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 […]

Curzio Malaparte’s The Skin

The most disturbing book I read in 2020 was Curzio Malaparte’s semi-fictional account of the liberation of Naples between 1943 and 1945. I say “semi-fictional” despite the fact that Malaparte (real name Curt Erich Suckert) was really there, both as […]

Ernst Jünger’s The Storm Of Steel

I have a special fascination with war. My grandfather fought in World War I, and two of his sons – my uncles – served in World War II. I think of them every time I read a war novel or memoir, […]

Ryszard Kapuściński’s Travels With Herodotus

Of the many faults I could charge myself with, a preference for familiarity and mundanity, for the comfort of routine, troubles me the most, the more so as many of my closest family members are inveterate travellers and novelty seekers, […]

Allan Gurganus’ White People

At the close of every year, I survey the neat stacks of books that represent the last twelve months of reading, and take stock of what I’ve read, reminiscing over the writers whose worlds I lived in. One of the […]

Elijah Anderson’s Code Of The Street

Elijah Anderson is one of America’s most distinguished sociologists, the Sterling Professor of Sociology at Yale University and director of the Urban Ethnography Project, a Yale-based initiative founded to study and disseminate knowledge about America’s inner cities. His 1999 book […]

J.M. Coetzee’s Late Essays, 2006-2017

John Maxwell Coetzee is justly celebrated as one of the greatest living novelists, a recipient of nearly every major literary award – some of them more than once – but he is also, perhaps not surprisingly, one of our greatest […]

Michael Lind’s The New Class War

Following the victory of Donald Trump in 2016, and the rise of Eurosceptic parties in Britain and Europe, a paradigm took hold in the popular press, on both sides of the Atlantic: this populist uprising was a xenophobic, nativist backlash […]

John Gray’s The Silence Of Animals

I write at the close of a terrible and eventful year, a year that has checked the optimism of even the most enthusiastic champions of progress and offers little hope that the year to come will prove any better. In […]

Paul Claudel’s Five Great Odes

Paul Claudel was a famous French poet and dramatist, and a six-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was something of a controversial figure before the outbreak of World War II, an outspoken Catholic in the avowedly anti-clerical […]

Derek Raymond’s I Was Dora Suarez

I have known for some time that the works of Derek Raymond (real name Robert William Arthur Cook) are difficult to come by, but only now, after completing the fourth book in his celebrated Factory quintet, have I perhaps understood […]

Graeme Wood’s The Way Of The Strangers

In the short interim between my completion of Graeme Wood’s The Way Of The Strangers, one journalist’s account of his encounters with ISIS members and sympathizers and the belief system that informs their worldview, and my beginning this blog post, […]

Irvin D. Yalom’s Becoming Myself

I can’t now recall what made me reach for Irvin Yalom’s memoir. I had never heard of him, prior to picking up this book, so it wasn’t his sterling reputation as a professor and practitioner of psychiatry, or his successful […]

Paul Fussell’s Class

My entirely accidental discovery of the late Paul Fussell was one of the high points of October, and his 1983 book Class: A Guide Through the American Class System kept me in good humour through what was an otherwise cold […]

Janice Fiamengo’s Sons Of Feminism

My introduction to Janice Fiamengo came seven years ago, when she gave a presentation at the University of Toronto entitled “What’s Wrong With Women’s Studies?” The presentation itself was delayed, owing to the efforts of the usual cabal of rabble-rousing […]