No ban: An inmate in a Cuban prison reads a book. Photo: Getty
Why reading books in prison can set you free
By Kester Aspden - 18 December 16:55

A former youth offender-turned-writer reflects on the prison books ban. 

Conrad Black: Photo: Getty
Conrad Black: With friends like these…
By Conrad Black - 12 December 15:02

Conrad Black reflects on his friends’ nastiness about each other’s work.

A woman poses in front of photowall showing a fantasy library at the 2013 Frankfurt Book Fair. Photo: Thomas Lohnes/Getty
To build a fan base, it helps to know what it’s like to be a fan
By Elizabeth Minkel - 12 December 10:00

The online book world is about gathering around a book, or a love of books generally. If publishers want to capitalise on this, they would do well to promote authors who are fans themselves.

Houses. Photo: Getty
Things can only get meta: Kirsty Gunn’s Infidelities reviewed
By Sophie Elmhirst - 11 December 10:54

“Nobody buys short stories anyway,” says a character, Richard, in the prologue to Kirsty Gunn’s new collection, Infidelities. “No one thinks there’s enough going on.” The challenge from writer to reader is stark; watch out, there will be plenty going on here.

A food bank in Spain. Photo: Getty
Hard Times review: how the crash made our society more unequal
By Lucy Fisher - 11 December 10:46

The central tenet of Hard Times is that the economic slump of 2008 and its aftermath have augmented the schisms already present in two rich, but profoundly unequal societies: the UK and the US.

A manifesto for readers: The Republic of Imagination reviewed
By Erica Wagner - 11 December 10:02

The task Azar Nafisi sets herself here, to build an argument for fiction in western culture, is one that has driven her personal and professional life.

A Canadian cabin. Photo: Getty
The end of the affair: Rose Tremain’s The American Lover reviewed
By Alex Clark - 11 December 9:55

The protagonists of Rose Tremain’s fifth collection of short stories – her first since 2005’s The Darkness of Wallis Simpson – are all operating under some form of constraint: social, sexual, emotional, pressingly immediate or far distant, unrelentingly real or garlanded with imaginative flourishes.

Wat Tyler being killed while King Richard II looks on. Photo: Getty
Reading the riot act: the true story of the Great Revolt
By Paul Kingsnorth - 11 December 9:53

Richard II’s meeting with the rebels is one of the most astonishing moments in English history, as a 14-year-old boy rides out to meet thousands of his armed and angry people.

Photo: Getty
John Burnside on Seamus Heaney: poems as drops in the moral ocean
By John Burnside - 11 December 9:28

The work of a great artist often appears so fluent, so graceful, that we assume it must have come easily – but nothing in art is worth much if it is not hard won.

Quirks: from Laura Carlin's A World of Your Own
In a world of their own: the best children’s books of 2014
By Amanda Craig - 05 December 11:46

Amanda Craig’s round-up of reading to enchant and inspire young minds this Christmas. 

Forbidden fruit: Trierweiler and Hollande in 2002, three years before "the kiss in Limoges". Photo: Paris Match/Getty Images
It started with a kiss: Valerie Trierweiler’s memoir
By Jane Shilling - 05 December 11:34

Jane Shilling finds a blend of syrup and venom in this kiss-and-tell book by François Hollande’s former partner. 

Fear and loathing: Boris Karloff in The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)
Sympathy for the Devil Doctor: tracing the evolution of Fu Manchu
By Yo Zushi - 04 December 10:00

A pantomime villain imbued with the sophistication of Moriarty, Fu Manchu captured the imagination of a public already accustomed to lurid, exaggerated tales of vice among Britain’s Chinese population.

National hero: reforming Australian politician Gough Whitlam and singer Little Pattie on the campaign trail in 1972. Photo: Getty
Return to Oz: Peter Carey struggles with his country’s memory
By Leo Robson - 04 December 10:00

Leo Robson reviews the double-Booker Prize-winning author’s new novel about Australian identity. 

William Stanley Moss, Leigh Fermor and Emmanouil Paterakis before the kidnap of General Kreipe. Photo: The Estate of William Stanley Moss
An awfully big adventure: William Dalrymple on Paddy Leigh Fermor's wartime exploits
By William Dalrymple - 04 December 10:00

Perhaps the most famous moment of resistance against the Nazis in Crete is the abduction of the Nazi commandant of the island by a team led by Paddy Leigh Fermor, later one of the great prose stylists and travel writers of our time.

Beached: the east coast after Hurricane Sandy. Photo: Peter Van Agtmael/Magnum
Older than yesterday: Richard Ford’s Let Me Be Frank With You
By Sarah Churchwell - 04 December 10:00

This fourth book in the Frank Bascombe series a volume that tempts the word “slight” but may deserve more. Like its narrator, it is easygoing, understated, articulate and occasionally surprising.

Kissing the Kaaba: Mecca may be tacky and inward-looking but it still attracts millions. Photo: Reuters/Hassan Ali
Las Vegas of Arabia: Ziauddin Sardar’s heartfelt biography of Mecca
By Zachary Karabell - 04 December 10:00

Mecca was the city of Sardar’s childhood dreams, the ideal Muslim polity of humility and submission to God, and a community of faith. Today, under Saudi rule, it has been “remade in the image of . . . wealth and imperial splendour”.

