Book Reviews

The Bard of Suburbia

Robert Wilson

John Updike’s obsession with ordinary life made him the writer by whom we came to know ourselves

Updike· By Adam Begley

19th Nervous Breakdown

Gary Greenberg

The struggle to keep it together

My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind· by Scott Stossel

A Danger to Ourselves

Mary Beth Saffo

Tough on other species, too

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History· by Elizabeth Kolbert

Whores de Combat

Charles Trueheart

In search of adventure and engagement

Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War· by Amanda Vaill

The Fabulist

Robert Zaretsky

A literary critic’s ugly deception

The Double Life of Paul De Man· by Evelyn Barish

Ready to Be Free

Louis P. Masur

The end of the peculiar institution

The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation· David Brion Davis

An Irascible Artist

Eleanor Jones Harvey

Separating man from myth

Whistler: A Life for Art’s Sake· by Daniel E. Sutherland

The Best Course

Michael Dirda

A beloved professor’s long shadow

Splendor of Heart: Walter Jackson Bate and the Teaching of Literature· By Robert D. Richardson

The After-War

Neil Shea

Some wounds don’t bleed

Thank You for Your Service· By David Finkel

Dean of Satire

George O’Brien

A writer's many masks

Jonathan Swift: His Life and His Work· By Leo Damrosch

Abolition Gone Wrong

Fergus M. Bordewich

Despite good intentions, some opponents of the Atlantic slave trade caused more harm

Ship of Death · By Billy G. Smith /The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World · By Greg Grandin

Ministry of Talent

Ernest B. Furgurson

JFK’s thousand days of crisis

Camelot’s Court· By Robert Dallek

Soaring Ambitions

Toby Lester

Early hot-air balloonists ascended to previously unimaginable heights, stirring humanity’s sense of perspective and possibility

Falling Upwards · By Richard Holmes

Southern Son

William S. McFeely

The wit and wisdom of a master

The Letters of C. Vann Woodward · Edited by Michael O'Brien

Upward Bound

Sarah Ruden

Abraham’s merciful stay of hand

But Where Is the Lamb?: Imagining the Story of Abraham and Isaac· By James Goodman

Priestly Powers

George O’Brien

A comic writer’s critical eye

Suitable Accommodations: An Autobiographical Story of Family Life: The Letters of J. F. Powers, 1942–1963· Edited by Katherine A. Powers

On the Brink

Scott D. Sagan

How safe are our nukes?

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety · By Eric Schlosser

Lives of the Ancients

A. E. Stallings

Animating the Greeks and Romans

Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures, and Innovations · By Mary Beard

Two of a Kind

David Brown

A postwar friendship

Brave Genius: A Scientist, a Philosopher, and Their Daring Adventures from the French Resistance to the Nobel Prize· By Sean B. Carroll

Truth or Management

Alice Kaplan

The perils and rewards of studying abroad

Waiting to be Heard· By Amanda Knox

The Bombmaker’s Burden

Shirley Streshinsky

Winning the atomic race failed to bring him peace of mind

A Life Inside the Center· By Ray Monk

Say Anything

Jennifer Sinor

The stories we tell ourselves

The Faraway Nearby· By Rebecca Solnit

Bad Medicine

Alison Bass

Psychiatry’s mistaken manual

The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry · By Gary Greenberg /Saving Normal · By Allen Frances

True North

Fergus M. Bordewich

Yankees and their slaves

For Adam's Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England· By Allegra di Bonaventura

Out of Africa

Graeme Wood

A writer says goodbye to all that

The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari· By Paul Theroux

Science, Right and Wrong

Sam Kean

The evolution of knowledge

Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything · By Philip Ball /Brilliant Blunders · By Mario Livio

The World All Before Them

Sudip Bose

Setting off on footpaths both well-trod and forgotten

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot · By Robert Macfarlane /Walking Home: A Poet’s Journey · By Simon Armitage

Life Story

Carl Elliott

A bioethicist and his creation

In Search of the Good: A Life in Bioethics · By Daniel Callahan /The Roots of Bioethics: Health, Progress, Technology, Death · By Daniel Callahan

