SPIRITED THINKING SINCE 1888
Matt Thorne

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March 26, 2020
33 Meditations on Death By David Jarrett Doubleday, 304pp, £19.99/$24.95 Had David Jarrett’s new book 33 Meditations on Death: Notes from the Wrong End of Medicine been published last year, it might have been mildly controversial but accepted by most. Appearing now, however, in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis, it has an entirely new,
March 19, 2020
A History of Solitude By David Vincent Polity, 304pp, £25/$35 In one of those strange quirks of timing, David Vincent’s new book, A History of Solitude, couldn’t have been published at a more apposite moment. With several parts of the globe already in lockdown over the coronavirus outbreak, and the British government encouraging people to
February 13, 2020
The Outlaw Ocean by Ian Urbina Bodley Head, 560pp, £18.99/$30 Is the sea interesting? Voyages across the waters have inspired great writers from Homer to Herman Melville, but what about the actual ocean? Can we say anything worthwhile about it? The great Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov was uncertain, finding the way other authors used it
January 23, 2020
Novel Houses By Christina Hardyment Bodleian Library, 240pp, £25/$40 American screenwriters are fond of the term “precinct” to refer to the location where most of the action takes place. It comes from cop shows, but can also be used to refer to coffee shops, offices, even a house. But when novelists set their stories in
January 09, 2020
Believers: Faith in Human Nature By Martin Konner, Norton, 336pp, £22/$28.95 As everyone from Teilhard de Chardin to Albert Einstein has taught us, religion and science do not need to be in conflict. Just as the greatest philosophers often reach a point where religion is the only answer, so scientific discovery eventually runs into questions
December 12, 2019
Don’t Believe a Word By David Shariatmadari Widenfeld and Nicolson, 336pp, £16.99/$26.95 Linguistics is a fascinating area of study, but an enormously challenging one to bring to a general readership, especially given how many British and American readers will be monoglots. Then there’s the further complication that, for most native speakers, learning English is not
September 19, 2019
Warrior By Edoardo Albert and Paul Gething Granta, 304pp, £18.99/$24.99 Archaeology, according to Albert and Gething in their new book, subtitled The Biography of a Man With No Name, is not for the faint-hearted. There’s so little money in the pursuit that it was originally largely the domain of the independently wealthy – it leads
August 22, 2019
The Lost Gutenberg By Margaret Davis Atlantic, 304pp, £16.99/$27 What has been nicknamed “the commode”, “the whale” and “#45”? Those of you who answered Donald Trump (the 45th president of the United States, who, like all presidents, enjoys referring to himself by number) should be ashamed of yourselves. The correct answer is, of course, the
August 01, 2019
The Selfish Ape By Nicholas P Money Reaktion Books, 152pp, £14.99/$20 Nicholas Money’s new book, subtitled Human Nature and Our Path to Extinction, has a stark message for mankind. No matter who you are – “celebrity or peasant” – your life is meaningless; any achievement you make, whether it’s a bestselling book or sporting achievement
June 06, 2019
Troublemakers By Dieter Thoma Polity Press, 400pp, £30/$45 Two recent events have made German philosopher Dieter Thoma’s wide-ranging book Troublemakers: A Philosophy of Puer Robustus even more topical than it must have seemed when he was writing it – an unexpected development for a book about Thomas Hobbes’s political theories. The first is the removal
March 21, 2019
This is Not Just a Painting By Bernard Lahire, translated by Helen Morrison, Polity, 450pp, £30/$45 Helen Morrison has undoubtedly done English readers a considerable service by translating Bernard Lahire’s 2015 book. Not merely for the contents of the book itself, but also for Lahire’s extraordinary approach to the subject matter. This surely must be
January 03, 2019
Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami, Harvill Secker, 702pp, £20/$30 Isolation is central to the work of Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. A familiar scene in his books and stories is a character finding himself utterly alone, often at the bottom of a well (Murakami once told an interviewer this was an actual dream of his). But
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