Book Reviews

Madeline Miller

Little, Brown and Company

“War has always seemed to me a foolish choice for men. Whatever they win from it, they will have only a handful of years to enjoy before they die. More likely they will perish trying.”

“Well, there is the matter of glory. But I wish you could’ve spoken to our general. You might have saved us all a lot of trouble.”

“What was the fight over?”

“Let me see if I can remember the list.” (Odysseus) ticked his fingers. “Vengeance. Lust. Hubris. Greed. Power. What have I forgotten? Ah, yes, vanity and pique.”

“Sounds like a usual day among the gods.”

                                from Circe

 

Jon Gosch

Latah Books

“So how did the suspect enter your warehouse?”

“Just walked right on in.”

“Was there forcible entry?”

“They certainly had no right to be in here.”

“Yes, but how did they gain access to the warehouse? Did they punch through a window or break the lock on the door?”

“Wasn’t any lock on the door.”

“I see.”  

                                from Deep Fire Rise

 

Richard White

Oxford University Press

Nineteenth-century Americans were a sickly people. The decline of virtually every measure of physical well-being was at the heart of a largely urban Gilded Age environmental crisis that people recognized but could neither name nor fully understand. By the most basic standards—life spans, infant death rate, and bodily stature, which reflected childhood health and nutrition—American life grew worse over the course of the nineteenth century…An average white ten-year old American boy in 1880, born at the beginning of the Gilded Age and living through it, could expect to die at age forty-eight. His height would be five feet, two inches. He would be shorter and have a briefer life than his Revolutionary forebears.

  from The Republic for Which It Stands

 

  

Stephen McCauley

Flatiron Books

(David) thought of his true mission as helping his teenaged clients gain a realistic understanding of who they were and what they could achieve in life once they stepped away from their parents’ self-aggrandizing fantasies of them. Their parents had been so insistent about instilling self-esteem, they’d fallen into the trap of telling their kids they could do anything. Unfortunately, almost everyone interprets doing “anything” as doing the same three or four glamorous and impressive things—going to Harvard, retiring before ever working, giving an Oscar acceptance speech, and becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg, except hot.

                                from My Ex-Life

 

  

Meg Wolitzer

Riverhead Books

The light touch of this powerful woman was profound. So too was her choice to use her power in this tender way. Maybe that’s what we want from women, Greer thought… Maybe that’s what we imagine it would be like to have a woman lead us. When women got into positions of power, they calibrated and recalibrated tenderness and strength, modulating and correcting. Power and love didn’t often live side by side. If one came in, the other might go out.

                    from The Female Persuasion

 

  

André Aciman

Picador

“Right now you may not want to feel anything…If there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don’t snuff it out, don’t be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we’d want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything—what a waste!”  

                    from Call Me by Your Name

 

  

Ursula K. Le Guin

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Because competition for primacy, for literary supremacy, doesn’t seem as glamorously possible for women as it does for men, the whole idea of singular greatness—of there being one great anything—may not have the hold on a woman’s imagination that it has on a man’s…The hell with The Great American Novel. We have all the great novels we need right now—and right now some man or woman is writing a new one we won’t know we needed till we read it.

                          from No Time to Spare

 

  

Jesmyn Ward

Scribner

I cough into the blanket, partly from the smell of Mam dying, partly from knowing that she dying; it catches in the back of my throat and I know it’s a sob, but my face is in the sheets and nobody can see me cry…

“She [Leonie] hates me,” I say.

“No, she love you. She don’t know how to show it. And her love for herself and her love for Michael—well, it gets in the way. It confuse her.”

I wipe my eyes on the sheets by shaking my head and look up…

Mam’s looking at me straight on...“You ain’t never going to have that problem.”

                     from Sing, Unburied, Sing

 

  

Yuval Noah Harari

HarperCollins

Homo sapiens is likely to upgrade itself step by step, merging with robots and computers in the process, until our descendants will look back and realise that they are no longer the kind of animal that wrote the Bible, built the Great Wall of China and laughed at Charlie Chaplin’s antics…In pursuit of health, happiness and power, humans will gradually change first one of their features and then another, and another, until they are no longer human.

                               from Homo Deus

 

  

Neil deGrasse Tyson

W. W. Norton

 

…unrelenting skeptics might declare that “seeing is believing”—an approach to life that works well in many endeavors, including mechanical engineering, fishing, and perhaps dating. It’s also good, apparently, for residents of Missouri. But it doesn’t make for good science. Science is not just about seeing, it’s about measuring, preferably with something that’s not your own eyes, which are inextricably conjoined with the baggage of your brain. That baggage is more often than not a satchel of preconceived ideas, post-conceived notions, and outright bias.

      from Astrophysics for People in a Hurry