Christopher Hirst

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

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Book review: Inventing Ruritania, By Verna Goldsworthy

The vampire chronicles: what bookish Balkans did for us

Book review: The Sleepwalkers, By Christopher Clark

Probing the events and characters that ignited war in 1914, this book is as authoritative as it is gripping.

Book review: Ostrich, By Edgar Williams

Lack of flight produced not only size but also singular feathers. "Soft, downy and symmetrical", they were used by Egyptians as symbols of fairness and the Folies Bergère for tantalising coquetry.

Book review: The Richard Burton Diaries, Edited by Chris Williams

Inevitably, there's a ton of ego in these journals, from 1939 to 1983, but also intelligence, tenderness, good taste ("I've always refused to talk to Jeffrey Archer"), keen observation and honesty.

Book review: Bloody Foreigners, By Robert Winder

Starting with the Romans, who (like continentals today) relished our shellfish, this lively history of immigration is packed with interest. Medieval Flemish merchants gave us much including diapers (from d'Ypres).

Book review: Twirlymen, By Amol Rajan

"The great spin bowlers," declared the Aussie spin maestro Arthur Mailey, "were… not always pleasant but invariably interesting." This view is amply substantiated through practitioners from underarm spinner David Harris, who initiated the hat-trick and sat in an armchair between overs, to Shane Warne.

Book review: The Spanish Ambassador's Suitcase, By Matthew Parris & Andrew Bryson

Despite the cartoon cover, this collection of ambassadorial missives is not a work of unbridled hilarity. Occasionally the humour is strained but a 1993 account of getting a Turkmen horse given to John Major through Moscow bureaucracy is a gem.

Book review: A Shed of One's Own, By Marcus Berkmann

Marcus Berkmann is so perceptive on the entropy of male middle age that for some of us this book is like looking in a mirror. We nod empathically as he reports on bouts of rage, droopy wattles, rampant eyebrows, of which he says: "I have pulled enough to stuff a chaise longue."

Book review: The Way the World Works, By Nicholson Baker

"Miniaturist" is the word customarily applied to Baker, and it seems spot-on for the introductory essays in this glittering collection: kite string, warnings on airplane wings etc.

Book review: Clarissa's England, By Clarissa Dickson Wright

Black pudding, red herrings – and lots of fruity detours

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