Books

Karoline Kan

The Kan-do spirit: Under Red Skies, by Karoline Kan, reviewed

29 June 2019 9:00 am

The defining feature of Chinese millennials is not Instagram, avocado on toast or propertylessness. Born in the early years of…

An illustration from Emperors, Admirals and Chimney Sweepers by Peter Marren

Fluttering to extinction: the tragedy of Britain’s butterflies

29 June 2019 9:00 am

In 1979, despite the best efforts of scientists for more than a century, a butterfly called the British Large Blue…

The Apollo 11 astronauts: Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins and Buzz Aldrin. Credit: Getty Images

Getting to grips with rocket science

29 June 2019 9:00 am

Now that we are stupidly rendering Earth almost entirely uninhabitable by many species including our own (through overcrowding, failing political…

Growing up in the wooded hills round Limpsfield, the girls climbed trees, built huts, made fires and skinned rabbits

The free-spirited sisters who galvanised the Bloomsbury Group

29 June 2019 9:00 am

It was high time we had a proper look at the four beautiful, original Olivier sisters. Hitherto, with one exception,…

Stars rotate behind the Copernicus Monument in Chicago. Credit: Getty Images

History is made from ideas — but are ideas becoming history?

29 June 2019 9:00 am

Wallace Stevens called it ‘the necessary angel’. Ted Hughes thought it ‘the most essential bit of machinery we have if…

Polari, the secret gay argot, is making a surprising comeback

22 June 2019 9:00 am

Imagine you’re a gay man living in the year 1950. Not unnaturally, you would like to meet another gay man.…

An education in love: City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert, reviewed

22 June 2019 9:00 am

One of the chief regrets of book-loving women of my age — and a surprising number of men — is…

The snake-oil salesmen who prey on schizophrenics

22 June 2019 9:00 am

Schizophrenia is the psychiatric illness about which the most misconceptions abound. It’s not so much the ‘negative’ symptoms that cause…

The sinister strains of English folk music

22 June 2019 9:00 am

With public life increasingly a din of personalised ringtones and phone chatter, we crave silence. Acoustic ecologists speak of ‘ear…

Pigeons are plucky and loyal — so don’t go poisoning them in the park

22 June 2019 9:00 am

Growing up as a rootless army brat in bases home and abroad, I would listen in appalled delight to my…

Entertaining Iris Murdoch – for months on end

22 June 2019 9:00 am

If you know your Peter Conradi from your Peter J. Conradi, you’ll also know that the former is foreign editor…

Haunting and hallucinatory: hospital poems from Hugo Williams

22 June 2019 9:00 am

Hugo Williams’s wryly candid reports from the front lines of sex and family life are a perennial delight. Often timeless,…

How does today’s world compare with Orwell’s nightmare vision?

22 June 2019 9:00 am

Apart from a passionate relationship with the common toad, what do George Orwell and David Attenborough have in common? H.G.…

Heroism in a hopeless cause: why the crusades remain fascinating

15 June 2019 9:00 am

The crusades are part of everyone’s mental image of the Middle Ages. They extended, in one form or another, from…

Mystery in the Sundarbans: Gun Island, by Amitav Ghosh, reviewed

15 June 2019 9:00 am

Meet Deen Datta, a nervous, practical and cautious man, born and brought up in Calcutta, who now lives in Brooklyn,…

Naomi Wolf is holed below the waterline

15 June 2019 9:00 am

What is it about Naomi Wolf that inspires such venom? Perhaps that she’s American, brash, media-savvy and not averse to…

Searching for Coco on the Côte d’Azur

15 June 2019 9:00 am

Anne de Courcy, an escapee from tabloid journalism, has become a polished historian of British high society in the 20th…

Gunning for Narendra Modi

15 June 2019 9:00 am

K.S. Komireddi sets out to establish his secular credentials before he sets up his primary argument: which is that India’s…

Is one of history’s most rousing speeches apocryphal?

15 June 2019 9:00 am

As rousing death-and-glory speeches go, it is one of the best. With a besieging Roman army only hours from storming…

Has Daisy Dunn chosen the wrong Pliny to write about?

15 June 2019 9:00 am

I couldn’t help thinking, as I read this book, of an old story, vaguely recalled from English A-level classes, about…

The retiring Brian Bilston.

The great anti-hero of our time: Diary of a Somebody, by Brian Bilston, reviewed

15 June 2019 9:00 am

Brian Bilston’s life is summed up perfectly by the incident with his neighbour’s dog. The annoying Mrs McNulty comes round…

Maud West disguised as a Salvation Army worker, c. 1920

The rollicking adventures of a real-life female sleuth

15 June 2019 9:00 am

Susannah Stapleton’s erudite but hugely entertaining debut is a true-life detective story about the quest for a true-life detective. A…

Somali pirates, photographed in 2012

As long as poverty and maritime trade exist, so will piracy

15 June 2019 9:00 am

Western attitudes to piracy have dripped with hubris. In his classic history of 1932, Philip Gosse confidently argued that European…

Moby performing in Los Angeles in March this year

Moby — from teetotal vegan to promiscuous party monster

15 June 2019 9:00 am

In 2002 I flew to New York to interview the dance music producer whose 1999 release Play remains the bestselling…

Hostility to Islam has disguised a host of other prejudices

8 June 2019 9:00 am

In 2011, when the editor of Charlie Hebdo put Muhammad on the cover, he did so as the heir to…