It is tempting to write the narrative of Georg Forster’s life as one of failure. The travel writer, essayist and political revolutionary died at the age of thirty-nine, impoverished, alone, and disillusioned in a Parisian garret in 1794.

Roughly 250 years ago, James Boswell asked Dr Johnson: ‘What is poetry?’ ‘Why sir, it is much easier to say what it is not,’ replied Johnson. ‘We all know what light is; but it is not easy to tell what it is.’

Last summer I tried to proselytise two people who said they couldn’t see the point of poetry. I read them extracts from Tennyson’s Ulysses, Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach and Charles Causley’s Eden Rock. They sat there stony-faced.

What is poetry? John Carey asks at the start of this brief but comprehensive (or, to put it another way, cursory) history of the whole world’s poetry, running from the Epic of Gilgamesh to the late Les Murray.

The debut from Suede founding member and bassist Mat Osman is an altered state of a novel, mixing the crime of LA noir, the ambient cityscapes of JG Ballard and dark language games of Thomas Pynchon.

Anyone curious about the impact of migration on the history and culture of London could do worse than read the chapter on food in this exhaustive history. The capital’s first coffee house was opened in the 1650s by an Armenian…

Fifteen minutes by train from Paddington, Southall is a “Little India” in the borough of Ealing. Set back amid the traffic in King Street is an ornate Hindu temple, and from the Punjabi stalls in Orchard Avenue you can buy jalebi.

By​ the time Samuel Steward began to write his autobiography in 1978, at the age of 69, he’d had sex more than four thousand times with more than eight hundred men. Each encounter was carefully recorded in his ‘Stud File’.

Think of who takes drugs like MDMA and images of waved, 20-somethings partying is more likely to come to mind than a middle-aged couple sat in front of a marriage counselor, thrashing out their deepest regrets and long-held resentments.

Alice sits at a table in Wonderland with three strange characters: the Hatter, March Hare and Dormouse. Time, who has fallen out with the Hatter, is absent, and out of pique won’t move the clocks past six.