A feast of vanities

28 January 2012 10:00 am

The name of Savonarola slides off the tongue as if concocted for an orator’s climax. But when it came to…

A horrid story of intellectual corruption

14 January 2012 11:00 am

The death of a great author often causes interminable displays of corrosive envy. Heirs, acolytes, interpreters and academics resent one…

Bookends: An unreal world

31 December 2011 9:00 am

Even by Hollywood standards, Carrie Fisher is pretty crazy. She was born a Hollywood princess, and remembers her parents —…

Settling old scores

10 December 2011 10:00 am

As a boy, Brian Sewell was unimpressed by opera but enraptured by pantomime which, he reveals in Outsider, sowed in…

Forthright to a fault

3 December 2011 11:30 am

Her mother was Ellen Terry, the most admired actress of the day. Her brother was Edward Gordon Craig, the celebrated…

Lust for life

3 December 2011 10:00 am

Seduced by the hayseed hair and the Yorkshire accent it’s tempting to see the young David Hockney as the Freddie…

A man who quite liked women

19 November 2011 10:00 am

It is noticeable that the kind of young woman that a clever public man most likes talking to is intelligent…

Martin Amis: The Biography by Richard Bradford

5 November 2011 10:00 am

Sam Leith is disappointed that our most famous living novelist remains an enigma

Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson

5 November 2011 10:00 am

America has always idolised its entrepreneurs, even when it has proved a thankless task — if you can glamorise Bill…

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller

5 November 2011 10:00 am

There is always a special risk, says Alexandra Fuller, when putting real-life people into books. Not all those who recognised…

Low Life: One Middle-Aged Man in Search of the Point by Jeremy Clarke

29 October 2011 11:00 am

Some may question whether a review of a columnist’s work in the magazine in which that columnist’s work appears can…

Pakistan: A Personal History by Imran Khan

29 October 2011 10:00 am

Imran Khan’s Pakistan: A Personal History describes his journey from playboy cricketer through believer and charity worker to politician. His…

Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller by Jennifer Kloester

29 October 2011 10:00 am

Those of us who have spent an embarrassing number of hours immersed in the Regency novels of Georgette Heyer have…

What is it about Stieg Larsson?

13 August 2011 12:00 am

How an unsuccessful Swedish journalist became a world-conquering thriller-writer

The short life of Tara Browne

13 August 2011 12:00 am

Remembering a man of the Sixties

Lucky miss

9 July 2011 12:00 am

In Dreams From My Father, his exploration of race and roots, Barack Obama recalled the tales heard in childhood about the man who gave him his name.

The gay Lambeth way

9 July 2011 12:00 am

Archbishop Edward Benson was the ideal of a Victorian churchman.

The biography of a nobody

2 July 2011 12:00 am

A biography of Ed Miliband has to try hard not to be the sort of thing one buys as a present for someone one avidly dislikes.

A far cry from Dr Finlay

2 July 2011 12:00 am

If he is remembered at all, A.J. Cronin is known now for Dr Finlay’s Casebook, which ran for many years on both BBC television and radio, and today resonates with the glow of a gentler past — when a GP happily made house calls, delivered babies, and served as shaman, shrink and confessor to his rural community.

Scenes from the Mad Hatter’s tea party

2 July 2011 12:00 am

I only ever heard my mother admit twice to fancying other men.

A heart made to be broken

18 June 2011 12:00 am

Very useful in modern conversation, Oscar Wilde.

Backs to the wall

28 May 2011 12:00 am

Susan Gibbs begins her book by describing the death from cancer of her first husband after 13 years of happy marriage.

Sixties mystic

28 May 2011 12:00 am

The misery memoir is the fad of the moment.

Dreaming of cowsheds

21 May 2011 12:00 am

In 1999, Adam Nicolson published a very good book called Perch Hill: A New Life, about his escape from London and a break-down, after his divorce and a nasty mugging, to a farm in the Sussex Weald, close to Kipling’s house, Batemans.

Bookends: Unbalanced chorus

14 May 2011 6:00 am

Imagine a 77-year-old woman hanging around, say, Leicester bus station, telling people about her life. She confides her belief that she is under surveillance by the military. She maintains that she can ‘see the reality of the web of synchronicity in my life’. Showing off her special jewellery that ‘helps balance the chakras’, she reveals that ‘because I had a high metabolism and moved around a lot, I had no real [weight] problem until I was about 50’.