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Tag: mind

Review: Neal Stephenson’s “Fall; or, Dodge in Hell”

Like Swiss Army Knives, Neal Stephenson’s novels attempt to imbue a singular instrument with a wide range of utility. These attempts have produced both elegant masterpieces and convoluted kluges, but on the whole I think Stephenson’s recent work has solidified his position as one of his generation’s most ambitious and accomplished storytellers. Fall; or Dodge [...]

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: 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: Marcus Aurelius’s “Meditations”

This could be nothing more than selection bias based on my media preferences, but it seems to me that Stoicism is enjoying a modest revival in American intellectual life. References to this gritty, staid philosophical tradition are plentiful in the podcasts and articles I’ve consumed in recent months. I’ve never read any of the foundational [...]

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, [...]

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: 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: 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: Peter Godfrey-Smith’s “Other Minds”

As humanity finally learns (or is forced) to confront the reality and imminent dangers of climate change, we’re going to need every bit of mental flexibility and creativity we can muster. There has probably never been a moment in history when it was more critical for us to explore and appreciate types of intelligence different from [...]