Smarty Ants

Sy Montgomery

Intelligence isn’t just for humans

Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures· By Virginia Morell

Found Fictions

Elaine Showalter

A scholar broadens the canon

Truth’s Ragged Edge: The Rise of the American Novel· By Philip F. Gura

Wing Men

Constance Casey

Lepidopterists on the loose

Butterfly People: An American Encounter with the Beauty of the World· By William Leach

Totalitarianism in Practice

Gary Saul Morson

Terror as a way of life in East Germany, Poland, and Hungary

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956· By Anne Applebaum

No Sentiment

Peter Fritzsche

Baudelaire’s shock of the new

La Folie Beaudelaire· By Roberto Calasso

Fantastic Visions

T. M. Luhrmann

Not crazy, just creative

Hallucinations· By Oliver Sacks

Paint Fight

Ingrid D. Rowland

Two titans of art go head to head

The Lost Battles: Leonardo, Michelangelo, and the Artistic Duel that Defined the Renaissance · By Jonathan Jones /Leonardo and the Last Supper · By Ross King

Confounding Father

T. H. Breen

Thomas Jefferson and the economics of slavery

Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves· By Henry Wiencek

Questions of Being

Jay Tolson

What if our minds are the ultimate reality?

Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story· By Jim Holt

Kerouac in His Own Words

Deborah Baker

An old friend explores his search for a new approach to the novel

The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac· By Joyce Johnson

A Monster at Large

James Fallows

Crime, politics, and the vagaries of Japanese justice

People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished From the Streets of Tokyo — And the Evil That Swallowed Her Up· By Richard Lloyd Parry

Golden Rules

Sarah Ruden

Wealth and culture in early Christian times

Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 ADPeter Brown

Risky Journeys

George O’Brien

A cautionary tale of quixotic ambition and heroic achievement

James Joyce: A New Biography· By Gordon Bowker

Coming of Age

Rachel Morris

Three bright young American women in the City of Light

Dreaming In French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis· By Alice Kaplan

Cradle to Grave

Sissela Bok

The games we play and the arguments we have

The Mansion Of Happiness: A History of Life and Death· By Jill Lepore

Con Man

Brenda Wineapple

A writer catalogs his great-grandfather’s infamous crimes

A Disposition To Be Rich: How a Small-Town Pastor’s Son Ruined an American President, Brought on a Wall Street Crash, and Made Himself the Best-Hated Man in the United States· By Geoffrey C. Ward

Artful Lies

Graeme Wood

A deception signals a new age

Solar Dance: Van Gogh, Forgery, and the Eclipse of Certainty· By Modris Eksteins

All for One and One for All?

Francisco J. Ayala

An eminent scientist reconsiders natural selection

The Social Conquest of Earth· By Edward O. Wilson

Heavenly Body

Ingrid D. Rowland

An artist’s pursuit of symmetry

Da Vinci’s Ghost: Genius, Obsession, and How Leonardo Created the World in His Own Image· By Toby Lester

The Moderate

Matthew Dallek

Was Ike a great president?

Eisenhower in War and Peace· By Jean Edward Smith

Founder of Our Freedoms

Ted Widmer

Rhode Island's religious tolerance

Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul· By John M. Barry

Say What?

Barbara Wallraff

How we talk American

Dictionary of American Regional English, Volume V· Chief Editor Joan Houston Hall

Obsession

Jeffrey Meyers

The playwright who never got over Marilyn Monroe

Arthur Miller: 1962–2005· By Christopher Bigsby

End Times

Sarah Ruden

The Bible’s failed prophecy

Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation· By Elaine Pagels

Dirty Books

John McIntyre

A publisher’s lifelong battle against censorship

The Tender Hour of Twilight: Paris in the ’50s, New York in the ’60s: A Memoir of Publishing’s Golden Age· By Richard Seaver

Big Thinker

James Gibney

The diplomat who argued for “containment”—and lived to regret it

George F. Kennan: An American Life· By John Lewis Gaddis

The Nature of Things

Sissela Bok

An ancient poem’s appeal

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern· By Stephen Greenblatt

Irregular Guy

William Howarth

The sage of Baker Street

On Conan Doyle: Or, the Whole Art of Storytelling· By Michael Dirda

Memento Mori

Britt Peterson

A mother’s grief

Blue Nights· By Joan Didion

Fields Apart

Sam Kean

Physics, past and future

The Infinity Puzzle · By Frank Close /Physics on the Fringe · By Margaret Wertheim

Virtual Vigilantes

Rachel Hartigan Shea

A tale of crime online

Worm: The First Digital World War· By Mark Bowden

Identity Crisis

Marshall Poe

Who was the real Tolstoy?

