Voices Goggle box: the blocky looks of the Oculus Rift belie the breath-taking experience of what the wearer sees

This technology is about to change the way you perceive the world – and yourself

Best British Short Stories 2011, Edited by Nicholas Royle

Slip this lightweight but nourishing anthology into your holiday bag. Editor Royle has selected 20 published stories from British writers. His own (excellent) taste means that little explosions of weirdness or transcendence often erupt amid much well-observed everyday life.

Tom Sutcliffe: When fantasy and realism can collide

The week in culture

Great Works: Approaching a City 1946 (70 x 80cm) Edward Hopper

The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

The colour of Manet

A blockbuster show of the artist tries too hard to theorise, says Adrian Hamilton, but it hardly matters – the work of this extraordinary painter shines through

Landscapes with Figures / Natural Habitats, By Massimo Vitali

This slipcased edition brings together two volumes which encompass all Massimo Vitali's images.

Myth vies with gritty social realism on portrait shortlist

The depiction of an anonymous Belfast drug addict has made the shortlist of this year's BP Portrait Award, to go on display at London's National Portrait Gallery.

Playing the Shape Game, By Anthony Browne with Joe Browne (Cape £25)

In this beautifully and generously illustrated, large-format combination of memoir, career retrospective and guide to illustration, the author, illustrator and current Children's Laureate, Anthony Browne, uses the "shape game" which he and his brother played as children – whereby one draws an abstract shape and the other transforms it into a recognisable object – as a metaphor for his entire career, and the creative process itself.

A Fair Maiden, By Joyce Carol Oates

On a walk one afternoon, 16-year-old Katya Spivak, a nanny in the town of Bayhead Harbor, New Jersey, is approached by Henry Kidder, an elderly illustrator; he offers her money to pose for a series of portraits and she agrees, only vaguely aware of his more sinister intentions.

Man With A Blue Scarf: On Sitting For A Portrait By Lucian Freud, By Martin Gayford

This is the true story of a man called Martin Gayford, art critic by trade, who sat for a portrait by Lucian Freud seven years ago, told by the man who sat for that portrait over hundreds of hours. It is told in the form of a diary, sitting by sitting, easily, conversationally, insightfully, with a delicate humour, often self-deprecating. The sitter worries about his own ageing, the folds beneath his chin. At one point Freud says: "If it really is like that, well, I'll use it." Gayford remarks that he never did find out what "it" was. Freud, slightly dismayingly for the sitter, relishes such exciting evidence of mortality.

Tom Lubbock: The more we see of his lifelike world the better

Circa 1300, Giotto was the next big thing. Dante mentions him in The Divine Comedy as the artist who now "has the cry". He was more than a trendsetter: he was an original of the most radical type. He began the whole tradition of European painting, transforming it from the flatness of the Greek-Byzantine icon to the rounded solidity of a Roman statue. Realism is the word.

The Victorians: Britain Through the Paintings of the Age, By Jeremy Paxman

This enjoyable book, written to accompany the BBC series of the same name, doesn't challenge too many of our assumptions about the Victorians. We know now that a stuffy exterior hid many a seedy life, as Jeremy Paxman illustrates with the life of one popular and populist painter, William Powell Frith: he managed to father 12 children with his wife, and seven with a mistress he kept hidden in another part of London.

The Lieutenant, By Kate Grenville

Kate Grenville's latest novel, about a young 18th-century English astronomer who is among the first settlers and soldiers to arrive in New South Wales, is historical fiction elevated into the category of "literary fiction", not so much by its research as by its psychological truth. Historical writers know that their readers demand a certain level of information: we want to learn about times different from our own, and it's not so much recognition that we crave in our ancestors as a sense of their difference.

Album: The Magnetic Fields, Realism (Nonesuch)

Dear listener, if you're expecting something simple and cheery...

Johann Hari: Please, dear novelists, get real

I long to drag them to a rundown estate in Bradford or a climate change protest camp
Latest stories from i100
Career Services

Day In a Page

A
Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 1 May 2015
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'