by J. A. Baker
August 12, 2023
The Peregrine by J. A. Baker

“The hardest thing of all to see is what is really there.” With these prophetic words, J. A. Baker began his 1967 volume entitled The Peregrine, a book that plays out in the Essex countryside over a ten-year period, having at its...

June 11, 2023
Wells Cathedral's Chapter House steps

There is a slender marble column rising up at the foot of Wells Cathedral’s celebrated Chapter House steps. It floats off the wall behind it, supporting a boss from which the rib-vaulting of the ceiling above flares upward. Beneath the marble, a plain stone...

by Sander van der Linden
April 19, 2023
Foolproof - Why We Fall for Misinformation and How to Build Immunity

Comparing misinformation to a virus, as Sander van der Linden does in Foolproof - Why We Fall for Misinformation and How to Build Immunity, is a smart move. After Covid-19, most of us are now armchair virologists who like to think we understand infection,...

by Seirian Sumner
April 16, 2023
Endless Forms - The Secret World of Wasps

Esoteric subjects need enthusiastic guides, and one might struggle to find a guide with as much fizz and crackle as Professor Seirian Sumner (at UCL), author of Endless Forms - The Secret World of Wasps. Most readers might be pre-...

by Naomi S. Baron
February 24, 2023
Words Onscreen - the Fate of Reading in a Digital World

The author of Words Onscreen - the Fate of Reading in a Digital World, Naomi S. Baron is not only a professor of linguistics at the American University in Washington, DC, she is also an engaging and entertaining writer. This...

by Rupert Read
January 10, 2023
Why Climate Breakdown Matters

Let’s talk about climate breakdown. That’s right: not climate change or global warming, but climate breakdown, even climate chaos, so urges Rupert Read in his courageous and welcome Why Climate Breakdown Matters...

by Robert Byron
December 27, 2022
The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron

If there is a template for travel writing from which the likes of Bruce Chatwin, Wilfred Thessiger, Patrick Leigh-Fermor and Eric Newby were shaped, perhaps it comes in the form of Robert Byron, the author of The Road to Oxiana. Chatwin himself, in the...

by Sherry Turkle
December 24, 2022
Reclaiming Conversation - The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle

Conversation is not unlike a muscle: left unused, it can wither. Parents and teachers who help their charges exercise this muscle see the process close-up. In a supportive environment, they question what has just been said, gently encouraging the re-thinking and...

October 30, 2022
Bellini's St. Francis in the Desert

The Frick Collection has a temporary home in the Bauhaus-concrete Breuer Building on Madison Avenue in New York. It is replete with remarkable works of art collected by Henry Clay Frick (1849 - 1919), the coke and steel industrialist, who bequeathed his art...

October 26, 2022
Extinct & Endangered - the American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History in New York has been holding a thrilling yet terrifying exhibition of large-format insect photography, entitled Extinct & Endangered. Their entomological curators selected 80 specimens of...

by George Monbiot
July 21, 2022
Regenesis by George Monbiot

Midway through George Monbiot’s Regenesis: Feeding the World without Devouring the Planet, in conversation with Iain Tolhurst (‘Tolly’), a stockfree organic farmer in the Chilterns, Monbiot tells a joke against himself by quoting Tolly’...

by Oliver Milman
June 20, 2022
The Insect Crisis by Oliver Milman

In his 1992 book The Diversity of Life the great American biologist Edward O. Wilson, who died last December, wrote the following chilling words:

So important are insects and other land-dwelling arthropods that if all were to...

June 8, 2022
The Cosmic House

The recently opened Cosmic House, in leafy Holland Park’s Lansdowne Walk, transforms a handsome and sober 1840s Victorian brick and stucco villa on the outside into an Arts and Crafts cum Dada cum New Age fantasy on the inside. The house was the brainchild of...

May 22, 2022
The Church of St. Thomas Becket, Fairfield

Way out in open fields, with no churchyard of its own, in a parish of marsh, ditches, sheep and cattle, stands the church of St. Thomas Becket. On occasions when the surrounding Romney Marsh floods, the church has appeared to float above the waters. Even high and...

April 3, 2022
Akhmatova, Yevtushenko and Putin

By pure coincidence, my poetry books - loosely ordered alphabetically - are bookended by two slim volumes by Russian poets. In the late 1960s, Penguin Books published their Penguin Modern European Poets series. At 20p a pop these pocket-sized gems were well...

February 24, 2022
Samuel Beckett's hands

Samuel Beckett’s first sight of the words in his head would have been as they flowed from his pen, not as his typewriter’s typebars left their individual ink ribbon marks. His first drafts were in notebooks with a pen (or pencil in the case of Watt...

by Samuel Beckett
February 16, 2022
How It Is by Samuel Beckett

Beckett’s How It Is appeared first in French in 1961, then in 1964 after the author had translated it into English himself. Critics generally note that the book’s French title Comment c’est was a pun on Commencer, ‘to...

by Barbara F. Walter
February 7, 2022
How Civil Wars Start And How to Stop Them by Barbara F. Walter

When a world expert, who has studied the factors that trigger civil wars globally, gradually realises that these same factors currently exist in the United States, we need to pay attention. So it is with Professor Barbara F. Walter in her book How Civil Wars...

by Samuel Beckett
January 25, 2022
Murphy by Samuel Beckett

Beckett finished writing Murphy in June 1936. After 40 rejections by publishers, it was finally accepted in December 1937. At the time, the editor accepting Murphy said, “it is far too good to be a big popular or commercial success … [but] will...

January 15, 2022
The Collector Earl’s Garden

Arundel’s castle looms over the town and the River Arun. Its massive bulk - a mix of round and square towers with a curtain wall - dominates the skyline. Parts of it have stood since the 11th century. Others have been added or remodelled in the 18th and 19th...

January 9, 2022
The Spanish Chestnut Avenue at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

Croft Castle in Herefordshire in the Welsh Marches, occupies a site of rising and falling fortunes that has been home to the Croft family since the Norman Conquest (save for an interval of just under 200 years). It was first castle, then Elizabethan house, then...