Lead book review

How to read the Bible

In this careful study of the sacred texts of Judaism and Christianity, John Barton, former Oriel and Laing professor of the interpretation of holy scripture at Oxford  University, tells us that the OUP sells a quarter of a million Bibles in the King James or Authorised version every year. He doubts if many of them

More from Books

An unlikely heart-throb

If western philosophy is no more than ‘footnotes to Plato’, so, arguably, is the myth of its founding hero, Socrates. While there is good evidence for certain aspects of Socrates’ life — his preoccupation with ethics, question-and-answer technique and his trial and death in 399 BC — most of it is shrouded in uncertainty. His

The lady with the limp

‘This seems to be in your rough area. I mean, it contains wooden legs and everything…’ my commissioning editor at The Spectator emailed. He was requesting a review of Sonia Purnell’s excellent A Woman of No Importance, a biography of the remarkable Virginia Hall, the only second world war agent to serve not only with

Out of this world | 28 March 2019

Like someone who has bought a first computer, then reads the manual from front to back but never actually gets around to switching the thing on, Robert A. Heinlein appears in his late fifties to have come across a how-to book about sex. Thereafter an instant expert, he wrote novel after novel brimming with it,

The cruise of a lifetime

Near the start of Fleur Jaeggy’s extraordinary novel Proleterka, the unnamed narrator reflects: ‘Children lose interest in their parents when they are left. They are not sentimental. They are passionate and cold.’ Passionate and cold is also an apt description of Jaeggy’s writing: the fierceness of her words erupts from the seams of her tiny,

Goodbye to Berlin | 28 March 2019

Philip Kerr’s first Bernie Gunther novel, March Violets, was published 30 years ago. From the start, the format was a winner: take a cynical, wisecracking private eye modelled on Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade and transplant him to Nazi Germany. Metropolis is the 14th in the series and unfortunately, since the untimely death of its

More sinister than sweet

Ordinarily, I love books that answer questions I’ve never asked, but Simon May’s baffling book has blown my mind. The self-deprecator in me wants to tell you I’m too stupid to understand a word of it. The rest of me suspects that this is a sneaking yet sparkling satire on what a university education will

The might of the far right

‘Why would anyone write a historical study of it?’ asks Gavriel Rosenfeld about the Fourth Reich at the start of this rather confusing, but at times entertaining, book. His answer is that the phrase has been used as a metaphor since the earliest days of the Third Reich to mean a wide variety of things.

Before the angel came

In his first book, published in 1977, Tim Mackintosh-Smith described mentioning the idea of travelling to Yemen while studying Arabic at Oxford because he had heard that Yemenis spoke the purest form of Arabic. ‘They all say that, you stupid boy,’ his tutor replied, suggesting he go ‘somewhere respectable’ instead. The student went to Yemen

Food for future thought

The Way We Eat Now begins with a single bunch of grapes. The bunch is nothing special to the modern eater: seedless, one-note sweet. It appears to be unchanged from those which might have been dropped into the mouths of Roman emperors. But, Bee Wilson explains, the grapes’ sweetness, their lack of seeds, their sheer