Books

View of a drawing room, c. 1780 by Philip Reinagle

The short step from good manners to lofty imperialism

23 June 2018 9:00 am

In the gap between what we feel ourselves to be and what we imagine we might in different circumstances become,…

Steven Spurrier at the launch of Wine — A Way of Life. Credit Getty Images

How Steven Spurrier enraged the French — and was never forgiven

23 June 2018 9:00 am

Fine wine rarely makes it into the public consciousness, but one event in 1976 has proved of perennial interest: the…

Don Quixote is often referred to as the ‘first’ novel, though Javier Cercas disagrees

From Don Quixote to My Struggle — a survey of the novel in 160 pages

23 June 2018 9:00 am

I wonder what your idea of a good novel is. Does it embody the attributes of solid plotting, characterisation and…

An agent from the Freedman’s Bureau separates freed slaves from an angry mob at the end of the American civil war. Credit Getty Images

A Shout in the Ruins, by Kevin Powers, reviewed

23 June 2018 9:00 am

We’re in Virginia, in the 1850s. A girl called Emily is tormenting her dog, Champion, and her father’s teenage slave,…

The pain of scorching her own face exorcises the helplessness Fontaine feels at her mother’s suffering

Death-defying acts and the dark side of the circus

23 June 2018 9:00 am

In 2013 Tessa Fontaine joined up with the World of Wonders, a circus sideshow that travels around the United States…

Female Nazi supporters greet Hitler after his election as chancellor in 1933. Credit: Getty Images

Swept away by Hitler’s charisma: German women gush over the Führer

23 June 2018 9:00 am

The distinguished historian Konrad Jarausch’s new book is a German narrative, told through the stories of ordinary people who lived…

Sally Bayley. Credit: Alice Sholto-Douglas

Dickens and Agatha Christie made my childhood bearable

23 June 2018 9:00 am

Girl with Dove is a memoir by Sally Bayley, a writer who teaches at Oxford University, of growing up in…

Campaigners protest against government plans to build huge new windfarms in Wales in 2011. Credit Getty Images

When trendy ideas capture the ruling elite, democracy can go hang

23 June 2018 9:00 am

If social media manipulation has influenced elections, and dark money has influenced our elected representatives, then we are already on…

A rare photograph by Bernice Abbott of Lucia Joyce dancing in the 1920s

Lucia, by Alex Pheby, reviewed

23 June 2018 9:00 am

In 1988, James Joyce’s grandson Stephen destroyed all letters he had from, to or about his aunt Lucia Joyce, the…

Greatness thrust upon him: General de Gaulle in 1940

It took a long time for de Gaulle to become ‘de Gaulle’

16 June 2018 9:00 am

When General de Gaulle published the first volume of his war memoirs in 1954, he signed only four presentation copies:…

Zora Neale Hurston was buried in an unmarked grave, having worked as a maid, lonely and largely forgotten

The story of the last living survivor of the Atlantic slave trade is a high adventure

16 June 2018 9:00 am

Zora Neale Hurston, the African-American novelist-ethnographer, was a luminary of the New Negro Movement, later renamed by American scholars the…

The scandal of American shipping – incompetence, venality and shocking safety standards

16 June 2018 9:00 am

‘We are globalisation,’ a senior executive at the shipping company Maersk told me. ‘We enable it, and we have questions…

Rock and Roll is Life: The True Story of the Helium Kids by One Who Was There: A Novel, by D.J. Taylor, reviewed

16 June 2018 9:00 am

The narrator-protagonist of D.J. Taylor’s new novel, a mild-mannered Oxford graduate named Nick Du Pont, has resisted the lure of…

A cuerda seca tile made of stone paste, showing the figure of an archer. Safavid dynasty, early 17th century (From The History of Central Asia)

Russia’s obsession with securing a warm-water port changed the history of Central Asia

16 June 2018 9:00 am

In the 13th century, having overrun and terrorised Europe as far as Budapest, and in the process possibly bringing with…

American Histories, by John Edgar Wideman, reviewed

16 June 2018 9:00 am

This new collection of John Edgar Wideman’s short stories comes across the pond as one of four handsomely packaged volumes…

The Shape of the Ruins, by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, reviewed

16 June 2018 9:00 am

What makes Colombia remind me of Ireland? It’s not only the soft rain that falls from grey skies on the…

Happy Little Bluebirds, by Louise Levene, reviewed

16 June 2018 9:00 am

In 1940, the British Security Coordination sent an agent with an assistant to a Hollywood film studio to help promote…

Why will the myth of the yeti just not go away?

Climbing Everest with Brian Blessed is the nearest anyone will get to encountering the yeti

16 June 2018 9:00 am

In 1969 the body of an ape-like creature, preserved in ice inside an insulated box, came to light in Minnesota.…

It’s the wreckage of alcoholism, not the road to recovery, that makes for enthralling reading

16 June 2018 9:00 am

The Recovering by Leslie Jamison, novelist, columnist, bestselling essayist and assistant professor at Colombia University, makes for bracing reading. Clever,…

Johnson has a plate of food sent to him behind a screen at his publisher’s office. Painting byHenry Wallis

The wit and wisdom of Dr Johnson is still of benefit to us all

16 June 2018 9:00 am

The most irritating of recent publishing trends must be the literary self-help guide, and Henry Hitchings’s contribution to the genre…

Their Brilliant Careers: The Fantastic Lives of Sixteen Extraordinary Australian Writers, by Ryan O’Neill reviewed

16 June 2018 9:00 am

Almost 120 years ago, the Australian writer Henry Lawson offered some counsel to those who came after him, writing that…

A 19th-century engraving by Alfred Edmund Brehm of Indian snake-charmers

Was the Indian Rope Trick a myth?

9 June 2018 9:00 am

The Paul Daniels Magic Show, on a Saturday afternoon in the early 1980s, was a straightforward enough proposition. A wand,…

The many components of the flintlock on a late 18th-century rifle were made by hand and had to be filed to fit

Have we reached the limits of computing power — and might that be a good thing?

9 June 2018 9:00 am

Arguably, the statue in Trafalgar Square should not be of Nelson but of Henry Maudslay. He had started out as…

Even in supposedly liberal circles, homophobia and racism are still quite acceptable in France

9 June 2018 9:00 am

After an absence of 30 years, Didier Eribon, professor of sociology at the University of Amiens, returned to the seedy…

Was there ever anything romantic about the Romany life?

9 June 2018 9:00 am

Damian Le Bas is of Gypsy stock (he insists on the upper case throughout his book). His beloved great-grandmother told…