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Forgetfulness by Francis O’Gorman review – an open window on history
Francis O’Gorman explores the different ways we forget, and the danger of ignoring the lessons of our own past

Francis O’Gorman’s new book centres on his belief that people in the 21st century are detaching themselves from the past to their detriment. He examines the ways we forget: the erasure of memory that comes with age, and the modern impulse to untether ourselves from the places we came from, orienting ourselves inste...

Bread for All: The Origins of the Welfare State by Chris Renwick – the labour before Labour’s triumph
A new account shows how Attlee’s reforms built on foundations laid down decades earlier – and that was the key to their success

Contrary to what some may believe, the welfare state did not come into existence solely as a result of some sort of post-second world war big bang caused by the election of the Attlee government. To be sure it was the Attlee government that supplied the political will, but many of the principles and some of the measures evolved over the preceding half-century. One ...

'Angry boredom': early responses to Waiting for Godot showcased online

The British Library’s digital archive reveals early objections to Samuel Beckett’s play alongside other records of classic works’ early lives

Today, Waiting for Godot is the most celebrated of Samuel Beckett’s plays, but newly digitised material from the depths of the British Library shows how its first audiences responded in horror to its “lavatory references”, while some anticipated that “this ugly little jet of marsh-gas” from “the late James Joyce’s secretary” would soon be forgo...

The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk review – ancient myths and authorial friskiness

Everyday life and inherited stories combine in a parable about present-day Turkey

Orhan Pamuk has written better than most contemporary novelists about the relationship between east and west. His great book Istanbul: Memories of a City mingles history, personal reminiscence and political analysis to produce a panorama of the city that is also a map of the world – at once clearly drawn and poetically...

The Ludlow Ladies' Society withdraws from the 2017 Not the Booker prize

The reader-chosen award has always been a turbulent affair, and this year’s storm has seen Ann O’Loughlin leave the competition

After a relatively quiet couple of years here on the Not the Booker, our old friend the Lord of Chaos has swooped down to add an extra bit of excitement and drama into this year’s competition.

Following on from my review of her novel

Robert Webb on modern masculinity – books podcast

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UK publishing industry remains 90% white, survey finds

Research indicates diversity has improved in recent years, but a generational change is needed to balance the book trade, according to researchers

A survey of more than 1,000 people working in UK publishing has found that more than 90% currently in the industry classify themselves as white British.

Carried out between June and July, the bookcareers.com salary survey received 1,023 valid responses. The vast majority of respondents – 84.6% - ...

Munich review – inside a compelling conspiracy on the eve of war
Robert Harris is on sure ground in this brilliantly constructed spy novel set amid the politicking of Chamberlain’s last-ditch negotiations with Hitler

It’s one of the defining – and in hindsight humiliating – images of the 20th century: Neville Chamberlain stepping off the plane from Munich in September 1938 clutching a paper signed by Hitler and, later that day, declaring “peace for our time”.

The Munich agreement came against a backdrop of ultimatums from power-hungry leaders, devi...

BBC national short story award shortlist offers a 'festival of ideas'

Work by Will Eaves, Jenni Fagan, Cynan Jones, Benjamin Markovits and Helen Oyeyemi now in line for £15,000 annual prize

Judges for the BBC national short story award have announced a shortlist for 2017 that is “enduring, bold, humane and moving”, with work from five acclaimed writers now in line for the £15,000 award.

Will Eaves’s “quiet and horrifying” Murmur, about a gay academic who is convicted for gross indecency, was inspired by the real-life tragedy of Alan Turing. Eaves...

Jonathan Franzen: 'The book that had the greatest influence on my writing? CS Lewis's Narnia'

The American novelist on the books that changed his life, made him cry and the ones he wishes he’d written

The book that changed my life

To read is to have experiences; every book changes my life at least a little bit. The first time I can remember this happening was when I was 10, with a biography of Thomas Edison.