17 March 2018 9:00 am

Donald E. Westlake wrote crime books that were funny, light and intricate. Help I Am Being Held Prisoner (Hard Case…

Portrait of Ada, aged 20

Was Ada Lovelace the true founder of Silicon Valley?

17 March 2018 9:00 am

It’s more than 160 years since the death of the computer pioneer Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage’s ‘enchantress of numbers’ and…

Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz by François Gérard

Napoleon’s dazzling victories invited a devastating backlash

10 March 2018 9:00 am

For five years after Austerlitz, Napoleon seemed invincible. But his relentless victories risked an inevitable backlash, says David Crane

Spendthrift and slovenly, Thomas Paine was also a scrounger of epic proportions. When invited by a friend to Paris for a week, he ended up staying for five years

Thomas Paine: spendthrift, scrounger and polemicist of genius

10 March 2018 9:00 am

‘We have it in our power to begin the world over again.’ Ronald Reagan made this most unconservative of lines…

Why I now find listening to Beethoven nauseating

10 March 2018 9:00 am

Stephen Bernard has led an institutionalised life. Behind the doors of the church presbytery, at public school, on hospital wards…

The CIA, the Vietnam deserters and the aptly named Operation Chaos

10 March 2018 9:00 am

‘Keep my name out of it’, was the fairly standard reply when Matthew Sweet started researching the story of the…

Only an idiot would choose to live at any other time than the present

10 March 2018 9:00 am

Steven Pinker’s new book is a characteristically fluent, decisive and data-rich demonstration of why, given the chance to live at…

The Yamato wheels in a tight curve in an effort to avoid aerial bombardment

The spectacular suicide mission of the world’s greatest battleship

10 March 2018 9:00 am

In April 1945, the Japanese battleship Yamato — the largest and heaviest in history — embarked upon a suicide mission.…

Jessie Greengrass’s Sight is unashamedly philosophical

10 March 2018 9:00 am

The precarious stasis of late pregnancy offers the narrator of Jessie Greengrass’s exceptional first novel a space — albeit an…

The miseries of diplomatic life: heat, bedbugs and endless cocktail parties

10 March 2018 9:00 am

The arrival at a new foreign posting for a junior diplomat’s wife in the first half of the last century…

John Ruskin as a boy, seated beside his mother, listening to the sermon

Every day is mother’s day for writers: most have strong feelings about their mothers, though not always of love

10 March 2018 9:00 am

You attempt to write a review with a stiff dose of objectivity, but it’s hard not to start with a…

Shadows of the past are ominously present in a trio of memorable first novels

10 March 2018 9:00 am

The Shangri-Las’ song ‘Past, Present and Future’ divides a life into three, Beethoven-underpinned phases: before, during and after. Each section…

Doris Lessing in her mid sixties

Doris Lessing: from champion of free love to frump with a bun

10 March 2018 9:00 am

‘I am interested only in stretching myself, in living as fully as I can.’ Lara Feigel begins her thoughtful book…

Saul Bellow (centre): ‘He said he felt like Valjean, pursued by Inspector Javert through the sewers of Paris,’ says James Atlas. Above and left: Graham Greene and Anthony Powell were both better biographers than biographees

Biography is a thoroughly reprehensible genre

3 March 2018 9:00 am

Why do biographers insist on making neat patterns of their subjects’ lives? Roger Lewis finds it rigid, invasive and wrong

The Austrian empress Elizabeth, known as Sisi, was stabbed with a needle file by an Italian anarchist as she prepared to board a boat on Lake Geneva in 1898. After the attack, she picked herself up and proceeded on her journey, with very little loss of blood, but died soon afterwards —technically, from shock. Her story is related by Arnold van de Laar

From Louis XIV to the Shah of Iran: celebrities under the surgeon’s knife

3 March 2018 9:00 am

Powerful memoirs by such eloquent doctors as Oliver Sacks, Atul Gawande, Henry Marsh, Gabriel Weston and Paul Kalanithi have whipped…

Be a spy like me, Charlotte Bingham’s father advises

3 March 2018 9:00 am

That there’s a direct correlation between sex and spying is probably Ian Fleming’s fault. Hard to think of Bond without…

The ruins of Dougga, Tunisia convinced Ibn Khaldun that North Africa had once been extremely prosperous and heavily populated

How a 14th-century Arab thinker influenced Ronald Reagan’s fiscal policy

3 March 2018 9:00 am

  At a press conference in October 1981, Ronald Reagan quoted Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406) in support of what is known…

The spring gentian’s ‘tongues of ocean blue’

Dying buddleias on railway lines are what excite the new nature writer

3 March 2018 9:00 am

A parliament of owls. A gaggle of geese. A convocation of eagles. But what is the generic term for the…