Sam Leith

Sam Leith

Sam Leith is literary editor of The Spectator.

Katy Balls, Christina Lamb and Sam Leith

20 min listen

This week:  Katy Balls discusses the SNP’s annual conference and asks what will it take to hold the party together if things get much tougher over the next twelve months (01:10), Christina Lamb goes to Ukraine, only to be told that she’s ‘at the wrong war’ as events unfold rapidly in the Middle East (06:55),

New world disorder

38 min listen

On the podcast: In The Spectator’s cover piece Jonathan Spyer writes that as America’s role in international security diminishes history is moving Iran’s way, with political Islam now commanding much of the Middle East. He is joined by Ravi Agrawal, editor in chief of Foreign Policy and host of the FP Live podcast, to discuss whether America is still the world’s

How to win four Nobel Prizes in literature

‘Hi Jacques,’ I say as the publisher of Fitzcarraldo Editions appears on my Zoom screen with his Franz Hals facial hair. ‘Thanks for making the time.’ I explain, apologetically but cheerily, that I’m going to be asking him to give his basic ‘how I keep winning Nobel Prizes’ spiel – at which, I say, he’s

Sam Leith

Sandra Newman: Julia

38 min listen

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is the novelist Sandra Newman, whose new book Julia retells George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from Julia’s point of view. We discuss the spaces Orwell’s classic left for her own novelistic imagination, what we do and don’t know about the world of Big Brother, and whether the misogyny in Orwell’s original belongs

Can we be honest about Israel and Palestine?

Qui tacet consentire videtur: who keeps silent is seen to consent. That Latin tag haunts the western response to the situation in Israel. We’re already seeing, amid the rage and grief, people being called out for what they don’t say as much as for what they do. But what are those of us – the

Celebrating Watership Down

33 min listen

In this week’s Book Club podcast, we’re celebrating 50 years of a unique classic – Richard Adams’s Watership Down – and its forthcoming adaptation in graphic novel form. I’m joined by Richard Adams’s two daughters Juliet and Rosamund, who tell me how a story that their dad started telling them to beguile a long car journey became

How Elon Musk killed Twitter/ X

Twitter was a newswire. That, at least at first, was the point of it. Something that came with all the glamour of digital innovation was, as it turned out, immediately recognisable as a version of something that has sat on every newspaper news desk for decades: a regularly refreshed ‘feed’ of short updates, ceaselessly scrolling, with

Caspar Henderson: A Book of Noises

47 min listen

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is Caspar Henderson, whose new book A Book of Noises: Notes on the Auraculous really is a journey into sound. He tells me why the music of the spheres – at least in this solar system – is a terrible racket, what we can learn from whale earwax, and

Mary Beard: Emperor of Rome

48 min listen

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is the writer, broadcaster and academic Mary Beard. In her new book, Emperor of Rome, she explores what we can and can’t know about the men who ruled the Roman Empire, and what the lurid stories about so many of them tell us about the anxieties and fantasies

It is time to rethink the age of consent

In 1983 Samantha Fox was sixteen years old when she first appeared topless on Page Three of the Sun. That paper and its kind used to delight in doing birthday countdowns: in just three days, they’d promise, alongside a picture of a provocatively pouting fifteen-year-old, it’ll be legal for us to show you her breasts.

Sarah Ogilvie: The Dictionary People

45 min listen

In this week’s Book Club podcast I’m talking to Sarah Ogilvie about the extraordinary story of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, as told in her new The Dictionary People: The Unsung Heroes Who Created the Oxford English Dictionary. She tells me why the OED was different in kind from any previous English dictionary, how

The ‘naive cynicism’ of Russell Brand’s hasty defenders 

I can’t imagine that Channel 4’s investigative slot Dispatches has had such an audience in living memory. On Saturday evening, many thousands of people who seldom if ever watch terrestrial television – I was one of them – will have tuned in at 9pm, just like the old days, to watch a conventional broadcast. Most of

Francesca Peacock: Pure Wit

45 min listen

In this week’s Book Club podcast, I’m joined by Francesca Peacock to talk about the remarkable life and extraordinary work of Margaret Cavendish, the 17th-century Duchess of Newcastle. Famous in her own day for her bizarre public appearances and nicknamed ‘Mad Madge’, the author of The Blazing World has been marginalised by posterity as an eccentric dilettante.

There’s not much we can do about China spying

A parliamentary researcher has just been arrested on suspicion of espionage. A man in his late twenties, with reported links to the security minister and the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, is accused of spying for China and may have had access to sensitive secret documents. A second suspect has been collared in

From The Archives: Masha Gessen

24 min listen

The Book Club podcast returns next week. In the meantime, here’s another from the archives, and one which looks more timely now even than it was when we recorded it in 2017. Here’s perhaps Russia’s most prominent dissident writer, Masha Gessen, talking about their book The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia.

Silicon Valley’s curious obsession with building old-fashioned communities 

It’s a peculiar thing about billionaires: they don’t half have a weak spot for building ideal communities from the ground up. You could call it pluto-utopianism. The latest manifestation of this is California Forever. A number of ultra-wealthy Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs have been quietly buying up 55,000 acres of farmland in Solano county, California, and at the end of

From The Archives: Tom Holland

45 min listen

As Sam is still away, we’ve dug out one our favourite podcasts from the archives. Back in 2019 Sam spoke to the historian Tom Holland, about his book Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind. The book, though as Tom remarks, you might not know it from the cover, is essentially a history of Christianity and

Celia Brayfield: Writing Black Beauty

45 min listen

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is the journalist and author Celia Brayfield whose new book Writing Black Beauty: Anna Sewell and the story of animal rights, takes us back to the 19th century. Celia describes how Anna Sewell’s writing of the Black Beauty book ultimately led to the kinder treatment of horses, and we both recall

Why not house refugees on barges?

‘By the light of the torches, we saw the black Hulk lying out a little way from the mud of the shore, like a wicked Noah’s ark. Cribbed and barred and moored by massive rusty chains, the prison-ship seemed in my young eyes to be ironed like the prisoners. We saw the boat go alongside,

Ayelet Gundar-Goshen: The Wolf Hunt

37 min listen

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is the novelist and psychologist Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, whose gripping new book The Wolf Hunt tells the story of an Israeli-American mother who finds herself wondering whether her teenage son Adam could have been responsible for the death of a classmate. She tells me about using the thriller form as