Lead book review

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

British troops go over the top on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme

The British army’s greatest catastrophe — and its most valuable lesson

5 September 2015 9:00 am

Peter Parker spends 24 hours on the bloodsoaked battlefield of the Somme, scene of the British army’s greatest catastrophe

Members of the Maquis study the mechanism and maintenance of weapons dropped by parachute in the Haute-Loire

The facts behind France’s most potent modern myth

29 August 2015 9:00 am

Patrick Marnham unravels some of the powerful, often conflicting myths surrounding the French Resistance

The Ant Nebula, located a mere 3,000–6,000 light years from Earth in the southern constellation Norma

Physicists have stranger ideas than the most preposterous Old Testament preacher

22 August 2015 9:00 am

The beliefs of physicists are infinitely kookier than anything in the Bible, says Alexander Masters

Christian Thielemann

The old-fashioned greatness of Christian Thielemann

15 August 2015 9:00 am

Philip Hensher admires an old-fashioned conductor who unashamedly favours the great German composers — and Wagner in particular

‘The Discovery of the Large, Rich, Beautiful Empire called Guiana’, from ‘Newe Weld un Americanische Historien’, by Johann Ludwig Gottfried, 1631

The strange history of Willoughbyland, modern-day Suriname

8 August 2015 9:00 am

John Gimlette on the strange and superbly told story of Willoughbyland, England’s ‘lost’ colony

Atticus Finch (played by Gregory Peck) with his children Scout and Jem in the 1962 film version of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Go Set a Watchman should never have been hyped as a ‘landmark new novel’, says Philip Hensher

18 July 2015 9:00 am

Philip Hensher on the tangled history of To Kill a Mockingbird’s much-anticipated ‘sequel’

Boccaccio and Petrach

The constant inconstancy that made Italians yearn for fascism

11 July 2015 9:00 am

Jan Morris on the inconsistency and paradox that has characterised Italian thought over the centuries — and the desperate search for certainty

Robert Moses in 1952

The sadist who wrecked New York, and the last of the great biographers

4 July 2015 9:00 am

John R. MacArthur on the bureaucratic titan who gratuitously bulldozed a great city and displaced and demoralised half a million of its inhabitants

Henrietta Bingham holds the whip hand with Stephen Tomlin at Ham Spray, home of Lytton Strachey and Dora Carrington

Good stories of bad Bloomsbury behaviour

27 June 2015 9:00 am

Even the Group considered Bunny Garnett and Henrietta Bingham quite ‘wayward’. Their powerful charms appealed to both sexes, says Anne Chisholm — and they even managed a fling together

Flamboyant intellectuals: René Descartes (main picture) and Bernard-Henri Lévy (below), in 1978

Liberty, philosophy and 246 types of cheese

20 June 2015 9:00 am

The French have always favoured grand, elegant abstractions about the human condition, says Ruth Scurr. It’s part of their national identity

From ambrosia to zabaglione — now with added slavery

13 June 2015 9:00 am

This Oxford Companion ranges from the sweet to the decidedly salty, while being the most politically correct reference book you will ever consult, says Paul Levy

Victoria as a child, by Richard Westall

Queen Victoria was born to be a novelist — this book proves it

6 June 2015 9:00 am

A wonderfully vivid school story has surfaced written by Queen Victoria as a child. The monarch was clearly a sensational novelist manqué, says Philip Hensher

The battle of Lepanto, October 1571

From Barbary corsairs to people-traffickers: the violence of the Mediterranean

30 May 2015 9:00 am

The Mediterranean has always been central to European civilisation — and a source of drama and conflict, says Anthony Sattin

Nautilus

The toughest, smartest, strangest creatures ever to evolve are nearing the end of their continental shelf life

23 May 2015 9:00 am

The rich, strange, finely balanced ecosystems of the oceans — on which our lives depend — are profoundly threatened, says Rose George

Out of the woods: American forces attack a German machine gun post, December 1944. The grim determination of the Allies, whose heroism kept the Germans at bay, helped pave the way for the final Russian advance on Berlin

Mud, blood and war crimes on both sides – the struggle for the Ardennes was one of the bitterest of the second world war

16 May 2015 9:00 am

Both German and Allied troops could be accused of war crimes in the struggle for the Ardennes. It’s a tragic and gruesome history, involving heavy casualties — but flashes of black humour make it bearable, says Clare Mulley

Carnage on the home front: revisiting a forgotten disaster of the first world war

9 May 2015 9:00 am

Philip Hensher on a little-known episode of first world war history when a munitions factory in Kent exploded in April 1916, claiming over 100 lives

Family photo of Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow’s fiction: a warehouse of stolen property

2 May 2015 9:00 am

Saul Bellow’s lurid personal life — especially the triangular relationship with his wife and her lover — was the basis for his best work, says Craig Raine

Dublin’s docks were shelled from the Liffey by the British admiralty gunboat, the Helga, during the Easter Rising

Pitfalls on the road to the Rising

25 April 2015 9:00 am

The centenary of the Easter Rising is already being commemorated. Ahead of the flood of books that will follow, Roy Foster chooses two impressive, if sombre ones to be going on with

An Armenian orphan in 1915. Hundreds of thousands of Christian women and children who survived the genocide suffered forced conversion to Islam

At last: a calm, definitive account of the Armenian genocide

18 April 2015 9:00 am

The atrocities suffered by an estimated one million Armenians in 1915 have been largely ignored by historians and officially denied by the Turks. It’s a centenary we can’t afford to neglect, says Justin Marozzi

Plumber, taxi driver, mystic, musician — the many facets of Philip Glass

11 April 2015 9:00 am

Philip Hensher infinitely prefers the words to the music of the maverick ‘minimalist’ composer