Books

Georges Barbier’s imaginative illustration of an opium den c. 1921

In the garden of good and evil: the power of the poppy

3 November 2018 9:00 am

America has for years been struggling with a shortage of the drugs it uses to execute people, yet it was…

It’s thought that counts when it comes to good prose

3 November 2018 9:00 am

This is a sentence. As is this — not an exceptionally beautiful one, but a sentence all the same, just…

Getty Images

Insomnia is key to my creativity

3 November 2018 9:00 am

A genre of memoir currently in vogue involves entwining the author’s personal story with the cultural history of a given…

The Finnish-American actress Maila Nurmi, who created the 1950s character Vampira.

The vampire’s role in Marxist philosophy

3 November 2018 9:00 am

‘What!’, railed Voltaire in his Dictionnaire Philosophique of 1764. ‘Is it in our 18th century that vampires still exist?’ Hadn’t…

Barbara Kingsolver. Credit David Wood

Treat in store: Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver, reviewed

3 November 2018 9:00 am

In a living room in Vineland, New Jersey, in the 1870s, a botanist and entomologist named Mary Treat studied the…

‘The Sorrows of Boney, or Meditations on the Island of Elba’, published by John Wallis, 15 April 1814

Just a man: Demystifying Napoleon

3 November 2018 9:00 am

Who says that the ‘great man’ theory of history is dead? Following hard on the heels of Andrew Roberts’s magnificent…

Credit: Getty Images

If only we could hibernate all winter

3 November 2018 9:00 am

As travel writer, nature writer, memory retriever and, I would add, prose-poet of mesmerising lyricism, Horatio Clare is a celebrant…

Under a spell: Philip Larkin with Eva in 1965

A little of Philip Larkin’s letters goes a long way

27 October 2018 9:00 am

Philip Larkin wrote often and regularly to his mother throughout her long life. It was a ritual he both cherished and resented, says Andrew Motion

Illustration depicting the circulation of the blood

It’s entirely possible to die of a broken heart

27 October 2018 9:00 am

The numbers invite awe: three billion beats in a lifetime; 100,000 miles of vessels. But on the hospital floor, wonder…

[Credit: Julie Edwards]

Mark Kermode: I longed to be a pop star

27 October 2018 9:00 am

In the 1970s, when Mark Kermode first picked up an instrument, the UK record business was a very different place.…

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Heredity is only half the story

27 October 2018 9:00 am

The Romans invoked Fortuna, the goddess of luck, to explain the unexplainable; fortune-tellers study tea leaves to predict the unpredictable.…

Jane Haynes, self-styled Desdemona of the consulting room, with her dog Dido

Jane Haynes: the shrink who loves to break the rules

27 October 2018 9:00 am

‘I have fallen in love many times in my consulting room,’ writes the psychotherapist Jane Haynes. ‘I do not mean…

Deeply mysterious: the latest thrillers reviewed

27 October 2018 9:00 am

Maggie is sitting alone in the park when she’s approached by Harvey, who introduces himself as a recruiter for MI5.…

An English oak in a misty meadow at dawn [Getty]

Why the British love the oak tree

27 October 2018 9:00 am

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been planting up much of the pasture on our small Cornish farm with…

Car On Country Road, Dartmoor, UK

The road trip from hell: A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better, by Benjamin Wood, reviewed

27 October 2018 9:00 am

A lingeringly strange atmosphere hangs about Benjamin Wood’s third novel, in which the settings and paraphernalia of a new wave…

Whatever America is searching for, Trump isn’t providing it

20 October 2018 9:00 am

America is often seen to represent the search for something – which Trump’s populism is failing to provide. Tim Stanley tries to identify what that elusive thing might be

Little Women, Chapter IX: ‘Meg Goes to Vanity Fair’. Her sisters help her pack

150 years on, what makes Little Women such an enduring classic?

20 October 2018 9:00 am

The great thing about Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women is that it has something for everyone: stay-at-home types have…

Sergio De La Pava. Credit Brian Hawkin

Manic creations: Lost Empress: A Protest, by Sergio De La Pava, reviewed

20 October 2018 9:00 am

American mass-incarceration is the most overt object of the ‘protest’ of this novel’s subtitle. The author, Sergio De La Pava,…

Haruki Murakami. Credit Elena Seibert

Gatsby in Japan: Killing Commendatore, by Haruki Murakami, reviewed

20 October 2018 9:00 am

Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore was published in Japan in February last year. Early press releases for this English version hailed…

Kett refuses the King’s pardon on Mousehold Heath. Credit: Getty Images

Kidnapped by Kett: Tombland, by C.J. Sansom, reviewed

20 October 2018 9:00 am

Tombland is not to be treated lightly. Its length hints at its ambitions. Here is a Tudor epic disguised as…

How on earth did North Vietnam prevail against the world’s greatest power?

20 October 2018 9:00 am

The 50th anniversary of the Vietnam war has produced an outpouring of books, along with Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s…

Left: ‘Self-portrait,’ 1916. Right: Homage to the Square: Renewed Hope’, 1951 by Josef Albers

Josef Albers: the Bauhaus artist whose pupil designed Auschwitz

20 October 2018 9:00 am

The German-born artist, Josef Albers, was a contrary so-and-so. Late in life, he was asked why — in the early…

Ceannabeinne, the now ruined village near Durness in the Scottish Highland, was a thriving community before the Clearances. Credit: Getty Images

Were the Highland Clearances really a byword for infamy?

20 October 2018 9:00 am

There is a degree of irony in the opening chapter of T.M. Devine’s history, lambasting popular previous depictions of the…

Pamela Hansford Johnson (right) and Elizabeth Taylor at a Book Society party in Knightsbridge in 1954

Lonely hearts and guilty minds: the world of Pamela Hansford Johnson

13 October 2018 9:00 am

Pamela Hansford Johnson, once a powerful figure in literary circles, is now largely forgotten. Are her novels worth returning to, wonders Philip Hensher

Advertisement for circus acts at the Da Shi Jie entertainment complex, Shanghai

The circus visits every corner of the globe — even Antarctica

13 October 2018 9:00 am

We’re celebrating 250 years of circus this year. In 1768, the retired cavalryman and entrepreneur Philip Astley, together with his…