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.

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Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in 'Thelma and Louise'

It's not just men who can do firm fictive friendships - but women might do them differently: week in books column

Friendship was essential to Aristotle’s well-lived life, much more so than the flibbertigibbet passions of romantic love, while Oscar Wilde’s model of a friend was a trustworthy contrarian, bold enough to “stab you in the front”.

Female University Student Reading a Book in a Library

Make a noise about libraries but, please, keep quiet afterwards: Week in books

Libraries shouldn’t have to become multi-platform, nor should they have to jump through hoops to show us their worth

Indian stunner: the Taj Mahal

Farzana: The Woman who Saved an Empire by Julia Keay; book review

Farzana began life as an impoverished, powerless girl in Mughal-era India, where social hierarchies were prescribed and inescapable. Penniless and orphaned by teen age, she earned her keep by servicing the priapic needs of the East India Company in the dance halls of Delhi. So how, by the end of her life, had she become not only the leader of a formidable army but a revered adventurer who sat on an immense personal fortune in one the most illustrious estates of 18th-century India?

Helen Macdonald had been a falconer for many years

A new breed of memoir that soars above the competition; Week in Books

It’s been a good week for memoirs (though maybe not for Lena Dunham’s). And for women falconers, though Helen Macdonald is not the first woman to have broached the subject of her Samuel Johnson Prize-winning memoir, H is for Hawk.

Fighting prejudice: author Zadie Smith

How to achieve immortality by buying '15-paragraphs of fame'; Week in Books column

Will you be bidding at the latest “immortality” auction? The one in which the highest bidder will have bought their way into Margaret Atwood’s retelling of The Tempest perhaps, or Tracy Chevalier’s next novel in which she has an open spot for a landlady. Or the works of Hanif Kureishi, Sebastian Faulks, Pat Barker, Alan Hollinghurst, Zadie Smith, Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan, and more. Not for the first time – though this one surely has the highest “star” voltage – novelists will auction character names to appear in their fictions. 

The Search Warrant by Patrick Modiano; paperback book review

This slim yet powerful inquiry into the life of a French 15-year-old, who “runs away” from her convent school in 1941, was first published in France in 1997.

Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays

A bucket list? I’d rather quote poetry by heart before I die; Week in Books column

Reading yet another article about bucket lists, I was delighted to find that Judi Dench didn’t have one. What she did have, though, was a daily habit of learning a poem or new word by heart to keep her mind active.

The Unknown Soldier

Dear Unknown Soldier, imagine you could read my letter now... Week in Books column

No bodies were returned to Britain after the end of the First World War. That some corner of a foreign field became forever England was down to the sad fact that there were too many fallen to bring back, and too many who couldn’t have been claimed because they couldn’t be identified. So on 7 November 1920, an unidentified body dug up from France was buried under marble at Westminster Abbey. This man would become the “unknown soldier”. In the first week of his arrival, 1.3 million came to pay their respects. It was an extraordinary turnout, and it signalled how much emotional symbolism lay within his anonymity.

Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Richard Flanagan's Man Booker win reminds us the prize is open to the Commonwealth

The first Man Booker to allow American nominees was won by an Australian

Flanagan says: 'I felt I carried something within me as a consequence of growing up as a child of the death railway'

Man Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan: 'The Narrow Road to the Deep North was a novel I never wanted to write'

Richard Flanagan won the Man Booker Prize for a tale inspired by his father's experiences in a Japanese PoW camp
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Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable