Books

It’s the biggest show on earth Premium

22 September 2016 | by A. N. Wilson
This lovable book is clearly modelled on a best-seller from the same publisher, Gombrich’s posthumous A Little History of the World. It is even given a jacket which is all but identical.

Enchanted world Premium

22 September 2016 | by James Le Fanu
A Poet, novelist and essayist, Annie Dillard is rightly famed in the United States for her heightened sensitivity to the wonders of the natural world expressed in prose of at times hallucinogenic intensity, and is long overdue for discovery here. This fabulous anthology of extracts from her writings over the past 40 years leaves the reader gasping for more.

Kept in the dark­ Premium

22 September 2016 | by Jon M. Sweeney
Honesty is different from realism. One can snap a photograph and still deceive. Most novels attempt to deceive. Donal Ryan’s seem unflinchingly truthful. And lyrical. Common speech is beautiful by his pen, as are rough, common people.

An imperfect match Premium

22 September 2016 | by Lynn Roberts
“Hymn” is a quiet and sober word, a comforting, bread-&-butter, not-very-riotous word ... so I can’t say that A.S. Byatt’s new book is a hymn to its subjects. It is much wilder, richer and more evocative – a paean of praise to the imagination of the inventor, to Venetian water and English woods, and to the beauty of meticulous and absorbing work.

Star man Premium

22 September 2016 | by Brian Morton
We keep on reading Paul Morley, even though every instinct shouts “stop!”, because behind all the self-regarding blather there is a hard core of resonant perception, and this makes him valuable. With The Age of Bowie, it takes 206 pages, which still isn’t halfway.

Badge of honour Premium

22 September 2016 | by Michael Walsh
In September 1773 some Jesuit scholastics, making their way back to the English college in Liège from the college’s holiday house, met a group of their professors travelling in the opposite direction.

Becoming Christian Premium

15 September 2016 | by Teresa Morgan
When, in the early Roman Empire, people “turned from idols to serve the living and true God”, as St Paul says, what kind of activity did they think they were engaged in? What kind of group did they think they were joining? What to most people now is the obvious answer – that they were adopting a religion and joining a religious community in the modern (Christian) sense – is the least likely.

Quite contrary Premium

15 September 2016 | by Nicholas Tucker
Children’s literature up to 1945 was mostly written for middle-class children and their parents. Stories were set during long summer holidays enjoyed in the countryside, and boarding-school settings were the norm. Tales of adventure were also on hand, as often as not celebrating ruling the Empire.

Irish Gothic Premium

15 September 2016 | by James Moran
This utterly captivating debut novel revolves around a ghost estate in Ireland: one with actual ghosts. Helen returns home from continental Europe along with her partner Paul and their 12-year-old daughter, who speaks German.

Beyond recall Premium

08 September 2016 | by Richard Scorer
Memories, argues psychologist Julia Shaw, are not always an accurate record of the past. They can be manipulated, and in some cases completely fabricated. Much of Dr Shaw’s book is an entertaining explication of the science of memory but, as she goes on to explain, false memories generated by poor interviewing techniques or in some therapeutic settings may sometimes lead to “real horrors”.

Born again? Premium

08 September 2016 | by Aidan Bellenger
What does it mean to be a Catholic today? Catholic identity in England and Wales has been transformed as much by demographics as by doctrine. Immigration and the shift of Catholicism’s geographical centre from its northern heartland to the south has had as much impact as the Second Vatican Council.

Dysfunctional family Premium

08 September 2016 | by Kathy Watson
I will start with a confession. I don’t like fiction based on fact. I find myself thinking that the writer lacks the ­imagina­tion to create an original story. I have another confession. I find fiction based on real-life grisly murders distasteful.

Fantastic voyage Premium

08 September 2016 | by Peter Marshall
The life of Kenelm Digby (1603-65) is one you simply could not make up, though Digby himself had a good go at it, composing in his youth a chivalric romance called Loose Fantasies, in which he wove autobiography and fiction together in frustratingly seamless fashion.

On the money Premium

01 September 2016 | by Christopher Bray
When he was a young student in Berlin in the late 1830s, Karl Marx fancied himself a poet. The bulk of his verse was ­standard issue, hormonal adolescent stuff: “Jenny! Do I dare avow / That in love we have exchanged our souls / That as one they throb and glow / And that through their waves one current rolls.”

