Arifa Akbar

Arifa Akbar is literary editor of The Independent and i newspapers. She has worked at The Independent since 2001 as a news reporter and arts correspondent before joining the books desk in 2009. She was a judge for the Orwell Prize for books, 2013, and is currently a judge of the Fiction Uncovered Prize 2014, and the Independent Scholastic New Children's Prize 2014.

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Book review: Once Upon a Time There Was a Traveller Edited by Kate Pullinger

These "Asham award-winning stories" by women are themed around travel.

Book review: The Road to Urbino, By Roma Tearne

These "Asham award-winning stories" by women are themed around travel.

Book review: Almost English, By Charlotte Mendelson

This cross-cultural story about the pains of growing up amuses but does not convince

Book review: The Testament of Mary, By Colm Tóibín

Tóibín's fictive mothers have always been complex characters. Now comes Mary, the mother of Christ, in this novella based on the stage play, Testament.

Book review: Short Walks from Bogotá, By Tom Feiling

Colombian president Álvaro Uribe's statement that "this country has moved from terrorism to tourism" was partly what inspired Feiling on his walks, talking to former guerilla fighters and tribesmen among others, to unpick the cliched Colombia of drug cartels and FARC violence from the reality he sees.

Visceral why-dunit: Sean Harris in Southcliffe

TV review: Southcliffe might not be cheery, but this is rare and brilliant Sunday night viewing

Southcliffe, Sun, Channel 4 //  I Love My Country, Sat, BBC1

Ruby Wax will invite an audience of 150 people to sit on hay-bales

Oxfordshire festival invites you to live in the NOW

A festival intent on ridding us of the myriad modern-day distractions that stop us from embracing the fullness of the present moment will use unconventional artistic methods to cajole audiences into “mindfulness”.

Book review: All Dogs Are Blue, By Rodrigo Souza Leão

This book is about being messed up, and "then being messed up even more by numbing doses of pharmaceuticals", Deborah Levy tells us in her introduction to this short, stunning read.

Book review: Best British Short Stories 2013, Edited by Nicholas Royle

This annual feast satisfies again. Its score of stories never need shout, or pose, in order to transform everyday life. As Anneliese Mackintosh has it ("Doctors"), "writing doesn't have to be like a million fireworks all going off at once".

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?