! Konin: A Quest by Theo Richmond, Vintage pounds 8.99. The Jewish settlement at Konin, the town of Theo Richmond's ancestors, was among the first to be established in Poland during the Middle Ages. And in 1939 it became one of the first to receive the attentions of the invading Nazis, when in an appalling sweep the entire community was displaced and sent to perish in the camps. Only a few survived. This book is virtually a recreation of the place: streets, buildings, population carefully reassembled piece by piece from painstakingly researched records and living memory. It is an amazing act of obsessional homage, of mourning, even, but Richmond's sense of obligation to the past doesn't obscure the modern relevance.

! Walter Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity by Neal Gabler, Papermac pounds 13. Winchell, the man who made gossip journalism if not respectable, then inevitable, was cock of the American media walk from 1930 to 1950, a titan of syndicated newspaper columns and radio. Fame afforded him the licence to pronounce on matters far more weighty than the current movie stars' peccadilloes, and he indulged himself to the full. But the enemies he made in the process kept their spurs sharp and, towards the end of this book, a tingle of Schadenfreude awaits the reader, for Winchell was eventually cut down by the very weapons he had himself employed so devastatingly: a mixture of political vituperation and gossip. By the 1960s, he was forced to watch hated rivals like Ed Sullivan preening their feathers on television while he moulted in old- aged obscurity.

! Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat, Abacus pounds 6.99. The ton-ton macoute, a voodoo figure put by the Duvaliers to political use, haunts books about Haiti whether in the vein of Ian Fleming or Graham Greene. But this novel is by a Haitian, and it provides a gentle corrective to the sensational reading of voodoo given by outsiders. The ton-ton macoute is literally "uncle knapsack" - a bogeyman who steals children away under cover of night in his straw satchel. In Danticat's tale of the troubled lives of four generations of Haitian women, all the men have their own metaphorical straw bag, which they use (consciously or otherwise) to filch the happiness of their womenfolk. It is a very nicely observed novel, lyrical but also unflinching about this "place where nightmares are passed on through generations like heirlooms".

! Bosnia: A Short History by Noel Malcolm, Papermac pounds 10. John Major believes that the Bosnian conflict is an inevitable flaring up of "ancient hatreds" following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The author of this excellent, clear-eyed history says fiddlesticks. If the cause of the disaster had been clearly identified, he says, instead of obfuscated by a mistaken reading of history, the war could have been avoided. He makes no bones about this. At root it is not a civil war but calculated territorial aggression by Serbia. The "ancient hatreds" are real enough, as we read in this narrative which ends with the Dayton Accord. But without the cynical intervention of Belgrade, there was nothing inevitable about their reappearance in the 1990s. ! Crime Story by Maurice Gee, Faber pounds 6.99. Gee's well-made novel tells the story of two families in Wellington, New Zealand: the poor, working-class Rossers and the wealthy, property-sharking Peets. When petty thief Brent Rosser burgles Athos Peet's house, pushing his wife down the stairs and breaking her neck, the crime is the catalyst not just for Brent's destruction but for the near-nemesis of his victims. Both these families are equally dysfunctional, and Gee's moral message transcends class: driving your relationships without due care and attention is a crime worse than GBH. Overall, his book reinforces the too-easily received notion that, in cultural matters, the Kiwis are a step or two behind the main dance. Monochrome realism is Gee's style, the hard-fisted manner of the north of England fiction of the early Sixties. In those days, to write as if Joyce had never existed seemed refreshing and direct, but I'm not sure the same trick can be pulled 35 years on. However, some of Gee's characters are mesmerising.

! Conditions of Liberty: Civil Society and its Rivals by Ernest Gellner, Penguin pounds 7.99. Civil society is a technical term in political theory, yet in any liberal/capitalist context one recognises it easily and sympathetically, for this is the water in which we swim. It defines a system tolerant (or claiming tolerance) towards a diversity of social institutions whose influence offsets the state and prevents "monopolies of power and truth" from lording it over us. The necessary proviso is that such institutions are never so strong as to impede peace and justice, the inalienable tasks of government. Gellner is inclined to see civil society as another term for light regulation of the market and a cudgel against Marxism, but many institutions outside commerce ought to have a stake in society. And if that sounds a touch Blairite, you're on to the script.

! Attila, King of the Huns: The Man and the Myth by Patrick Howarth, Constable 9.95. Recognition - at last! This is the book one imagines Attila, sitting out his time in some Limbic holding tank, has been waiting for. Howarth is not content to portray him merely as a fine general. He makes out a convincing case for Atilla the Hun as a Good Thing, whose people, in their kingdom by the Danube, enjoyed a carefree existence and a high standard of living under his efficient administration. Meanwhile, next door, the Roman Empire crumbled. Moreover Atilla was personally a man of dignity, compassion, modesty and culture, if the sole eye-witness account of him (from a Byzantine historian) is reliable. So where does the bloodthirsty stereotype come from? Howarth has a couple of illuminating chapters on this too.

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own
    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England