Book review – memoir

Portrait of the reader as devoted book-owner: Alberto Manguel in happier days, at home in his library in France

Packing away my 35,000 books was like writing my own obituary

14 April 2018 9:00 am

Alberto Manguel is a kind of global Reader Laureate: he is reading’s champion, its keenest student and most zealous proselytiser,…

Free as a bird: the beauty and exhilaration of gliding

7 April 2018 9:00 am

Over the years I’ve been in touch with a number of middle-aged professionals who, despite the success they’ve found in…

Eilean Donan Castle on Skye, with peat bog and marsh in the foreground

For peat’s sake: Britain’s bogs and moorland in crisis

7 April 2018 9:00 am

In 2008, the Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie characterised the typical exponent of modern nature writing as ‘the lone enraptured male’.…

Meeting the last Cuban fisherman to have known Ernest Hemingway

7 April 2018 9:00 am

In Havana, one week before President Obama unthawed half a century of cold relations with Cuba, I talked to the…

Jacques Lacan: shrink from hell or the greatest psychoanalyst since Freud?

The selfish shrink: life with Jacques Lacan

7 April 2018 9:00 am

Peyrot, the chef at Le Vivarois in Paris, had a fascinating theory of how one of his regulars, the otherwise…

Lucy Mangan has enough comic energy to power the National Grid

17 March 2018 9:00 am

After three hot-water-bottle-warmed evenings of highly satisfying bedtime reading, I can confirm that, even in a world where Francis Spufford’s…

Why I now find listening to Beethoven nauseating

10 March 2018 9:00 am

Stephen Bernard has led an institutionalised life. Behind the doors of the church presbytery, at public school, on hospital wards…

The miseries of diplomatic life: heat, bedbugs and endless cocktail parties

10 March 2018 9:00 am

The arrival at a new foreign posting for a junior diplomat’s wife in the first half of the last century…

Saul Bellow (centre): ‘He said he felt like Valjean, pursued by Inspector Javert through the sewers of Paris,’ says James Atlas. Above and left: Graham Greene and Anthony Powell were both better biographers than biographees

Biography is a thoroughly reprehensible genre

3 March 2018 9:00 am

I saw a biopic about Morecambe and Wise recently. The actors impersonating the comedians were not a patch on the…

Be a spy like me, Charlotte Bingham’s father advises

3 March 2018 9:00 am

That there’s a direct correlation between sex and spying is probably Ian Fleming’s fault. Hard to think of Bond without…

Françoise Frankel: a spirited woman on the run in Occupied France

27 January 2018 9:00 am

Françoise Frenkel was a Polish Jew, who adored books and spent much of her early life studying and working in…

Mussolini’s fall from grace

11 November 2017 9:00 am

These days it is fashionable to claim Mussolini as a fundamentally decent fellow led astray by an opportunist alliance with…

The bee orchid, by Franz Andreas Bauer. Its sex life is far beyond the dreams of most teenage boys

Hunt the lady’s slipper

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Who would want to read a whole book about a teenage boy’s gap year? When most 18-year-olds take time off…

Tales out of school

7 October 2017 9:00 am

In 1952, the five-year-old Michael Rosen and his brother were taken on holiday along the Thames by their communist parents.…

The end of brotherly love

19 August 2017 9:00 am

You can never completely leave a religious cult, as this strange and touching memoir demonstrates. Patterns of thinking, turns of…

By Patten or design?

22 July 2017 9:00 am

My old friend Richard Ingrams was said always to write The Spectator’s television reviews sitting in the next-door room to…

Was the artist of Lascaux just desperate for peace?

Something in the water

22 July 2017 9:00 am

‘It was a shock, and an epiphany,’ says Fiona Sampson, to realise that many of her favourite places were built…

A good man at the 1970s BBC

4 June 2016 9:00 am

When I saw this book, a biography of Huw Wheldon, who was managing director of BBC Television between 1968 and…

Above and below: From Robin Dalton’s My Relations: ‘My second cousin, Penelope Wood, is an artist, or at least hopes to be one. She is only 16, but she has done some beautiful little paintings. I have one hanging in my room now. It is a landscape and is one she did when only 12 years old’

When mother killed the plumber — and Nellie Melba came round to sing

4 June 2016 9:00 am

Here’s a pair of little books — one even littler than the other — by Robin Dalton (née Eakin), a…

The hopeless wasteland of modern Russia

4 June 2016 9:00 am

‘Gilded doorknobs,’ spits a Party diehard as she contemplates the blessings of the Soviet Union’s collapse. ‘Is this freedom?’ Dozens…

No place for sissies among the Bridge Ladies of Connecticut

28 May 2016 9:00 am

Not a single line of this highly distinctive memoir happens out of doors. All of it takes place in rooms:…

Teffi: from Russia with laughs

21 May 2016 9:00 am

‘Ah! Scrubbing the deck! My childhood dream! As a child I had once seen a sailor hosing the deck with…

A Feelgood fairy story

21 May 2016 9:00 am

When I wrote for the NME as a schoolgirl in the 1980s, it was recognised that there were musicians who…

The deceptive charm of the bourgeoisie

14 May 2016 9:00 am

Glimpsing the title of Lynsey Hanley’s absorbing new book as it fell out of the jiffy bag, I found myself…

The hip-hop intellectual from inner-city Baltimore

7 May 2016 9:00 am

The author of the bestseller Between the World and Me and recipient of a MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ last year, Ta-Nehisi…