Arts and Entertainment

Private Alex Stringer, of the Royal Logistic Corps, was 20 when he was blown up in Afghanistan: "The reason I lost my left leg so high up is because the burning paint cooked my left leg all the way down to the bone. But if I hadn't set myself on fire, I would have bled out and died – as a result of it, all the arteries became cauterised".

The Opposite of Falling, By Jennie Rooney

Writing as sharp as a new pin

Cultural Life: Neil Hannon, singer

Books: The best book I've read recently is "The Rest Is Noise" by Alex Ross. It's a very thick tome about 20th-century classical music. It filled in a lot of blanks my knowledge as well as being a riveting read. Right now I'm reading Graham Greene's "The Heart of the Matter". I went through a phase of reading Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander series. It's a change coming to Graham Greene which is quite dry and old-style... but beautiful.

Michael McCarthy: How could Catholics do such a thing?

That priests should be in a State of Grace was the foundation of their moral authority

At The Chime of a City Clock, By DJ Taylor

That's three books in a row from DJ Taylor that circle around the turn of the decadent 1920s into the low dishonest decade that followed it. First we had the group biography Bright Young People, which went on to inform the novel Ask Alice, about an American farm girl risen to the shady heights of British society. Now At the Chime of a City Clock advertises itself boldly as "a thriller", rather as Graham Greene designated some of his slighter works "entertainments".

One Minute With: John Simpson

John Cale, Royal Festival Hall, London

Sprightly Cale still sparkles

I, spy: In praise of Callan, the dirty, self-hating British TV detective

'Callan' started the genre, and 'Edge of Darkness' was its high point. But just try telling the Yanks that we Brits invented the brilliant, self-hating TV detective...

Imaginary Homelands, By Salman Rushdie

Anyone picking up this collection of essays might reasonably expect extensive reflection on the events that pushed Rushdie into the headlines. Instead, much of the contents seem fusty and oddly irrelevant.

A beacon amid the rubble, Greene's hotel survives

Amid Haiti's death and devastation, one small but significant piece of good news has emerged. The staff and guests at the country's most historic hotel survived, the building apparently not having suffered extensive damage.

One Minute With: Neil Cross

Solved: The mystery of forgotten Christie play

The queen of detective fiction turned her uneasy relationship with her daughter into a ' brutal' drama - and now it's on the West End

Thomas Sutcliffe: No dignity in this pretence of unity

These proposals are the sexual equivalent of the Nuremberg Laws

Forgotten author: No.22: Marjorie Bowen

A writer whose life was as fascinating as her output, Marjorie Bowen was born Margaret Gabrielle Vere Campbell Long in 1885 on Hayling Island, Hampshire. Her mother had literary aspirations; her father was an alcoholic who died on the London streets.

How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read, By Pierre Bayardtrs Jeffrey Mehlman

A jeu d'esprit stretched out to 185 pages, HtTABYHR maintains, by use of dodgy logic and playful perversity, that talking about books you haven't read is not only a necessity but a creative activity to be proud of. It's full of paradoxes ("Reading is first and foremost non-reading"), and it's part of the joke that Pierre Bayard is obviously extremely well-read, a professor of literature who quotes Proust, Musil, Shakespeare, Valéry, Graham Greene, etc. He has a system of categorising books: SB (skim-read book), FB (forgotten book), HB (heard-of book) and UB (unknown book). A plus sign or double-plus sign indicate positive and extremely positive opinions, a minus or double-minus sign the opposites.

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There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
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File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
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Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
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Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
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Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
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Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
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Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
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X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
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Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
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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
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
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'