Tolstoy: A Russian Life· By Rosamund Bartlett

Getting Better All the Time

Michael Shermer

Although you wouldn't know it by watching the local news, humankind is becoming ever more civilized

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined· By Steven Pinker

A Chesterton With No Flab

Garry Wills

A new anthology often obscures the writer’s best work

The Everyman Chesterton· By G. K. Chesterton

The Worst of Times

Gary Saul Morson

A Soviet city barely survives

Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941–1944· By Anna Reid

John Brown’s Folly

Brenda Wineapple

The mythology of a madman

Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War· By Tony Horwitz

Power Crazy

George Vaillant

Do lunatics make better leaders?

A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness· By Nassir Ghaemi

From Eternity to Here

Ingrid D. Rowland

Dante in Love· By A. N. Wilson

The Inside Track

Mark Hertsgaard

How those dim-witted robber barons built the railroads

Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America· By Richard White

Full Bloom

Michael Dirda

A critic offers his final thoughts

The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life· By Harold Bloom

Frozen Assets

Hampton Sides

A gritty tale of a grim landscape

The Magnetic North: Notes from the Arctic Circle· By Sara Wheeler

Deep Trouble

Emily Bernard

How a natural disaster barreled into a historical one

Camille, 1969: Histories of a Hurricane· By Mark M. Smith

Deep Trouble

Richard Ellis

We should be more afraid for sharks than of them

Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks· By Juliet Eilperin

Scholar-Activist

James Gibney

Is the search for truth compatible with the fight for justice?

Witness to an Extreme Century: A Memoir· By Robert Jay Lifton

A Survey and an Assertion

Carlin Romano

Twelve potted philosophers and a theory of human values

Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche· By James Miller

Beyond Nerves

Laure Murat

Three women who helped engender modern psychiatry

Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris· By Asti Hustvedt

Terrorist in Chief

Paul Salopek

Can anything keep Zimbabwe from slipping back into despotism?

The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe· By Peter Godwin

Aping Us

Clive D. L. Wynne

Beasts behaving badly

The Moral Lives of Animals· By Dale Peterson

Patriot Games

Elbert Ventura

Hollywood's Red Scare

An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War· By J. Hoberman

Harlem Notes

Thomas Chatterton Williams

A writer goes uptown

Harlem Is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America· By Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts

Bard Justice

Jacob A. Stein

Shakespeare and the law

A Thousand Times More Fair What Shakespeare’s Plays Teach Us About Justice· By Kenji Yoshino

Math & Magic

Sam Kean

The roots of Western science

The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society & the Birth of the Modern World· By Edward Dolnick

Tangled Up in Dylan

Louis P. Masur

The enduring appeal of a legendary American songwriter

Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968–2010 · By Greil Marcus Bob Dylan in America · By Sean Wilentz

Ode to Joy

Priscilla Long

What makes us happy?

Exploring Happiness: From Aristotle to Brain Science· By Sissela Bok

Girl Power

Gelareh Asayesh

The enigma who ruled her world

Cleopatra: A Life· By Stacy Schiff

Tour de Horse

Andrew Graybill

A masterly retelling of a death on the Plains

The Killing of Crazy Horse· By Thomas Powers

Man of Letters

Jeremy Berlin

A novelist finds his classic voice

Saul Bellow: Letters· By Benjamin Taylor

City Ways

John King

Urban visions past and future

Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities· By Witold Rybczynski

Big Muddy

Bruce Falconer

The river before Mark Twain

Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild· By Lee Sandlin

Our Madness for War

Michael Sherry

Must we persist in using the military option when it so rarely works?

Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor/Hiroshima/9-11/Iraq· By John Dower

Human Kind

Sissela Bok

Is selflessness in our nature?

