Get notified of Words&Dirt updates

Tag: nature

Review: Mark Johnson and George Lakoff’s “Philosophy in the Flesh”

In a recent discussion, a friend of mine identified a conspicuous lacuna in our cultural conversations about the human mind and technology. This lacuna, he said, arose from a tendency to treat the brain as a discrete, self-contained information-processing and experience-producing system. When we do this, it becomes easier (albeit still daunting), to imagine successfully [...]

Review: Geraldine Brooks’s “Year of Wonders”

Geraldine Brooks’s Year of Wonders is a fictionalized account of the 1665 plague outbreak in Eyam, England. Upon realizing its situation, this small but noble village decided to self-quarantine in an effort to stop the disease from spreading to other communities. With few verifiable details about exactly what occurred in the fourteen months the residents of Eyam [...]

Notes From a Pandemic: April 18th, 2020

Greetings, dear friends of the present and curious citizens of the future. Up to this point, these journals have focused almost entirely on how my habits and modes of thought have been disrupted and recast by a powerful pathogen. I’d like to take a moment now to reflect on the myriad ways in which life [...]

Review: Ted Chiang’s “Exhalation”

Each story in Ted Chiang’s Exhalation feels whispered onto the page from a different dimension. In a voice both lyrical and mysterious, Chiang toys with classical philosophical questions and contemporary scientific problems, whipping up beautiful narrative blends that tease, inspire, baffle and delight. The main thing that makes this book stand out is the impressive number of [...]

Review: Richard Powers’s “The Overstory”

I grew up and still reside in Humboldt County, California. My body-mind came of age amidst giant Redwoods and Douglas Firs, many of which grace my family’s six-acre parcel. It’s no exaggeration to say that these majestic beings were my companions and castles, brimming with all the mysterious life-energy a boy’s imagination could ever need. [...]

Review: Ezra Klein’s “Why We’re Polarized”

Ezra Klein is one of the best political analysts of my generation, and is quickly becoming one of our most important public intellectuals. The Ezra Klein Show produces top-quality audio content several times a week, and Klein’s keen interviewing skills, nuanced articulations of complex problems, and commitment to structural analysis are second to none. I’ve been anticipating the [...]

Review: Stephen Wolfram’s “Adventures of a Computational Explorer”

Note: Wolfram Research, Inc. was kind enough to send me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If there were a contest for the world’s most self-satisfied human, I’d nominate Stephen Wolfram. This brainiac was publishing physics papers at the age of 15, received a PhD at 20, wrote a [...]

My Year of Bookish Wisdom: 2019

My Year of Bookish Wisdom 2019: War is Present and Peace is Possible As 2019 comes to a close, people around the world will be using the arbitrary milestone of a new decade to reflect on the last ten years and plan for the next ten. I wish I could say that either of these [...]

Review: Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”

After a captivating but ultimately bitter encounter with Anna Karenina last year, I was worried that Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace would produce similar results. To my surprise and delight, however, War and Peace helped me finally understand why Tolstoy’s work occupies such an important position in literary history. Those determined enough to commit to this epic novel will discover a [...]

What is Friendship? Part Four and Conclusion

Note: This is the final section of a four-part essay. If you haven’t already done so, please begin with the Introduction and Part One. Part Four: Friendship is the crucible in which our global identity should be forged My ethical research and experience have taught me that good in the abstract is accessed most effectively [...]