John Carey
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Reviews I have written recently, appearing in the Sunday Times.

The Brief Life of Flowers by Fiona Stafford — blossoming with significance: From daisies and cowslips to rare ghost orchids, a glowing account of the myths and meanings we impose on flowers (11 November 2018)

Letters Home 1936-1977 by Philip Larkin, edited by James Booth — they didn’t f*** him up, his mum and dad: Larkin’s previously unpublished letters to his family leaves us in no doubt that the poet loved his parents, and that they, in turn, worshipped him (21 October 2018)

I Am Dynamite! A Life of Friedrich Nietzsche by Sue Prideaux — unmasking philosophy’s superman: An outstanding life reveals the full extent of Nietzsche’s delusions of grandeur (23 September 2018)

Living with the Gods: On Beliefs and Peoples by Neil MacGregor: A mind‑expanding history of religion - the author of A History of the World in 100 Objects examines the role of religion in society since the Stone Age (16 September 2018)

The Letters of Sylvia Plath: Volume II, 1956-1963, edited by Peter K Steinberg and Karen V Kukil — dispatches from a heart in agony: Astonishing in themselves, terrible in their intensity and as raw as freshly sliced meat, the late letters of Sylvia Plath are unmatched in literature  (9 September 2018)

The Warm South: How the Mediterranean Shaped the British Imagination by Robert Holland: A fascinating study of how the British passion for all things Mediterranean has influenced our culture for centuries (12 August 2018)

Gypsies: An English History by David Cressy — an outstanding study of a much-maligned minority: A social historian, himself with Gypsy ancestors, has produced a scholarly masterpiece (22 July 2018)

City of Light: The Reinvention of Paris by Rupert Christiansen — how the city was ruthlessly rebuilt: Vivid, dramatic and tragic: a first-rate study of how the city was remade (8 July 2018)

Gardens and Gardening in Early Modern England and Wales by Jill Francis — too posh to weed: The rural country gentry who altered the way that English gardens were created (1 July 2018)

In Montparnasse: The Emergence of Surrealism in Paris from Duchamp to Dali by Sue Roe — dancing naked with ocelots: The surrealists thought they were revealing dark truths — they were wrong (10 June 2018)

Making Oscar Wilde by Michèle Mendelssohn — where he got his wit from: The nightmarish 1882 US tour that turned Oscar Wilde into a master of repartee (20 May 2018)

Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life by Edith Hall — how to be happy the philosopher’s way: The ancient philosopher Aristotle is the ideal guide to living better, says this classics professor (6 May 2018)

Seven Types of Atheism by John Gray — ‘the most depressing book I have read’: None of our ideas about religion, history and humanity have any meaning, argues the bracing philosopher John Gray (22 April 2018)

Natural Causes: Life, Death and the Illusion of Control by Barbara Ehrenreich: Mindfulness and positive thinking are on a par with ‘magic’, claims a forceful study (1 April 2018)

In Byron’s Wake: The Turbulent Lives of Lord Byron’s Wife and Daughter, Annabella Milbanke & Ada Lovelace by Miranda Seymour: A masterful portrait looks at the effect Byron had on his wife and daughter (11 March 2018)

Civilisations: How Do We Look? & The Eye of Faith by Mary Beard: Mary Beard’s view of civilisation is hampered by political correctness (4 March 2018)

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress by Steven Pinker: Steven Pinker says we should all just cheer up — humanity has never had it so good (18 February 2018)

Owl Sense by Miriam Darlington: An obsessive quest to uncover the owl’s many dark secrets is recounted with sharp-eyed wisdom (11 February 2018)

In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein by Fiona Sampson: If we see another literary biography this year as perceptive as Fiona Sampson’s account of Mary Shelley and the making of Frankenstein, we’ll be fortunate (7 January 2018)

Writer’s Luck: A Memoir: 1976-1991 by David Lodge: His novels are full of wild imaginings, but David Lodge, this memoir reveals, has many regrets about his own timidity (31 December 2017)

Revenge: A Short Enquiry into Retribution by Stephen Fineman: ‘Getting even is a basic urge, argues this study, but it is too often ugly and senseless (17 December 2017)

The Uncommon Reader: A Life of Edward Garnett by Helen Smith: ‘He made me an author,’ Joseph Conrad said of Edward Garnett, one of the most influential men in modern literature (19 November 2017)

The Written World: How Literature Shaped History by Martin Puchner: A breathtaking survey of how writing has developed over the past 5,000 years (12 November 2017)