Books

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. 

Oh! What a lovely Waugh Premium

21 July 2016 | by Martin Stannard

Dangerous thinking Premium

21 July 2016 | by William Eichler
Islam is in trouble. Islamic orthodoxy has been infiltrated by a totalitarian ­ideology and captured by fundamentalists sporting well-crafted facial furniture. It has declined from once great heights, and ­morphed into an unreflective dogma followed blindly by automata.

Runners and riders Premium

21 July 2016 | by Markie Robson-Scott
Could Ginger be just another rich white woman messing with a kid whose culture she doesn’t understand? When she and her husband Paul volunteer as a host family with the Fresh Air Fund, which places inner-city kids with kind folks in upstate New York for two weeks in the summer, some people, including Velvet’s mother and Paul, are dubious about her motives.

Hard-luck stories Premium

21 July 2016 | by Sue Gaisford
Throughout her account, Colin adds his own comments: “Well, anybody can say that,” and, “It’s bloody hard work trying to keep you lot under control … don’t expect no sympathy from me.” When the moment arrives for her to be deported, she is injected with a sedative, and slumps to the floor. Colin hands the baby to the little girl.

Summer reading Premium

14 July 2016

Lives in the margins Premium

06 July 2016 | by Anthony Kenny
The editors of this book aim to show that scholarly publication is a legitimate and honourable form of ministry for a priest, whether secular or regular. The authority of Pope Pius XI is cited to the effect “that fine scholarship is in the modern world the most efficacious of all apostolic work”.

The Spanish prisoner Premium

06 July 2016 | by Fernando Cervantes
This reconstruction of the life of Miguel de Cervantes shows that at every stage of their development, his writings were influenced by their author’s experience. William Egginton goes on to make an ­extra­ordinary claim: the man who wrote Don Quixote, he insists, is the “inventor” of fiction.

Slithery plot Premium

06 July 2016 | by Clarissa Burden
In 1893 a village on the muddy coast of Essex was being terrorised by a mythical monster called the Essex Serpent. Cora Seaborne, recently widowed and coming to Essex from London for some fresh air, hears about the Serpent and, as an amateur natur­alist and keen collector of fossils, becomes convinced that this could be a new and undiscovered species of sea creature.

The human factor Premium

06 July 2016 | by Abigail Frymann Rouch
It’s far easier to grasp the reality of a great crisis when we experience it through the eyes of one individual – think Anne Frank or Malala Yousafzai.

Seeking the transcendent Premium

29 June 2016 | by Lucy Beckett
Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung is an extraordinary work of art. It is also extraordinarily demanding. Four evenings in the opera house are occupied with an introductory piece in a long single act, Das Rheingold, and then three huge music dramas of three acts each: Die Walküre, Siegfried and finally Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods).

Last things Premium

29 June 2016 | by Julian Hughes
The memory of one particular Saturday shortly after I had qualified as a doctor is seared into my mind. An elderly lady who had undergone several major operations in the previous weeks had taken a turn for the worse.

Chapter and verse Premium

29 June 2016 | by Henry Wansbrough
There is hardly enough murder to justify the title, but murder there was – that of William Tyndale, the noble first translator of the Bible into modern English, kidnapped and later garrotted and burnt at the stake for his heretical, Lutheran tendencies.

Reformed character Premium

23 June 2016 | by Brad S. Gregory
More has been written about Martin Luther than anyone else in history except Jesus Christ. More is forthcoming as we approach the quin­centenary of the year Luther’s 95 Theses took Germany by storm, the start of an improbable sequence of events that catapulted an obscure Augustinian friar and university professor into the spotlight as Europe’s first-ever celebrity author and the unlikely originator of the movement we call the Protestant Reformation.

Aid under fire Premium

23 June 2016 | by George Gelber
Is it possible to intervene militarily in conflict zones and supply humanitarian assistance at the same time? More in ­sorrow than in anger – though there is anger too – the journalist and broadcaster Peter Gill describes the gradual shrinking of the space which once allowed humanitarian aid agencies to navigate their way safely between warring enemies, and laments the growing disinclin­ation of some agencies, increasingly dependent on government funding, even to attempt to assert their neutrality.

