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

John Steinbeck’s East of Eden

John Steinbeck was among my first literary loves. Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath and various short stories were early high school encounters, and each of them shook me in its own way. In reviewing my various marginalia, it is easy […]

Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape

For all the controversy it has inspired, Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape has a very simple premise: science can and should provide a framework by which moral and immoral actions, laws and social norms are judged. He begins by asking his reader […]

Vladimir Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading

In the Preface to Invitation to a Beheading, Nabokov preempts his reader by dismissing any similarities between his novel and the works of Franz Kafka, claiming that, at the time of its composition, he had yet to even read Kafka. By […]

Christopher Hitchens’ Mortality

Today, December 15th, 2012, is the one-year anniversary of the death of Christopher Hitchens, and I have finally managed to bring myself to read the series of essays he wrote from his hospital bed detailing his thoughts and experiences as […]

Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Other Stories

Few 20th century writers are as unavoidable and, perhaps, as influential, as Franz Kafka. Born in Prague to a German-speaking Jewish family, Kafka published precious little in his lifetime. Posterity owes a great debt to his friend, Max Brod, who […]

Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran

On the syllabus of a class on Shakespeare I took in university, my professor had written, about Hamlet, that his character “is often taken as the highest representation of the human experience, albeit one that is white, upperclass and male.” Her proviso, […]

Steven Pinker’s How the Mind Works

My second foray into the works of Steven Pinker, Harvard professor and cognitive scientist, is his 1997 bestseller How the Mind Works, an ambitious attempt to synthesize competing theories of not only how the mind works – how thoughts and emotions […]

A. E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad and Other Poems

Alfred Edward Housman, born in England on the 26th of March, 1859, was a classical scholar of the highest calibre and a beloved minor poet. His relatively small poetic output focuses on themes of loss, particularly of life and love, […]

Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables

Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables has, for some months now, sat on my bedside table, its 1200 page monolithic mass obscuring my alarm clock and thus confronting me, every morning, with the fact that I had not yet read one of history’s most […]

Martin Amis’ Visiting Mrs Nabokov and Other Excursions

I must begin by giving thanks to my brother, Kenneth, for the gift of this book, my first foray into Amis’ writings; few gifts are better than a well-chosen book, and, for me at least, none more welcome. Visiting Mrs […]

Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

This book was something of an aberration for me: what I read and when is usually the product of much forethought and careful selection out of an ever-growing, increasingly threatening pile of books atop my writing desk. Prior to purchasing […]

Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives

In 1998, Roberto Bolaño published Los Detectives Salvajes and unwittingly catapulted himself into the literary limelight, winning the Rómulo Gallegos International Novel Prize the following year, one of the most prestigious and lucrative of the world’s literary prizes. Nearly a decade would pass […]

David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King

Much is owed to Michael Pietsch, the long-time editor of David Foster Wallace, who out of the boxes of manuscripts, character sketches, notes and errata has crafted a coherent and forceful novel worthy of its departed author. In his preface, […]

Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood

Wise Blood is Flannery O’Connor’s first novel, an amalgam of various short stories centered around Hazel Motes, a World War II veteran experiencing a crisis of faith. In a note appended to the novel’s second edition, O’Connor diagnoses what she sees […]

Roberto Bolaño’s 2666

Roberto Bolaño’s opus 2666 is expansive and ambitious, even by the standards of his earlier The Savage Detectives, and manages to exceed its predecesor in the ominous sense of foreboding that pervades the chaos and entropy of his worlds. This is a novel […]