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Tag: progress

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: Rutger Bregman’s “Utopia for Realists”

Just when I think the world is about to explode into a flaming ball of shit, someone like Rutger Bregman comes along to convince me that there’s still hope. Utopia for Realists excited me in the same way that Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now did almost exactly one year ago. These books aren’t similar in style or methodology, nor do I [...]

Review: Kevin J. Mitchell’s “Innate”

People who study the classic scientific debate between nature and nurture tend to reach some version of this conclusion: It’s complicated, both sides make significant contributions to human behavior, and we should never be too quick to attribute a particular outcome solely to genetic or environmental factors. Kevin J. Mitchell’s Innate doesn’t completely overturn this paradigm, but it definitely modifies [...]

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: Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove”

Assuming that Larry McMurtry’s depiction can be trusted, the post-Civil War American frontier must have been a wild and treacherous place. In Lonesome Dove, McMurtry offers up a lively account of cowboy life that blends leather-booted realism with big-sky romanticism. This epic tale gave me lots to think about, even as it left me emotionally placid. This [...]

Review: Peter Turchin’s “War and Peace and War”

I am the kind of person who is always seeking a set of abstract principles within which to contextualize my experience of events and information. This characteristic has often dampened my enthusiasm for the study of history, since my encounters with history books usually amount to poring over lists of occurrences with only the occasional [...]

Review: Peter F. Hamilton’s “Pandora’s Star”

It takes a lot of moxy to publish a nearly-1,000-page book that is only the first half of a story, but that’s exactly what Peter F. Hamilton did with Pandora’s Star. This sprawling space opera came highly recommended from two of my fellow science fiction enthusiasts, but the overall experience was a mixed bag of delights and [...]

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: 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 [...]