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

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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz