Book Reviews

André Aciman


“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


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


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




Robert Michael Pyle



…hundreds of readers have written or cornered me and put it to me: “So—do you believe, or not?” I never give them satisfaction, because the fact is, I still don’t know. The best of the evidence is not easily dismissed and is sometimes compelling. But proof—in the form of big artifacts like bone or tiny molecules of DNA—continues to be maddeningly elusive.

                from Where Bigfoot Walks




David Grann


All efforts to solve the mystery had faltered. Because of anonymous threats, the justice of the peace was forced to stop convening inquests into the latest murders. He was so terrified that merely to discuss the cases, he would retreat into a back room and bolt the door.

…In early March, the dogs in the neighborhood began to die, one after the other; their bodies slumped on doorsteps and on the streets. Bill was certain that they’d been poisoned. He and Rita found themselves in the grip of tense silence. He confided in a friend that he didn’t “expect to live very long.”

                from Killers of the Flower Moon


David Bellos

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Valjean does not represent directly any particular political or religious position. What he models is the potential that the poorest and most wretched have to become worthy citizens. His repeated victories over physical, moral and emotional obstacles make him a hero, of course, but they also assert, against the attitudes prevalent at the time, that moral progress is possible for all…It is not a reassuring tale of the triumph of good over evil, but a demonstration of how hard it is to be good.

                        from The Novel of the Century


Cory Doctorow


Zottas (the rich) cooked the process so they get all the money and own the political process, pay as much or as little tax as they want. Sure, they pay most of the tax, because they’ve built a set of rules that gives them most of the money. Talking about “taxpayers” means that the state’s debt is to rich dudes, and anything it gives to kids or old people or sick people or disabled people is charity we should be grateful for, since none of those people are paying tax that justifies their rewards from Government, Inc.

                        from Walkaway


Elizabeth Strout

Random House

When Dottie saw couples like Mr. and Mrs. Small, she was sometimes comforted that her painful divorce years earlier had at least prevented her from becoming a Mrs. Small—in other words, a nervous, slightly whiny woman whose husband ignored her and so naturally made her more anxious. This you saw all the time. And when Dottie saw it, she was reminded that almost always—oddly, she thought it was odd—she seemed a stronger person without her husband, even though she missed him every day.

                        from Anything Is Possible