The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness· By Oren Harman

Abe's Evolution

Philip Dray

How Lincoln went from frontier lawyer to Great Emancipator

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery· By Eric Foner

Where Creeds Collide

Graeme Wood

Enmity at the intersections of religious radicalism

The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam· By Eliza Griswold

James Baldwin's America

Thomas Chatterton Williams

Truths both hard and timeless

The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings· By James Baldwin

Next of Kin

Eugene Linden

What we don't know about what chimps know

Almost Chimpanzee: Searching for What Makes Us Human, in Rainforests, Labs, Sanctuaries, and Zoos· By Jon Cohen

Reducing Science and Religion

Ingrid Rowland

The world remains infinitely more complex than contemporary attempts to account for it

Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self· By Marilynne Robinson

Maker of Magazines

Stanley Cloud

Henry Luce had a restless mind and a preternatural feel for the national pulse

The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century· By Alan Brinkley

Growing Up in a Troubled Neighborhood

James Gibney

Kai Bird’s Middle East Memories and Meditations

Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis· By Kai Bird

An Assassin's Tale

Sridhar Pappu

In the footsteps of the murderer of Martin Luther King Jr.

Hellhound On His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin· By Hampton Sides

Do Head Meds Make Us Sicker?

Gary Greenberg

The argument that says they do has problems of its own

Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America· By Robert Whitaker

Mayhem Across the Border

Paul Salopek

A Mexican city where homicide is the new normal

Murder City: Ciudad Juárez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields· By Charles Bowden

A Joyless Noise

Jon Zobenica

Two pleas for making life a whole lot quieter

The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise · By Garret Keizer /Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence · By George Michelsen

Truth and Consequences

Lincoln Caplan

In the Whitewater investigation, the biggest loser was the legal profession

The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr· By Ken Gormley

The Imbalance of Power

Paul Boyer

How the Manhattan Project gave birth to the imperial presidency

Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State· By Garry Wills

The Lovable Leviathan

Sy Montgomery

Whales hold a special place in our imagination, but their situation is dire

The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea· By Philip Hoare

A Long, Cold Road to Paris

Paul C. Nagel

The 2,000-mile, 40-day journey of future first lady Louisa Catherine Adams

Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon· By Michael O’Brien

The Debacle Before the Disaster

Charles Trueheart

At Dien Bien Phu, the French got a lesson the U.S. would take two decades to learn

Valley of Death: The Tragedy of Dien Bien Phu That Led America into the Vietnam War· By Ted Morgan

In the Shadow of Genocide

Graeme Wood

Impressions of a Turkish town that was once in Armenia

Rebel Land: Unravelling the Riddle of History in a Turkish Town· By Christopher de Bellaigue

Science Doubters

Natalie Angier

When healthy skepticism turns into unhealthy antagonism

Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms The Planet, and Threatens Our Lives· By Michael Spector

Laissez-Faire Run Amok

Ethan Fishman

The extremist, and enduring, philosophy of Ayn Rand

Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right· By Jennifer Burns

Riffs and Raptures

Sarah L. Courteau

Zadie Smith’s essays offer crisp prose and hard-won insights

Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays· By Zadie Smith

Wrestling the Moose

Miranda Weiss

Jefferson debunked a French theory of natural history, launching American exceptionalism

Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose: Natural History in Early America· By Lee Alan Dugatkin

The Tales Buildings Tell

Stanley Abercrombie

Architects can overwhelm their creations; time can make a hash of great visions

The Secret Lives of Buildings: From the Ruins of the Parthenon to the Vegas Strip in Thirteen Stories· By Edward Hollis

Through Fire and Flood

Jay Parini

Faulkner’s best fiction emerged from his willingness to face crises

Becoming Faulkner: The Art and Life of William Faulkner· By Philip Weinstein

A Day in the Life

Sudip Bose

Reading Joyce’s Ulysses as a guide to urban living

Ulysses and Us: The Art of Everyday Life in Joyce’s Masterpiece· By Declan Kiberd

Art in the Time of War

Susannah Rutherglen

A prescient and courageous few safeguarded Italy’s patrimony

The Venus Fixers: The Remarkable Story of the Allied Soldiers Who Saved Italy's Art During World War II· By Ilaria Dagnini Brey, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Common Good

Richard D. Kahlenberg

The case for a standardized curriculum for all American children

The Making of Americans: Democracy and Our Schools· By E.D. Hirsch Jr.

