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My Year of Bookish Wisdom: 2020

My Year of Bookish Wisdom 2020: Superlatives on Strike! You heard it here first: I am predicting that, in 2021, superlatives in every language around the world will join together in a globe-spanning strike. 2020 was just too much––they can’t take it anymore. “Worst” just collapsed from exhaustion and has been confined to quarters, “hardest” [...]

Review: Lily Brooks-Dalton’s “Good Morning, Midnight”

Lily Brooks-Dalton’s Good Morning, Midnight was the perfect book to wrap up a tough and tumultuous year. This short, dazzling novel is a mournful but energetic meditation on humanity’s struggle to find meaning and connection in a vast and threat-strewn universe. Brooks-Dalton’s narrative toggles back and forth between two plot threads, both set against the ominous backdrop [...]

Review: Carl Rogers’s “On Becoming a Person”

When I decided to pursue a career in counseling, a mentor recommended Carl Rogers as one of the key historical figures in the development of modern psychotherapy. On Becoming a Person is a collection of essays originally published between 1951 and 1961, each presenting a portion of Rogers’s insights from over thirty years of counseling and psychological [...]

Review: Toni Morrison’s “Sula”

Sula is the first Toni Morrison novel I’ve read, but I’m certain it won’t be the last. This captivating tale of two Black girls growing up in Bottom––a hilly, early-20th-century Ohio town––left me with no questions whatsoever about why Morrison is a core member of the American literary canon. Though her characters and story are plenty [...]

Review: Tom Sweterlitsch’s “The Gone World”

It feels odd to call Tom Sweterlitsch’s The Gone World a ”fun” read, but fun is a whole lot of what I had while reading it. In this riveting and extremely grim science fiction thriller, the classic detective novel gets a time travel twist. Sweterlitsch’s imagination demonstrates impressive nuance and scope, and his prose slices the mind like [...]

Review: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov”

I first read Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov about a decade ago, and shortly thereafter forgot almost everything about it. Upon revisiting this long and strange book, the reasons I found it so forgettable are more obvious, as are the fine qualities that make it an indisputable classic. This story of three brothers––of their flaws, torments, and moments [...]

Review: Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman’s “Big Friendship”

Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman’s Big Friendship is a little book with a lot of heart. Having written an essay on the nature of friendship last year, this is a topic about which I am very passionate. Sow and Friedman’s take on the subject is energetic, and in its best moments manages to also be profound. I’ll [...]

Review: Madeleine Thien’s “Do Not Say We Have Nothing”

In his 2011 book Confucian Role Ethics, philosopher Roger T. Ames reflects on the relationship between individual identity, family dynamics, and music in the Confucian tradition: The timelessness and broad appeal of the teachings of Confucius begins from the insight that the life of almost every human being, regardless of where or when, is played out within [...]

Review: Charles Wheelan’s “Naked Statistics”

Charles Wheelan’s Naked Statistics provides a serviceable summary of a field most people don’t properly understand and often misinterpret. “The paradox of statistics,” Wheelan writes, “is that they are everywhere––from batting averages to presidential polls––but the discipline itself has a reputation for being uninteresting and inaccessible” (xii). He makes a spirited though imperfect effort to resolve this paradox [...]

Review: Ada Palmer’s “The Will to Battle”

The Will to Battle, the penultimate installment of Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota Quartet, is somewhat stranger than its predecessors but every bit as brilliant and entertaining. It’s an in-between tale––a bridge from one place to another. Such stories always run the risk of being needlessly convoluted or just tiresome, but Palmer manages to keep the pacing and [...]