Craig Brown's The Lost Diaries (Fourth Estate, £18.99). Brown's gift as a parodist is phenomenal. The egomania of politicians, actors, writers. I had remembered the laugh-aloud slapstick of his Clive James, Paddy Ashdown or the late Queen Mother; and many figures such as Heather Mills McCartney and Harold Pinter were self-parodying. But it takes real art, I think to see what is funny about W.G.Sebald. It sometimes worries me that there is no malice in Craig Brown, but if there were, perhaps he would not be able to love-hate the characters he so successfully depicts. A completely wonderful book which I have already re-read several times. Philip Mansel's Levant Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean (John Murray, £25) comes from the pen which, more sharply than any other, has delineated Istanbul. Here, with evocations of Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut, all of which he knows well, Mansell gives us history, travel-writing and evocation of place with spare lack of sentimentality, but passionate intensity. The chapters on Beirut, in the light of what is continuing there to this sad hour, are especially poignant. Highly recommended.