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

Dwight Macdonald’s Masscult And Midcult

Literary reputations seem to rise and fall with the tides. Consider the fate of Dwight Macdonald, former staple of Time, The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, and once a force in America’s mid-century intellectual scene. He […]

Rowan Williams’ Dostoevsky: Language, Faith & Fiction

Rowan Williams is the former Archbishop of Canterbury, whose tenure from December 2002 to December 2012 saw him presiding over royal weddings and various controversies involving the Church of England’s position on gay marriage or the ordination of female priests. […]

Christopher Caldwell’s The Age Of Entitlement

The thesis of journalist Christopher Caldwell’s latest book is painful but simple: America’s polarization stems from the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which did not just amend or augment the original American constitution, but inaugurated a “rival constitution,” that undermined […]

Peter De Vries’ Slouching Towards Kalamazoo

Both the title and accompanying illustration hint at the comic nature of Peter De Vries’ Slouching Towards Kalamazoo (1983). The slouching is mainly done by Anthony Thrasher, a precocious reader and indifferent student, already held back one grade for his […]

Patrick J. Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed

Much ink has been spilled since 2016 on the subject of liberalism’s demise, but nothing I have yet read surpasses Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed (2018) in insightfulness or force of argument. In measured language, and with requisite restraint, Deneen […]

Yukio Mishima’s The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea

Every new foray I make into the works of Yukio Mishima, Japan’s worst-kept literary secret, expands my appreciation for him as a writer of great conviction. He was a man at odds with his time, a vocal critic of post-war […]

William Ophuls’ Immoderate Greatness: Why Civilizations Fail

William Ophuls was a recent discovery of mine, and reading him made me deeply grateful for the introduction. He is a political scientist by training, with degrees from Princeton and Yale, but an ecologist in practice, one of the earliest […]

Helen Andrews’ Boomers

Rarely do I pre-order a book, but in the case of Helen Andrews, presently the senior editor of The American Conservative and one of the brightest young writers at work today, exceptions must be made. I have long enjoyed her […]

Mircea Eliade’s A History Of Religious Ideas (Vol.3)

In my ongoing effort to better acquaint myself with religious thought, I have arrived at the final volume of Mircea Eliade’s sweeping A History Of Religious Ideas, covering not only the appearance of Islam and the inevitable clashes with Christianity, […]

Eric Newby’s The Last Grain Race

In the Penn’s Landing port of Philadelphia harbour, there is docked a beautiful, four-masted ship, one of the last remaining “windjammer” commercial sailing ships that traversed the world’s oceans bringing grain and other goods. Today, she is a floating restaurant, […]

Simone Weil’s Selected Essays, 1934-1943

Simone Weil is one of the most impressive and interesting 20th century intellectuals, and sadly, until very recently, one of the most overlooked. She was born into a prosperous agnostic Jewish family in Paris in 1909, achieved fluency in Ancient […]

David M. Buss’ The Evolution Of Desire

A conspicuous and disturbing fact about the modern world is that full participation in it demands we accede to a growing number of lies. The mildest dissent is met with stigma and ostracism and character assassination, which is perhaps less […]

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov

Dostoevsky’s final novel and undisputed masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov, was completed in late 1880, less than half a year before his own death. It could not have been otherwise. This one book is a summa of his entire life’s investigation […]

Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone

Before I had heard of Daniel Woodrell, I saw and enjoyed the movie Winter’s Bone, based on his 2006 novel of the same name. I wasn’t alone: audiences and film critics all over the world warmed to the plight of […]

Barbara Demick’s Nothing To Envy

In the past few years, I have spent a great deal of time reading about wretched societies: Russia under Lenin and Stalin, Cambodia under Pol Pot, and China under Mao, to name just three. After a certain point, the tales […]