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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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

Sea, sun and yoga in remote Turkey

Stretch and relax with a yoga guru in Fethiye

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