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 the Fiction Uncovered Prize 2014, and is currently judging the Aesthetica Magazine new writing prize.

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Book review: A Natural History of Ghosts, By Roger Clarke

Beginning with his own uncomfortable early encounter with an eerie corner of his old family house, Clarke's compelling account of apparitions, phantoms and bumps in the night through the centuries takes us from the Medieval Age through to the current day, and from the science of ghost hunting to the scandals around seances.

Book review: Salvador Allende: Revolutionary Democrat, By Victor Figueroa Clark

This eloquent, pithy political biography of the doomed Chilean president ousted by General Pinochet's coup of 1973 (but only at the point of death – he took his own life over surrendering) recounts his life, his unique, benevolent brand of Marxism and his enduring political legacy.

Marianne Faithfull on Who Do You Think You Are?

Last night's viewing: Marianne Faithfull unearths Nazi-era intrigue in Who Do You Think You Are?

OK, so Marianne Faithfull was once a convent girl who became a 1960s wild child, had a baby with an art dealer and then a four-year relationship with Mick Jagger before becoming a homeless heroin addict and roaming the streets of London like a latter-day Ophelia. This generous quota of melodrama and heartbreak in early life all sounded a bit tame, though, compared to what her mother and maternal grandparents went through during the Second World War.

The Fried Chicken Shop

TV review - The Fried Chicken Shop (Channel 4) served up something surprisingly tender

The Fried Chicken Shop should really have been the worst kind of junk-food TV. Consider the concept on paper: a fly-on-the-wall camera crew pitch up for three weeks at a south London fried chicken takeaway to film the finger-lickin' goings-on of its (more often than not) loud, drunken patrons. Imagine the poetic symmetry if it were aired late on a Friday: drunk people eating a takeaway on their sofas after a night out, watching drunk people eating a takeaway in a takeaway shop after a night out.

Liz Fletcher (Denise Gough) in What Remains

TV review: Gino’s Italian Escape (Fri, BBC1) and What Remains (Sun, BBC1)

Exploring Italy's food culture with lashings of cheeky chappy charm

I admit it. I bought a book online from Amazon – but I didn’t enjoy it

The irony is that an order at the local bookshop might have been quicker

Book review: Armchair Nation, By Joe Moran

Our TV times, from Kingsley Amis's heaven to Orwell's hell

Book review: A Hologram for the King, By Dave Eggers

Eggers's all-American anti-hero finds himself stranded in a ghost city in the Saudi Arabian desert, waiting for a Godot-like king to arrive, and mulling over not just his own disappointing fall from grace in life, but also American's economic decline.

From ice-cream seller to superstar: Susannah Fielding hits the West End stage

She started out working in the foyer at the National Theatre, but next week Fielding will star with David Walliams and Sheridan Smith in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Noël Coward Theatre

Blackout, Channel 4

TV review: Blackout, Channel 4 - A bleak meditation on a modern disaster that doesn't quite hit the spot

"Please don't lose the plot, Britain." An illuminated face spoke from out of the darkness in Blackout, a dystopian drama told in faux-documentary style that imagined what would happen if the nation suffered a massive power failure following a suspected cyber-attack on the national grid. But, of course, Britain was going to lose the plot, because people always end up doing so in a drama of this kind. José Saramago's Blindness gave us the most masterful example of how quickly urban society melts into chaos, desperation and savage self-survival when one crucial civilising thing is taken away for an indefinite amount of time.

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Day In a Page

Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

What are Jaden and Willow on about?

Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

Cold war

How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager
Isis in Iraq: Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants

Isis takes a big step back

Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants
Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits: How to shop politically

How to shop politically

Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits
The science of sex: What happens when science meets erotica

Sex on the brain

Fetishes, dominatrixes, kinks and erotica. They are subjects that should get the crowds flocking to a new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection