William Leith


Warning: this book only contains strong language

7 November 2015 9:00 am

Dan Marshall, the author of this memoir, loves to swear. ‘It’s very difficult for me to write a sentence without…

Why do footballers hug each other when a goal is scored? It’s all to do with grooming

Sense and sensibility: what your fingertips tell your brain

11 April 2015 9:00 am

I used to think we had five senses — sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. And I used to think…


Vitamins are the oil keeping the human machine working — to be used sparingly

21 March 2015 9:00 am

Before I read this book about vitamins, I thought I knew what it would be like. It would be vaguely…


Your immune system’s war isn’t Saving Private Ryan — it’s Homeland

6 December 2014 9:00 am

Before I read this book, I imagined the immune system as a defensive force, like the Germans on the beaches…

Michael Palin performs on the closing night of 'Monty Python Live (Mostly)'

The hell of being Michael Palin

4 October 2014 9:00 am

In these diaries, which I found excellent in a very specific way, Michael Palin tells us about his life between…


A book about human nature that makes your head spin – in a good way

6 September 2014 9:00 am

Vincent Deary is a therapist, and this book is the first part of a trilogy. How We Are is about…

Photo: Artpuppy/Getty

Having a moral compass just gets in the way of being smart

28 June 2014 9:00 am

Steven D. Levitt was a Harvard economist who specialised in politics and spent a lot of time watching cop shows…


The thrill of cutting into a human brain

22 March 2014 9:00 am

In the first sentence of the first chapter of this book, Henry Marsh, a consultant brain surgeon, says, ‘I often…


Why you shouldn't keep elephants

8 February 2014 9:00 am

On 15 September 1885, the world’s most famous elephant, Jumbo, was killed by a train. Jumbo, the star attraction at…

Yaohnanen on Vanuatu's Tanna island, where men wear nothing but grass penis sheaths, and marijuana and tobacco grow wild, Prince Philip is worshipped as a god Photo: AFP/Getty

Why worship Prince Philip?

23 November 2013 9:00 am

In this travelogue, Matthew Baylis, the novelist and TV critic and former Eastenders screenwriter, goes to Tanna, a Melanesian island,…

T E Lawrence (Photo - Getty)

Clumsy and heavy, Goliath never stood a chance

12 October 2013 9:00 am

When we think of David and Goliath, we think of a young man, not very big, who has a fight…

Sane New World, by Ruby Wax - a review

20 July 2013 9:00 am

Ruby Wax, who is best known as a comedian, dedicates this book ‘to my mind, which at one point left…


Consolations of the Forest, by Sylvain Tesson - review

15 June 2013 9:00 am

In this book, the French writer Sylvain Tesson spends six months, mostly alone, in a log cabin in Siberia. ‘Cold,…

Théâtre de la Gaîté performers at Niagara Falls, 1892

The Society of Timid Souls, by Polly Morland - review

18 May 2013 9:00 am

In this book about courage, Polly Morland talks to lots of people who should know what it is. She talks…

Destroying angel in the ether

23 February 2013 9:00 am

A few years ago, James Lasdun wrote The Horned Man, a novel about Laurence Miller, an English lecturer in an…

Safety in danger

8 December 2012 9:00 am

In his book The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb told us that the world is a much weirder place than we…

An exercise in torment

15 September 2012 9:00 am

In this intense, painful, excellent war novel, former Private John Bartle, a young man from rural Virginia, looks back on…

Torn in two by Tuggy Tug

21 July 2012 6:00 am

This is a book about what we, as a society, should do with hoodies — the familiar hooded young men,…

Who needs money?

19 May 2012 10:00 am

I was racking my brains, trying to understand money, trying to grasp exactly what it is, when I came across…


A gruesome sort

31 March 2012 10:00 am

Everybody knows that the heart pumps blood around the body, and that a man called William Harvey somehow discovered this…

The view from the top

3 March 2012 10:00 am

Halfway through this book, the veil lifted, and I thought: ‘I see! I see what he’s trying to do!’ Pickering…

The Devil in the mirror

31 December 2011 10:00 am

As a kid growing up in Scotland in the 1950s, Dennis O’Donnell was aware of ‘loonies’, and the men in…

Just One Catch by Tracy Daugherty

22 October 2011 12:00 pm

In the second world war, Joseph Heller was an American airman based in Corsica. He flew 60 missions over Italy…

Chaos and the tidy mind

24 September 2011 12:00 am

In this book, Alexander Masters, the unusual biographer, is living in Cambridge, having written Stuart: A Life Backwards, the story…

Speak, Memory

4 June 2011 12:00 am

One day, the American journalist Joshua Foer is surfing the net, trying to find the answer to a specific question: who is the most intelligent person in the world? He can’t find a definitive answer.