Books

An authoritative overview of recent relations between the United Kingdom and the Vatican

East beats West

14 December 2017 | by Ruth Kelly
Just a decade or so ago, it was fashionable to argue that the liberal political order of open markets, globalisation, the rule of law and democracy were on an inevitable trajectory towards world domin­ance.

Stitched up

14 December 2017 | by Victoria Gray
A quilt, a thing of comfort and joy, is made of layers, squares and patterns, patience, persistence and work, memories, hopes and time.

Four years ago, the Australian term “selfie” was unanimously agreed upon as the Oxford English Dictionary’s “word of the year”.

Speed reading

14 December 2017 | by David Platzer
David Platzer rediscovers three neglected novelists

Books of the year

06 December 2017
‘Astonishing, heartbreaking, gorgeous, thrilling, sumptuous, terrifying, hilarious ...’ Some of our reviewers, contributors and friends recommend the new book that most intrigued and delighted them in 2017

Did you know that there is a gene for reading The Tablet? It’s just between the gene for being intelligent, thoughtful and slightly too clever, and the one for being moral, upright and gently ­herbivorous. You might have it. Its book reviewers usually do.

The hills are alive

29 November 2017 | by Timothy Connor

Modern Greek

29 November 2017 | by James Moran
This is the first novel from Galway-based writer, Alan McMonagle, and is written with a memorable and disturbing ­brilliance.

Stilling the mind

29 November 2017 | by Mary Blanche Ridge
Stefan Reynolds is a Benedictine Oblate of the World Community for Christian Meditation, and an Associate of the Irish Cistercians. He has a PhD in Christian Spirituality and gives accomplished retreats at Mount Melleray Abbey on the slopes of the Knockmealdown Mountains in County Waterford, Ireland.

What does it mean to be on form? How do you train for it? How do you lose it, and what can be done to regain it?

Going viral

23 November 2017 | by Brian Morton
The flu pandemic of 1918 that killed up to 100 million people

A fictionalised account of the poet Philip Larkin's arrival in 1950s Hull

Writer for all seasons: Henry David Thoreau

16 November 2017 | by Jon M. Sweeney
A pioneering study of the formative influences on Henry David Thoreau, one of the great American essayists

Changing our mind: how the 1790s shaped the modern psyche

16 November 2017 | by Sylvana Tomaselli
Rachel Hewitt argues that the 1790s brought about a decisive change in 'feelings about feeling' and shaped the way we think today, even on an issue such as Brexit

Behind the veil

16 November 2017 | by Markie Robson-Scott
Self-sacrifice and the possibility of redemption vie throughout with selfishness, vanity and a hunger for intimacy in a novel by Alice McDermott set in Brooklyn in the early 1900s.

Pointing the finger at 15 'guilty men' behind Brexit

16 November 2017 | by William Keegan
An anonymous writer lists 15 'guilty men', including former Prime Minister David Cameron, whose actions led to Brexit.

Edward Stourton recounts how the BBC's coverage during the Second World War transformed its reputation from fussy 'Auntie' to truth-teller-in-chief

Reading this book is like walking with a wise, humorous guide through a series of garden rooms

Williams Boyd’s fifth collection of short stories feature art dealers, bankers’ wives and egomaniacs in the movie industry. They are quite brilliant.

Eton eccentric celebrated

09 November 2017 | by William Skidelsky
A former pupil remembers Michael Kidson, an Eton history master from the 1960s to the 1990s, as a larger-than-life character at a school noted for its eccentrics

The elusive peace: the conflict between Arabs and Jews

02 November 2017 | by Roger Hardy
A detailed and sometimes draining account of a seemingly intractable conflict in the Middle East

A Mayflower family and the fight for the New World

02 November 2017 | by Anthony Gardner
Though the Puritan settlement by Plymouth Rock began in peace, it ended up fighting its Indian neighbours with a brutality almost akin to the Daesh caliphate’s.

An artist speculates on Vermeer's working practices

Best-selling writer Robert Harris turns his attention to the 1938 Munich agreement.

[Newton's] “visceral” and “rampant” anti-Catholicism was exacerbated by a series of fractious disputes with Jesuit scientists on scientific questions relating to his experiments with light and colours …

Origins of the welfare state

25 October 2017 | by Paul Routledge
Being “on welfare” is a pejorative term. Add “state”, and in the rollback era you have the perfect slander. To the Trump and Iain Duncan Smith generation, the welfare state is practically Communism.

England’s Proust

19 October 2017 | by Rachel Billington
An affectionate biography of a writer who sharply divided opinion – even among his friends

Speed reading

19 October 2017 | by Thomas Tallon
Thomas Tallon selects three novels in translation

Framed in time

19 October 2017 | by Morag MacInnes
The blurb on the back of this book – from The Observer – describes the author as “a great English stylist in full maturity”.

