More from Books

Books of the Year | 5 November 2011

Our regular reviewers were asked to name the books they’d most enjoyed reading this year. More choices next week •  A.N. Wilson Rachel Campbell-Johnson’s Mysterious Wisdom: The Life and Work of Samuel Palmer (Bloomsbury, £25) is one of those rare biographies which is a work of literature: beautifully written, overwhelmingly moving. A great art critic,

Bookends: Spirit of place

A new book by Ronald Blythe is something of an event. In recent years the bard of Akenfield has mostly published collections of articles, which makes At the Yeoman’s House (Enitharmon £15) especially welcome. It’s an autobiographical meditation on an ancient dwelling-house set in flint-strewn fields: Bottengoms Farm on the Essex-Suffolk border, where Blythe lives.

After America: Get Ready For Armageddon by Mark Steyn

There are people sent to depress us, and prominent among them is Mark Steyn, whose speciality is apocalyptic predictions. Following his bestseller America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, which was about the collapse of all of the Western world with the exception of the United States, he is now predicting

The ripple effect

Penelope Lively’s new novel traces the consequences of a London street mugging. As the culprit sprints away with a handbag, the victim, Charlotte, a retired widow, falls and cracks her hip. Her daughter, Rose, personal assistant to the once-eminent historian Lord Peters, is meant to be in Manchester to help her employer give a talk

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Jonathan Franzen. David Foster Wallace. Jeffrey Eugenides. Giant, slow-moving, serious writers, notching up about a novel per decade, all with their sights set on The Big One, The Beast, The Great American Novel. Wallace pulled it off, undoubtedly, with Infinite Jest in 1996, before ending it all by suicide in 2008 — a tragic loss.

AfterWord edited by Dale Salwak

‘Conjuring the Literary Dead’ is the sub-title of this outlandish, sometimes beguiling book. Its editor, Dale Salwak, coaxed 19 writers — of the status of Margaret Drabble, Francis King, Jay Parini and Alan Sillitoe — to write essays in which they imagine speaking to dead authors who intrigue them. The resulting chapters are often inquisitive,

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller

There is always a special risk, says Alexandra Fuller, when putting real-life people into books. Not all those who recognised themselves in her terrific memoir of 1960s and 1970s white-ruled Africa, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, had appreciated their transformation. The author’s own mother, Nicola Fuller, was disquieted to find herself as a

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

In the 26 years since the publication of her highly acclaimed first novel, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson has proved herself a writer of startling invention, originality and style. Her combination of the magical and the earthy, the rapturous and the matter-of-fact, is unique. It is a strange and felicitous gift, as

Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson

America has always idolised its entrepreneurs, even when it has proved a thankless task — if you can glamorise Bill Gates, you can glamorise anyone. Especially Steve Jobs, whose death from pancreatic cancer has been greeted as the loss of Mammon’s Messiah. Is any of this justified? Well, yes and no. Jobs did as much

Martin Amis: The Biography by Richard Bradford

Where’s Invasion of the Space Invaders? That’s what I want to know. Only by consulting Richard Bradford’s bibliography would you know that in 1982 Martin Amis published a book — subtitled ‘An Addict’s Guide’ — on how to win at Space Invaders, and that he (presumably) hasn’t let it come back into print. An entire