Lead book review

Clockwise from top left: Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger and Simone de Beauvoir

Sartre, de Beauvoir and Sheffield teenagers; the weird glamour of existentialism

27 February 2016 9:00 am

We all carried their philosophy around in our youth, says Philip Hensher. But did anyone — including the existentialists themselves — really understand it?

‘The upper part of the cascade at Hafod’ by John ‘Warwick’ Smith, 1793

How to view the view

20 February 2016 9:00 am

It’s not all picnics and cowslips. You need sense as well as sensibility to appreciate a landscape, says Mary Keen

17th- and 18th-century buttons from John Taylor’s Birmingham workshop

In grandmother’s treasure-chest

13 February 2016 9:00 am

Juliet Nicolson examines women’s lives and changing fashions through a rich hoard of buttons for all occasions

Jennifer Jones in her first starring role as Bernadette Soubirous

Moguls and other Hollywood monsters

6 February 2016 9:00 am

This collection of Hollywood tittle-tattle is moderately interesting, unpleasantly salacious and largely unsourced, says Philip Hensher

The ruthless Romanovs’ horrible history

30 January 2016 9:00 am

It’s hard to tell at times who came off worst in Romanov Russia — the tsar or his subjects, says Adam Zamoyski

The Emperor Maximilian I by Bernhard Strigel

The Holy Roman Empire has been much maligned

23 January 2016 9:00 am

The Holy Roman Empire has been much maligned over the centuries. In fact it worked remarkably well, says Jonathan Steinberg

Small comfort: a mother, whose only son was killed in a car accident at the age of 23, holds a picture of him as a child. Many such bereaved parents, unable to conceive again and struggling to support themselves in later life, say they have nothing left to live for

China’s brutal one-child policy will be catastrophic for us all

16 January 2016 9:00 am

China’s brutal one-child policy was not only inhuman; it will profoundly damage the rest of the world, says Hilary Spurling

A 19th-century view of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra (Kiev’s Monastery of the Caves) Russian School

The history of Ukraine — from Herodotus to Hitler

9 January 2016 9:00 am

Timothy Snyder traces Ukraine’s complex history from its classical heritage to the present day

Left to right: Wolcott Gibbs, Dorothy Parker and James Thurber.

America’s greatest magazine — at its greatest

2 January 2016 9:00 am

The New Yorker has always been revered for the supreme quality of its writing, says Philip Hensher

Hide and seek with T.S. Eliot

12 December 2015 9:00 am

Not only is this the definitive edition of T.S. Eliot’s poems, it is also the best biography of the poet we have, says Daniel Swift

A portrait by Edward Savage of the Washingtons at home, with two of Martha’s grandchildren, adopted by her after the death of their parents

George and Martha Washington were an odd first First Couple

5 December 2015 9:00 am

Frances Wilson on America’s likeable, if unlikely, first First Couple

Gorbachev and Reagan sign the historic treaty on 8 December 1987 eliminating Soviet and Us intermediate-range and short-range nuclear missiles

The four men who averted the Apocalypse

28 November 2015 9:00 am

Robert Service’s account of the greatest turning point in modern history is unlikely to be bettered, says Sherard Cowper-Coles

A further selection of books of the year — the best and most overrated of 2015

21 November 2015 9:00 am

A further selection of the best and most overrated books of 2015, chosen by our regular reviewers

Books of the Year: the best and most overrated of 2015

14 November 2015 9:00 am

Our regular reviewers choose the best and most overrated books of 2015

Howard Marks: the dreary life of a drugs dealer

Julie Burchill vs celebrity memoirs

14 November 2015 9:00 am

I learned from this little lot that if one has read The Diary of a Nobody, then one can derive…

Clockwise from top left: Rudyard Kipling, Hannah More, M.R. James, Elizabeth Bowen, Arthur Conan Doyle and Candia McWilliam

The best British short stories — from Daniel Defoe to Zadie Smith

7 November 2015 9:00 am

In this handsome two-volume anthology, Philip Hensher convincingly establishes himself as a world authority on the short story, says Ian Sansom

The real subject of John le Carré’s novels is his conman father Ronnie

29 October 2015 9:00 am

John le Carré has been writing about a mirror world for over 50 years — and he’ll continue to do so for as long as his father haunts him, says Andrew Lycett

Members of the Hitler Youth clear debris after an air raid on Berlin, August 1944

The swastika was always in plain sight

24 October 2015 9:00 am

Ordinary Germans under the Third Reich did have wills of their own, argues Dominic Green. Most actively embraced Nazi ideology, and were aware of the extermination of the Jews. As the war worsened for them, what did they think they were fighting for?

The meeting of Thatcher and Gorbachev in 1984 initiated the process that brought freedom to millions in Eastern Europe

Margaret Thatcher’s most surprising virtue: imagination

17 October 2015 8:00 am

Margaret Thatcher’s second administration saw bitter divisions at home, but abroad the breakthrough in Anglo-Soviet relations really did change history, says Philip Hensher

A crushing case for brutalism — with the people left out

10 October 2015 9:00 am

Elain Harwood’s flawed but impressive study of modernist architecture manages perfectly to reflect its subject, says David Kynaston

Retracing The Thirty-Nine Steps in Buchan’s beloved Borders

10 October 2015 9:00 am

To celebrate the centenary of the publication of The Thirty-Nine Steps William Cook travelled to Tweeddale, where John Buchan spent his youthful summers

Hughes in 1986: Bate simply fails to make the case his book stands on – that the poet was a sadist

An unauthorised, and unconvincing, biography of Ted Hughes

3 October 2015 8:00 am

Craig Raine says that Jonathan Bate’s unauthorised biography of Ted Hughes gets it wrong on every level

The city became cacophonous with bells: a detail of Claes Visscher’s famous early 17th-century panorama shows old London Bridge and some of the 114 church steeples that constantly tolled the death knells of plague victims

Shakespeare's London: where all the world really was a stage

26 September 2015 8:00 am

Sam Leith on the year 1606, when plague and panic were rife — and all the world really was a stage

White glazed bowl, Shunzhi-Kangxi period, Qing dynasty, 1650–70

The perils of porcelain – and the pleasures of Edmund de Waal

19 September 2015 8:00 am

A.S. Byatt on the dark, deadly secrets lurking beneath a calm, white surface

Hans Asperger at the Children’s Clinic of the University of Vienna Hospital c.1940

Did Hans Asperger save children from the Nazis — or sell them out?

12 September 2015 9:00 am

Simon Baron-Cohen wonders whether the humane Hans Asperger may finally have betrayed the vulnerable children in his care in Nazi-occupied Vienna