Books

A gruesome retelling

27 May 2017 9:00 am

‘A shudder in the loins engenders there/ The broken wall, the burning roof and tower/ And Agamemnon dead’ intoned W.B.…

Moments of absurdity

27 May 2017 9:00 am

The bestselling humourist and New Yorker essayist David Sedaris is renowned for an almost hypnotic deadpan drollery and maybe especially…

Homer Simpson in a chasuble

27 May 2017 9:00 am

This is one of the most remarkable, hilarious, jaw-droppingly candid and affecting memoirs I have read for some time —…

The war in the shadows

27 May 2017 9:00 am

I once spent an evening, back in the mid-1980s, with William Colby, the legendary spy and director of the CIA.…

Palmyra was one of the ancient world’s great entrepots, trading in myrrh, incense, ivory, pearls and silk

The ruin of a ruin

27 May 2017 9:00 am

In the welter of Syrian bloodshed, why should we remember the death of a single man? Because he was the…

‘Return of the Staghunt’ by Edwin Landseer, 1837 (from Highland Retreats)

Home from the hill

27 May 2017 9:00 am

As well as being a leading architectural historian Mary Miers is an editor at Country Life. For her latest book…

Cold comfort

27 May 2017 9:00 am

All animals, Scott Carney tells us, seek comfort. But human beings are a bit different. We don’t need to spend…

Maxwell Knight with his favourite pet, Goo the cuckoo

Perfect, gentle Knight

27 May 2017 9:00 am

I once asked Baroness Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5, what she did to relax. Nailing me to the wall…

The 80-year-old queen is caricatured in the French satirical magazine Le Rire, greeting her nephew the Kaiser (December 1899)

Forty years of comfort-eating

27 May 2017 9:00 am

In 2015 a pair of linen drawers belonging to Queen Victoria sold at auction for over £12,000. In old age…

The last great pandemic

27 May 2017 9:00 am

The symptoms of the Spanish flu could be ghastly. Perhaps Laura Spinney should have chosen her title with more care…

Portrait of Hans Sloane by Stephen Slaughter (1736)

The fount of all knowledge

27 May 2017 9:00 am

Somewhere around the middle of the 17th century our modern concept of the museum began to take shape. Until then…

The city of ugly love

20 May 2017 9:00 am

Cuba’s gorgeous, crumbling capital has always been a testing ground for writers. That heady combination of revolution, cocktails, sex and…

Lou Reed takes a walk on the wild side in 1972

Fallen idols

20 May 2017 9:00 am

David Hepworth is such a clever writer — not just clever in the things he writes, but in the way…

After the abdication of the Tsar, imperial soldiers join the revolution in 1917

A brave new world – at gunpoint

20 May 2017 9:00 am

Of the many books published this year to mark the centenary of the Russian revolution, this is perhaps the most…

Part of a Quran originally bought in Fez in 1223, and removed from the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu for safety in 2012

Gold and dust

20 May 2017 9:00 am

Timbuktu. Can any other three syllables evoke such a thrill? For travellers, explorers and historians of Africa, the ancient desert…

Not-so-sweet 16

20 May 2017 9:00 am

I like novelists who don’t try to do everything in their novels, but just to do something well. This is…

Escapism for boys

20 May 2017 9:00 am

Jack Higgins’s writing routine was said to start with dinner at his favourite Italian restaurant in Jersey, followed by writing…

No ordinary judge

20 May 2017 9:00 am

Justice McCardie was anything but a conventional High Court judge. He left school at 15 and was called to the…

Paradise or prison?

20 May 2017 9:00 am

This daintily dress-conscious and rewardingly heavyweight novel is set mainly in a half imaginary stately home in Oxfordshire. The story…

The Eurasian skylark (Alauda arvensis) in song flight, Sussex, April 2012

Soaring and singing

20 May 2017 9:00 am

Whether it’s Coleridge’s nightingale or Petrarch’s, Ted Hughes’s wren or Shelley’s skylark, Helen Macdonald’s hawk or Max Porter’s crow, literature…

In a notorious case of 1822, the Bishop of Clogher was discovered soliciting the soldier John Moverley in the White Lion public house, off the Haymarket. The bishop was deprived of his see, skipped bail, fled to France and ended up living incognito in Edinburgh until his death in 1843

Love under wraps

13 May 2017 9:00 am

It’s an important subject: the existence of a permanent and significant minority within London’s life. Gay men and lesbians have…

A piece of the Antikythera Mechanism, on display at the Archaeological Museum, Athens. (Getty Images)

Deeply mysterious

13 May 2017 9:00 am

The human urge for personal hygiene has had many improbable side-effects, and I can confidently assert that through the ages,…

The books the Nazis didn’t burn

13 May 2017 9:00 am

For one who has, since boyhood, regarded the secondhand bookshop as a paradise of total immersion, it is quite shocking…

Signs and spellsnich

13 May 2017 9:00 am

On 25 February 1980, Roland Barthes, the great French intellectual, was run over by a laundry van in Paris. He…

Flee or die

13 May 2017 9:00 am

Every nation has the right to control its borders, but we in the West are getting a bit too comfortable…