US Secret Service agents keep watch from the roof of the White House. The Secret Service is responsible for the safety and security of president Barack Obama and his immediate family. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

An envelope addressed to the White House has tentatively tested positive for cyanide after two rounds of analysis.Additional testing will be necessary(...)

The Clondalkin Youth Band taking part in the 45th International Band Championship in  Limerick on Sunday. Photograph: Sean Curtin/Fusionshooters

More than 40,000 people gathered in Limerick on Sunday for the International Band Parade, which saw musicians from across the world perform on the st(...)

Jerry’s Sno Cones: a taste of the 1970s. Photograph: Chris Carmichael/New York Times
Weekend in . . . Memphis

Maybe even more Music City than Nashville, its country cousin to the east, Memphis has strong affiliations with not one musical genre but three. It(...)

Bryan Stevenson, who founded and runs the Equal Justice Initiative, outside the former courthouse where the 1910 lynching of Allen Brooks, a black man, began in Dallas. Photograph: Brandon Thibodeaux/New York Times

In February 1919, Pte William Little, an African-American veteran of the first World War, returned to his hometown of Blakely, Georgia, in the America(...)

US authorities are stepping up their inquiry into whether Moody’s inflated ratings on mortgage derivatives

US authorities are stepping up their probe into whether Moody’s inflated ratings on mortgage derivatives to win business in the lead-up to the financi(...)

Gay rights advocate Vin Testa in front of the Supreme Court in Washington. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

Gabriela Polanco says her 14-month-old daughter Alexandra Noemi is running around, eating with a fork and drinking out of “a big-girl cup”.Two years a(...)

‘Selma’ director Ava DuVernay: ‘This is art; this is a movie; this is a film. I’m not a historian. I’m not a documentarian.’ Photograph: Kevork Djansezian/Reuters

I went on Friday morning to see Selma and found myself watching it in a cinema full of black teenagers. Thanks to donations, DC public school kids (...)

The US Supreme Court is to decide whether same-sex couples have a right to marry under the country’s constitution.   Vin Testa, a supporter of same-sex marriage, waves a rainbow colored flag outside the US Supreme Court  in 2013.  Photograph: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The US Supreme Court is to decide whether or not same-sex couples have a right to marry under the country’s constitution, setting up a potentially hi(...)

Mark Ronson has been on kissing terms with the cultural zeitgeist before. He worked with Amy Winehouse on Back to Black to produce an album that be(...)

In The Story of Land and Sea Katy Simpson Smith breaks a host of supposed taboos for debut authors – omniscient narrator, shifts in point of view, major characters introduced and then killed off, plenty of reflection – but a book is much more than the sum of these parts. Photograph: Elise Smith
The Story of Land and Sea
  • Books
  • January 11, 2015, 08:00

A colleague asked recently if I had to read a lot of mediocre books for this column. With its focus on emerging authors and debut novels, they wondere(...)