The list to end all lists

By Peter Moss, December 29, 2009

The indefatigable Ben Schott’s latest social barometer, Schott’s Almanac 2010 (Bloomsbury £16.99), curiously published together with his 2009 edition (Bloomsbury £18.99), is a gloriously random tome full of information of no real value, but huge fun nonetheless.


Top of the tales in 2009

By Angela Kiverstein, December 22, 2009

Teddy bears and teenage spies were among the highlights of children’s fiction in 2009.

Winner of the Booktrust Teenage prize was Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (Bloomsbury, £7.99, age 11 to adult), in which young Nobody Owens is brought up by strange foster parents — a vampire and a family of ghosts, while Gaiman’s Coraline, featuring sinister bogus parents with button eyes, was made into an animated film.


How the Chronicle revealed the ice-cream plot

By Angela Kiverstein, December 22, 2009

Forget climate change — a new eco-disaster threatens, reports the Lamonical Chronicle (the online offshoot of Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum series, published by Egmont). According to the Chronicle, space-squirrels are building huge sponges to dry up our oceans and gigantic scissors to cut off the tops of our mountains and steal the ice-cream inside. Read more at


In store for 2010

By Angela Kiverstein, December 22, 2009

Little literati will have their own fair, “Little Bookniks”, at Jewish Book Week, on Sunday March 7, 2010. The theme is “dreams and nightmares” (with fancy-dress prizes). Participants will have the chance to design a book cover, contribute to a “Word Wall”, or add their input to a Morris Gleitzman story.


Critics' bites of the year

December 17, 2009

● ‘I always think that the person Freud was most like was Groucho Marx – they both loved jokes and, of course, cigars.’
Psychological-detective writer Frank Tallis, interviewed by Jenni Frazer (Jan 2)

● Though we still sit round the table on a Friday night, anorexia is common in our community and obsession with the body has affected us as much as any other community.
Julia Neuberger on Bodies by Susie Orbach (Feb 20)


Review: Footnotes in Gaza

By Ariel Kahn, December 9, 2009

By Joe Sacco
Jonathan Cape £20

Joe Sacco has built a formidable reputation as a comics journalist. His early work, Palestine, won an American Book Award and he received the 2001 Eisner best original graphic novel award for Safe Area Gorazde, about the conflict in Bosnia.

That same year, Sacco was preparing an article on Gaza for Harpers magazine with journalist Chris Hedges. This included material on events of 1956 that was cut from the published article.


The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide To The Perished City

By Ben Barkow, December 9, 2009

By Barbara Engelking & Jacek Leociak
Yale University Press £40

The devil, they say, is in the detail. This extraordinary book bears out the epithet. Its 906 pages form a vastly detailed portrait of Jews in the ghetto, struggling for survival under the radical evil of Nazi occupation. It is a book displaying deep scholarship, but also intense emotion.


Fictional non-fiction

By Peter Moss, December 9, 2009

The cult of celebrity, says Melissa Katsoulis in Telling Tales: A History of Literary Hoaxes (Constable £8.99), is nothing new, but the desire to see the worst and/or smallest parts of a star is a post-war invention. And because the unearthing of sordid details about well-known figures is such a big-money game, it is no surprise that literary hoaxers with dollar signs in their eyes have sprung up in all corners of the media.


The Wild Things were my Yiddish relatives

By Brigit Grant, December 3, 2009

Long before they know the words to the Star Spangled Banner, American children can recite the opening lines to Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Not that the affection for this tale stops in the US. Every school and nursery in Britain has a well-thumbed copy, and with sales of this picture book exceeding 19 million worldwide since its publication in 1963, mischievous little Max has become a global hero for children and parents longing for adventure — albeit only in their imagination. And now Max, together with the monsters he tames in the land of wild things, are movie stars.


Vocal heroes for the people

By Stephen Pollard, December 3, 2009

Opera for everybody: The Story of English national Opera
By Susie Gilbert
Faber and Faber, £25

The Gilded Stage: A Social History of Opera
By Daniel Snowman
Atlantic Books, £40