Jane Gardam’s Old Filth

During Britain’s most boastful period, when the sun never set on her Empire, many soldiers, diplomats and dignitaries working abroad sent their young children home to England, to be raised by relatives. Rudyard Kipling was one of these “Raj Orphans,” […]

Adam Nicolson’s God’s Secretaries

After yet another series of terrorist attacks in Europe, a handful of commentators have dared to ask a frightening question: have holy wars returned to the old continent? Europe’s youth does not know – often because they have not been […]

Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club

Mary Karr has a talent for setting a scene, and The Liar’s Club, her first memoir, begins memorably: we are in her childhood bedroom in a small town in East Texas in the early 1960s. A doctor is inspecting her […]

Marshall Frady’s Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a journalist for Newsweek, and while still in his twenties, Marshall Frady witnessed history. He was sent into the American South in the 1960s to cover the Civil Rights Movement, and in that capacity he had the privilege to […]

Robert Sapolsky’s Behave

When I saw, earlier this month, that a new book by Robert Sapolsky had hit the shelves, I immediately ran off to purchase it, mentally reorganizing the month’s reading to accommodate this 800-page behemoth. Such is my admiration for Sapolsky, […]

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel

By my lights, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of the most admirable human beings alive today, a walking, talking embodiment of the emancipatory powers of education and the courage and power of the individual. But large swaths of the modern […]

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic

After David Foster Wallace’s death in 2008, a large chunk of his personal library – together with his notes, manuscripts and correspondence – was purchased by the University of Texas, where it can still be perused. And among those volumes […]

Mark Forsyth’s The Etymologicon

What would you do if you had a burning passion for a subject that the wider world – in its infinite wisdom – regarded as irredeemably boring, utterly unworthy of time and attention, let alone expense? If you happen to […]

Bernard Lewis’ What Went Wrong?

Though it was only published in January of 2002, Bernard Lewis’ attempt to explain the historic and ongoing conflict between the Muslim world and the West was completed shortly before September 11, 2001, meaning he did not need the evidence of the […]

Michel Houellebecq’s The Possibility Of An Island

Much of the criticism surrounding Michel Houellebecq’s work in general, and The Possibility Of An Island in particular, revolves around the unhappiness – we might even call it gloom – he generates in his readers. His characters are rarely very sympathetic; there is […]