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 Musical by Damon Albarn


Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment


film review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
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.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test