SPIRITED THINKING SINCE 1888
Stav Sherez

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February 14, 2019
When Christians Were Jews By Paula Fredriksen Yale, 250pp, £19.99/$27.50 How did a group of 1st-century Jews, the followers of a recently crucified Jewish apocalyptical preacher, inspire the most diverse and popular religion in the world? It’s a topic that has fascinated many since biblical scholarship began in earnest, and one that is simultaneously contentious
August 16, 2018
Historical Noir by Barry Forshaw, No Exit, 220pp, £9.99 As we rush headlong into an uncertain future that seems at once both disorientating and lacking a moral centre, writers are increasingly looking back and setting their novels in an earlier time; a place where mobile phones don’t buzz and the truth is still something worth
June 07, 2018
The Oxford Handbook to the Age of Shakespeare edited by R Malcolm Smuts, OUP, 848pp, £35 In the latter half of the 20th century, Shakespeare studies underwent a sea change. Gone was the close reading of text and in its stead, feminist, colonial and deconstructionist theories abounded. No one read Shakespeare for Shakespeare any more.
May 17, 2018
The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson, Picador, 207pp, £14.99 “It’s plain to you that at the time I write this, I’m not dead. But may be by the time you read it.” The last sentence of the pivotal story in Denis Johnson’s new collection feels like a blow to the chest. What
May 02, 2018
Shakespeare’s Originality by John Kerrigan, OUP, 167pp, £25 How original was Shakespeare? And how was Shakespeare original? These are the two interlinked questions that underlie John Kerrigan’s latest book. They are not new topics but have been part of the illimitable discourse around the Bard’s work for the past 400 years. Kerrigan has already made
August 24, 2017
The Near East: A Cultural History by Arthur Cotterell, Hurst, £20 Farming. Cities. Writing. Monotheism. What is it about the ancient Near East which gave rise to these fundamental paradigm shifts? That’s one of the questions Arthur Cotterell attempts to answer in this short overview of the region, taking us from the fledgling cities of
July 20, 2017
Making Sense of Christian Art and Architecture by Heather Thornton McRae, Thames and Hudson, £9.95 What makes Christianity unique in the realm of religion and culture is the profusion of great art and buildings it has directly inspired. Discarding the Jewish understanding of the Second Commandment which negates the use of graven images, Christianity has
March 02, 2017
Concentration Camps by Dan Stone, OUP, £12.99 The sociologist and Polish freedom-fighter Zygmunt Bauman called the 20th century “the century of camps”. While history provides many examples of repression and incarceration, the particular nature of these institutions is unique to modernity. In this terse, punchy book, Stone charts the history of concentration camps, then asks
February 09, 2017
1 & 2 Samuel: A Kingdom Comes by David Firth, T&T Bloomsbury, £14.99  ‘The process of reading involves a dialogue between the text and the reader,” says David Firth at the start of his multi-layered investigation into how the two Books of Samuel have been read over generations. Perhaps the most narratively thrilling books of
February 02, 2017
The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam, Faber and Faber, £16.99 “The kinship of humanity was what Christ bought into the world,” reflects the fictional Bishop Solomon, Pakistan’s only native-born prelate, in this fierce and provocative new novel. Nadeem Aslam’s previous four books have tried to articulate this formula, searching for the unlikely bonds that bring
January 26, 2017
The Pen and the Brush by Anka Muhlstein, Other Press, 14.99 ‘I have not only supported the Impressionists,” the young Emile Zola boasted, “I have translated them into literature.” Zola had just burst on to the literary scene with his first novel, Thérèse Raquin, a masterpiece of dark realism. But it was in the milieu
January 05, 2017
Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities by Bettany Hughes, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, £25  ‘Rome never fell, it simply moved 854 miles east,” is just one of the many startling ideas that pepper Bettany Hughes’s fiery and magnificent new biography of Istanbul. It is a testament to the city’s importance that the book’s 600 pages are
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