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Review: Robin Hobb’s “Ship of Magic”

Robin Hobb’s Ship of Magic is an ambitious work of fantasy that doesn’t deliver on the promise of its good ideas. The novel takes place on “The Cursed Shores,” a colorful coastal landscape where swashbuckling and supernatural forces collide. Hobb’s crisp description and imagery bring The Cursed Shores to life, inviting the reader on a journey that [...]

Review: David Wallace-Wells’s “The Uninhabitable Earth”

David Wallace-Wells’s The Uninhabitable Earth is by far the most upsetting book I have ever read. Given the number of decades we’ve allowed to slip by without doing anything to properly combat climate change, the problem is now so superlatively fucked that only a book as grim and gruesome as this one can do it justice. And [...]

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: “The Art of Raising a Puppy” by The Monks of New Skete

My wife and I are about a month and change away from adopting our first puppy. Having never raised a dog as a couple before, we decided to read up on best practices so we could be adequately prepared. It’s hard to imagine a better book to serve this purpose than The Art of Raising a [...]

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 “Judas Unchained”

Peter F. Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga would be a strong contender for the most disappointing work of science fiction I’ve ever read. This 2000-page duology, which begins with Pandora’s Star and concludes with Judas Unchained, reads like the product of an incorrigibly-garrulous and testosterone-poisoned 16-year-old boy with doctoral degrees in materials science and particle physics. It’s a dismal example of what happens when [...]