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Review: Sayaka Murata’s “Convenience Store Woman”

Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman is a diminutive and disturbing novel. The story is conveyed through the first person observations of Keiko Furukura, a woman in her mid-thirties who works in a convenience store in Tokyo. During her disconnected and occasionally violent childhood, Keiko concludes that “keeping my mouth shut was the most sensible approach to getting by [...]

Review: Amor Towles’s “A Gentleman in Moscow”

What does a society desperate to escape monarchic domination do with a plucky, refined member of its extant aristocracy? In Amor Towles’s enchanting portrait of post-revolutionary Russia, the answer is to place him under permanent house arrest in The Metropol, Moscow’s most renowned hotel. He will be stripped of his titles, his luxurious lodgings, and [...]

Review: Stephen Wolfram’s “Adventures of a Computational Explorer”

Note: Wolfram Research, Inc. was kind enough to send me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If there were a contest for the world’s most self-satisfied human, I’d nominate Stephen Wolfram. This brainiac was publishing physics papers at the age of 15, received a PhD at 20, wrote a [...]

My Year of Bookish Wisdom: 2019

My Year of Bookish Wisdom 2019: War is Present and Peace is Possible As 2019 comes to a close, people around the world will be using the arbitrary milestone of a new decade to reflect on the last ten years and plan for the next ten. I wish I could say that either of these [...]

Review: Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”

After a captivating but ultimately bitter encounter with Anna Karenina last year, I was worried that Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace would produce similar results. To my surprise and delight, however, War and Peace helped me finally understand why Tolstoy’s work occupies such an important position in literary history. Those determined enough to commit to this epic novel will discover a [...]

Review: Lauren McCann and Gabriel Weinberg’s “Super Thinking”

Before starting it, I had misgivings about whether Lauren McCann and Gabriel Weinberg’s Super Thinking would be worthwhile for me to read. This was mainly because I have already studied a lot of mental models from various fields of research, and also because it seemed a bit too self-helpy for my taste. But my best friend bought me [...]

Review: Peter Turchin’s “Ages of Discord”

The work of Peter Turchin has been my most exciting intellectual discovery of 2019. After my mind was blown by War and Peace and War earlier this year, I was delighted to learn that Turchin has published a more recent book demonstrating how the principles of cliodynamics have played out in America. Ages of Discord is a [...]

Review: Cixin Liu’s “Supernova Era”

Cixin Liu is one of the most important science fiction writers of our time. His work displays an expansive creativity and existential gravity that propel readers out of this world while simultaneously grounding us in the inescapable confines of biology and physics. Following his rise in popularity that accompanied the publication of The Three-Body Problem’s [...]

Review: Joan Cohen’s “Land of Last Chances”

Joan Cohen’s Land of Last Chances is not the kind of novel that typically interests me, but when JKS Communications offered to send me an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review, I took them up on it. The book has some positive features, but my overall reading experience was dominated by boredom and increasing [...]

Review: Philip Pullman’s “The Secret Commonwealth”

As a huge fan of Philip Pullman, I take no pleasure in reporting that The Secret Commonwealth is a massive disappointment. This novel, which begins every bit the worthy successor to Pullman’s marvelous His Dark Materials trilogy, slowly and tragically dissolves into a narrative so desultory and dull that it may as well not exist. Or it’s brilliant in [...]