Books: Paperbacks

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Sanders (Vintage, pounds 5.99) Set in a dystopian future - though, being America, it could even be the present - this darkly satirical collection of six short stories and a novella explores the common theme of false reality. We are plunged into the hallucinogenic world of artificial memories and gimcrack theme parks, such the sleazy CivilWarLand of the title story. This shifting territory has been well explored by writers from Michael Moorcroft to Ray Bradbury and in a host of science fiction films, but Sanders has an original voice and his insidious, twisted yarns lodge in your mind like illicit dreams.

Storms of Silence by Joe Simpson (Vintage, pounds 7.99) After two acclaimed mountaineering books, there is a sense of peak-fatigue in this work which yokes together high-altitude jaunts in Nepal and Peru. Simpson's particular shtick is being a tough-but-tender sort of guy, whether facing up to a drunk in Sheffield or slogging across alpine scree. But his moral qualms ("mountaineers are simply credit card adventurers") are undermined by self-dramatisation, He certainly can write, though he has trouble ordering his material. Seeing the site of a natural disaster in Peru prompts an inappropiate seven-page memoir about a teenage visit to Belsen.

Selected Letters by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (Penguin Classics, pounds 9.99) From passionate youth "Ay, Ay, as you say my Dear, Men are vile Inconstant Toads") to wise old age, Lady Mary is one of the most entertaining of all English letter writers. The famous set-pieces are here, such as descriptions of a female invasion of the House of Lords ("The Duchess of Queensbury ...pished at the ill-breeding of a mere lawyer") and a Turkish bath in Sofia ("I excus'd my selfe [by] opening my skirt and shewing them my stays"), alongside the fervent fusillade prompted by a mid-life infatuation with an Italian intellectual. Beautifully edited, these epistles glitter with wit and vitality.

The French by Theodore Zeldin (Harvill, pounds 7.99) This lengthy, amiable dissection of our mysterious, distrusted and envied neighbours has been constantly in print for 17 years. Most of its findings remain spot-on, though Bardot's 1983 statement that she "is now less demanding" has not proved to be the case. The 30 or so themes in the book are usually approached via profiles of individuals, which Zeldin fascinatingly expands: did you know that the French imported both kissing and handshaking from England? France becomes a more enjoyable and intelligible place to visit after reading this book, but the opaque cartoons serve as a reminder of the unbridgeable gulf between us.

Keeper of Genesis by Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock (Mandarin, pounds 6.99) In their first collaborative effort, these best-selling explorers of the arcane tackle the riddle of the Sphinx, which is usually dated to 2,50OBC. They suggest that it has been re-carved from a figure dating back to 10,500 BC. Together with the Great Pyramids, it may form an astronomical diagram from this time. The authors' speculations, based on the phenomenal engineering prowess of the ancient Egyptians, make irresistibly enthralling reading. Sadly, the book is marred by silly, strident language: "the time has come to seek the buried treasure of our forgotten genesis and destiny". Still, that's what the readers want.

Dared and Done: the marriage of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning by Julia Markus (Bloomsbury, pounds 9.99) Julia Markus believes, quite rightly, that no amount of 20th-century demythologising can exise the romance from the relationship between the Victorian poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. Her lively account of their secret courtship in Wimpole Street and subsequent life in Italy has enough in the way of new angles (if not new data) to intrigue. As well as homing in on Elizabeth's drug addiction and gullible infatuation with spiritualism, she has an original explanation for Mr Barrett's famous refusal to allow his children to marry, linking it to his paranoid fear that the Afro-Caribbean blood in his family might surface in the form of a black grandchild.

The Pope's Rhinoceros by Lawrence Norfolk (Minerva, pounds 7.99) A vast intoxicating binge of a historical novel, spiced with fine dark comedy and stunning erudition. Our Baltic hero gets caught up in the decadence and derring-do of the Renaissance papacy, c1500. The Pope craves a rhino, and the quest for the beast allows Norfolk to unleash a cornucopia of sub-plots and digressions. Grass and Eco spring to mind - but so do the mighty red herrings of Sterne.

Arts and Entertainment
Above the hat of the toy gibbon, artist Mark Roscoe included a ‘ghost of a bird’ and a hidden message
art
Arts and Entertainment
Alien: Resurrection, Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder
film
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Australia's Eurovision contestant and former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian

Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable