A Year with the Queen

It is, apparently, a small world after all. Leafing through the glossy pages of Robert Hardman's chronicle of queenhood, I found myself -- as an expatriate Brit -- unexpectedly in sympathy with that hardy caricature, the booming and childlike American who imagines that everyone in little old Europe knows everybody else. On its peculiar global mission of diplomacy, trade, dress-up, and brand consolidation, the British monarchy is really an extraordinarily democratic institution: it is estimated that half a million persons, from every possible walk of life, will bump up against one of the Royals in the course of an average year. Surely somewhere in this wry and perceptive book (companion to the BBC-TV series), with all of its photographs and on-the-spot descriptions, I will encounter someone I know? From town to town and nation to nation goes Elizabeth II, her voice trapped forever -- like a princess in a tower -- at the upper end of its range, speaking to all the peoples of the world with her special gift for the inconsequential. Hardman is a fine writer, particularly adept at capturing the complex mixture of ceremony and domesticity that defines the Royals' interactions with their own subjects. "Been shot at?" enquires the Duke of Edinburgh of some British servicemen, on a visit to Basra, Iraq. "We were engaged last week in an urban area," replies Major Jamie Howard. "Thankfully, one of the sentries returned fire and killed the insurgent." "Oh good," says the Duke. -

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.