Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic

After David Foster Wallace’s death in 2008, a large chunk of his personal library – together with his notes, manuscripts and correspondence – was purchased by the University of Texas, where it can still be perused. And among those volumes […]

Mark Forsyth’s The Etymologicon

What would you do if you had a burning passion for a subject that the wider world – in its infinite wisdom – regarded as irredeemably boring, utterly unworthy of time and attention, let alone expense? If you happen to […]

Bernard Lewis’ What Went Wrong?

Though it was only published in January of 2002, Bernard Lewis’ attempt to explain the historic and ongoing conflict between the Muslim world and the West was completed shortly before September 11, 2001, meaning he did not need the evidence of the […]

Michel Houellebecq’s The Possibility Of An Island

Much of the criticism surrounding Michel Houellebecq’s work in general, and The Possibility Of An Island in particular, revolves around the unhappiness – we might even call it gloom – he generates in his readers. His characters are rarely very sympathetic; there is […]

Will Durant’s The Story Of Philosophy

One of the crown jewels of my father’s library is the 11-volume Story of Civilization, written by Will Durant and his wife Ariel over a period of forty years. The title proclaims the extent of their ambition, and its success – as […]

Stephen King’s It

It has been over 30 years since the first publication of Stephen King’s It, his eighteenth novel, and time has not eroded its influence or dulled its ability to scare. Even as I type, Hollywood is busily at work bringing another incarnation […]

Paul Auster’s Mr. Vertigo

Paul Auster’s Mr. Vertigo begins audaciously, testing our credulity: “I was twelve years old the first time I walked on water.” Are we to take this as a metaphor, a reference to Christ, or a simple declaration of fact? Auster, […]

Lawrence Durrell’s Justine

Lawrence Durrell’s Justine, the first in a series of novels known as the Alexandria Quartet, begins at the ending, with our unnamed narrator on a Greek island, reflecting on the events that left him marooned with a child and no wife, his life […]

Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle (Book Five)

After reading the fourth book of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six-book autobiographical novel, I said that I had come to grasp his design; now, five books in, I feel as if I know the man himself. That’s not so surprising, given […]

Barry Latzer’s The Rise And Fall Of Violent Crime In America

One of the great mysteries of 20th century America is the steep rise in violent crime that began in the 1960s, ravaged the country for nearly three decades, and then suddenly and drastically declined by the late 1990s. For those born, […]