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Review: Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove”

Assuming that Larry McMurtry’s depiction can be trusted, the post-Civil War American frontier must have been a wild and treacherous place. In Lonesome Dove, McMurtry offers up a lively account of cowboy life that blends leather-booted realism with big-sky romanticism. This epic tale gave me lots to think about, even as it left me emotionally placid. This [...]

Review: Peter Turchin’s “War and Peace and War”

I am the kind of person who is always seeking a set of abstract principles within which to contextualize my experience of events and information. This characteristic has often dampened my enthusiasm for the study of history, since my encounters with history books usually amount to poring over lists of occurrences with only the occasional [...]

Review: Peter F. Hamilton’s “Judas Unchained”

Peter F. Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga would be a strong contender for the most disappointing work of science fiction I’ve ever read. This 2000-page duology, which begins with Pandora’s Star and concludes with Judas Unchained, reads like the product of an incorrigibly-garrulous and testosterone-poisoned 16-year-old boy with doctoral degrees in materials science and particle physics. It’s a dismal example of what happens when [...]

Review: Chris Voss’s “Never Split the Difference”

Chris Voss spent decades as a top hostage negotiator for the FBI––an experience that granted him a unique set of skills and perspectives. In Never Split the Difference, Voss and co-author Tahl Raz articulate these skills and perspectives, promising to demystify the art of negotiation and leave readers better prepared to negotiate with increased confidence [...]

Review: Peter F. Hamilton’s “Pandora’s Star”

It takes a lot of moxy to publish a nearly-1,000-page book that is only the first half of a story, but that’s exactly what Peter F. Hamilton did with Pandora’s Star. This sprawling space opera came highly recommended from two of my fellow science fiction enthusiasts, but the overall experience was a mixed bag of delights and [...]

Review: Marcus Aurelius’s “Meditations”

This could be nothing more than selection bias based on my media preferences, but it seems to me that Stoicism is enjoying a modest revival in American intellectual life. References to this gritty, staid philosophical tradition are plentiful in the podcasts and articles I’ve consumed in recent months. I’ve never read any of the foundational [...]

My Year of Bookish Wisdom: 2018

Introduction: Finding my Frame With each passing year, it seems the world is digging a bigger hole for itself. Whether it’s politics, war, technological disruption, hypercapitalism, climate change, or one of so many other global ills, anyone who’s paying attention has an endless list of things to lament. Yet the sun rises. We wake up, [...]

Review: Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”

“All successful books are alike; each failed book fails in its own way.” So reads my ungainly rehashing of one of literature’s most famous opening lines. It takes a fair bit of temerity and not a little arrogance to posit that one of the great works of literary history is a failure, but that is [...]

Review: Michael Lewis’s “The Fifth Risk”

Michael Lewis has emerged as a critical figure in the modern American quest for self-understanding. Even for readers like me who’ve never picked up one of his books, his reputation as a kind of national “explainer-in-chief” looms large. I’m not sure what exactly drew me to The Fifth Risk instead of his better-known works, but I’m guessing [...]

Review: Derek Parfit’s “Reasons and Persons”

Every now and then, I come across a book that painfully reveals the limitations of my intellect and critical faculties. Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons is one such book. This dense, esoteric text coaxed me right up to the cliff’s edge of my philosophical comprehension, and then shoved me off without ceremony. Even so, I had a [...]