Life and Style Shaken, not stirred: a pre-dinner martini

The aperitif is back, the aperitif is in. At Simon Rogan's joint in the Midland Hotel, Manchester, a guy in a bomber jacket breaks off a conversation with his date, "I'll have Just a Splash – that cocktail with Aperol and Prosecco," he says to the barman.

Briton amongst dead in Thai disco blaze

A British man has been confirmed as one of four people killed when a fire swept through a nightclub in Thailand.

Torch-bearer with a flair for languages

A teenager who carried the Olympic Torch days before he sat his A-level exams said he was overjoyed at getting three A* grades and two As.

Landmarks of lubricity: Film adaptation of 'Fanny Hill'

Boyd Tonkin: Fifty Shades has topped all records - but rude books often lead the way

With straining limbs, tensed muscles and sweaty skin, toned bodies stretch and push towards the summits of physical endeavour, sometimes helped on by arcane technological aids but always urged towards their goal by an excited audience of millions. They break through the pain barrier and, after drawn-out minutes of suffering and constraint, hit that longed-for peak and collect the reward of a massive rush of endorphins. Yes, it's been a fabulous summer for EL James and Fifty Shades of Grey. I will leave it to the historians – or perhaps psychoanalysts – to tease out the connections between Olympic frenzy and the unstoppable popularity of James's SM trilogy. Every day, it seems, new records tumble.

Britain's pivot Robin Garnham shoots during the men's preliminary Group A handball match Great Britain vs Argentina

Welcome to the wacky world of handball

Jerome Taylor spends a day at the Copper Box stadium watching the surprising (and slightly sticky) hit sport that's got British fans hooked

A lot of huffing and puffing but HuffPo has yet to find its niche

After the grand fanfare from Arianna Huffington, I've been slightly disappointed by the impact of her eponymous website since its arrival in the United Kingdom a year ago.

Simon Kelner: Fun in Games is stranger than this ludicrous reality

Sometimes real life imitates art. BBC2 comedy series Twenty Twelve, a spoof documentary about the preparations for London 2012 set in the fictional Olympic Deliverance Commission, has just returned for a short run ahead of the Games.

Al-Qa'ida 'online propaganda expert' arrested in Britain

A London man has been arrested on suspicion of helping to design and publish online propaganda for an al-Qa'ida offshoot behind an electronic magazine credited with spreading the group’s ideology and its terrorist tactics around the globe.

The Week in Books: Will the BRICS make our books? Slowly, global publishing turns a new page

Maybe it's a remnant from an encyclopaedia-browsing childhood (or just early exposure to the Guinness Book of Records), but I still love chunky illustrated reference books – a taste for bulky blocks of print incompatible with the price per square foot of property anywhere in southern England. Earlier this year, I bought Dorling Kindersley's wonderful History Year by Year – nugget after shiny nugget of the human past over the millennia, all the way from the Great Rift Valley in Kenya to Silicon Valley in California. Checking the credits page, I found that the smart design work on this multi-handed monument of editing came from India, where publishers now often outsource not just routine office functions but almost every skilled task. DK began to operate in India even before the reference giant was swallowed by Penguin in 2000.

160,000 back student Richard O'Dwyer in legal fight

More than 160,000 people have signed a petition launched by the founder of internet encyclopaedia Wikipedia to block the extradition of a British student to the US on copyright charges.

School's textbook exam blunder

Fifty gifted students were disqualified from an exam after teachers mistakenly told them they could take books in with them.

Wayne Rooney is substituted by Fabio Capello during last year's Euro Qualifier against Wales

Fabio Capello appears critical of England striker Wayne Rooney with quip 'he must only speak Scottish'

Fabio Capello has made a thinly veiled dig at Wayne Rooney's below-par form for England at Euro 2012 by joking that the striker must only understand "Scottish" because he "only plays well in Manchester".

Michael Gove plans to scrap GCSEs and bring back tougher O-levels

The Education Secretary wants pupils to start studying for more difficult exams from 2012

The Twelve Caesars, By Matthew Dennison

Rome's first dozen emperors covered the spectrum of humanity. A vigorous new history restores them to life.

The ads feature a foreign man walking into a café and then sitting down with three young Egyptians

Egypt's on-air warning: Don't talk to foreigners – they're all spies

Human rights activists warn TV adverts aimed at stopping journalists from covering abuses

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Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
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The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
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After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
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Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas