Book review: After I’m Gone By Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman is at the forefront of a group of American female writers who are dragging the crime novel into new and intriguing territories in the 21st century. This is the author’s 20th novel in 18 years and that wealth of experience leads to a sureness of touch and confidence with narrative that are both utterly beguiling in this epic family drama.

Book review: The Museum of Ordinary Things By Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman has specialised in stories with a surreal tinge, a gentle element of Angela Carter in her worlds of angels, magic and strange-looking women. She has the power to move the reader to tears; novels such as Skylight Confessions and The Ice Queen are relatively short but are beguiling and moving tales of loss and grief.

Book review: The Quest For A Moral Compass By Kenan Malik

If you happen to be cogitating on the possibility of a degree course in philosophy, you must read this book. If you are not, you probably ought to read it anyway: it will do you moral good.

Book review: A God In Every Stone By Kamila Shamsie

It is a rare writer who can transport her readers in just a few pages to another place and time. Shamsie’s writing is so evocative that she does just that. In this work she contrasts three different empires: the ancient Persians between 515 and 485 BCE, the dissolution of the Ottoman state, and the decline of British colonial rule in India. Spanning two continents and two defining events in the early part of the 20th century, the novel brilliantly illustrates how war tests loyalties and destroys empires.

Paperback reviews: Miracles of Life: Shanghai To Shepperton, Secrecy, Family Likeness, Sane New World: Taming the Mind, The Great Mathematical Problems

Miracles of Life: Shanghai To Shepperton By J G Ballard (Fourth Estate £8.99)

Book review: Gwynne’s Latin By N M Gwynne

If Mr Gwynne is to be believed, you really ought to cancel your weekend plans and concentrate on learning Latin instead. It’s not just that Latin is a brilliant subject per se (ah, see what I did there?), but through its study you’ll also develop other skills – problem-solving, strengthening your English, generally improving your character, et cetera. In fact, he believes a Classics-based education to be “many thousands of times better [sic!] than any education offered today”. The force of his conviction is hard to resist.

Invisible Ink: No 220 - Nancy Spain

There was a time when Nancy Spain seemed to be everywhere. She was a journalist, broadcaster and television presenter, a genuine populist who wrote columns for the red tops when they still commissioned bright writing instead of pursuing celebrity gossip. Spain was a Woman’s Hour regular, and appeared as a panellist on What’s My Line and Juke Box Jury.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, book of a lifetime

I haven't read it for years but it is part of me, so ingrained that I know it formed my tastes and beliefs. A Little Princess has been loved by thousands of little girls, but I claim that it is responsible for the shape of my life.

Jean Shrimpton photographed by Duffy

1965: The Year Modern Britain Was Born by Christopher Bray, book review

The Sixties didn't begin when we think they did – or so this revisionist cultural history claims

Updike by Adam Begley, book review: A biography shows that John Updike's talent was for fiction, not domestic drama

In 1999,John Updike contributed an essay about what he called "the Judas biography" to the New York Review of Books. "I raise the possibility," he wrote, "that we resent a fiction writer's manipulation of his private life, including the private life of those around him, and rejoice when he or she loses control."

Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwalda, trans Jonathan Reeder, book review: Dutch bestseller about internet porn lives up to hype

"If everything Gerrit said was true, then it was awful for his father, really and truly, but what did a judo club in Delft have to do with the war in Asia?" This strange question, one of thousands in Bonita Avenue, is asked by Siem Sigerius. By day, he is a university professor, maths genius, intellectual celebrity in Holland and revered patriarch, albeit with father issues. He is sufficiently beloved that a paparazzi snap of his naked torso is a cause for jovial celebration, not public shame.

Autocratic leader: Joseph Stalin in 1950

The Myth of the Strong Leader by Archie Brown, book review: No politician wants to be seen as weak, but allowing ultimate power can be damaging

At one point in this persuasive analysis of political leadership, Archie Brown describes how after Khrushchev denounced Stalin in his 1956 "secret speech" he received a letter from an old Bolshevik recollecting a discussion with Stalin 30 years earlier.

Every Day is for the thief by Teju Cole, book review: Finding hell and hope in Lagos

Many years after leaving home, estranged from his immediate family, Teju Cole's protagonist has made a new life for himself in New York. The book begins with a visit to the Nigerian embassy – an opening that will have anyone who has survived the experience of applying in person for a visa in immediate sympathy with the unnamed protagonist.

A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros, book review: Re-engaging with physical pursuits can provide an escape from the digital life

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, Isaac Newton told us long ago. As we enfold ourselves more and more in the digital world a contrary impulse has arisen, the desire for a direct re-engagement with the physical world through activity, whether it be mountaineering, potholing, cycling or walking.

The First Rule of Survival by Paul Mendelson, book review: Twist in tale spoils gripping read

I'm in a quandary over this book. It is astonishingly well written for a first novel, has a fast-moving narrative and fascinating characters. Add to this the complex social questions arising from the South African setting, and it must be a sure-fire gripping read. Which it is – until the very last pages, which I found morally repulsive and in denial of recently established facts. I shan't give the game away: readers must make up their own minds.

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