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

Jesmyn Ward’s Men We Reaped

Jesmyn Ward first came to my attention through her 2011 interview in The Paris Review, where she boldly staked her claim not to the parochial concerns of race or gender – however valuable these may be – but to the […]

José Saramago’s Blindness

Before his death in 2010, at the age of 87, the Portuguese novelist José Saramago was one of the world’s most decorated writers, winner of both the Nobel Prize and the prestigious America Award. His books have sold millions of […]

John Williams’ Nothing But The Night

My infatuation with John Williams continues, this time with his first novel, Nothing But The Night, written when he was just 22 years old, stationed in Burma during the Second World War. Even that statement downplays the conditions of its […]

Mark Lilla’s The Stillborn God

A gulf has opened up, within the Western world, between those who believe that religion ought to have a role in determining the political ends pursued by a nation, and those who have done everything in their power to restrain […]

Ryszard Kapuściński’s The Emperor

Who was Ryszard Kapuściński? The small biography appended to the end of The Emperor is admittedly terse: “Ryszard Kapuściński was born in 1932. During four decades reporting on Asia, Latin America, and Africa, he befriended Che Guevara, Salvador Allende, and […]

Mircea Eliade’s A History Of Religious Ideas (Vol.1)

In my continuing effort to shore up the glaring gaps in my education, I arrived at the work of Mircea Eliade, perhaps the 20th century’s most famous scholar of religion. Born in Bucharest, Romania, in 1907, Eliade manifested an early […]

Victor Sebestyen’s Lenin

Every year, some two million people visit Moscow’s Red Square, in the very centre of the city, to gaze on the preserved corpse of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by his adopted name: Lenin. This ghastly presentation was a fate […]

Alexander Herzen’s My Past & Thoughts

By a happy accident, I began reading a modern biography of Vladimir Lenin, architect of the Soviet Union, just as I was finishing up the memoirs of another Russian revolutionary, Alexander Herzen, and the similarities and dissimilarities between the two […]

John Gray’s Straw Dogs

John Gray is an English philosopher, and the former “School Professor of European Thought” at the London School of Economics. He came to my attention thanks to his very public spate with Steven Pinker, conducted over the course of years, […]

Charles D’Ambrosio’s The Dead Fish Museum

Prior to reading The Dead Fish Museum, Charles D’Ambrosio was to me only a name, vaguely familiar but with the unreality of rumour. I had read nothing he had written, nor seen him recommended by the writers and critics I’m […]