History of the bible

I read The History of the Bible this weekend and enjoyed it a lot. I have a little collection of books about theology now, not because of any interest in faith but because I think it’s an interesting vein of history and culture. The bible is so often quoted, wittingly or unwittingly, in popular culture and everyday… Continue reading History of the bible


I just finished Flights by Olga Tokarczuk. I really enjoyed it without really knowing what to make of it. It’s structured in a stream-of-consciousness way, with distinct sections (which aren’t quite chapters) that sometimes relate to what’s come before with a dream logic. Here are some of my favourite sections, or at least a couple that got… Continue reading Flights

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My top books of 2019

These are the books I most enjoyed reading in 2019, compiled from my Goodreads Reading Challenge. Fiction A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimar McBride Catch-22 by Joseph Heller A Perfect Spy by John Le Carré Enigma Variations by André Aciman The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai Non-Fiction The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha… Continue reading My top books of 2019

Tech sabbath

This excerpt from 24/6 by Tiffany Shlain makes the case for setting aside a day to go tech free: ditching phones and laptops and screens for the day. It’s come along just at the right time for me, as I’m generally shrinking away from tech outside of my work life more and more. I like the way the… Continue reading Tech sabbath


I read the Penguin Classics translation of Wasps by Aristophanes the other day. It’s a satirical play about how an older generation of Athenians who fought in the Peloponnesian War were taken in by a pandering demagogue called Cleon. To grasp what’s happening and get the jokes, you have to know a little bit about the context… Continue reading Wasps

Eugenics and statistics

There were lots of interesting and terrible things in Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini but here’s something that stood out. Eugenics was a widely respected field of study around the time of the turn of the 20th century, well before the rash of state-sponsored genocide programs we now associate with Nazis etc. University… Continue reading Eugenics and statistics

Madame Tussaud’s tall tale

I started reading Little by Edward Carey without knowing what it was about. Soon it emerged that it’s a fictionalisation of the life of Madame Tussaud based on her memoirs. It is typical of a revolutionary French narrative in that it involves a exploited child orphan, the beautiful disarray of Paris at the time, and finally: no… Continue reading Madame Tussaud’s tall tale

William Carlos Williams on love and cruelty

I’ve been reading The Art of Cruelty by Maggie Nelson and there’s tons of great extracts and references. One that caught me in particular was this excerpt from The Ivy Crown by William Carlos Williams, which (I think) disputes the rosy typical notions about love but reaffirms it as a wilder, more brutal thing: The business of love iscruelty which,by… Continue reading William Carlos Williams on love and cruelty