Katy Guest

Katy Guest is the literary editor of the Independent on Sunday

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Smokers, what's hard is seeing a loved one die early

If aliens were secretly watching the Earth, there are many things that would puzzle them about the behaviour of humans: commuting; quinoa; stilettos; Miley Cyrus …. But surely the most bizarre and illogical thing we do is smoking tobacco. If you've never seen it, look up the 1970s Bob Newhart sketch in which a 16th-century British government official talks to an excitable Walter Raleigh: "You can shred the leaves … put it in a little piece of paper … OK Walt, and then what do you do with it? Ha ha ha... you set fire to it, Walt?" I still find smoking just as baffling.

Welcome to London. Things you might see on public transport include snogging, sex...and a horse

Transport chiefs in Vienna are aiming to prevent public snogging by imposing fines

So did Sarah Teather need to be a parent to be families' minister?

Tim Loughton's attack says more about his own character than anything else

Georgia, third from left, received a torrent of offensive tweets after Thursday’s episode

Bullying has left the playground and joined the currency of adult life but Twitter is an insult too far

Shocking reaction of grown-ups on Twitter to a teenage girl whose behaviour at school is charted in a fly-on-the-wall documentary

Pope Francis - a religious leader with a message of tolerance? Well, fancy that!

When we think of all the other silly mistakes that could have been avoided if only the Pope had spoken up sooner, it is really quite frustrating

Vintage dress patterns demonstrate that what we think of as standard sizes were significantly smaller in the 1950s and '60sq

I've got the measure of high street shops

Lose five dress sizes in two minutes on my amazing Leave H&M And Go to M&S Instead Diet! That's right, I have discovered the secret to miracle slimming, and it is easy: you too can morph from a size 18 to a size 8, simply by shopping in a different place. Which is great if you want to be fooled into thinking that you're thinner, but not so handy if you just want to buy some clothes that fit.

Like every other TV chef Jamie Oliver displays a lack of understanding about how people really cook and eat

Got a recipe to use up furry blue bread, Jamie?

Here's a surprising thing about last week's Jamie Oliver fiasco: poor Jamie was in the stocks all week and yet there's one very obvious thing that he still hasn't been slagged off for. When Jamie despaired of the nation's poor and gave his Marie Antoinette-ish "let them eat stale bread" speech, people immediately pointed out that he has no idea what it's like to be poor. They failed to spot that he clearly doesn't understand bread, either. Modern bread, bought in supermarkets, does not go stale. It goes blue and furry and is no good at all for the "beautiful rustic croutons" in his new book, Save With Jamie.

Review: Mr Loverman, By Berhadine Evaristo

The love that dare not speak its name, especially to the wife

I can clinically prove that beauty ads are tosh

My favourite way of whiling away the TV ad breaks is about to get easier. When I'm being sold stuff, I like to spot all the bogus science that is made up to get around the rule that advertisers are not allowed to lie. You can usually see it coming when an ad is set in a laboratory, or features a diagram of skin cells, or is for moisturiser. (Notice too that the same ingredients in deodorants that make men's armpits butch and steely make women's armpits soft and lovely, like butterflies.)

Tom Moorhouse

Move over, Ratty. Sylvan's here: An Oxford academic's new children's book could rival 'The Wind in the Willows'

The adventures of Ratty and Fiver have been entertaining children for decades, but the animal stars of stories such as The Wind in the Willows and Watership Down could soon have a new addition to their ranks, straight from the imagination of a postdoctoral researcher.

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Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick