Patrick O’Brian’s Master & Commander

Appended to the front of my edition of Patrick O’Brian’s Master & Commander, the first in his celebrated Aubrey-Maturin series of historical novels taking place during the Napoleonic Wars, is a diagram of a “square-rigged ship,” characteristic of the era, with […]

Reiner Stach’s Kafka: The Years Of Insight

When we last left Kafka, after the first volume of Reiner Stach’s trilogy of biographies, the year was 1915: Europe was in the middle of a catastrophic war; Kafka had already completed two of his major works, “The Metamorphosis” and The […]

Edward St. Aubyn’s Never Mind

One of the staples of British fiction is the so-called “novel of manners,” which takes a magnifying glass to the customs, manners and mannerisms of a social class. Think, for example, of the works of Jane Austen, or of Thackeray’s […]

Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness Of Being

In “Lightness and Weight,” the opening chapter of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness Of Being, the author ponders the burdens and benefits of two types of lives – the care-free, let’s say, and the weighty – with the paradox of […]

Mario Vargas Llosa’s Notes On The Death Of Culture

Mario Vargas Llosa is Peru’s most successful novelist, and perhaps the living Latin American writer with the widest international following. English readers gained access to his most recent non-fiction book, Notes On The Death Of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and […]

Richard J. Evans’ The Coming Of The Third Reich

One of my most vivid high school memories is of sitting in my history class, back straight, eyes on my notebook, as one of the best teachers I’ve ever had lectured for an hour, without pause, on the rise of […]

Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin

I was finally prompted to pick up Lionel Shriver’s 2003 novel We Need To Talk About Kevin by the murder, earlier this month, of 17 school children and teachers in Parkland, Florida, by a troubled young graduate of the school. […]

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life

I am often accused of pessimism, not least of all by myself, but every so often I have cause to smile. Consider this: almost one year ago, Jordan Peterson was invited to give a talk at McMaster University in Toronto, […]

Christopher Caldwell’s Reflections On The Revolution In Europe

There are subjects about which you cannot write without suffering some measure of abuse and calumny and misrepresentation, no matter how careful your phrasings or well marshalled your facts. Historically, these subjects have included crime, poverty, race and racism, and […]

Philip K. Dick’s Paycheck And Other Stories

Of the many and glaring gaps in my reading, perhaps the most conspicuous involves genre writing in general, and science fiction writing in particular. I have never read Asimov, Wells, Clarke or Le Guin, not to mention William Gibson or […]