After-life: Göran Rosenberg with his parents in Sweden
A history of violence: A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz by Göran Rosenberg
By Thomas Harding - 04 December 10:00

The story of Rosenberg’s father David, and his struggle to construct a new life after surviving the Holocaust was first published in Sweden in 2012; since then it has sold over 200,000 copies and been translated into nine languages. But Rosenberg wonders if he has the ability to tell the story at all, given that he is writing it “much later” than the events described.

Soul survivor: Robert Wyatt in 2009
Rock bottom and back: the rough-edged career of Robert Wyatt
By Ian Thomson - 28 November 16:57

Over the half-century of his career as a musician, Wyatt has belonged to no musical coterie; at his home in the market town of Louth in Lincolnshire, he has simply ploughed his own furrow.

Mother courage: Vita with her sons in 1924. Photo: Sasha/Getty Images
Between desire and dynasty: the dual identity of Vita Sackville-West
By Rachel Holmes - 28 November 16:55

Energetic and confident, the heir to the Sackville dynasty always felt comfortable in her own skin. Being Vita wasn’t the problem – patriarchy was.

Flashback: Gary McAllister and Paul Ince in 2000. Photo: Getty
Penalty kicking: A gloomy assessment of English football
By Leo Robson - 28 November 16:36

David Goldblatt is one of a loose group of football writers, all of them men born in the 1960s, for whom the sport since the summer of either 1989 or 1990 has been a slightly poisonous let-down.

A bicorne hat belonging to Napoleon awaiting auction in Paris in October. Photo: Getty
Boney’s bungles: Napoleon the Great by Andrew Roberts
By Andrew Adonis - 28 November 16:34

Roberts brings Bonaparte brilliantly to life as a military leader and public administrator of immense skill, energy and resourcefulness, yet one who was fatally flawed, writes Andrew Adonis. 

The go-between: Jonathan Powell in 2007, when Downing Street chief of staff. Photo: Getty
The enemy at my table: how Jonathan Powell talked to terrorists
By Anthony Loyd - 28 November 16:25

Founded upon his experience of successfully negotiating with the IRA, the book is an enthralling, case study of the art, in which Powell carefully establishes his argument for why dialogue with terror groups is usually necessary.

View from the chair: one of Theroux's stories concerns a cursed dentist. Photo: merri/Flickr
Furies unleashed: the sinister short stories of Paul Theroux
By Jeffrey Meyers - 28 November 16:04

Theroux’s lively imagination ranges from Hawaii to Alabama to the Amazon, and often portrays the disintegration of love and the disappointment when a promising sequel leads to bitterness.

Marilynne Robinson on goodness, fallibility and faith: “I’ve had atheists ask me to pray for them”
By Philip Maughan - 27 November 15:00

The American novelist Marilynne Robinson tells Philip Maughan why good characters are more interesting than bad ones and why a sense of our own fallibility keeps us sane.

Arms and the man: the personal kit that would have been carried by a British soldier in 1815
The unfinished battles of Waterloo
By Simon Heffer - 27 November 10:00

How did a hamlet in Belgium become immortalised in the names of streets, districts, parks and buildings all over Britain? These five books, published in anticipation of the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, explain why.

Marching on his stomach: a volunteer in Thomas Rowlandson's Private Drilling (1798)
Faces in the crowd: as Napoleon roamed, the home front was feverish
By Frances Wilson - 27 November 10:00

Uglow’s subject is the everyday life of those who stayed behind, for whom the 22 years of conflict were experienced in terms of boredom, bad weather, missing fathers, sons or brothers, the price of bread, failed harvests, mourning, making money and, overwhelmingly, reading the newspapers.

In the half light: biblical narratives, religious ritual and Christian art have a renewed appeal for baffled unbelievers
The books of revelations: why are novelists turning back to religion?
By Philip Maughan - 27 November 10:00

There is a sense that, in recent years, novelists have formed part of a rearguard action in response to Richard Dawkins’s New Atheist consensus. Philip Maughan talks to Marilynne Robinson, Francis Spufford and Rowan Williams about God in literature.

How Eleanor Marx changed the world
By Rachel Holmes - 26 November 13:49

Eleanor braved the world to test what she’d learned from Marx and Engels at the family hearth.

A book maze at the Soutbank Centre in 2012. Photo: Getty
Ladybird stops branding books “for boys” and “for girls”, but this is only the start
By Glosswitch - 21 November 11:42

We can change what’s on the cover, but if the content of the book hasn’t changed, it still has the power to limit our children’s aspirations.

The book that flew: A hawk used for pigeon control in St Pancras station. Photo: Getty
Peregrines over Westminster, my bloody great beehive and the Samuel Johnson Prize
By Helen Macdonald - 20 November 10:00

The winner of this year’s Samuel Johnson Prize for her book H is for Hawk chronicles a life-changing week. 

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