Arts and Entertainment

The idea of The Great American Novel feels like an albatross around the neck of that country’s literature. Sooner or later every white middle-class male writer with any kind of reputation feels obliged to have a stab at it, usually with limited success. Eventually they think it’s time to pack away all the fun stuff like storytelling, energy and plot, and make some big state-of-the-nation address, telling people exactly how things stand in the good ol’ US of A. Interestingly, America’s women writers don’t tend to feel the obligation to grandstand so strongly, and their novels are usually all the better for that.

Novelist Jim Crace who has been shortlisted for the Man Booker for Harvest

Man Booker Prize 2013 shortlist announced: Jim Crace leads the six authors with his swan song Harvest

The shortlist for this year's Man Booker Prize has been announced with Jim Crace already being touted as the "marginal favourite" to take the top literary prize.

Hopefully Tomlinson will do better than during his last match

One Direction star Louis Tomlinson to don number 28 shirt in Doncaster Rovers debut

Pop star Louis Tomlinson is to fulfil a lifelong dream this month when he plays for Doncaster Rovers.

Tributes to cyclist after road death

Garry Hobson, 68, died on arrival at hospital after being struck by a car

Inside the Big Brother house 2013

Please go to the Diary Room...National Trust to open Big Brother house to the public

If you’d like enter the Diary Room, bounce on the overstuffed furniture and marvel at the close confines of a reality TV experiment that has last over a decade, now might be your chance as the National Trust is set to open the Big Brother House to the public for one weekend later this month.

Missing: my darling Jacqui... the search for a lost tulip

I found the most perfect tulip, says Emma Townshend.  She’s playful and charming and perked me right up – but now I can’t find her anywhere. Somebody help me!

I Take You, by Nikki Gemmell. Fourth Estate, £7.99

In a previous novel, The Bride Stripped Bare, Gemmell  boldly gave voice to things women think but never say, especially to lovers.

One minute with: Simon Sebag Montefiore, historian and novelist

Where are you now and what can you see?

Anna Pavord's A to Z of pests and problems: P is for passageways, pests and pruning

Our green-fingered correspondent Anna Pavord continues her A-Z of horticultural pests and problems standing between you and your perfect garden

the classified document outlines a highly-sensitive inquiry into the claims that the elderly Nazi was killed on British orders to preserve wartime secrets

Adolf Hitler's Nazi deputy Rudolf Hess ‘murdered by British agents’ to stop him spilling wartime secrets

Surgeon claims Hess was killed on British orders to preserve wartime secrets

Dale Cregan is set to die in prison with a whole life sentence for murdering four people

Dale Cregan admitted to maximum-security Ashworth Hospital

Cregan, serving four life sentences, joins Moors Murderer Ian Brady at the mental hospital

Global treaties aimed at preserving threatened wildlife have failed to identify the regions of the world with the highest proportion of endemic species that are not found anywhere else

Protected nature areas are 'focusing on places without as many endangered species'

Scientists warn the wrong kind of land is currently being protected as national parks and other types of national wildlife zones

Referee Wayne Barnes will take a zero-tolerance approach

Wayne Barnes warns referees will employ hard line over new scrum laws

Top official insists players must 'buy in' to changes and claims they are here to stay

Record numbers of “jobless” wasps are more likely to attack us because they are drunk and aggressive, the British Red Cross has warned

Drunk wasps may attack us, warns Red Cross

First aid experts advise anyone eating outside to beware stings and keep a credit card to hand

Postcard from... Galicia

Pub group Greene King poised to toast heatwave

It is always one of the most convivial AGMs of the year. The army of loyal small shareholders who will turn up to Newbury Racecourse for brewer and pub group Greene King’s annual general meeting tomorrow will be looking for upbeat trading news to be followed by a slap-up luncheon.

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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
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015