French mathematician Cedric Villani Photo: Getty

How could anyone enjoy Cédric Villani’s ‘Birth of a Theorem’? I think I’ve worked it out

28 February 2015 9:00 am

I’ve got a mathematical problem. Birth of a Theorem is by one of the great geniuses of today, a cosmopolitan,…

An unholy cross between Big Ben and Las Vegas, the Makkah Royal Clock Tower stands on an estimated 400 sites of cultural and historical importance

Mecca: the greatest paradox of the Islamic world

6 December 2014 9:00 am

The Saudis, official custodians of Islam’s holiest place, have bulldozed its historical sites, perverted its religion and turned Mecca into one vast shopping mall, says Justin Marozzi

Even Cilla’s biographer admits that critics were justified in knocking the ‘prurience ‘of Blind Date

The tat-world of dystopia that celebrities construct for themselves: five of the year’s top biographies

6 December 2014 9:00 am

Cilla Black has become a strange creature during her 50 years in showbiz. When her husband Bobby was in hospital…

Frank Keating with cricketer Ian Botham Photo: Getty

When Geoff Boycott was a DJ in a Sydney nightclub

21 June 2014 8:00 am

Sport isn’t about putting a ball into a net or over a bar or into a hole. It’s about the…

Meadow pipit

Read this book and you’ll see why our meadows are so precious

7 June 2014 9:00 am

This book is a portrait of one man’s meadow. Our now almost vanished meadowland, with its tapestry of wildflowers, abundant…

Scarlett O’Hara runs through the streets of burning Atlanta

'Where are the happy fictional spinsters?'

18 January 2014 9:00 am

This book arose from an argument. Lifelong bookworm Samantha Ellis and her best friend had gone to Brontë country and…

W H Auden (Photo: H V Drees/Getty Images)

What would Auden have deemed evil in our time? European jingoism

9 November 2013 9:00 am

‘Goodbye to the Mezzogiorno’ was the first Auden poem that Alexander McCall Smith read in his youth. He discovered it…


'If I can barely speak, then I shall surely sing'

26 October 2013 9:00 am

A few weeks ago, I was wandering with a friend around West London when our conversation turned to the reliable…


How to get old without getting boring

19 October 2013 9:00 am

When one notices the first symptoms of senile dementia (forgetting names, trying to remember the purpose of moving from one…

Lucian Freud in his bedroom in Notting Hill, May 2011

Breakfast with Lucian, by Geordie Greig - review

12 October 2013 9:00 am

According to the medical historian Professor Sonu Shamdasani, Sigmund Freud was not the best, nor actually the most interesting, psychoanalyst…

Mayonnaise: a key component of Soviet cooking

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, by Anya von Bremzen - review

12 October 2013 9:00 am

The early 1990s in Russia were hungry years. At the time, I was a student, too idle to barter and…

Move Along, Please, by Mark Mason - review

28 September 2013 9:00 am

Mrs Thatcher was widely believed to have said that ‘any man over the age of 26 who finds himself on…

‘I don’t mind being a monster, but there are limits’

The World According to Karl, edited by Jean-Christophe Napias - review

14 September 2013 9:00 am

Every fashion era has its monster and in ours it’s Karl Lagerfeld, a man who has so emptied himself on…

Romanian peasant uses an old plough pull

The Broken Road, by Patrick Leigh Fermor - review

7 September 2013 9:00 am

Sound the trumpets. Let rip the Byzantine chorus of clattering bells and gongs, the thunder of cannons, drums and flashing…

A Rogues’ Gallery, by Peter Lewis - review

24 August 2013 9:00 am

Like Mel Brooks’s character the Two Thousand-Year-Old Man, Peter Lewis has met everyone of consequence. Though he doesn’t mention being…

Bitter Experience Has Taught Me, by Nicholas Lezard - review

17 August 2013 9:00 am

What, really, is a literary education for? What’s the point of it? How, precisely, does it help when you’re another…

A Corner of Paradise, by Brian Thompson - review

10 August 2013 9:00 am

Author has late-blossoming romance with authoress, both divorcees, and they live together in a cramped house in Harrogate full of…

Violet Powell’s sketches on a tour of the Nile, ‘Dendra,  a Ptolemaic site [which] has a supposed portrait of Cleopatra and her son Caesarion.’

A Stone in the Shade, by Violet Powell - review

10 August 2013 9:00 am

Evelyn Waugh once recalled the anguish with which he greeted Edith Sitwell’s announcement that ‘Mr Waugh, you may call me…

Death by Dior, by Terry Cooper - review

10 August 2013 9:00 am

This book may sound like it’s going to be about high fashion, but it’s actually about Nazism, satanism, incest and…

‘Horace reading his Satires to Maecenas’ by Fedor Andreevich Bronnikera

Horace and Me, by Harry Eyres - review

6 July 2013 9:00 am

After Zorba the Greek, here comes Horace the Roman. The peasant Zorba, you’ll remember from the film, releases uptight, genteel…

The Girl from Station X, by Elisa Segrave - review

29 June 2013 9:00 am

On her seventh birthday, Elisa Segrave’s five-year-old brother Raymond drowned in their grandmother’s swimming pool. From that day onwards, her…

Song Without Words, by Gerald Shea - review

22 June 2013 9:00 am

At the age of six, Gerald Shea had scarlet fever. The sounds of birds passed into memory to be replaced…

Things I Don’t Want to Know, by Deborah Levy - review

22 June 2013 9:00 am

In her powerful rejoinder to Orwell’s 1946 essay ‘Why I Write’, Deborah Levy responds to his proposed motives for writing…


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,…

Memoirs of a Leavisite, by David Elllis - review

15 June 2013 9:00 am

As the author of this wise, patient and delightful book wryly reminds us, Stephen Fry — who, of course, knows…