The week’s best arts and culture reads – examining the genius of War and Peace, the world’s most extravagant doll’s house and how ‘liberals are killing art’.

TV’s best new show?
Andy Greenwald | Grantland | 6 August 2014
Steven Soderbergh’s television series The Knick achieves “a level of visual virtuosity rarely glimpsed on the small screen”. The setting is an American hospital in 1900. Dr John Thackery, the moustachioed protagonist, “is equal parts cowboy and clinician, improvising radical techniques on live, barely willing subjects”. The series “makes you see the world in a different way. Even the parts you’d much rather ignore”.

Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House
Anthony Gottlieb | Gilded Birds | 6 August 2014
Philosopher chooses and discusses an object of beauty: a dolls’ house built for a princess. “Much of the awe that it inspires derives from the industry and ingenuity of the 1,500 or so artists and craftsmen who made it. It is only five feet high, but has working plumbing, electricity and lifts, a garage of cars with engines that run, and a level of detail that stops just short of the microscopic.”

Liberals are killing art
Jed Perl | New Republic | 5 August 2014
Nice people like you and me are the modern audience for highbrow art – and we are killing it by requiring it to serve socially useful, or at least socially explicable, purposes. We have no appetite for art’s “irreducible mystery and magic”. We want “to bring art’s unruly power into line with some more general system of social, political, and moral values”. This is reasonable; but art is not reasonable – a tragic contradiction.

The genius of War and Peace
James Wood | Guardian | 1 August 2014
Leo Tolstoy began War And Peace intending to write a Russian family story in the manner of Anthony Trollope, set in 1856 and called All’s Well That Ends Well. But he found he couldn’t tell that story without reaching back to the Decembrist rebellion of 1825, which in turn meant reaching back to Napoleon’s invasion of Moscow. And that is where he ended up, writing one of the greatest novels of any place or time.

Does Amazon recognise literary value?
Toby Mundy | Medium | 1 August 2014
Publisher defends the virtues of traditional books. “Books are the only medium for thick descriptions of the world that human beings possess. By ‘thick’ description, I mean an extended, detailed, evidence-based, written interpretation of a subject. If you want to write a feature, or blog, or wikipedia entry, in the end you will have to refer to a book. Authors and publisher-curators are in the civilisation business.”

The impossibility of anti-war novels
Noah Berlatsky | Atlantic | 29 July 2014
Literature is rich in war stories. Why is it not equally rich in anti-war stories? Perhaps because they are formally very difficult. You start telling a story that involves war, even to show its horrors, and the heroism starts creeping in – as happens with Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front. The tension starts with the need for narrative – which is why anti-war poetry works so much better.

Inside Werner Herzog’s world
James Rocchi | The Playlist | 31 July 2014
Retrospective discussion pegged to release of boxed DVD set of Herzog’s 16 greatest films. On his use of hypnotised actors: “Under hypnosis, you’re like in a tunnel – basically aware of the world. I was suspected of doing it to get better control of actors. I don’t need that. I control even a wild beast like Klaus Kinski, a borderline mad, wild, paranoid madman – and I can control him and do good stuff with him.”

For more articles worth reading, visit The Browser. If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.