Melanie McDonagh

Melanie McDonagh is a leaderwriter for the Evening Standard and Spectator contributor. Irish, living in London.

This year Alice in Wonderland celebrates its 150th anniversary (Photo: Getty

Green djinns and a green boy: the best summer reading for children

It’s the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland — cue an explosion of editions of the book, a new biography…

Kate Middleton sits alongside Professor Louise Richardson (Photo: Getty)

How come our cash-strapped universities can afford so many administrators?

At Oxford and elsewhere, university administration is out of control

Matthew Crawford's 'World Beyond Your Head' looks at how we pay attention in a world of escalating distractions. (Photo: Toronto Star via Getty)

Virtual reality versus real reality: wisdom (and motorcycle maintenance) from Matthew Crawford

Bit of Kant, bit of Kierkegaard, bit of motorcycle maintenance. That’s one take on The World Beyond Your Head, Matthew…

The importance of illustration: Babar et le Professeur Grifaton by Laurent de Brunhoff

Under Harry Potter’s spell: most children’s books have become shamelessly derivative, says Melanie McDonagh

Go to any bookshop — always supposing you’re fortunate enough to have any left in your neck of the woods…

The Babies Castle, a branch of Dr Barnardo’s at Hawkhurst, Kent in 1934

Love child or bastard: the lottery of being born on the wrong side of the blanket

My father was handed over a shop counter when he was a day old. His aunt had tried to pass…

Illustration by Arthur Rackham from Grimm's Fairy Tale, Fitcher's Bird. Published late 19th Century Photo: Getty

Grimms’ fairy tales: the hardcore version

Child murder, domestic slavery, abusive families, cannibalism and intergenerational hatred — what could be better for the festive fireside than…

The Parent Trap, familiar from various film versions, is a story by Eric Kastner, now republished with Walter Trier’s illustrations by Pushkin Books

The best children’s books of 2014

If it’s all right with you, I’d like to launch a campaign please. Right here. You may be wanting me…


The cult of 'mindfulness'

Separating meditation from faith might not be as harmless as it seems

Shami Chakrabarti Photo: David Levenson/Getty

What Shami regards as right isn’t necessarily what is right

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty and omnipresent media personality, is on the cover of her book.…

The theatrical Constance Markewicz founded the military boy scouts, who would later staff the IRA

When Irish nationalism meant sexual adventure

One of the easiest mistakes to make about history is to assume that the past is like the recent past,…

Ottolenghi’s tomato and pomegranate salad

Yotam Ottolenghi: the Saatchi brothers of vegetable PR

It would be a mistake to treat Plenty More, the new cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi, merely as a collection of…

Grape preparation: the preferred method in north London

Politically correct wines worth drinking

Melanie McDonagh picks out bottles with a delicious hint of middle-class virtue


Churchgoing is good for you (even if you don’t believe in God)

And that’s true whether or not you believe in God

‘Religieuses’ (from William and Suzue Curley’s Patisserie)

Recipe for a modern baker: first, move to Hoxton

If I were the kind of person who invited people to come and have a bite to eat that very…


The best new children's books

A children’s author and illustrator, Jonathan Emmet, created a stir recently by saying that women are effectively gatekeepers of children’s…


Did most women want the vote?

The suffragettes’ opponents deserve to be remembered sympathetically

Paris in the springtime: the Jardin des Plantes


No city really multitasks like Paris, shorthand for romance, culture, fashion, gastronomy and the kind of street life you find…


Secrets of Candleford: the real Flora Thompson

Melanie McDonagh on Flora Thompson, whose revealing account of rural Oxfordshire life at the turn of the 19th century became a literary classic

A little girl climbing into the confessi

Forgive me, Father

What Catholics really talk about in the confession box

Segolene Royal, Valerie Trierweiler and  Julie Gayet Photo: AFP/Getty

François Hollande - all the president's women

Hollande’s affair demonstrates that the French are becoming more puritanical about monogamy

Irwin Piper takes his sheep to slaughter

How we lost the seasons

... for tomorrow traditional seasonal rituals may just be ghostly memories of a vanished world, says Melanie McDonagh

From The Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

The best children's books for Christmas

Animal stories for children are always tricky; as J.R.R. Tolkien observed in his essay on fairy stories, you can end…


The man who made it OK to talk about immigration

How Professor Paul Collier has bypassed the liberal taboo on discussing immigration

Bridget has become unrecognisable (Image: The Kobal Collection/ Sparham Laurie)

Helen Fielding has lost her touch

To understand quite how disgruntled the reviews of the latest Bridget Jones diaries have been, you have to recall quite…


Less sex please, we're British

From Bridget Jones to prime-time telly, porn culture is now mainstream