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Tag: history

My Year of Bookish Wisdom: 2018

Introduction: Finding my Frame With each passing year, it seems the world is digging a bigger hole for itself. Whether it’s politics, war, technological disruption, hypercapitalism, climate change, or one of so many other global ills, anyone who’s paying attention has an endless list of things to lament. Yet the sun rises. We wake up, [...]

Review: Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”

“All successful books are alike; each failed book fails in its own way.” So reads my ungainly rehashing of one of literature’s most famous opening lines. It takes a fair bit of temerity and not a little arrogance to posit that one of the great works of literary history is a failure, but that is [...]

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: 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: 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 [...]