Sam Leith

Sam Leith

Sam Leith is literary editor of The Spectator.

I’ve finally shaken my Candy Crush addiction

Most of us, once we pass the age when we wash our own underpants, don’t play games on a PC or a console. We think ‘Twitch’ is what you get when your spouse stacks the dishwasher and ‘Discord’ is what comes next. But you bet we play Candy Crush on the commute. Mobile gaming is

Marlon James: A Brief History of Seven Killings

40 min listen

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is Marlon James, who ten years ago published his Booker Prize winning novel A Brief History of Seven Killings. He tells me how that remarkable book came about, how he feared it would be ‘my Satanic Verses’, what genre means to him, the importance of myth, and what

Richard Flanagan: Question 7

40 min listen

In this week’s Book Club podcast, my guest is the Booker Prize winning novelist Richard Flanagan, talking about his extraordinary new book Question 7. It weaves together memoir, reportage and the imaginative work of fiction. Flanagan collides his relationship with his war-traumatised father and his own near-death experience with the lives of H G Wells and

Keir Starmer is treating the House of Lords with contempt

We have different approaches to tidying up, my wife and I. It bothers her very much that the house we share with three chaotic children is so untidy. Over the years unsightly, useless, out-of-date items accumulate in every room: incomplete jigsaws, dried-out paints, barely-played boardgames, broken furniture, too-small and obscurely stained clothes, collections of shells

The legacy of Franz Kafka

51 min listen

June 3rd marks the centenary of Franz Kafka’s death. To talk about this great writer’s peculiar style and lasting legacy, I’m joined by two of the world’s foremost Kafka scholars. Mark Harman has just translated, edited and annotated a new edition of Kafka’s Selected Stories, while Ross Benjamin is the translator of the first unexpurgated edition

The grandstanding against the Hay Festival is short-sighted 

When the country’s largest literary festival parts ways with its main sponsor, it is not usually a cause for rejoicing among writers, performers, and the sorts of people who like to go to literary festivals. It is usually a disaster for the festival. Yet when on Friday the Hay Festival sacked (yes, it was that way round) the investment fund Baillie Gifford

Sunak’s election speech was embarrassingly bad

Let’s be fair. It wasn’t Rishi Sunak’s fault it was raining. But it was, a bit, his fault that as someone who has ‘never been prouder to be British’, and so is presumably familiar with the way weather works in this country, he didn’t take one look at the lead-grey sky and make a contingency

Sam Leith

Conn Iggulden: Nero

43 min listen

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is Conn Iggulden, probably the best selling author of historical fiction of our day. This week Conn publishes Nero, the first in a new trilogy about the notorious Roman emperor. He tells me about how he learned to write historical fiction, his years-long path to overnight success, and the

In defence of Jonathan Yeo

If the basic job of a work of art is to be interesting, as I think it is, then Jonathan Yeo’s new portrait of the King accomplished that admirably. No sooner had an image of this big canvas been released to the public than it sparked a million memes. What did it mean, people wondered,

Gorgeous and deeply absorbing: Manor Lords reviewed

Grade: A ‘God games’, as they used to be called, have a storied history. SimCity, Civilisation and the excellently sadistic Dungeon Keeper have all been responsible for many a PhD thesis being delivered late. The Almighty seems to have smiled on the latest iteration of the genre. The product of a one-man-band independent developer, Greg

Olivia Laing: The Garden Against Time

33 min listen

A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot! On this week’s Book Club podcast I’m joined by Olivia Laing to talk about her new book The Garden Against Time: In Search of a Common Paradise. Olivia explores what it is we do when we make a garden, through her own experience of restoring the beautiful garden

Farewell Nadhim Zahawi, you won’t be missed

Nadhim Zahawi’s latest resignation letter was one of the all-time classics of the genre: unctuous, preening and pretentious even by the high standard of unctuousness, preeningness and pretentiousness set by his predecessors (including him).  ‘Greatest honour of my life,’ he wrote. ‘Best country on earth…it was where I built a Great [capitalisation sic] British business,

The Elphicke affair has made Starmer look incompetent and unprincipled

The defection of Natalie Elphicke to Labour was, no doubt about it, a political coup de theatre. What wasn’t immediately clear, but is becoming clearer now the curtain is up and the players are stumbling around the footlights yelping and tripping over bits of the set, is what sort of theatre: farce.  Elphicke looks like the gift nobody wants to find under their Christmas tree Natalie Elphicke was delivered

Jackie Kay: May Day

40 min listen

This week, my guest on the Book Club podcast is the poet Jackie Kay, whose magnificent new book May Day combines elegy and celebration. She tells me about her adoptive parents – a communist trade unionist and a leading figure in CND – and growing up in a household where teenage rebellion could mean going to church.

Suella Braverman has made herself look silly

Did Suella Braverman run her latest op-ed by No. 10 for approval? That was the question asked at the end of last year when the then Home Secretary wrote an inflammatory article accusing the Met of being biased towards left-wing protesters. The answer then was that she hadn’t, and she lost her job (for a second

Survival plan: is Rishi ready for the rebels?

34 min listen

This week: Survival plan: is Rishi ready for the rebels? Ever since his election, Rishi Sunak has been preparing for this weekend – where the most likely scenario is that dire local election results are slow-released, leaving him at a moment of maximum vulnerability. He has his defences ready against his regicidal party, says Katy

Ariane Bankes: The Quality of Love

35 min listen

On this week’s Book Club podcast I’m joined by Ariane Bankes, whose mother Celia was one of the great beauties of the early twentieth century. Ariane’s new book The Quality of Love: Twin Sisters at the Heart of the Century tells the story of the defiantly bohemian lives of Celia and her twin sister Mamaine, whose love

The parable of Blackpool’s potholes

I read the news today, oh boy. Four thousand holes in Blackpool, Lancashire. Well, in fact, not quite as many as 4,000. The number of holes in the Lancashire town that the Beatles didn’t sing about was a very precise 2,628 – or, translated into another scale, just over half an Albert Hall’s worth. That’s

Kathryn Hughes: Catland

40 min listen

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is the author and historian Kathryn Hughes, whose new book Catland tells the story of how we learned to love pusskins. Content warning: contains Kipling, Edward Lear, some stinking carts of offal, and the troubled life and weird art of the extraordinary Louis Wain.

Tony Blair is a post-democratic product

Why was it that when I read a big interview with Tony Blair over the weekend – the ostensible premise being to wonder if he’d be pulling the strings of a Starmer government – I found myself humming something from T.S. Eliot by way of Andrew Lloyd Webber? ‘You may seek him in the basement,