Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass

I first read Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in 2005, on the 150th anniversary of its publication, and I must confess that it confused me unlike any poetic work I had yet read. Shakespeare, Tennyson, Keats, Poe – these were the poets […]

David Herbert Donald’s Lincoln

David Herbert Donald’s Lincoln, a one-volume biography of America’s 16th and most celebrated president, has been deservedly praised beyond what meager tribute I could hope to offer. I will content myself by saying that this book is a labor of love, […]

Alan Sokol & Jean Bricmont’s Fashionable Nonsense

In 1996, Alan Sokol published a paper in the prestigious academic journal Social Text arguing that quantum gravity is a “social and linguistic construct,” less a fact about the universe than an opinion or perspective, and one requiring “feminist and poststructuralist deconstruction” […]

Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer

First, some words on Eric Hoffer. He was born in 1902 in the Bronx, the child of poor German immigrants. By the age of five, he learned to read in both English and German, but one day, while carrying him […]

Donald Barthelme’s Forty Stories

Donald Barthelme is perhaps one of America’s most influential unread authors. He is not often canonized in “best of” lists, rarely named as someone’s favorite writer, and yet his influence over fiction in America is undeniable. His short stories have […]

Thomas Sowell’s Black Rednecks And White Liberals

Thomas Sowell is something of an iconoclast, but in the best possible way. He is ferociously intelligent, erudite in more disciplines than many can master in a lifetime, and articulate, in speech and writing, to a degree that causes me […]

Sigmund Freud’s Civilization And Its Discontents

Civilization And Its Discontents, although among the last of Freud’s output, remains amongst his most influential and widely read works, probably because it does not stand or fall on Freudian psychoanalytic theory but can profitably be read as a philosophical […]

John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty

John Stuart Mill was one of the 19th century’s most important philosophers and a paragon of academic devotion and moral rigor. He wrote extensively on the social issues of the day, particularly on slavery and women’s rights, and defended his […]

Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies

Evelyn Waugh was a British journalist and author known for his biting social satire and his unfortunate personal failings (racist, elitist, fascist sympathizer…the list is long). Nevertheless, he remains one of the great English comic writers and his second novel, Vile […]

George Saunders’ The Braindead Megaphone

George Saunders’ The Braindead Megaphone is a collection of (largely) non-fiction essays collected from publications like GQ and The New Yorker. This is Saunders’ first non-fiction collection, but I doubt it will be his last: the formula is to take work for which an author […]