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Meaning and the good life
On serendipity

A decades-long conversation between friends about books, photography and life, exploring what it is to know, to look, to see

Sven Birkerts & Christopher Benfey

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Rituals and celebrations
Divine transports

Whether via music, dance or prayer, the trance state was key to human evolution, forging society around the transcendent

Mark Vernon

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Family life
Keeping secrets

All families have secrets, from the innocent to the deeply sinister. Are there good reasons to keep them under wraps?

Karen Vallgårda

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History
Wonder works

History and philosophy should reveal to us the baffling, strange and wondrous qualities of other lives and other times

Marnie Hughes-Warrington

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Social psychology
Houses of horror

A ragged curtain, a creaking attic, a dark cellar – what explains the architecture of creepiness, and its enduring appeal?

Francis McAndrew

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Nature and landscape
Rooted

What if, rather than mere props in the background of our lives, trees embody the history of all life on Earth?

Dalia Nassar & Margaret M Barbour

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Thinkers and theories
Secular pilgrimage

Visiting Wittgenstein’s home evokes the philosopher’s serious, ascetic mind (no doubt he would disapprove its restoration)

Julian Baggini

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Love and friendship
My friend, my self

Female friendship is central to much recent fiction and film. What can it say about the role of relationships in identity?

Susan Bright

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Stories and literature
Orphans and their quests

The sympathetic plot is a type of story, rich in tropes, that is universal to human cultures. With one big twist…

Manvir Singh

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Cities
City on mute

When you stare at your phone or use Uber to navigate your neighbourhood, you flatten the rich texture of urban life

Kathleen Vandenberg

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Animals and humans
Prison, spectacle, refuge

Modern zoos are proud of their contribution to animal conservation but will always be haunted by their histories

Nigel T Rothfels

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Animals and humans
Birds are ‘winged words’

The Classical world abounded with avians – and so birds took up in the human imagination, nesting in our language and art

Jeremy Mynott