Starved of the truth

11 October 2017 | by Ian Thomson
How Stalin’s collectivisation led to the death of millions in the Ukrainian famine

All in order

11 October 2017 | by Michael Walsh

Old secrets die hard

11 October 2017 | by Jessica Coffin
The fourth novel by J. Courtney Sullivan follows in the wake of a string of books on the immigrant experience in America.

The lives of others

11 October 2017 | by David Chater
Clair Wills, who teaches at Princeton, has written an authoritative and exhaustive study of post-war immigration to Britain

Speed reading

11 October 2017
Mary Blanche Ridge packs three travel books

The centre cannot hold

05 October 2017 | by Jimmy Burns
An engaging and astute analysis of a festering separatist crisis

The strangest Victorian

05 October 2017 | by Rebecca Fraser
The eminent cultural historian Jenny Uglow tracks down the wellsprings of the strangest genius of the nineteenth century.

Two divided by one

27 September 2017 | by Teresa Morgan
A cultural history of the story of Adam and Eve is good – as far as it goes

Seamless journey

27 September 2017 | by Sue Gaisford
[Claire Tomalin] had precious little to be grateful for in early childhood. From her father’s memoir, she learned that she had been conceived at the end of a day when he had seriously considered throwing her mother off a cliff.

What makes us hate

27 September 2017 | by C. J. Schuler
How can a violent, fanatical cult ­prosper in a supposedly cultured, Christian country?

Decent into Hell

27 September 2017 | by Claudia Newcombe
Written in 1954, The Dollmaker is a forgotten American epic by ­novelist Harriette Arnow and now reissued.

Victorian paradoxes

21 September 2017 | by Michael Wheeler
A lively account of an era of global greatness and domestic squalor.

No place like home

21 September 2017 | by Marina Vaizey
A contemporary and utterly captivating meditation on Calcutta by a son of the city who left at 12, was educated at Princeton and then returned, unable to resist a siren call he did not fully understand.

The cost of war

21 September 2017 | by Markie Robson-Scott
News from the Vietnam War hangs heavily over the Konar family in rural Pennsylvania in 1972.

Into the light

21 September 2017 | by Simon Scott Plummer
A brave, moving, finely-wrought book: brave in its honest portrayal of an exceptional childhood; moving in its author’s relationship with her talented, wayward father; elegant in its language and handling of time.

Blame the Christians

21 September 2017 | by Averil Cameron
Catherine Nixey is a lively writer and likely to go far, but unfortunately in her first book she has rather unimaginatively bought into the old “blame the Christians” model.

As she edges through the Istanbul traffic en route to a dinner party, Peri’s bag is stolen from her car. She astonishes herself by chasing the thief and hitting him to get it back.

Julia Boyd’s fascinating new book has trawled through archives of published and unpublished accounts by foreign visitors who visited Germany between 1919 and 1939: although historical hindsight is all too easy, it nonetheless does seem remarkable how few of them seem to have felt the chill of foreboding.

Painting by numbers

14 September 2017 | by John McEwen
This book has been well received. That should not be surprising. Its author has written nearly 20 books, on subjects as diverse as Volcano: Nature and Culture and William Heath Robinson.

Closer than believed

14 September 2017 | by Aidan Bellenger
A challenge to conventional views on ecumenism

Investigating the queen of crime

14 September 2017 | by SUZI FEAY
A thoroughly clever entertainment and a fitting homage Agatha Christie, but it has a chilling melancholy all its own.

Was Darwin wrong?

07 September 2017 | by Simon Conway Morris
A prolific contrarian has the great scientist in his crosshairs, but his barrel is bent

The Führer’s female pilots

07 September 2017 | by Susan Dowell
Mulley casts new light upon one of the darkest periods of modern European history …

Chills without thrills

07 September 2017 | by Christopher Bray
Forty years on from Clive James’ counsel that he “Go back to the Cold!”, John le Carré has done just that.

Fidel Castro, the last true dictator-nationalist of the Caribbean, died in 2016 at the age of 90

That great sea

30 August 2017 | by Hilary Davies
The notion of London – or any great metropolis – as sacred space is hardly new, but it is, by definition, problematic and protean.

Love and death

30 August 2017 | by Sarah Hayes
Fathers and sons are in vogue at the moment. You see them everywhere: in films, in fiction, on the stage, but rarely do you see parent and child together and never for very long.

Lost son

30 August 2017 | by Christopher Allmand
The fourteenth century, which took in a fair chunk of the Hundred Years’ War, is currently a favoured period among medieval historians.

Richard Harries was for many years Bishop of Oxford and is now enjoying a second innings in the House of Lords in his own right. As readers of The Tablet will know, he is a gifted writer, who can be light-hearted without frivolity and serious without solemnity.

Clang, clang, clang goes the trolley. But look! There are five people tethered to the track! The train is headed straight for them … what to do? How about pulling that lever next to you? That will divert the train on to a side line. True, if you do so, the one person who is tied up on that line will die. But hey, better one dead than five, right?

