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Tag: history

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 [...]

Review: Adam Hochschild’s “King Leopold’s Ghost”

I am fortunate to have a mother who recommended this book and a father-in-law who gifted it to me. Given their convergent enthusiasm for this fascinating but grim piece of history, I expected something unique. Even so, I was unprepared for the wild ride of Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost. This book is a quintessential example [...]

Review: Richard Wright’s “Black Boy”

Recently, the desire arose in me to read something that might help me better understand the internal perspectives of African-Americans and my country’s ignominious legacy of slavery. My mother, who spent a long career teaching American history to undergraduates, recommended Richard Wright’s autobiography, Black Boy. And although I expected the book to be good, I didn’t anticipate [...]

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: Mathew A. Foust’s “Confucianism and American Philosophy”

It’s been more than a decade since I walked into my first Philosophy 101 discussion group at the University of Oregon and noticed a diminutive, sparkly-eyed man at the front of the room. There’s no way I could have predicted how profoundly my life would change due to the influence of this man, who spent [...]

Review: Van Jones’s “Beyond the Messy Truth”

In this era of increasingly putrid political division, there are lots of books out there attempting to diagnose America’s problems and suggest workable solutions. And although I’m not convinced that Van Jones’s Beyond the Messy Truth is necessarily the best of them, if I had the ability to force all Americans to read this book, I would [...]

Review: Cixin Liu’s “Remembrance of Earth’s Past”

Cixin’s Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past is a perfect and peerless narrative achievement. Not only is it the best piece of science fiction I’ve ever read, but it would also be a strong contender for my favorite story of all time. I think that giving away any major plot points or world-building features would do a disservice [...]

Review: Antonio Damasio’s “The Strange Order of Things”

Antonio Damasio’s impact on my intellectual development would be difficult to overstate. I first encountered his work when I was assigned The Feeling of What Happens for a philosophy of mind course in college. That book fundamentally transformed how I understood myself as a thinking, feeling being, and when I read Self Comes to Mind a few years later, [...]

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 [...]