Film Release

Shirley Streshinsky

A woman’s burdened life and transcendent photographs

Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits· By Linda Gordon

Relativity and All That

Apurva Narechania

Big Science bears down on Einstein’s equation

Why Does E=mc2? (And Why Should We Care?)· By Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw

Watchers of the Skies

Robert Wilson

Heroes of British science, and the Romantic poets they inspired

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science· By Richard Holmes

Barbarian Virtues

Patricia O’Toole

When Americans first yearned to transform themselves and save the world

Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920· By Jackson Lears

Jungle Bungle

Wayne Curtis

As a rubber baron, Henry Ford was no Firestone

Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City· By Greg Grandin

Gross Anatomy

Richard McCann

A physician's inside stories about the human body

Carrying the Heart: Exploring the Worlds Within Us· By F. González-Crussi

The Lost Village

Nathalie Handal

A Palestinian poet remembers the people and places he has lived without

My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century· By Adina Hoffman

Pilgrim of Eternity

William Giraldi

The loves and legends of Lord Byron

Byron in Love: A Short Daring Life· By Edna O'Brien

The Peacock Problem

Priscilla Long

Does sexual selection really explain enough?

The Genial Gene: Deconstructing Darwinian Selfishness· By Joan Roughgarden

The Peacock Problem

Alexander Nehamas

What does evolution say about why we make art?

The Art Instinct· By Denis Dutton

Founding Portraitists

Fergus M. Bordewich

The Painter’s Chair: George Washington and the Making of American Art· By Hugh Howard

Dark Mysteries

Angeline Goreau

Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor· By Brad Gooch

At Liberty to Divulge

John Rolfe Gardiner

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University· By Kevin Roose

Circular Bread Line

Sandra M. Gilbert

The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread· By Maria Balinska

Cal & Liz & Ted & Sylvia

Sudip Bose

The corresponding prose of midcentury poets

Letters of Ted Hughes · selected and edited by Christopher Reid, Farrar, Straus and Giroux /Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell · edited by Thomas Travisano with Saskia Hamilton, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A Passion for Architecture

Stanley Abercrombie

Nuggets from a critical gold mine

On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change· By Ada Louise Huxtable

Let Me Count the Ways

Richard Restak

Are we getting more obsessive or more compulsive about diagnosing?

Obsession: A History· By Lennard J. Davis

Lucid Madness

William Howarth

A massacre of Apache women and children, and the difficulties of telling their story

Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History· By Karl Jacoby

Of Time and the Camera

Andy Grundberg

An art critic and historian turns his attention to contemporary photography

Why Photography Matters Now as Art as Never Before· By Michael Fried

Immortality Gained

Jay Parini

John Milton was not only a great poet, but also a great defender of liberty

Milton: Poet, Pamphleteer, and Patriot· By Anna Beer

Copyright Wrongs

Paul K. Saint-Amour

When technology makes an illegal act easy, should the law make that act legal?

Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy· By Lawrence Lessig

How Special a Relationship?

Joshua Hawley

Whether T.R. needed Edward VII to establish the United States as a world power

The King and the Cowboy: Theodore Roosevelt and Edward the Seventh, Secret Partners· By David Fromkin

Potted History

Scott Reynolds Nelson

Learning more about slave life in South Carolina from a legendary potter-poet

Carolina Clay: The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter Dave· By Leonard Todd

Shaking Habit's House

Sarah L. Courteau

Critic James Wood preaches a return to the realism of Flaubert

How Fiction Works· By James Wood, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Preparation of a Lifetime

Sanford J. Ungar

Racing Odysseus: A College President Becomes a Freshman Again· By Roger H. Martin

Over There

Jean Bethke Elshtain

A pugnacious public intellectual looks to Europe for his ideal

Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century· By Tony Judt

Democracy in Three Dimensions?

