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Tag: climate change

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: 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: 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 [...]

Working It Out: Reflections on a Five-Year Experiment

Introduction: How I Got Here Five years ago, in October 2013, I committed myself to an experiment that felt both comfortably secure and quite risky. After teaching abroad in Japan for a year, I returned to my hometown in Humboldt County, CA, moved in with my mother and girlfriend, and actively eschewed all forms of [...]

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: Andrew Yang’s “The War on Normal People”

Like many others, I discovered Andrew Yang by way of his excellent interview with Sam Harris last month. Yang, who is running for President in 2020, immediately struck me as honest, intelligent, well-informed, and profoundly reasonable––a heroic foil for the repugnant personalities that dominate today’s national politics. Yang’s central campaign issue is the institution of [...]

Review: Audrey Schulman’s “Theory of Bastards”

I expect any worthwhile novel to touch on a smattering of my intellectual interests, weaving them together in a fresh and entertaining fashion. It is rare, however, for a single story to engage with a manifold range of subjects about which I am deeply passionate, and rarer still for that synthesis to prove itself more [...]

Review: Steven Pinker’s “Enlightenment Now”

Steven Pinker was one of the first writers to kindle my passion for scientific thinking. When I read The Blank Slate in 2011, it exposed me to a host of intellectual disciplines that my undergraduate training in philosophy had neglected––most notably evolutionary psychology, skepticism, and the empirical foundations of human nature. Nearly a decade later, I am [...]

My Year of Bookish Wisdom: 2017

Introduction: A Portent of Chaos Those who know me well understand that my vision of humanity’s possible futures runs the gamut from wildly optimistic to oppressively grim. My cynical tendencies are received from my father, a man many have called “Eeyore“ after the droopy donkey that doled out gloomy auguries to the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre [...]

Review: Lauren Groff’s “Arcadia”

For the first hundred pages or so, Lauren Groff’s Arcadia fooled me into thinking it was something less than a spectacular novel. It begins on an eponymous commune in western New York State during the 1970s, hitting all the tiresome notes one expects from a narrative about people trying to “beat the system” with hard work and [...]