A toast to beer, from Plato to Frank Zappa

16 August 2014 9:00 am

‘He was a wise man who invented beer,’ said Plato, although I imagine he had changed his mind by the…

Illustration, from World War I in Cartoons, Mark Bryant, Grub Street.

The completely ludicrous – and sometimes believable – world of the First World War spook

12 July 2014 9:00 am

There can’t have been this many books about the first world war since — just after the first world war.…


The talent and tragedy of Richard Pryor

22 March 2014 9:00 am

The troubles of Richard Pryor’s life are well known — from his childhood in a brothel to his self-immolation via…


Hurrah for Andrew Strauss

23 November 2013 9:00 am

Andrew Strauss is a serious man and Driving Ambition (Hodder, £20, Spectator Bookshop, £18) is a serious book. It looks…


Slow Train to Switzerland, by Diccon Bewes - review

9 November 2013 9:00 am

In 1863, the pioneering travel agent Thomas Cook took a group of British tourists on the first package holiday to…


#Onyourmarks! What is the formal name for the hashtag? 

26 October 2013 9:00 am

One day there simply won’t be any strange byways of the English language left to write quirky little books about.…

An Endangered Species, by David Gower - review

Gower vs Boycott

19 October 2013 9:00 am

Ask any England cricket fan in his fifties to name his favourite batsman and chances are he will say David…

Ruin near Kelso, Mojave Desert, California

Walking in Ruins, by Geoff Nicholson - review

5 October 2013 9:00 am

Geoff Nicholson is the Maharajah of Melancholy. The quality was there in his novels, it was there in his non-fiction…

Left to right: Unity, Diana and Nancy

The Mitford Girls’ Guide to Life, by Lyndsy Spence - review

14 September 2013 9:00 am

For some reason you don’t expect people to be fans of the Mitford sisters, as others are fans of Doctor…

Canal boat

Chaplin & Company, by Mave Fellowes - review

31 August 2013 9:00 am

The unlikely heroine of Mave Fellowes’s Chaplin & Company (Cape, £16.99) is a highly-strung, posh-speaking, buttoned-up 18-year-old with the unhelpful…


Across the Pond, by Terry Eagleton - a review

20 July 2013 9:00 am

The esteemed literary critic, serial academic and one-time Marxist firebrand Terry Eagleton is, at 70, still producing books at an…


The Authors XI, by The Authors Cricket Club - review

13 July 2013 9:00 am

We were never going to get ‘come to the party’ or ‘a hundred and ten per cent’ from The Authors…


The Outsider, by Jimmy Connors - review

22 June 2013 9:00 am

As a teenager in the 1980s I liked Jimmy Connors. This meant parking my not inconsiderable jealousy that he’d once…

The Beatles

All Together Now, by David Rowley - review

25 May 2013 9:00 am

Too many Beatles books? In my house there’s always room for one more, and this week’s addition is All Together…


'The Politics of Washing: Real Life in Venice', by Polly Coles - review

27 April 2013 9:00 am

Master your disappointment. The Politics of Washing: Real Life in Venice (Hale, £9.99) is as far from the fantasy-relocation genre…


Bookends: Byronic intensity

20 April 2013 9:00 am

A year before he died from emphysema in 1990, the composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein agreed to be interviewed by the music…


‘A Slow Passion’, by Ruth Brooks – review

6 April 2013 9:00 am

Snails are supposed to hate eggshells. Not the ones in Ruth Brooks’s garden. They clamber over the barrier as though…


The Quickening, by Julie Myerson — review

30 March 2013 9:00 am

The plot of The Quickening (Arrow/ Hammer, £9.99) by Julie Myerson (pictured) revolves around pregnant, newlywed Rachel and her sinister…


Turned Out Nice Again, by Richard Mabey - review

23 March 2013 9:00 am

We don’t have an extreme climate, says Richard Mabey in Turned Out Nice Again (Profile, £8.99). We don’t have tsunamis,…


How Many Camels are there in Holland? by Phyillida Law - review

16 March 2013 9:00 am

Phyllida Law has a delightfully natural style, a gift for anecdote and the knack of seeing the funny side of…


A hero of folk

9 February 2013 9:00 am

‘This Machine Kills Fascists’ was the ambitious slogan that Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) painted on his guitars. By fascists he meant…

gavin_corbett 3

Down to a T

2 February 2013 9:00 am

There are normally three problems with reviews of books which, like This is the Way by Gavin Corbett (Fourth Estate,…

Virginia Ironside

Growing old disgracefully

19 January 2013 9:00 am

Virginia Ironside’s novel, No! I Don’t Need Reading Glasses (Quercus £14.99) about a 65-year-old granny who belongs to a local…


Novel ways of writing

12 January 2013 9:00 am

If you consider ‘gripping metafiction’ a self-contradictory phrase (surely metafiction disables tension through its wink-at-the-audience style?), Nicholas Royle’s First Novel…

Modelling Dors

The Diana effect

5 January 2013 9:00 am

My favourite joke of all time concerns Diana Dors, whose real name was Diana Fluck. She was invited back to…