Heather Ewing

How the nation’s capital rose from a fetid forest on the backs of slaves

Washington: The Making of the American Capital· By Fergus M. Bordewich

Ireland Revised

George O’Brien

Where the Celtic Tiger came from, and where it has gone

Luck and the Irish: A Brief History of Change 1970–2000· By R. F. Foster

Repatriating Art

Susannah Rutherglen

A museum director examines the controversy over whether nations own their cultural artifacts

Who Owns Antiquity? Museums and the Battle Over Our Ancient Heritage· By James Cuno

A Look Beyond the Tragic Mystique

Matthew Ladd

Posthumous Keats· By Stanley Plumly

The Art of Doing

Wayne Curtis

Let’s give our hands a great big hand

The Craftsman· By Richard Sennett

A Dangerous Weapon

Andy Grundberg

The fault is not in the camera, but in ourselves

The Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph that Shocked America· By Louis P. Masur

Drought and Famine

Dan Bouk

What the past teaches us to fear most about global climate change

The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations· By Brian Fagan

Sleepless Nights

Sarah Fay

Getting cranky about the things that keep us awake

Insomniac· By Gayle Greene

The Case of the Defective Detective

Britt Peterson

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective· By Kate Summerscale

Enlightenment Lite

Sudip Bose

A Blue Hand: The Beats in India· By Deborah Baker

The Work of Death

Ernest B. Furgurson

How the Civil War changed forever Americans’ relationship with mortality

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War· By Drew Gilpin Faust

Subjectivity Is All

Robert Campbell

Using a lifetime of colorful examples to define the undefinable

Modernism: The Lure of Heresy from Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond· By Peter Gay

The Casserole Inquisition

Sandra M. Gilbert

Chronicles from America’s culinary transformation

The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food· By Judith Jones

Wry Eye on the Bard

John F. Andrews

Sorting through the little we know about the best we’ve got

Shakespeare: The World as Stage· By Bill Bryson

Latin’s Eminent Career

A. E. Stallings

Is the language of empire, the church, scholarship, and Europe nearing retirement?

Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin· By Nicholas Ostler

A Long Walk in the New World

Robert Wilson

Of 300 Spaniards sent to settle Florida, only four survived

A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca· By Andrés Reséndez

The Genius and Her Sanctuary

Catharine R. Stimpson

Pivotal moments in the pairing of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas

Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice· By Janet Malcolm

Atonality and Beyond

Sudip Bose

The century when composers and audiences parted company

The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century· By Alex Ross, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Early End of Consensus

Jill Ogline

Bitter partisanship began soon after George Washington left the scene

A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America’s First Presidential Campaign· By Edward J. Larson

Swept Away

Anthony Brandt

When Géricault painted The Raft of the Medusa, he immersed himself in his subject’s horrors

The Wreck of the Medusa· By Jonathan Miles

Nurtural Intelligence

Richard Restak

The discoverer of the Flynn effect claims that genes control IQ less than you’d expect

What Is Intelligence? Beyond the Flynn Effect· By James R. Flynn

Words and Music

Jennifer Michael Hecht

Two ways of thinking about what our brains can do

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature · By Steven Pinker /Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain · By Oliver Sacks

The Whirling Princess

Sandra M. Gilbert

How a little rich girl known as Pussy Jones became Edith Wharton, writing her way into the aristocracy of American letters

Edith Wharton· By Hermione Lee, Alfred A. Knopf

The Heroic and the Crass

Gary Hart

Case studies in American presidential backbone

Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America, 1789-1989· By Michael Beschloss, Simon & Schuster

Wide World

Sarah Fay

An essayist and activist who makes eloquent connections

Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics· By Rebecca Solnit

The Meandering Naturalist

William Howarth

A Wanderer All My Days: John Muir in New England· By J. Parker Huber

Magical Mind

Stephen Petranek

Albert Einstein's life

EINSTEIN: His Life and Universe· By Walter Isaacson

Dismantling the Dream

Sandra Beasley

The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America· By Daniel Brook, Henry Holt

Happy Talk

Wayne Curtis

What did we know about joy, and when did we know it?

