Eton, 1907 (Photo: Getty)

How to get a good education — from the former headmaster of Eton

An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Education is Tony Little’s valedictory meditation on his profession, published on his retirement as headmaster…

Portrait of Pepys, after John Hayls. The Diary for 17 March 1666 reads: ‘This day I begin to sit [for Hayls], and he will make me, I think, a very fine picture.... I sit to have it full of shadows, and do almost break my neck looking over my shoulder to make the posture for him to work by.’

The joy of an unexpurgated Pepys — without the bother of reading it oneself

We all know about Samuel Pepys witnessing the Great Fire in his Diaries, but how many have read the definitive…

Christian Thielemann

The old-fashioned greatness of Christian Thielemann

Philip Hensher admires an old-fashioned conductor who unashamedly favours the great German composers — and Wagner in particular


A remote island community is disrupted by the arrival of a troubled teenager

Benjamin Wood’s first novel, The Bellwether Revivals, was published in 2012, picked up good reviews, was shortlisted for the Costa…

Author Jonathan Galassi (Photo: Elena Seibert)

Jonathan Galassi’s fictional poet made me doubt my knowledge of American literature

Jonathan Galassi is an American publisher, poet and translator. In his debut novel Muse, his passion for the ‘good old…


Rediscover the venerable father of English history

It might seem to some a bold move to base a book on any kind of journey at all when…

The great unknown: Machado de Assis, c. 1896

Machado de Assis wasn’t the Dickens of Brazil— but he is one of the greats

The surname is pronounced ‘M’shahdo j’Asseece’. There are also two Christian names — Joaquim Maria — which are usually dispensed…

John Freeman boards the plane to Washington to take up his post as Ambassador (Photo: Getty)

John Freeman: polymath or psychopath?

They don’t make Englishmen like the aptly named John Freeman any more. When he died last Christmas just shy of…

Hanya Yanagihara (Photo: Jenny Westerhoff)

An epic study of trauma and friendship in the age of self-invention

Just over a century after Virginia Woolf declared that ‘on or about December 1910 human character changed’, the American novelist…

‘The Discovery of the Large, Rich, Beautiful Empire called Guiana’, from ‘Newe Weld un Americanische Historien’, by Johann Ludwig Gottfried, 1631

The strange history of Willoughbyland, modern-day Suriname

John Gimlette on the strange and superbly told story of Willoughbyland, England’s ‘lost’ colony

The real Nikki Sixx (Photo: Getty)

The rock novel that makes Mötley Crüe dull

Novels set in the music business (from blockbuster to coming-of-age) are few and far between — far less than in…

The BBC’s first director general, Lord Reith (Photo: Getty)

The story of the BBC

The BBC was created out of the ether in 1922. Its first director general, Lord Reith, inhabited a cupboard some…

William Blake’s depiction of Urizen, creator and lawgiver

Is truth really beauty after all?

Mediterranean crockery has a lot to answer for. It famously spoke thus to John Keats: ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,…

Robert Mugabe attends the funeral of Solomon Mujuru (Photo: Getty)

A murder mystery in Zimbabwe

This novel comes with two mysteries attached, one substantial, the other superficial. The big mystery is the author’s identity. Gender-neutral,…

Michael Moorcock (Photo: Ulf Andersen/Getty)

Michael Moorcock’s ‘autobiography’

Michael Moorcock has put his name to more books, pamphlets and fanzines than, probably, even Michael Moorcock can count, but…

Mark Sanford and George W. Bush in 2002

The best American political memoir in a generation

In June 2009, the good people of South Carolina lost Mark Sanford, their governor. Per his instructions, his staff told…

‘Thetis giving Achilles his arms’ (fresco), Giulio Romano, 1492–1546

A new translation of the Iliad

‘Why do another translation of Homer?’ Richmond Lattimore asked in the foreword to his own great translation of the Iliad…

The refrigerator takes centre stage at a 1920s luncheon party

Cooling is as important to civilisation as making fire — only much harder

Modern civilisation depends on refrigeration — but we have been trying to manufacture cold for at least 4,000 years, says Michael Bywater

The Clouded Yellow, especially vulnerable to cold, wet weather, is rare in Britain and usually confined to the South Downs and south coast

We all love butterflies — so why are we wiping them out?

Last month, at Edinburgh School of Art, I was interested to come across a student who’d chosen Marlowe’s Dr Faustus…


A novel to cure fear of missing out

Who’d be young? Not 25-year-old Tamsin, if her behaviour is anything to go by. A classical pianist who’s never quite…

A shopping centre is engulfed in flames during the Los Angeles riots, 1992 (Photo: Getty)

The gangs of LA are caught in an unending bloody vendetta

Ryan Gattis’s novel All Involved is set in South Central Los Angeles in 1992, during the riots that began after…

Riots occur in Uighur, the muslim capital of Xinjiang (Photo: Getty)

China’s repressive policy towards its Islamic fringe has badly backfired

In October 2013, a jeep ploughed through a crowd of pedestrians on the edge of Tiananmen Square, crashed and burst…

Illusions of grandeur: Roy Strong as a Stuart king (Charles I, after Sir Anthony Van Dyck)

Camp carnival: Roy Strong’s 80th birthday pageant

For his 75th birthday, Sir Roy Strong gave himself a personal trainer. For his 80th, he has commissioned a book…

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…

Rabdentse, near Pelling, the ruined former capital of Sikkim, with Mount Kanchenjunga in the distance

The story of Sikkim’s last king and queen reads like a fairy tale gone wrong

Sikkim was a Himalayan kingdom a third of the size of Wales squeezed between China, India, Nepal and Bhutan. I…