Books

Books of the year – part two

16 November 2019 9:00 am

Richard Ingrams A book that gave me great enjoyment (for all the wrong reasons) was Harvest Bells: New and Uncollected…

Yalta was a carve-up — and the Poles are understandably still bitter about it

16 November 2019 9:00 am

‘The strong do what they can. The weak suffer what they must.’ Thucydides’ principle expresses an uncomfortable truth. The eight-day…

Eleanor of Aquitaine is still as elusive as quicksilver

16 November 2019 9:00 am

Eleanor of Aquitaine is the most famous woman of the Middle Ages: queen of France and England, crusader, mother of…

Ben Lerner’s much hyped latest novel reads like an audit of contemporary grievances

16 November 2019 9:00 am

Things keep recurring in the novels of Ben Lerner — snatches of conversation, lines of poetry, Lerner himself. But in…

Children’s questions about death are consistently good fun

16 November 2019 9:00 am

What strikes me most about the Christmas gift-book industry — for industry it surely is, as I can confirm, having…

Friends forever: the inside story of the American sitcom classic

16 November 2019 9:00 am

Here is a test to tell you whether you will like this book or not: when I write ‘So, no…

Tips for Christmas tipples

16 November 2019 9:00 am

It’s telling that perhaps the best wine book of last year, Amber Revolution by Simon Woolf, was self-published, though you’d…

Less radical, less rich: Elizabeth Strout’s Olive, Again is a disappointment

16 November 2019 9:00 am

Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer-prize winning Olive Kitteridge (2008) is the novel I recommend to friends who don’t read much. Talk about…

Free of Lucian Freud — Celia Paul’s road to fulfilment

16 November 2019 9:00 am

I was looking the other day at a video of the artist Celia Paul in conversation with the curator of…

The surrealism of war against Isis

16 November 2019 9:00 am

The campaign against Isis was pretty big news for most of 2016. But by the time the final showdown got…

Letters: How to squash a Speaker

9 November 2019 9:00 am

No special protection Sir: Rod Liddle’s joke that the election might be held on a date when Muslims cannot vote,…

Books of the year – part one

9 November 2019 9:00 am

Philip Hensher The best novels of the year were Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys (Fleet, £16.99) and James Meek’s To…

Vladimir Nabokov confesses to butterflies in the stomach

9 November 2019 9:00 am

Not every novelist has opinions. Some of the greatest have a touch of the idiot savant, such as Adalbert Stifter,…

It’s a dull world in which children don’t challenge their parents

9 November 2019 9:00 am

On the Shoulders of Giants consists of 12 essays that the late Umberto Eco gave as lectures at the annual…

Picturing paradise: the healing power of art

9 November 2019 9:00 am

Some 35 years ago I visited the National Gallery of Sicily in Palermo on the hunt for the ‘Virgin Annunciate’…

Rescuing the great British Cheddar

9 November 2019 9:00 am

Gastronomy is one of the deepest forms of culture. If you’ve grown up in France you know this, to the…

How to message a Martian

9 November 2019 9:00 am

Apparently the first audio message broadcast into space with the ostensible purpose of communicating with aliens was the sound of…

A tribute to the grandes dames of gardening — Beth Chatto and Penelope Hobhouse

9 November 2019 9:00 am

There is no longer much point buying strictly practical gardening books, such as were a staple of the publishing industry…

There’s no end to the wonders of the human body, says Bill Bryson

9 November 2019 9:00 am

Bill Bryson has come a long way from being the funniest, most irreverent travel writer around. He’s still as amiable,…

Dieting to death: a black comedy of boarding school life

9 November 2019 9:00 am

It sounds in bad taste, but Scarlett Thomas has written a riotously enjoyable novel about a boarding school full of…

When atheists stole the moral high ground

9 November 2019 9:00 am

In 1585, Jacques du Perron presented to the court of the French king Henry III, as a kind of after-dinner…

Liberty depends on a delicate balance between state and society

9 November 2019 9:00 am

Liberty is a fragile thing. For thousands of years, civilisations have risen, flourished and fallen, and most of them have…

Three dashing Frenchmen captivate Victorian London

2 November 2019 9:00 am

Do not google Samuel Jean Pozzi. If you want to enjoy Julian Barnes’s The Man in the Red Coat —…

Crime fiction: a sole survivor is haunted by a family tragedy on a remote Scottish island

2 November 2019 9:00 am

James Sallis has a modus operandi: never to waste a word. Sarah Jane (No Exit Press, £8.99) follows this stricture…

As well as being a mythic tale, Moby-Dick is a superb a guide to oceanography

2 November 2019 9:00 am

Anyone who has read Moby-Dick will recognise the moment, 32 chapters in, when their line of attention, hitherto slackly paying…