Get notified of Words&Dirt updates

Tag: nonfiction

Review: Lucas Spiegel’s “The Weight of Empathy”

I first met Lucas Spiegel about 15 years ago while playing club ultimate frisbee at the University of Oregon. He was a beloved captain of the B-team for several years––a quiet, kind, and always-respectful leader whose simple love for the game inspired younger players like me who were just starting out. I don’t remember Lucas [...]

Review: Bessel van der Kolk’s “The Body Keeps the Score”

Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score was pitched to me by several people as the best book for a crash course in trauma research and modern treatments. It did not disappoint. This impressive summary of discoveries and lessons from van der Kolk’s long career is an essential text for anyone looking to enter the [...]

Review: Tara Westover’s “Educated”

As the son of two parents with postgraduate degrees, the purpose and value of education were central to my upbringing. My folks never pushed me, but they always encouraged my intellectual growth and facilitated my desire to attend college with eager ease. I always knew I was lucky (they wouldn’t let me forget it), but [...]

Review: Terrence Real’s “I Don’t Want to Talk About It”

Hey! Listen up. Let me tell you something. A man ain’t a goddamn ax. Chopping, hacking, busting every goddamn minute of the day. Things get to him. Things he can’t chop down because they’re inside. ––Toni Morrison This passage from Beloved sums up the central message of Terrence Real’s I Don’t Want to Talk About It with uncanny [...]

Review: William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick’s “Motivational Interviewing”

Several friends recommended William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick’s Motivational Interviewing as a reliable and longstanding practice that would be useful for an aspiring counselor to explore. The book is a terrific resource for professionals and laypeople interested in the language of change and dynamics of personal development. Miller and Rollnick originally invented motivational interviewing (MI) in [...]

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: 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: 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: William Rawlins’s “Friendship Matters”

Late last year, I spent several months writing a series of essays on the nature of friendship. I wish I had read William Rawlins’s Friendship Matters before undertaking that process, but unfortunately I only discovered it after completing the essays. This dry but extremely thorough examination of friendship is an essential text for anyone who cares about [...]

Review: Richard Rothstein’s “The Color of Law”

It would be difficult to enumerate all the ways I benefitted and continue to benefit from the geographic circumstances of my upbringing. As a child in Northern California, I assumed that all Americans had relatively equal access to clean air and water, healthy food, comfortable shelter, good schools, and nature. My parents and teachers assured [...]