Windy city

16 August 2017 | by Robert Carver
The Great Stink of Rosemary Ashton’s title refers to the open sewer that was the Thames, repository of the capital’s untreated effluent … The stench in summer drove MPs out of the Commons, Dickens and Carlyle out of London, and threatened to bring cholera

Sixties’ caper

16 August 2017 | by Laura Kenworthy
I have rarely come across as many whips, trips and saucy quips as are packed into Eureka.

A timely exploration of the values that underpin good government

Kim Jong-un, the bumptious supreme ruler of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, had a surprise present for the United States on Independence Day a month ago: he presided over the successful launch of an inter­continental ballistic missile. Luckily it was not gift-wrapped with a nuclear warhead, nor was it hand-delivered to the US.

The truth of the Torah

03 August 2017 | by Emma Klein
An extraordinarily complex ­oeuvre written in clear, readable script is certainly something unusual to encounter. Steven Weitzman has achieved this feat …

Messy world

03 August 2017 | by Emily Holman
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a deeply political book, more a polemic than a novel. Roy has a message to deliver and she proclaims it without pause, in prose that is at times poignant and unexpected, and at others verges on declamation.

Summer Reading

26 July 2017
With the holidays upon us, here are some of our contributors’ recommended reads

James Martin, the hugely popular American Jesuit writer on contemporary spirituality, envisages a two-way conversation forming a bridge between “the institutional Church” and the Catholic LGBT community.

From sewer to salon

19 July 2017 | by Patricia Duffaud
Bogotá, the 1920s. Emma Reyes is four and lives in a windowless room with her sister Helena, a little boy and an unknown woman with long black hair. Her first task of the day is to carry a heavy chamber pot, overflowing and foul-smelling, to a garbage heap. After this she plays nearby in the mud with other street children. On Sundays, the long-haired woman locks her in the dark room, with only a sliver of light coming from the keyhole.

An Iraqi tragedy

19 July 2017 | by Kathy Watson
We begin in what sounds like the setting of a fairy tale: “In a land without bananas …” Yet this is no theatre, nor fable. We are in Iraq, in the territory of real-life fiction, during the years Saddam invaded first Iran and then Kuwait.

Ricks’ mission is to convince us that his two “vastly dissimilar” subjects were in fact cut from the same cloth. The high-born Tory romantic and the socialist scholarship boy were united in their belief that the twentieth century’s big- shot ideologues wanted to sound the death knell on individual freedom.

Right at the centre

13 July 2017 | by Ben Gummer
An unusually candid account of a precocious political career

London, 1967. Odelle Bastien is given a week’s trial as a typist … [and] is taken under the wing of the mysterious, elegant Marjorie Quick, whose combination of sangfroid, curiosity and reservation seems unshakeable.

A pocket-sized guide to London street trees and a species-by-species account of Britain's most common trees

Lure of violence

13 July 2017 | by William Eichler
A short but closely-argued text, it is the culmin­ation of decades of thinking about what drives modern jihadists. Roy’s answer is counter­intuitive. “Terrorism”, he writes, “does not arise from the radicalisation of Islam, but from the Islamisation of radicalism.”

In the early 1930s, Mussolini was at the height of his prestige. In Britain, no less an authority than The Tablet called the Duce “an intellectual giant”.

Spain's farewell to Islam

06 July 2017 | by Andrew Breeze
On 2 January 1492, the siege of Granada ended. The Emir Boabdil, last of the Nasrid rulers, gave the keys of the city to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, and then left for exile in North Africa. After nearly 800 years, the brilliance of Muslim Spain was gone for ever.

God is back

29 June 2017 | by Simon Scott Plummer
An intriguing enquiry that unfortunately omits the most interesting parts of the story

That smile

29 June 2017 | by Richard Owen
Who was Mona Lisa, she of the neatly folded hands, sensuous curves and enigmatic smile?

Greek tragedy

29 June 2017 | by Clarissa Burden
“There’s a thing called liquid light, which is silver and salt together.” This sentence explains the curious title of the novel, and to any photographers who develop their own film it will need no elucidation.

Luther's children

22 June 2017 | by Anne Dillon
Alec Ryrie’s remarkable book is a work of meticulous scholarship shot through with wit, perception and affectionate compassion. It is a history, not of theology or doctrine but of people, Protestants – those Christians, in Ryrie’s definition, whose religion is derived ultimately from Martin Luther’s rebellion against the Catholic Church and “who see themselves as God’s chosen people”.

A map of our souls

22 June 2017 | by Jon M. Sweeney

In mourning for his mother who has died of cancer, 14-year-old Robbie falls in love with fire. He sets light to bins, to children’s playgrounds, telling his social worker the flames are his anger.

Taking on Trump

22 June 2017 | by Christopher Bray
Naomi Klein’s last book was called This Changes Everything. Her new book, No Is Not Enough, could as well be called “You Change Everything”. Like Karl Marx before her, Klein has decided that it is all very well to interpret the world, but the point is to make it better.

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