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

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
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.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?