Sam Leith

Sam Leith

Sam Leith is literary editor of The Spectator.

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

From The Archives: Robert Webb

26 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 Robert Webb. His moving and funny book How Not To Be A Boy turns the material of a memoir into a heartfelt polemic about

From The Archives: Speeches that shape the world

28 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 Philip Collins, former speech writer to Tony Blair, about his book When They Go Low, We Go High: Speeches That Shape The

Michelle Mone and the rise of the ‘fight back’ documentary

You can’t turn on the telly or fire up the internet these days without stumbling across some celebrity or other baring their soul in a glossily produced documentary. Three hours, was it, of David Beckham – taking us from talented nipper playing keepy-uppy to grizzled paterfamilias wiping down his barbecue in wistful retirement? Or Renaissance: A Film, which showed Beyonce

Pen Vogler: Stuffed

45 min listen

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is the food historian Pen Vogler, author of the new Stuffed: A History of Good Food and Hard Times in Britain. Pen tells me how crises have affected British food culture from the age of enclosures onwards, how rows over free school meals are nothing new, and why the

Stop sending Christmas cards! 

Christmas cards are the pits, aren’t they? A positive engine of seasonal ill-will. They take hours to do, if you do them properly, and wing across the country (and have you checked the price of a stamp lately?) to be received by people you like but don’t see, or people you see but don’t like

Andrew Lycett: The Worlds of Sherlock Holmes

38 min listen

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is Arthur Conan Doyle’s biographer (and historical consultant to the new BBC TV programme Killing Sherlock) Andrew Lycett. Introducing his new book The Worlds of Sherlock Holmes: The Inspiration Behind the World’s Greatest Detective, Andrew tells me about the vexed relation between the great consulting detective and his creator, and

Newsnight’s fate is a bad omen for the BBC

Newsnight, we learned last week, is losing ten minutes off its running time, more than half its staff including its entire reporting team and is dropping its investigative films in favour of cheap ‘n’ easy studio-based debates.    The BBC’s news supremo Deborah Turness calls it ‘an important BBC brand’, but said ‘we’ve made the decision to reformat Newsnight as a 30-minute late-night

Guy Kennaway: Good Scammer

46 min listen

On this week’s Book Club podcast, my guest is Guy Kennaway, whose new novel Good Scammer sprinkles a protective dusting of fiction over the true story of the real-life king of Jamaica’s phone scammers. Guy tells me why telephone fraud might be considered ad-hoc reparations for slavery, why James Bond is a Jamaican, and why the island

The evolving phenomenon of ‘Brexit regret’

It was reported this weekend that the great trans-Pacific trade deal (CPTPP), the one that Lord Cameron just boasted would ‘put the UK at the heart of a group of some of the world’s most dynamic economies’, will boost our economy by practically nothing at all. The OBR reckons CPTPP will put 0.04 per cent

Jonathan Jones: Earthly Delights

56 min listen

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is the art critic Jonathan Jones. The term ‘renaissance’ is out of fashion among scholars these days, but in his new book Earthly Delights: A History of the Renaissance Jonathan argues that it points to something momentous in human history. On the podcast, Jonathan makes the case for what

Can the government be trusted with free speech? 

This summer, horrified by the rising numbers of students no-platforming and harassing visiting speakers whose views they don’t like, the government anointed the Cambridge philosopher Arif Ahmed ‘free speech tsar’. Prof Ahmed said at the time that his new role, at least as he saw it, wasn’t a culture wars stunt: he was interested in protecting free expression

Terry Hayes: The Year of the Locust

34 min listen

In this week’s Book Club podcast my guest is Terry Hayes, author of the squillion-selling thriller I Am Pilgrim. He tells me about invisible submarines, taking advice on crucifixion from Mel Gibson, and why it took him ten years to follow up that first novel with his new book The Year of the Locust.

The dying days of Rishi Sunak’s black hole government

In my admittedly sketchy understanding of it, black holes are formed when something becomes so massive that it collapses in on itself (am I getting this right, Carlo?) … and then keeps collapsing, over and over again, until it becomes infinitely tiny and inside-out and even the rules of physics cease to apply. This applies to

Keeping the peace: the politics of policing protest

41 min listen

On the podcast: In his cover piece for The Spectator Ian Acheson discusses the potential disruption to Armistice Day proceedings in London this weekend. He says that Metropolitan Police Chief Mark Rowley is right to let the pro-Palestine protests go ahead, if his officers can assertively enforce the law. He joins the podcast alongside Baroness Claire Fox

Jonathan Lethem: Brooklyn Crime Novel

51 min listen

In this week’s Book Club podcast, I’m joined by the novelist Jonathan Lethem. Two decades after his breakthrough book The Fortress of Solitude crowned Lethem the literary laureate of Brooklyn, he returns to the borough’s never-quite-gentrified streets with the new Brooklyn Crime Novel. He tells me why he felt the need to go back, and talks about race,

What can be done about AI porn?

The foul-mouthed puppet musical Avenue Q, way back in 2003, caught the spirit of the age to come. ‘The internet is for porn!/ The internet is for porn!’ runs one of its more memorable songs. ‘Why do you think the net was born?/ Porn! Porn! Porn!’ Never was a truer word sung by a copyright-skirting knockoff of The Muppet

Nicholas Shakespeare: The Complete Man

52 min listen

In this week’s Book Club podcast, my guest is Nicholas Shakespeare, author of Ian Fleming: The Complete Man. He tells me about the astonishing secret life of a writer whose adventures in espionage were more than the equal of his creation’s; and about the damaged childhood and serially broken heart of a man far kinder and

What the Babylon scandal tells us about the British government 

One of the consistent themes of Dominic Cummings’s kamikaze mission to reform the machinery of the British state was that we urgently needed more politicians with backgrounds in science, maths and engineering, and fewer with 2:1s in PPE. As he argued, the latter sort (see also: historians like Dom, classicists like Boris Johnson and pompous

Peter Biskind: Pandora’s Box

40 min listen

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is the film writer Peter Biskind. In his new book Pandora’s Box, he tells the story of what’s sometimes called “Peak TV” – and how a change in business model (from network to cable to streaming) unlocked an extraordinary era of artistic innovation, and uncovered an unexpected