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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 [...]

Review: Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”

Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart has been on my radar for a long time, so I decided to pick it up as part of an effort to explore authors from backgrounds and cultures different from my own. And while that process has generally proved fruitful, I disliked every aspect of this book. Things Fall Apart takes place [...]

Review: Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”

It’s been a long time since I read anything by Ernest Hemingway, and even longer since I first read The Old Man and the Sea in my teens. This time around, the book proved both more and less impressive than I remember. Hemingway’s prose, although clean and efficient, rings somewhat hollow for me now. I think this [...]

Review: Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Poisonwood Bible”

Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible is an unmistakably brilliant book that didn’t quite work for me. Like the Congo jungle in which the majority of the novel takes place, Kingsolver’s prose is dense and overflowing with biotic energy: Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened. First, picture the forest. I want you to be [...]

Review: Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s “From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation”

In the fetid wake of Donald Trump’s election two years ago, I found myself awash in unwelcome questions: How could someone so obviously unfit for office be elected President of the United States? Why had so many of my fellow voters failed to recoil at the blatant petulance and dishonesty that saturated his political persona? [...]

Review: Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt’s “The Coddling of the American Mind”

The Coddling of the American Mind is a book that every American should read. While this was my first encounter with author Greg Lukianoff, I’ve long respected and followed the work of his coauthor, Jonathan Haidt. In the early 2010s, Haidt’s The Righteous Mind was one of my gateway texts into the field of moral psychology, which has captivated [...]

Review: Angie Thomas’s “The Hate U Give”

Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give was recommended by a friend who thought reading it would be a good experience for me, and she was right. I struggled with this novel for a few different reasons, but ultimately found that it was worth the effort. It is always useful to engage with new perspectives, and I think [...]

Review: Yuval Noah Harari’s “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”

Last week, I was one of the lucky audience members who witnessed a live discussion between Yuval Noah Harari and Sam Harris in San Francisco. Harris opened the conversation by saying, “So, Yuval, you have these books that just steamroll over all other books.” That’s pretty much how I felt about Harari’s two previous works, [...]

Review: Elena Ferrante’s “The Story of a New Name”

Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels deserve every bit of the intense praise heaped on them by critics and readers. Even though I have only finished two of the four novels, it seems undeniable to me that this series occupies a superior position in 21st-century literature. The second book picks up right where My Brilliant Friend left off, with all the [...]