Books

Our hero, homo erectus

Learning to talk

23 September 2017 9:00 am

One of the great achievements of science is that so many of its branches, from astronomy to zoology, have been…

Deep learning

23 September 2017 9:00 am

Given the brilliance of his career as a fiction-writer, it is easy to forget that J.M. Coetzee has a commensurate…

Harsh, but entertaining

23 September 2017 9:00 am

When millionaires become billionaires they become even greedier and more ruthless. At the highest level, Trumpian economics can be lethal.…

Bob Marley and the Wailers at the Crystal Palace Bowl, 7 June 1980

The cult of Holy Bob

23 September 2017 9:00 am

The Harder They Come, Jamaica’s first (and still finest) home-grown film, was released in 1972 with the local singer Jimmy…

Mykola Bokan’s photograph of his family, including a memorial to ‘Kostya, who died of hunger’, July 1933. Bokan and his son were arrested for documenting the famine — both died in the gulag

The hunger

23 September 2017 9:00 am

In 1933 my aunt Lenina Bibikova was eight years old. She lived in Kharkov, Ukraine. Every morning a polished black…

Muddled in minutiae

23 September 2017 9:00 am

‘Publitical’ is a neologism worth avoiding. Bill Goldstein uses it to describe T.S. Eliot’s activities when launching and promoting his…

Demonised by history

23 September 2017 9:00 am

Some oleaginous interviewer once suggested to Winston Churchill that he was the greatest Briton who ever lived. The grand old…

Bristol ablaze: anger at the Lords’ rejection of the Second Reform Bill sparked riots in Queen’s Square, Bristol, October 1831 (William James Muller)

Britain über alles

23 September 2017 9:00 am

  David Cannadine was a schoolboy in 1950s Birmingham, which was still recognisable as the city that Joseph Chamberlain had…

A game of cat-and-mouse

16 September 2017 9:00 am

All Involved, Ryan Gattis’s breakout novel about the LA riots of 1992, was an absolute blast. Ballsy, vivid and immersive,…

Claire Tomalin in 2007

True grit

16 September 2017 9:00 am

As literary editor of the Sunday Times in the early 1980s, when the rest of the editorial staff routinely papered…

Benjamin Lay (American School, 18th century)

Raising Cain

16 September 2017 9:00 am

It is a pretty safe bet that for every 1,000 people who know of William Wilberforce, no more than the…

Folk-tale redux

16 September 2017 9:00 am

Daniel and his big sister, Cathy, do not go to school. They live with their father, a gargantuan former prizefighter,…

Madness in Manhattan

16 September 2017 9:00 am

Life has far more imagination than we do, says the epigraph from Truffaut that opens Salman Rushdie’s 12th novel —…

‘The Pacification of the Maroons in Jamaica’, by Agostino Brunias (18th century)

Redcoats and runaways

16 September 2017 9:00 am

Much romantic nonsense has been written about the runaway slaves or Maroons of the West Indies. In 1970s Jamaica, during…

Swagger and squalor

16 September 2017 9:00 am

This is a monumental but inevitably selective survey of all that occurred in Britain, for better or worse, in the…

Courting trouble

16 September 2017 9:00 am

Desmond de Silva was born in the colony of Ceylon in the early months of the second world war, the…

The Emperor Constantine renames Byzantium

Christianity triumphant – and destructive

16 September 2017 9:00 am

In the late years of Empire, and early days of Christianity, there were monks who didn’t wash for fear of…

Looking back, losing bits

16 September 2017 9:00 am

As Roddy Doyle’s 12th novel begins, Victor Forde, a washed-up writer, has returned to the part of Dublin where he…

‘Adam and Eve in Paradise’, by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1531)

The journey of Adam and Eve

16 September 2017 9:00 am

Trying to reconcile a belief in the literal truth of the Bible with the facts of the world as we…

Sappho in America

16 September 2017 9:00 am

We are gripped by gossip. Curiosity is a tenacious emotion. In her essay on Push Comes to Shove, the autobiography…

‘My witchcraft is going well’: The crazed Eva Rausing, photographed shortly before her death

Descent into hell

9 September 2017 9:00 am

It’s awful, but the surname Rausing (once synonymous only with the Tetrapak fortune) now summons up a terrible stench in…

The Templars’ final disaster: Guillaume de Clermont on the ramparts of Acre in 1291. Painting by Dominique Papety

Crusading passions

9 September 2017 9:00 am

In W.B. Yeats’s ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’, a testing allusion emerges amid a scene of nightmare: Monstrous familiar…

Beyond Timbuktu

9 September 2017 9:00 am

Every so often a monster comes along. Here’s one — but a monster of fact not fiction, over 700 pages…

A blast from the past

9 September 2017 9:00 am

If you had to choose one book that both typified spy fiction and celebrated what the genre was capable of…

Finger counting from 1 to 20,000. From De Numeris by Rabanus Maurus. (Carolingian school, 9th century)

The magic of maths

9 September 2017 9:00 am

It’s odd, when you think about it, that mathematics ever got going. We have no innate genius for numbers. Drop…