Books of the year 2010 | Jonathan Powell

Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane by Andrew Graham-Dixon

US politics is still the world's greatest spectator sport, and Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin (published in the UK as Race of a Lifetime: How Obama Won the White House, Viking, £25) is the best account of the triumph of 2008. It all seems a long time ago now, but it's still nice to relive the optimism.

I have always been fascinated by the strange combination of Caravaggio's dark paintings and his dark life. It seems incredible that he had time to invent a completely new form of painting and to do so much whoring, gambling and fighting, but Andrew Graham-Dixon's Caravaggio: a Life Sacred and Profane (Allen Lane, £30) shows us they were all up to it. The best revelation is that he found a new way to light his models by breaking a hole in the ceiling of his apartment in Rome to let the sun in, to the fury of his landlady.


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This article first appeared in the 22 November 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Advantage Cameron