Christopher Hirst

Christopher Hirst is an award-winning food writer and freelance journalist.

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Paperbacks: Once Upon a Time: The Lives of Bob Dylan, By Ian Bell

This first half of a two-book biography starts with the infamous folkie heckle of 1966, "Judas!" Dylan's response: "You're a liar", then "Play fucking loud".

The bitter truth: flavours now include liquorice and celery

Why bitters are back on the bar: A few little drops pack a big punch in cocktails

No wonder we're learning to love them again, says Christopher Hirst

Manhunt, By Peter Bergen

The final days of Osama Bin Laden bore parallels to Adolf Hitler in his bunker. Conceiving unfeasible strategies for the drone-bombed remnants of al-Qa'eda, he viewed videos of his glory days. Yet, as Bergen notes in this painstakingly researched account, his suburban hideaway in sedate Abbottabad, a stone's throw from Pakistan's equivalent of Sandhurst, was "the perfect hiding place".

The Spirit of Venice, By Paul Strathern

The rise and fall of La Serenissima is vividly depicted. We learn that Marco Polo harped on about Oriental wealth so much that he became known as Marco Milione, while Casanova declined a castrato's offer to be "either… boy or girl".

The Man Within My Head, By Pico Iyer

A singular hybrid of memoir and biography, this intriguing experiment concerns one globe-trotting writer's obsession with another.

Streetlife, By Leif Jerram

Jerram challenges the significance of ideology in this lively history of the 20th century through topics ranging from street protest to sex.

The First Crusade, By Peter Frankopan

The sub-title "the call from the east" does not refer to Jerusalem but Constantinople.

Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life, By Susie Harries

Appropriate in scale for the creator of the 46-volume Buildings of England, this perceptive biography is endowed with a humour rare in Pevsner's meisterwerk.

Cheek by Jowl, By Emily Cockayne

"I think one side is in now, the other not," Cockayne writes about neighbours in her Norwich terrace. "My kids are hurtling round so they will know we're in."

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
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