The Happiness Myth: Why What We Think Is Right Is Wrong · By Jennifer Michael Hecht /Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy · By Barbara Ehrenreich

The Impulse to Exclude

Phyllis Rose

Ralph Ellison wrote one great novel and then lived a life that is hard to admire

Hearsay

Richard Restak

From the divinely inspired to the pathological, a history of auditory hallucination

Muses, Madmen, and Prophets: Rethinking the History, Science, and Meaning of Auditory Hallucination· By Daniel B. Smith

An Epic in Flux

Sudip Bose

Gilgamesh, the world's first great literary work, is still being pieced together

The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh· By David Damrosch

Design Problem

Mary Beth Saffo

Does the internal physiology of animals imply a harmony of structure and function?

The Tinkerer’s Accomplice: How Design Emerges from Life Itself· By J. Scott Turner

The Historical Present

A. E. Stallings

Robert Fagle's bold solutions to the problem of Virgil

The Aeneid· By Virgil, translated by Robert Fagles

Pleasure out of Desperation

Brenda Wineapple

Thomas Eakins, yearning for the ideal in a materialistic age

Portrait: The Life of Thomas Eakins· By William S. McFeely

Organized Violence

Charles Trueheart

In the last century, where did warfare end and genocide begin?

The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West· By Niall Ferguson

Poised Between the Ancient and the New

Benjamin Balint

Isaac B. Singer: A Life· By Florence Noiville

What if Nature Had Been Thrifty?

Daniel Reid

The Best of All Possible Worlds: Mathematics and Destiny· By Ivar Ekeland

Birthday Suit

Natalie Angier

Skin: A Natural History· By Nina G. Jablonski

Environmentalism for Outsiders

Donald Worster

The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism· By Aaron Sachs

Peaceable Kingdom

Ingrid D. Rowland

The Medici Giraffe and Other Tales of Exotic Animals and Power· By Marina Belozerskaya

Domestic Insurrection

Adam Goodheart

Rough Crossings: Britain, Slaves, and the American Revolution · By Simon Schama /Forgotten Allies: The Oneida Indians and the American Revolution · By Joseph Glatthar and James Kirby Martin

Eclogues

Robert Wilson

Best Person Rural: Essays of a Sometime Farmer· By Noel Perrin

The Mind-Brain Problem

Jay Tolson

Psychologist Jerome Kagan has always known that biology is only a partial solution

An Argument for Mind· By Jerome Kagan

Worked Well with Others

Priscilla Long

Discovering the structure of DNA was not Francis Crick's only important collaboration

Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code· By Matt Ridley

Half-Brother to the World

Eugen Weber

The United States has been more like other nations than we like to think

A Nation Among Nations: America's Place in World History· By Thomas Bender

African Renaissance?

David Chanoff

Finding hope on a continent where many people see only despair

New News Out of Africa: Uncovering Africa's Renaissance· By Charlayne Hunter-Gault

In Search of a Great Modernist

Susan Rubin Suleiman

Do Proust's final days illuminate his novel?

Proust at the Majestic: The Last Days of the Author Whose Book Changed Paris· By Richard Davenport-Hines

A Man in It

Garry Wills

Lincoln’s Lieutenants

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln· By Doris Kearns Goodwin

What Is It Good For?

James Webb

How the American military went from defense to offense

The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War· By Andrew J. Bacevich

Battle of Anacostia

Robert S. McElvaine

The bonus army and its unexpected legacy

The Bonus Army: An American Epic· By Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen

Thoreau’s Landscape Within

Kent C. Ryden

How he came to know nature, and through it came to know himself

Natural Life: Thoreau’s Worldly Transcendentalism· By David M. Robinson

Rocket Men

Michael Upchurch

A daughter explores the male-dominated universe of her father

Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science· By M. G. Lord

The Peculiar Intellectual

Richard E. Nicholls

In the antebellum South, scholars made serious contributions to their fields, at least until they turned to defending slavery

Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South· By Michael O’Brien

What Einstein Knew

Tony Rothman

One year and five papers that changed physics forever

Einstein 1905: The Standard of Greatness · By John S. Rigden /The Einstein Almanac · By Alice Calaprice

One Bad Husband

Alison Lurie

What the “Bluebeard” story tells us about marriage

Secrets Behind the Door: The Story of Bluebeard and His Wives· By Maria Tatar