Category » Book Reviews

True wit is Nature to advantage dressed,
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed;
Something whose truth convinced at sight we find,
That gives us back the image of our mind.
-Alexander Pope

Osip Mandelstam’s Black Earth

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who not only lived to witness the collapse of the Soviet Union but played a major role in bringing it about, once observed that, “For a country to have a great writer […] is like having another government. […]

Theodore Dalrymple’s Not With A Bang But A Whimper

Something I’ve been wondering, of late: did the Romans of the fourth century AD know that their empire was in decline? Certainly there were philosophers and politicians expressing their dismay, but did the average man and woman know that their […]

Augustine Sedgewick’s Coffeeland

No single product better exemplifies our global world than coffee, produced somewhere and consumed everywhere. Millions of people have come to take their morning cup for granted, incorporating it into their daily lives, relying on its caffeine injection to get […]

Julio Cortázar’s Blow-Up And Other Stories

The Brussels-born Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar was one of the figureheads of the Latin American Boom, the literary movement that introduced Europe and eventually the English-speaking world to the remarkable talents of South America – Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa, Colombia’s […]

James J. Heckman’s Giving Kids A Fair Chance

There is a very easy and reliable way to measure the sincerity of someone bemoaning “inequality,” one of the most loaded words in modern politics, and that is to assess their focus on early childhood development. Long before two people […]

Robert Musil’s Posthumous Papers of a Living Author

The Austrian author Robert Musil is best known for The Man Without Qualities, a sprawling, 1,700-page opus regularly ranked alongside Ulysses and In Search Of Lost Time among the 20th century’s greatest novels, but it remained incomplete until his death […]

James Burnham’s Suicide Of The West

James Burnham passed away in 1987, the year I was born, but he’s experiencing a second life as his writings – many previously out of print – are finding new favor among the growing dissident Right, not only in America but […]

Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer

I don’t yet know how to define our modern malaise, but I see it everywhere. Our obesity epidemic, frequently blamed on sugar and processed foods, is at bottom a spiritual crisis, a desperate attempt to fill a nameless void. Another […]

Charles Murray’s Facing Reality

On or about May 25, 2020, American society went insane. The death of George Floyd, recorded for the world to see, marked a turning point in American culture and politics as surely as the assassination of JFK or the felling […]

Kevin Myers’ Watching The Door

The title of Kevin Myers’ memoir of life in Northern Ireland during the period we now know, euphemistically, as “the Troubles,” won’t make much sense to readers until they’ve almost turned the final page, but that’s what subtitles are for, […]

Robert Walser’s Jakob von Gunten

Robert Walser is one of the 20th century’s forgotten masters. Born in Biel, Switzerland, in 1878, the seventh of eight children, to an unstable mother and a father who struggled to make a living as a bookbinder, Walser’s formal schooling […]

John W. Dower’s Embracing Defeat

John W. Dower is an American historian and former “Ford International Professor of History” at MIT, best known for his 1999 work Embracing Defeat: Japan In The Wake Of World War II, which won nearly every award for which it […]

Joseph Massey’s Illocality

Joseph Massey is an American poet possessed with rare and authentic talent. He came to my attention two years ago, when he published a personal essay in Quillette about his experience of being “cancelled,” of having his reputation tarred and […]

Robert Putnam’s Our Kids

The most consequential shift in American family life after World War II occurred entirely along class lines, handicapping children born to growing numbers of lower- and middle-class parents in ways that would have been considered shocking and unacceptable to every […]

Joseph Frank’s Dostoevsky: The Mantle of the Prophet, 1871-1881

The concluding book of Joseph Frank’s magisterial five-volume Dostoevsky biography picks up where the last left off: Dostoevsky has returned to Russia from extended European travels, designed to give him temporary relief from his financial obligations. He has published three […]