Mel Gibson in Braveheart (Photo: Getty)

The top loo books of 2015

21 November 2015 9:00 am

There is not, sadly, a dedicated Trivia Books section in your local Waterstones, although at this time of year there…

The Tower of Babel by Lucas van Valckenborch, 1591

The buildings we treasure most are often the ones we’ve never seen

14 November 2015 9:00 am

Here are two books which have almost nothing in common: form, function, source material, methodology, all utterly different. The surprise…

beauty girl cry

Proof that the British hardly ever had a stiff upper lip

10 October 2015 9:00 am

The last time I cried was September 1989. That was my first week at public school. The reason I cried…

White glazed bowl, Shunzhi-Kangxi period, Qing dynasty, 1650–70

The perils of porcelain – and the pleasures of Edmund de Waal

19 September 2015 8:00 am

A.S. Byatt on the dark, deadly secrets lurking beneath a calm, white surface


Trials of the century: sex, sodomy, espionage, theft and fraud

27 June 2015 9:00 am

Jeremy Hutchinson was the doyen of the criminal bar in the 1960s and 1970s. No Old Bailey hack or parvenu…


From ambrosia to zabaglione — now with added slavery

13 June 2015 9:00 am

This Oxford Companion ranges from the sweet to the decidedly salty, while being the most politically correct reference book you will ever consult, says Paul Levy

Hitler with the Goebbels family in the late 1930s

Ménage-à-trois with Hitler: the Goebbels’ marriage was a bit crowded

9 May 2015 9:00 am

It is ironic that this weighty biography of Hitler’s evil genius of a propaganda minister is published on the day…

Mary Shelley by Richard Rothwell

There’s something about Mary (Wollstonecraft and Shelley)

25 April 2015 9:00 am

If Mary Wollstonecraft, as she once declared, ‘was not born to tred in the beaten track’, the same with even…

Following Galileo’s discoveries, a rugged, cratered moon is depicted (with papal approval) by Ludovico Cigoli in his ‘Assumption of the Virgin in the Pauline Chapel’

Moving heaven and earth: Galileo’s subversive spyglass

11 April 2015 9:00 am

We live in an age of astronomical marvels. Last year Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft made a daring rendezvous with the comet…

Although Keynes hated his appearance, he was much painted by the Bloomsbury Group, including by Roger Fry (above)

John Maynard Keyes: an abundance of talent that has aroused jealousy and suspicion ever since

28 March 2015 9:00 am

To the 21st-century right, especially in the United States, John Maynard Keynes has become a much-hated figure whose name is…

Self confessed mass murderer Anders Breivik Photo: Getty

Anders Breivik: a moronic knight is called to arms

14 March 2015 9:00 am

In 2011, Anders Breivik murdered 69 teenagers in a socialist summer camp outside the Norwegian capital of Oslo, and eight…


John Aubrey and his circle: those magnificent men and their flying machines

14 March 2015 9:00 am

John Aubrey investigated everything from the workings of the brain, the causation of winds and the origins of Stonehenge to…

Portrait of Lord Dufferin, 1893

The first Lord Dufferin: the eclipse of a most eminent Victorian

28 February 2015 9:00 am

The first Marquess of Dufferin and Ava is largely forgotten today — rotten luck for the great diplomat of the…

A Palestinian boy during a rally in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip, 2015

Tony Judt: a man of paradox who made perfect sense

7 February 2015 9:00 am

Tony Judt was not only a great historian, he was also a great essayist and commentator on international politics. Few…

Muriel Lester looks on as John Galsworthy lays a brick at the foundation ceremony for the Kingsley Hall Photo: Getty

Soup, socialism and suffragettes: radical Christianity at Kingsley Hall

31 January 2015 9:00 am

This is the tale of Muriel Lester, once famous pacifist and social reformer, and Nellie Dowell, her invisible friend. Nellie…

Composer Franz Schubert Photo: Getty

This Winter Journey goes far beyond expectation

10 January 2015 9:00 am

You can tell a lot about a book from its bibliography. It’s the non-fiction equivalent of skipping to the final…

Anne Frank Photo: Getty

What makes mankind behave so atrociously? Ian Buruma and Joanna Bourke investigate

6 December 2014 9:00 am

The first interaction between two men recorded in the Bible involves a murder. In the earliest classic of English literature,…

Sidney Bechet in 1939

Blue Note's 75 years of hot jazz

8 November 2014 9:00 am

This is a big book, a monumental text with 800 illustrations, 400 of them in colour, to be contemplated more…

Former Czech President Vaclav Have Photo: Getty

What went so wrong for Vaclav Havel?

8 November 2014 9:00 am

The unforgettable moment a quarter of a century ago when the Berlin Wall came down was the most vivid drama…

The end of The End of History. Photo by Robert Giroux/Getty Images

What’s that I hear? Francis Fukuyama back-pedalling frantically

27 September 2014 8:00 am

The problem with a futuristic thesis — particularly when summarised by a futuristic title — is that it is likely…


Is America headed for tyranny? It is when the other side's in charge...

23 August 2014 9:00 am

For the last 50 years Americans have been decrying the increase of presidential power whenever the party they oppose is…

Portrait of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, with his pet monkey, attributed to Jacob Huysmans

Thug, rapist, poetic visionary: the contradictory Earl of Rochester

28 June 2014 9:00 am

Philip Hensher on the scandalous 17th-century courtier whose hellfire reputation has overshadowed his fine satirical poetry

Churchill reading in his library at Chartwell

Churchill was as mad as a badger. We should all be thankful

19 April 2014 9:00 am

The egotistical Churchill may have viewed the second world war as pure theatre, but that was exactly what was needed at the time, says Sam Leith

English explorers on expedition in the Sudan, 1860-63

Sudan was always an invented country. Maybe we should invent it again

19 April 2014 9:00 am

Sudan — a country that ceased to exist in 2011 — is or was one of the last untouristed wildernesses…

Kim Philby at the press conference he called in 1955 to deny being the ‘Third Man’

Kim Philby got away with it because he was posh

8 March 2014 9:00 am

Kim Philby’s treachery escaped detection for so long through the stupidity and snobbery of the old-boy network surrounding him, says Philip Hensher