Paperbacks

Reviewed by Emma Hagestadt and Christopher Hirst

Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski (Granta pounds 7.99)

He may be a living legend in the inky trade, but there's something offputting about Kapuscinski, the renowned Polish foreign correspondent. It is perhaps understandable that this plod round the USSR, during its disintegration between 1989 and 1993, should be unremittingly depressing. Less excusable is Kapuscinski's mannered, rhetorical style. Void of humour and human quirks, everyone he encounters becomes a symbol, usually trudging through a snowbound landscape.

Maypoles, Martyrs and Mayhem by Quentin Cooper & Paul Sullivan (Bloomsbury pounds 6.99)

This jolly canter through the year offers a twerpy rustic or two and often a grisly doing-to-death to mark each day. It's great fodder for pub bores. If a beery-breathed party informs you that Old Uncle Tom Cobbley really existed (died 6 March 1794), Prince Rupert's ghost and spectral dog still roam Edgehill (battle on 23 October 1642), or one Mary Carpenter died on 29 July 1938 of spontaneous combustion, you'll know where he got the gen.

A Japanese Mirror by Ian Buruma (Vintage pounds 7.99)

This engrossing exploration of Japan and its popular culture gives insights into a society which, despite obvious differences, is far from being utterly alien. Beneath the high-tech sheen, paganism still exerts a strong pull. Don't get the idea that this is a dry academic study. The first half is mainly devoted to women and sex, in particular its weird fictional depiction. The second half is about men and violence, especially yakuza gangsters. Transvestism provides a placid entr'acte.

Going Native by Stephen Wright (Abacus pounds 8.99)

Out in LA's scuzzy suburbs, Wright's wild inventions drift in and out of short-story-like chapters, much in the style of Altman's Short Cuts. They toke on crack, engage in S&M, dabble in the porn biz, but mainly they sample new identities. Among the protean beasts coupling in this transitory milieu, there is one who loves only his Ford Galaxie and gleaming arsenal of hand-guns. Death blooms among the pleasure-seekers. Wright's burnished prose prompts chill shivers in the reader.

In Search of the Edge of Time by John Gribbin (Penguin pounds 6.99)

Yet another sexy title on astrophysics. This one is about black holes, where matter is so condensed (imagine the Earth reduced to a sphere under 10cm in radius) that gravity holds light in. Though the idea dates from 1783, the term was coined in 1967 and has since passed into common parlance. Unfortunately, the underlying theories do not shift so easily into the public arena. Despite Gribbin's fluid style, the material is so intractable that it is inevitably limited in appeal.

A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham (Penguin pounds 6.99)

Pellucid and carefully observed, this is an absorbing, bitter-sweet novel of US middle-class life over the past 20 years. We accompany gay Jonathan and straight Bobby drifting into adulthood in Ohio and later in New York, where they form a viable, if unconventional, family unit with Clare, offbeat but determined. Cunningham gives a coolly sympathetic depiction of a relationship evolving over time. A wonderful, credible account of modern conundrums.

In My Own Time by Nina Bawden (Virago pounds 7.99)

For anyone who can remember tea-times in front of Carrie's War, Nina Bawden's reminiscences of her own childhood will hold much charm. It's only when she gets to her adult years that this usually generous writer lets caution get the better of her. A veil is drawn over her first marriage, and any mention of her work is tantalizingly incidental. "Almost an autobiography" is how she describes the book ... she's more honest than most.

Grace by Robert Lacey (Pan pounds 5.99)

Grace Kelly seems to have got Robert Lacey, like Alfred Hitchcock, rather hot under the collar. The controlled blonde with the passions of a wildcat is just the kind of subject guaranteed to whip the average biographer into a frenzy of skittish speculation, and, in Lacey's case, a little pontification too. Not the kindest or most original portrait of this thwarted woman, but an absorbing peek into the "right side of Park Avenue".

Come to Me by Amy Bloom (Picador pounds 5.99)

Amy Bloom's houses may smell of blueberry pancakes and strawberry pop- tarts, but the domestic arrangements of their owners are far from conventional. Mothers sleep with stepsons, and beer buddies with each other. "Love is not a pie" a dying mother reminds her angst-ridden daughter, and in Bloom's world affection isn't something to be saved for another day. A first collection which will find admirers this side of the Atlantic.

Love Cries ed. Peter Blazey, Victoria Dawson & Tim Herbert (Angus & Robertson)

From a continent not usually associated with the erotic arts, this anthology of Australian S & M fiction does little to improve the country's reputation in the mattress department. "Roll over, Sheila" may have been replaced by the more sophisticated dialogue of the city, but this doesn't disguise the fact that the techniques favoured in these stories are, in most other countries, generally saved for sheep.

I Knew A Phoenix: Sketches for an Autobiography by May Sarton (Women's Press pounds 7.99)

One of the most excruciating memories of the poet's youth was an expedition she organised for Virginia and Leonard Woolf to Whipsnade Zoo. That she even managed to meet the Woolfs, let alone persuade them 30 miles out of London, says something about the young American's spunk. In later years, Sarton's moods were often troubled, and, only two weeks after her death, it's poignant to read about more care-free times.

People Who Count by Dorothy Stein (Earthscan pounds 13.99)

According to Dorothy Stein, the world makes far too many assumptions when discussing the important issue of population control. Why is it that Western societies insist - despite all evidence to the contrary - that only children must be unhappy children, that childless women must be selfish, and that people without offspring face a lonely old age? Perhaps those who count should look more carefully at the counted.

Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tv review
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

The best TV shows and films coming to the service

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
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
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

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.

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003