The Smile Revolution by Colin Jones

Reviewed by Harriet  I must admit I was initially drawn to this book by the lovely painting on the cover, a self-portrait by the great French artist Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Lebrun. The title sounded intriguing too, and so did the blurb: For centuries, the art of smiling was, quite literally, frowned …

The Making of Home by Judith Flanders

Reviewed by Harriet  One of the most important distinctions made by Judith Flanders in this fascinating book is that between the concepts of house and home. While a house is a physical structure, home is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘The place where one was brought up, with reference …

Playing to the Gallery by Grayson Perry

Reviewed by Annabel Grayson Perry CBE RA, the Turner Prize-winning transvestite potter, is becoming a national treasure – so much so, that the BBC invited him to give their annual series of Reith lectures in 2013. These radio lectures are named after the Beeb’s first Director-General and were inaugurated in …

Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalisation of Democracy by Francis Fukuyama

Reviewed by Edward Leigh This is the successor volume to The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution, which together offer a complete history of how people have organised themselves from small bands of hunter-gatherers, through tribes, to modern civilisations. This volume concentrates on modern history, …

Do No Harm by Henry Marsh (pbk)

Reviewed by Annabel  I always find accounts of lives worked in medicine absolutely fascinating, especially those of surgeons, who live on the cutting edge (sorry!) of medical science. It takes a special kind of person to become a surgeon, and then those who choose pathways into more specialised areas require …

Cover by Peter Mendelsund

Reviewed by Harriet Devine Every choice of color, every typographical decision, each division of space and every pictorial graft—each step, a step closer to the concretization of the book and thus its impoverishment. It is my job to drag the text, the author’s work, perfect in its disembodiment, into awful …

A Message from Martha by Mark Avery

Reviewed by Terence Jagger This is an important centenary year; on 1 September, 1914, the world’s last Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) died in Cincinnati Zoo.  Her name was Martha, and Mark Avery’s book tells us why this happened, why it matters, and offers some lessons about the future, making sure …