Grief in close up Premium

23 June 2016 | by Suzi Feay
Carys Bray’s acclaimed debut novel, A Song for Issy Bradley, shone a light on the unfamiliar world of British Mormons. Bray drew on her Lancashire upbringing to give a hearteningly affectionate account of the faith’s eccentricities, faults and strengths.

Family misfortunes Premium

23 June 2016 | by Anthony Gardner
The parents of a genius are seldom remembered for their own achievements: the vast majority have to make do with “mother of” or “father of”. It was a formula Oscar Wilde’s mother hated, and with good reason: as Emer O’Sullivan argues, both Jane and William Wilde would be far more celebrated if their son had not first outshone them and then become one of the most derided figures of the Victorian era.

You can’t say that! Premium

16 June 2016 | by Christopher Howse
Timothy Garton Ash makes no small claim for the 10 principles of free speech around which he builds his book: “If everyone everywhere followed them, everyone everywhere would be better off.

Learned disciple Premium

16 June 2016 | by Margaret Atkins
Cardinal Francis George, Arch­bishop of Chicago, died on 17 April 2015 after several years of treatment for cancer, only a few days after he had completed the introduction to this collection of eight essays.

Out of tune Premium

16 June 2016
This is Rose Tremain’s fortieth year as a published author, and she is marking it with a perceptive and beautifully realised novel of unrequited and misplaced love. It’s set in Switzerland, beginning just after the end of the Second World War, when Gustav is a small boy.

Queen of hearts Premium

16 June 2016 | by Sue Gaisford
Medieval English kings had a ­penchant for French princesses, fetching them willy-nilly to our chilly island from the sunnier realms of Aquitaine, Angoulême and Provence. King Edward II did even better than his forebears by securing the hand of the beautiful Isabella, daughter and sister of the Kings of France.

The long view Premium

09 June 2016 | by Denis MacShane
When I studied history at Oxford the subject was neatly divided into “British history” and “European history”. This division between us and them lies deep in our psyche. There is something called “Britain” and there is something called “Europe”, and the latter is “over there”, foreign, menacing, full of Catholics or Communists who threaten our tranquil island life.

Soaring value of Monet Premium

09 June 2016 | by Mark Stocker
Until his run for the presidency was bumped off the rails by Donald Trump, Ted Cruz’s senior foreign policy adviser, Dr Victoria Coates, briefly looked as if she might become the world’s most famous art historian.

End times Premium

09 June 2016 | by Caroline Jackson
?Do not be deterred. Fair warning, before you embark on the following few paragraphs and start to suspect, life being short, that Zero K may be too tricksy and impenetrable – aka “postmodern” – for a novel about that most medieval of preoccupations, death.

Where the dead speak twice Premium

09 June 2016 | by Pól Ó Muirí
An odd thing indeed: one novel; one publisher; two translations. Yale University Press published The Dirty Dust last year. It was the first translation into English of Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s greatly admired novel, Cré na Cille, a work of tremendous imagination and intimacy set among the dead in a country graveyard.

China’s Great Terror Premium

02 June 2016 | by Sarah Hayes , Simon Scott Plummer
Launched 50 years ago this month, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was the third of the disasters visited on China by Mao Zedong. First came land reform, rammed through by the Communists after their seizure of power in 1949.

Thirties somethings Premium

02 June 2016 | by Timothy Brittain-Catlin
English country houses have provided a genre of their own in architectural history, a tradition of writing led by some of the finest architectural historians Britain has ever seen: Mark Girouard and Clive Aslet are the two outstanding and very much still active examples.

Elizabeth speaks Premium

02 June 2016 | by Julian Margaret Gibbs
We all know Pride and Prejudice, if not from reading it at least from the several films and the 1995 BBC television series when Colin Firth, playing the handsome, haughty Fitzwilliam Darcy, made a swooningly sexy appearance in a drenched shirt.

Life in abundance Premium

02 June 2016 | by Teresa MOorgan
Here is a collection that brings together essays written for a variety of audiences over more than 25 years. Some address individual texts; others treat themes which underlie most or all of Augustine’s writings.

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