! Wagner by Michael Tanner, Flamingo pounds 6.99. For Wagnerian apologists, their man presents formidable problems, not least that he was an out-and- out Aryan supremacist. Of Parsifal, Tanner admits, there are those who feel the music "needs to be firmly separated from the repulsive drama": but isn't this an impossible task? Far from existing outside politics, the music-dramas stir Wagner's ugly world-view into a solvent of intensely skilful musical persuasion. The result, in Tanner's enthusiastic eyes, is an almost hallucinogenic hit, a "mixture of something like sex and religion", "the prolonged artistic equivalent of an orgasm". Considering the use of the Valkyries by US Marines in Vietnam, synthetic testosterone seems to be an ingredient. Another, if Tanner is right, must be equally addictive, something capable of removing all "the tortures of being a self". Tanner's apologia, like many of its kind, will play better to the converted than to the sceptical.

! The Psalm Killer by Chris Petit, Pan pounds 5.99. Divided cities, dirty wars, extortion rackets, unauthorised weaponry, madness: place these alongside a "normal" life of cornflake breakfasts and school-runs and you have the stock-in-trade of the thriller writer. Petit, for a long time a reviewer of the genre, has himself become an exponent with this highly readable story set in Belfast. Cross, his hero, is a familiar type - the emotionally restricted policeman who buries himself in work to avoid thinking about his disintegrating marriage. But the novel has a sure grasp of the city at the height of the 1980s violence, and is also willing to cast back and examine the roots of the conflict, finding personal greed and political machination as much as civil inequity. In this way Cross's professional round is shown in deep-focus as he tries to track a serial killer in a city poisoned by a cocktail of hatred, cordite and blood. Mixing fiction with fact (including the death of the protestant paramilitary leader Tommy Herron and a shadowy army figure called Baker) Petit has struck on a powerful way of telling the truth about cities like Belfast, where veracity is not so much a victim as a commodity traded in a secret marketplace.

! Companion to the Cosmos by John Gribbin, Phoenix pounds 11.99. Gribbin, one of our most prolific pop scientists, has a real, anorakless gift for putting over the fascination of science. This 600-pager is arranged alphabetically, from absolute zero to ZZ Ceti stars, and includes a timeline for the history of cosmic science. For browsing or reference it is a useful thing to have about the house, with abundant astronomical jargon that will impress your friends (blue stragglers, the free lunch universe, the Heinz soup parameter) as well as lucid mini-essays on astronomy and astrophysics and biogs of all the significant boffins.

! The House Guest by Barbara Anderson, Vintage pounds 6.99. English lecturer Robin Drumgoole gives up his thesis on "Henry James as the Unreliable Narrator" to set off on the posthumous trail of Alice O'Leary, a runaway American novelist who died in his native New Zealand. Literary sleuthing is a common enough theme in fiction but, in this case, the answer to the puzzle of why O'Leary's work dried up a decade before her death turns out to be woven into the texture of Robin's own life, giving an unusual integration between the sleuth and his quarry. Anderson herself is a highly reliable narrator, whose light, witty style ensures that her plot - though it revolves continually around grief and sudden loss - keeps clear of bathos and melodrama.

! Steven Spielberg: A Biography by John Baxter, HarperCollins pounds 8.99. Spielberg's name translates as "game-mountain", superbly appropriate to a man who has so made such gargantuan celebrations of the things he enjoyed as a kid. The name lies easily alongside those others among Kennedy's children (Gates, Madonna, Branson - complete your own list) in whom maverick personal style has combined with unprecedented drive towards global success. Baxter, already the successful biographer of Fellini, Ken Russell and Bunuel, has done his customary excellent job, making sense of Spielberg's childhood and early TV career, analysing the film successes and failures (especially 1941, which "I'll spend the rest of my life disowning") and detailing aspects of film making which publicity machines never spew out. Is Spielberg's art significant and enduring? For the moment, while he uses a forklift truck to count his money, the question seems hardly to matter. J G Ballard (who wrote Empire of the Sun, which SS filmed) called him the Puccini of film. That judgement sounds spot-on to me.

! Culture & Consensus: England, Art and Politics since 1940 by Robert Hewison, Methuen pounds 12.99. What is "the shaping moral medium of all social activities"? Once the readiest answer to this poser would have been religion; today we have the similarly abstract noun, culture. Using it, with all the brisk energy of an adult education lecturer, as a lens through which to scan postwar England, Hewison charts the shifting definitions of art- culture and the political battles fought over it, whether in the name of national identity, social equality, business opportunity or raw anarchy. He argues that in future we need a common and critical culture which is organic rather than commercially manufactured: not exactly a new position, nor a very clear one. But what Hewison's history does show is that, in replacing Thatcherite negation, we don't want a muddled compromise between Fifties paternalism and a time-diluted version of Sixties counter-culture. Chris Smith: please note.

Sun pours into a cistern at the fortress of Masada in Judea, defended by rebel Jews for three years after the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 70 AD. The great excavation (1963-65) is vividly remembered by its chief archaeologist, Yigael Yadin, in Masada: Herod's Fortress and the Zealots' Last Stand (Phoenix pounds 12.99)

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.

    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    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