Get notified of Words&Dirt updates

Tag: nature

My Year of Bookish Wisdom: 2020

My Year of Bookish Wisdom 2020: Superlatives on Strike! You heard it here first: I am predicting that, in 2021, superlatives in every language around the world will join together in a globe-spanning strike. 2020 was just too much––they can’t take it anymore. “Worst” just collapsed from exhaustion and has been confined to quarters, “hardest” [...]

Review: Lily Brooks-Dalton’s “Good Morning, Midnight”

Lily Brooks-Dalton’s Good Morning, Midnight was the perfect book to wrap up a tough and tumultuous year. This short, dazzling novel is a mournful but energetic meditation on humanity’s struggle to find meaning and connection in a vast and threat-strewn universe. Brooks-Dalton’s narrative toggles back and forth between two plot threads, both set against the ominous backdrop [...]

Review: Tom Sweterlitsch’s “The Gone World”

It feels odd to call Tom Sweterlitsch’s The Gone World a ”fun” read, but fun is a whole lot of what I had while reading it. In this riveting and extremely grim science fiction thriller, the classic detective novel gets a time travel twist. Sweterlitsch’s imagination demonstrates impressive nuance and scope, and his prose slices the mind like [...]

Review: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov”

I first read Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov about a decade ago, and shortly thereafter forgot almost everything about it. Upon revisiting this long and strange book, the reasons I found it so forgettable are more obvious, as are the fine qualities that make it an indisputable classic. This story of three brothers––of their flaws, torments, and moments [...]

Notes From a Pandemic: October 28th, 2020

Greetings, dear friends of the present and curious citizens of the future. In February, a month before the COVID-19 pandemic upended daily life in America and around the world, I spent the better part of a week in Sonoma County and the Bay Area. I was there to share time and music with some of [...]

Review: Ada Palmer’s “The Will to Battle”

The Will to Battle, the penultimate installment of Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota Quartet, is somewhat stranger than its predecessors but every bit as brilliant and entertaining. It’s an in-between tale––a bridge from one place to another. Such stories always run the risk of being needlessly convoluted or just tiresome, but Palmer manages to keep the pacing and [...]

Review: Scott Barry Kaufman’s “Transcend”

In 2020––a year painfully riddled with death, loss, and uncertainty––cultivating our capacities for compassion, love, and flourishing seems both harder and more necessary than ever. In this crucial project, I can think of no better text to guide us than Scott Barry Kaufman‘s Transcend. This enlightening and joyous voyage into humanity’s psychological history, present, and possible futures arrived [...]

Review: Ada Palmer’s “Seven Surrenders”

Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota Quartet continues to delight and astound me. Since Seven Surrenders was originally planned as the second half of Too Like the Lightning, please start with my review of that book; I won’t repeat key information about the series that was covered there. Better yet, just stop reading this review and get your hands on a copy of Too [...]

Review: Ada Palmer’s “Too Like the Lightning”

I discovered Ada Palmer via a couple interviews on one of my favorite podcasts, Singularity.FM  (Interview #1, Interview #2). Even if you have no interest in this series or science fiction in general, I highly recommend that you listen to these interviews. If you do, you’ll quickly find yourself enthralled by what is surely one [...]

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 [...]