Get notified of Words&Dirt updates

Tag: adolescence

Review: Kristin Hannah’s “The Nightingale”

“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.” (1) So begins Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, which gripped me from the opening sentence and didn’t let go until I tore through the final pages. [...]

Review: Claire North’s “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August”

Claire North’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is the fantastical tale of a man with a peculiar affliction––or a gift, depending on your point of view. Harry August is born a British citizen in 1919, lives an undistinguished life as a groundskeeper, and dies seventy years later. But instead of entering an afterlife or [...]

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: 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: Steve Duck’s “Friends, For Life”

When I told a dear friend that I was preparing to write an essay on the concept of friendship, he recommended Steve Duck’s Friends, for Life. I was intrigued by this obscure text, which was originally published in 1983 but then revised and released as a second edition in 1991. In this slim handbook for readers interested [...]

Review: Robin Hobb’s “Ship of Magic”

Robin Hobb’s Ship of Magic is an ambitious work of fantasy that doesn’t deliver on the promise of its good ideas. The novel takes place on “The Cursed Shores,” a colorful coastal landscape where swashbuckling and supernatural forces collide. Hobb’s crisp description and imagery bring The Cursed Shores to life, inviting the reader on a journey that [...]

Review: George Eliot’s “Middlemarch”

“The right word is always a power, and communicates its definiteness to our action.” From time to time, I stumble across a novel that invites me to completely rediscover the inexhaustible elegance of the English language. George Eliot’s Middlemarch is one of those rare works. This exceptional story made me laugh and cry, sometimes simultaneously, and rejuvenated [...]

Review: Kevin J. Mitchell’s “Innate”

People who study the classic scientific debate between nature and nurture tend to reach some version of this conclusion: It’s complicated, both sides make significant contributions to human behavior, and we should never be too quick to attribute a particular outcome solely to genetic or environmental factors. Kevin J. Mitchell’s Innate doesn’t completely overturn this paradigm, but it definitely modifies [...]

Review: Kiese Laymon’s “Heavy”

The best thing any story can do is bring people closer together. Sometimes people derive common cause from a story. Sometimes lovers find each other in the dark because the story turns the lights out. Sometimes enemies discover in the story one another’s mortal weakness. Sometimes the reader and author, separate in every way the [...]

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 [...]