Voices from before Premium

01 September 2016 | by Emma Klein
After attending the funeral in Jerusalem of one of his aunts, Jonathan Wittenberg, rabbi of the New North London Synagogue, volunteered to help clear out her flat.

Rollicking in old New York Premium

01 September 2016 | by Sue Gaisford
It is 1 December 1746, and young Richard writes to his father, the Reverend Pompilius Smith. Pompilius is safe in his English pulpit where, his miserable son assumes, he is clapping a hand to his temple as he reads, for Richard is languishing in a debtors’ gaol in New-York (sic), imprisoned for fraud.

National treasure Premium

01 September 2016 | by Hilary Davies
Peter Parker sets himself an ambitious task, an “exploration of England and Englishness” that looks at the life, context and influence of A. E. Housman’s poetry. He investigates what he describes as “an English sensibility in which literature, landscape, music and emotion all play their part”.

Undoubted genius Premium

18 August 2016 | by John McEwen
First some facts: Ruskin did not burn Turner’s erotic drawings. Turner’s claim to have been lashed to a storm-driven mast was probably mischief. He uttered no famous last words.

Going strong Premium

18 August 2016 | by David Platzer
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet, painter, founder of City Lights bookshop in San Francisco and its eponymous press, publisher of Allen Ginsberg and other Beat writers, remains, now aged 97, a busy man.

Shelf life Premium

18 August 2016 | by Suzi Feay

Bad connections Premium

18 August 2016 | by Andrew Atherstone
This argumentative, gossipy, fitfully entertaining book has been eagerly awaited for several months, since the first print run was pulped in the spring due to undisclosed legal issues.

He’s in there, somewhere Premium

18 August 2016 | by Robert Bathurst
A daughter writes about her father. It’s been done before, but Keggie Carew’s family archaeology has produced an engaging, funny and evocative depiction of war, snobbery, deprivation, insanity, dementia and ghastly relatives.

Listener, she married him Premium

18 August 2016 | by Julian Margaret Gibbs
Jane Eyre is a penniless orphan who becomes a governess and falls for her employer, the brooding Mr Rochester. Discovering he has a lunatic wife, she flees and only submits to marrying him after the wife’s dramatic death.

The road to Nuremberg Premium

10 August 2016 | by Bernard Wasserstein
A learned, gripping, idiosyncratic, personal account of the cauldron in which international human-rights law was forged

Ancient and modern Premium

10 August 2016 | by Michael Alexander
This will for some time be the one-volume academic version of Oxford’s institutional history.

An Anglican apologia Premium

03 August 2016
New facts and striking insights come thick and fast in this riveting collection of essays and reviews by a master historian

Dead and alive Premium

03 August 2016 | by Markie Robson-Scott
Hisham Matar’s novels, In the Country of Men and Anatomy of a Disappearance, are both narrated by a boy whose father is kidnapped by a totalitarian regime.

1966 and all that: witnessing the end of old-fashioned Britain Premium

28 July 2016 | by Adrian Chiles
Fifty years ago today, England reached the final of the World Cup for the first and only time. A wry memoir puts the game in its social and historical context

Dizzy heights Premium

28 July 2016 | by Christopher Bray
“Read no history,” Benjamin Disraeli famously said, “nothing but biography, for that is life without theory.” Fair enough. Yet except for the fact that it happens to be true, who would believe the story of this half-educated, circumcised and Anglicanised Italian Jew (whose family had made its money in straw hats), who became the Queen’s favourite?

Chills, multiplying Premium

28 July 2016 | by Emma Hughes
Alaska turns everything on its head. America’s largest, emptiest state resists attempts to pin it down – and those who do attempt it tend to find their gaze being forced inwards instead. “I looked directly into its eyes,” wrote anthropologist Richard K. Nelson of his encounter with an Alaskan wolverine, “and knew that I understood nothing.”

Those were the days Premium

28 July 2016 | by Jon M. Sweeney
One comes away from reading about the Berrigans with a sense of “those were the days”. Those were the days when priests made headlines for going to jail for peace. Phil died in 2002, at 79, of cancer. Dan just died, at 94, on 30 April this year. He had been living for years in a Jesuit infirm­ary in New York City. 

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