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Review: Philip Pullman’s “La Belle Sauvage”

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is a unique and rightly-cherished accomplishment of narrative imagination. Given my deep fondness and respect for that work, I was both excited and nervous to hear that Pullman was returning to that world for a second trilogy. It can be dangerous to mess with a good thing, but more of a good [...]

Review: Robert M. Sapolsky’s “Behave”

Books that examine the relationship between science and morality have become ubiquitous, so readers interested in these important subjects need to choose carefully. It is not an overstatement to say that one could do no better than to alight on Robert M. Sapolsky’s Behave. This engrossing, encyclopedic examination of the causal mechanisms that determine human behavior is [...]

Review: Elena Ferrante’s “My Brilliant Friend”

I often hear readers of contemporary literature speak of Elena Ferrante in hushed, reverential tones, so I’ve been curious for a while now to see what all the fuss is about. The brilliance of My Brilliant Friend was so subtle and supple that it almost escaped my notice, but in the end I came around, and can [...]

Review: Peter Matthiessen’s “Shadow Country”

This book became known to me when a friend spoke of it with reverence during a long walk in the woods. I was immediately captivated by his description of an historical novel derived from Peter Matthiessen’s “Watson trilogy,” originally published in the 1990s. In 2008, Matthiessen published Shadow Country, the definitive fictional rendering of his decade-spanning obsession [...]

Review: Richard A. Clarke and R.P. Eddy’s “Warnings”

Even for those who fastidiously avoid the news, to live in the modern world is to be bombarded with visions of catastrophe. Our culture, our politics, our language––these have all become saturated with promises of impending doom. The psychological result of this predicament is among the most nefarious consequences of the global media’s invasion of [...]

Review: Daniel Suarez’s “Freedom”

When I give a book a top rating, it is usually because I think that book is perfect, or close to it. I will not make that claim about Daniel Suarez’s Freedom. No, this book has some very significant and undeniable flaws. Even so, it is perhaps the best technothriller I’ve ever read, and beyond that, [...]

Review: Peter Wohlleben’s “The Hidden Life of Trees”

Naturalists who write for a popular audience have a tough needle to thread. An acceptable work of popular naturalism provides readers with enough detailed research to convey and legitimize the author’s expertise, while simultaneously eschewing esoteric tangents and academic quibbles. A great work will also contain responsible speculation about the borders of human knowledge––just enough [...]

Review: Daniel Suarez’s “Daemon”

The modern book market is oversaturated with technothrillers, so it’s always a risk to pick one from the pile and give it a whirl. Fortunately for me, one of my closest friends identified Daniel Suarez’s Daemon as one that would be worth my time. But even my high expectations couldn’t prepare me for how much I was [...]

Review: Arlie Russell Hochschild’s “Strangers in Their Own Land”

No matter what part of the political spectrum you hail from, few Americans would deny that this moment in our nation’s history is shot through with alienation. At every turn, Americans are forsaking the public square in favor of familiar and increasingly insular communities––digital and physical––occupied by similarly-minded friends and family. Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in [...]

Review: Alice Munro’s “Selected Stories”

Having now read more than 1,000 pages of Alice’s Munro’s prose, it is clear to me that she is a once-in-a-generation kind of talent. This woman appears to produce beautiful phrases with the readiness and ease with which average humans produce carbon dioxide. Her fictional examinations of the human condition are simultaneously plainspoken and impenetrable; [...]