More from Books

Sam Leith

Debt and addiction

I knew that I was onto a good thing with this book before the page numbers were even out of roman numerals. Describing the wealth of new material that has come to light in the three decades or so since the last biography of Thomas De Quincey, Robert Morrison men- tions the areas in which

Looking back in anger

Portugal has given the world two distinguished novelists. Eça de Queiros, is the Proust of Portugal. His masterpiece, The Maias, describes the decline of an aristocratic family in the late 19th century. Whereas Eça was a member of the Portuguese intellectual elite, José Saramago was born in a wretched shack in the the rural hamlet

Novelty value

Auction house catalogues are multi-faceted publications. Primarily, of course, they’re sales tools, reassuring buyers that something is what it says it is, that it can legally be bought and where to do just that. Yet, they’re so much more. They can be a simple full stop to one of life’s chapters or, alternatively, a celebratory

Before and after the Fall

No one here (I mean in Britain, not perhaps in the columns of The Spectator) likes to read anything nice about the Germans. So I shall warn you that there will be some praise for Germany in this review, mixed with the usual level of bashing. If the very thought of this shocks or appals

Tensions that disrupt the world

In 1981, two books on Saudi Arabia were published within days of each other: The House of Saud by David Holden and Richard Johns and The Kingdom by Robert Lacey. If the first had the faint air of the Financial Times and the second the hothouse scent of Town & Country, they nevertheless advanced our

Recent gardening books | 2 December 2009

Philippa Lewis is a picture researcher, with an eye for uncommon facts and a wry way of presenting them. Her book Everything You Can Do in the Garden Without Actually Gardening (Frances Lincoln, £16.99), is a scholarly and entertaining social history with pictures. Most books of this type recycle old material, but this writer has

A choice of art books | 2 December 2009

Had I not been sent this year’s art books to review, the one I would most have liked to receive as a present would be Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill edited by Michael Snodin (Yale, £40). Had I not been sent this year’s art books to review, the one I would most have liked to receive

Nanny knew best

Born in 1908, Nikolay Andreyev came from a middle-class family in provincial Russia. His father and mother were both school teachers. His mother had many jewels but never wore them in public, since she believed a teacher should not show herself to be concerned with such fripperies. His parents’ views were those of the liberal

Alternative reading | 2 December 2009

Thomas Keneally is the Booker-Prize-winning author of Schindler’s Ark and The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith. Tom Keneally is the author of The Utility Player, a biography of the rugby league player Des Hasler. Naturally Thomas and Tom are the same person. The unashamed idolatry of The Utility Player is difficult to convey here, but can

Thoughts on the Great Depression

The Great Depression of the 1930s has passed into myth as essentially American, not global. The Wall Street crash ended the Good Times and led, apparently inevitably, to the crisis of Capitalism. Europe suffered from the effects, but had the glum fun of watching the dollar lose its almightiness. America’s internal response was dramatic and,