Books

Reza Aslan: personable, charismatic and a keen self-publicist. He could be wearing togas and flying around in a private jet in five years’ time

Reza Aslan doesn’t fear God. But should he fear his fellow Muslims?

4 November 2017 9:00 am

Eating human brains, burying one’s face in dead people’s ashes and publicly deriding the president of the United States as…

Gerry Adams: from jail to the Dail

4 November 2017 9:00 am

When I recently asked a sardonic Northern Irish friend what historical figures Gerry Adams resembled, the tasteless reply came back:…

Oak tree, Marsland Valley, Near Welcombe, West Devon, 1997. The tree reminded Ravilious of Mondrian’s drawings of an apple tree, which are progressively more and more stylised

People and place: an outstanding archive of rural Britain

4 November 2017 9:00 am

In 1970 I wandered around an unfamiliar part of West Devon. Down a grassy lane I came across a farmyard…

Ali Smith’s Winter is calm, cool and consoling

4 November 2017 9:00 am

In 1939, Barbara Hepworth gathered her children and her chisels and fled Hampstead for Cornwall. She expected war to challenge…

A book about sleep that will keep you up all night

4 November 2017 9:00 am

I’ve read several books​ ​about​ ​sleep recently,​ ​and​ ​their​ ​authors​ ​all​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​the same​ ​three​ ​things.​ ​The​ ​first​ ​is​…

From blissful dawn to bleak despair: the end of the revolutionary dream

4 November 2017 9:00 am

Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey were undergraduates when they met in June 1794, Coleridge at Cambridge university and Southey…

Romance and rejection

28 October 2017 9:00 am

‘Outsider’ ought to be an important word. To attach it to someone, particularly a writer, is to suggest that their…

‘Speak! Speak!’ by John Everett Millais (1895)

The spirits of the age

28 October 2017 9:00 am

Children started knocking on my door last month wearing Donald Trump face masks and asking for money. Indeed, one enterprising…

More secrets and symbols

28 October 2017 9:00 am

Being reflexively snotty about Dan Brown’s writing is like slagging off Donald Trump’s spelling: it just entrenches everyone’s position. In…

A dense, angry fable

28 October 2017 9:00 am

Set partly in a future surveillance society, partly in ancient Carthage and 1970s Ethiopia, partly in contemporary Greece and London…

Joan was ‘a lovely boy-girl... like a casual, loving, decadent Eton athlete’, according to Cyril Connolly

A sensual Greek goddess

28 October 2017 9:00 am

Joan Leigh Fermor died in 2003, aged 91, after falling in her bathroom in the house on a rocky headland…

Help over the hump

28 October 2017 9:00 am

Losing our way in life’s trackless forest, whither should we turn for solace and advice? Wisdom used to be the…

‘The Incredulity of Thomas’, by Caravaggio. (c.1603). It is only in St John’s Gospel that Thomas is portrayed as unbelieving

A Muslim’s insights into Christianity

28 October 2017 9:00 am

I’m not a critic, I’m an enthusiast. And when you are an enthusiast you need to try your best to…

Racism is a grey area

28 October 2017 9:00 am

This book is an exercise in crying wolf that utterly fails to prove its main thesis: that Europe is abandoning…

How to be good

28 October 2017 9:00 am

Suffering, wrote Auden, takes place ‘while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along’. His…

‘The Kindly Robin’: a Victorian Christmas card portrays the robin as a ‘good’ bird, despite it being aggressive by nature, and quick to see off intruders

Animals make us human

28 October 2017 9:00 am

There was a time when biologists so scorned the attribution of human qualities to other animals that anthropomorphism was seen…

Songs of the blood and the sword

28 October 2017 9:00 am

Jihadi Culture might sound like a joke title for a book, like ‘Great Belgians’ or ‘Canadian excitements’. But in this…

Even when Proust was sedated with heroin, there was no escaping the blaring of klaxons, the thud of demolition and the renovation of his neighbour’s toilet

The martyrdom of Proust

28 October 2017 9:00 am

Why would a writer like Marcel Proust, who quivered and wheezed at the slightest sensation, decide to live surrounded by…

(image: istock)

A choice of first novels

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Black Rock White City (Melville House, £16.99) is ostensibly about a spate of sinister graffiti in a Melbourne hospital. ‘The…

(image: iStock)

Unearthly powers

21 October 2017 9:00 am

This delightfully good-humoured novel is the sort of genre scramble that doesn’t often work: there’s a bit of 1990s family…

Dyers at work. There was a tradition that Jesus was apprenticed to a dyer when young

The pilgrims’ ways

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Liza Picard, an chronicler of London society across the centuries, now weaves an infinity of small details into an arresting…

Narvik harbour, March 1940

Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Lord Woolton put it best: ‘Few people have succeeded in obtaining such a public demand for their promotion as the…

Adam Gopnik (image: Getty)

Art and aspiration

21 October 2017 9:00 am

When Adam Gopnik arrived in Manhattan in late 1980 he was an art history postgrad so poor that he and…

Philip Pullman (image: Getty)

Three daemons in a boat

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Philip Pullman’s new k, the prequel to his Northern Lights series — the one north Oxford academics very much prefer…