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Through the Looking Glasses by Travis Elborough review – the spectacular life of spectacles

From Henry VIII on his charger to the sex symbol Michael Caine, this close-up history of glasses illuminates their special kind of coolIt turns out that all those stereotypes about people who wear glasses being clever, clumsy and a bit standoffish have their basis in something solid. During the dark ages, when everyone was blundering around with uncorrected...

Polygamy in Senegal, lesbian hookups in Cairo: inside the sex lives of African women

Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah’s new book The Sex Lives of African Women examines self-discovery, freedom and healing. She talks about everything she has learnedExtract: ‘I have no idea what my husband told his wives when he married me’Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah has a face that smiles at rest. When she is speaking, it is with a constant grin, one that only falters...

Girlhood by Melissa Febos review – a view from her 40s

The Whip Smart author explores consent, bodies and boundaries in a poignant and frank collection of essays that celebrates the power to say ‘no’Several years ago, the New York writer Melissa Febos went to a cuddle party, in which people pay money to engage in non-sexual intimacy with strangers. The events are designed to meet the needs of those suffering...

‘A terrifying precedent’: author describes struggle to publish British army history

Simon Akam says Penguin Random House cancelled his book about the British army, The Changing of the Guard, and demanded back his advance after he refused to let the MoD vet itIn the summer of 2015, journalist Simon Akam was thrilled when Penguin Random House (PRH) imprint William Heinemann won a five-way auction to publish his book, The Changing of...

The best recent crime and thrillers – review roundup

Widespread Panic by James Ellroy; People Like Them by Samira Sedira; Razorblade Tears by SA Cosby; The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell; and Whitethroat by James HenryKing of macho noir James Ellroy has taken time out midway through his second LA Quartet for a standalone novel, Widespread Panic (William Heinemann, £20). Star of the show is Fred...

Jean Hanff Korelitz: ‘I wanted to be a literary novelist. But I realised that I liked plot’

The author of the book behind TV smash The Undoing talks about her new novel The Plot, a thriller about plagiarism – and how she fell for Hugh GrantIn January 2020, the American novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz was “all in all, not in a great place”, despite the runaway success of the HBO series The Undoing, based on her novel You Should Have Known. She...

Michael Lewis: ‘I didn’t believe in ghosts until I read Neil Gaiman’

The author on his envy of Philip Pullman’s world, imitating Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and struggling with Don QuixoteThe book I am currently readingKazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun. He has pulled off the most extraordinary thing, of putting the reader inside an artificial mind. He makes it look so easy.The book that changed my lifeZen...

12 Bytes by Jeanette Winterson review – how we got here and where we might go next

Twelve essays drawing on years of research into artificial intelligence ask challenging questions about humanity, art, religion and the way we live and loveIn Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, a scientist creates life and is horrified by what he has done. Two centuries on, synthetic life, albeit in a far simpler form, has been created in a dish....

Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith review – hunting for ghosts

A marvellous, confounding debut that moves from eerie Vietnamese forests to rundown zoos and crowded nightclubsThe twin spectres of colonialism and sexualised violence lurk in the humid Vietnamese air as two-headed snakes slither underfoot in Violet Kupersmith’s marvellous and confounding debut novel. Build Your House Around My Body is structured around...

Winnie-the-Pooh goes to Harrods in new authorised AA Milne prequel

Once There Was a Bear by Jane Riordan and Mark Burgess will channel the original books’ voice and pictorial style using details from Christopher Robin’s real lifeThe story of how Winnie-the-Pooh went from a Harrods toy shelf to the home of Christopher Robin and the Hundred Acre Wood is set to be told for the first time, in an official prequel to AA...

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