Sam Leith

Sam Leith

Sam Leith is literary editor of The Spectator.

Tom Chatfield: Wise Animals

47 min listen

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is Tom Chatfield, whose new book is Wise Animals: How Technology Has Made Us What We Are. He tells me what we get wrong about technology, what Douglas Adams got right, and why we can’t rely on Elon Musk and people like him to save the world.  

What did David Cameron expect when he lectured the Americans?

Lord Cameron, bless him, is back striding the world stage. He wrote an article last week in Washington’s inside-beltway website the Hill, urging Congress to vote for more aid for Ukraine. The Foreign Secretary’s tone in that article was forthright in a way that, I expect, he imagined to be the tough talk of a

The feud tearing apart the Royal Society of Literature

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that the Royal Society of Literature (founded 1820) might be one of those institutions that chugs on benignly year in year out with nothing to disturb the peace of its members. But on Thursday morning, a letter in the Times Literary Supplement, got up as I understand it by Jeremy Treglown and

Chris Bryant: A True Story of Prejudice and Murder

33 min listen

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is Chris Bryant, who tells me about his new book James and John: A True Story of Prejudice and Murder. In it, he seeks to tell what can be known of the lives, world and fatal luck of the last two men executed for homosexuality in Britain. 

Why the Tory party is breaking apart

I don’t, I freely admit, remember all that much about my chemistry lessons at school. Covalent bonding delighted me not, no, nor moles neither. But I do recall being absolutely thrilled the first time I saw paper chromatography. The idea was – I expect I’m getting this slightly wrong, but don’t write in – that

Paula Byrne: Hardy Women

43 min listen

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is Paula Byrne. In her new book Hardy Women: Mothers, Sisters, Wives, Muses, she investigates the women in the life and work of the great poet and novelist Thomas Hardy. She talks to me about Hardy’s romantic life, the torture he inflicted on the women he fell for,

How do we draw the line between gambling and gaming?

‘Skins gambling,’ anyone? No, until yesterday, me neither. It’s nothing to do with strip poker or 70s bovver boys. It’s the name given to a completely unregulated gambling industry, aggressively promoted to teenagers and estimated to be worth multiple billions of pounds a year – yes, billions with a b. One reason this isn’t a

Sathnam Sanghera: Empireworld

44 min listen

In this week’s Book Club podcast my guest is Sathnam Sanghera, author of the new book Empireworld about the effect of British imperialism around the globe. He tells me why he’s trying to get beyond the ‘balance-sheet’ view of imperial history, why we should all read W E B Dubois, and why he’s not good at going

The shame of Britain’s ‘cash for courses’ universities

‘If you can take the lift, why go through the hardest route?’ a recruitment officer representing four Russell Group universities asked an undercover reporter for the Sunday Times. He boasted that ‘foundation’ course pathways onto undergraduate courses at Russell Group universities are much easier than the entry requirements for British applicants: overseas applicants ‘pay more money […]

Original and absorbing: A Highland Song reviewed

Grade: A- Why don’t you go outside and get some fresh air instead of playing that stupid game? A) I’ve been outside, and I didn’t like it. And B) there’s a game for that. A Highland Song excellently simulates the experience of going outside for a walk and regretting it. Moira sets off to meet

Adam Phillips: On Giving Up

37 min listen

On this week’s Book Club my guest is the writer and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, whose new book is On Giving Up. He tells me how literature relates to psychoanalysis, why censorship makes life possible, and what Freud got wrong. 

What Katharine Birbalsingh gets wrong about secularism

Katharine Birbalsingh is back in the papers again. The head teacher at Michaela, a free school whose outstanding academic record and ultra-strict behaviour policy have made it a culture-wars lightning rod, tells the Sunday Times that she and her staff have been getting death threats ever since her board of governors imposed a policy banning any

Rebecca Boyle: Our Moon

35 min listen

In this week’s Book Club podcast, I’m joined by Rebecca Boyle to talk about her new book Our Moon: A Human History. She tells me how we know that the moon is more than just an inert lump of rock in the sky and how the whole of human life  – and civilisation – may depend

Why didn’t the British Library pay a ransom to cyber attackers?

‘They’ve turned one of our most important pieces of national infrastructure into an internet café,’ was how my friend Marcus, a scholar of early modern literature, put it to me, talking about the cyberattack that crashed the British Library at the end of last year. He’s not wrong. Since October, when a ransomware attack by the Rhysida criminal

From The Archives: Hadley Freeman

34 min listen

The Book Club will return next week! In the meantime we are revisiting Sam’s conversation from 2020 with Hadley Freeman whose book House of Glass tells the story of 20th century jewry through the hidden history of her own family. The four Glahs siblings — one of them the writer’s grandmother — grew up in a Polish shtetl just

How am I supposed to remember what happened in The Tourist?

Hooray, I thought. There’s a new season of The Tourist. I remember liking that, I thought. It was that thing with the bloke in Australia, wasn’t it? And I was all set to settle down for a good binge, when I realised that I had almost literally no idea what had happened in the first season. This is

Putin’s ‘peace’ is a partitioned Ukraine

52 min listen

On the podcast: In his new year’s address this year Vladimir Putin made no mention of the war in Ukraine – despite missile strikes over the Christmas period – and now Owen Matthews reports in The Spectator this week rumours that Putin could be looking to broker a land-for-peace deal. Unfortunately – Owen says – this deal

From The Archives: Anne Applebaum

25 min listen

The Book Club is taking a brief Christmas break, so we have gone back through the archives to spotlight some of our favourite episodes. This week we are revisiting Sam’s conversation from 2017 with the Pulitzer Prize winning historian (and former Spectator deputy editor) Anne Applebaum about her devastating new book Red Famine. The early 1930s in Ukraine

Sam Leith

Video games aren’t a total waste of time

My wife argues with the children about video games. I argue with the children about video games. The children argue with each other about video games. Consequently, I argue with my wife about video games. It is a total nightmare – and it’s one that in various versions will be replicated in houses with young