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John Derbyshire
John Derbyshire writes “Shelf Life,” a books column, every other week. He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism (Crown Forum).
by | Jun 23, 2014

The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language By John H. McWhorter (Oxford, 208 pages, $19.95) Chinese has an extraordinary number of verbs meaning “carry.” If I carry something on a hanging arm, like a briefcase,…

by | Jun 9, 2014

Pieces of Light: How the New Science of Memory Illuminates the Stories We Tell About Our PastsBy Charles Fernyhough(Harper, 320 pages, $26.99) How far back is your earliest memory? What age? In a recent Canadian study cited by Charles Fernyhough,…

by | Jun 5, 2014

Writing The Principles of Mathematics in the spring of 1901, Bertrand Russell got stuck on a simple problem in the theory of classes (we would nowadays say “sets”): “Whether the class of all classes is or is not a member…

by | May 21, 2014

What Should We Be Worried About?: Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at NightEdited by John Brockman(Harper Perennial, 500 pages, $15.99) Fifty-five years ago British novelist, mandarin, and ex-scientist C.P. Snow gave a lecture at Cambridge titled “The Two Cultures and…

by | May 9, 2014

The Perfect Theory: A Century of Geniuses and the Battle over General Relativity By Pedro G. Ferreira (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 288 pages, $28) On November 25, 1915, Einstein presented his new equations to the Prussian Academy of Sciences in a…

by | Apr 23, 2014

Hard Road HomeBy Ye Fu(Ragged Banner Press, 176 pages, $17) Taking humanity at large, perhaps the greatest service any person of our time could perform for future generations would be to bring rational, consensual government to China. That such a…

by | Apr 11, 2014

The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom About Children and ParentingBy Alfie Kohn(Da Capo, 280 pages, $25.99) Child-raising is something everyone can have an opinion about. We were all children once. We interacted with other children—siblings, classmates….

by | Mar 28, 2014

Thinking: The New Science of Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, and PredictionEdited by John Brockman(Harper Perennial, 432 pages, $10.90) Before mass media came up in the mid-twentieth century there was the public lecture, at which some person of eminence or accomplishment would address…

by | Mar 14, 2014

Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political DifferencesBy John R. Hibbing, Kevin B. Smith, and John A. Alford (Routledge, 304 pages, $29.95) The sentry in Iolanthe wondered at how “Nature always does contrive / That every boy and every gal /…

by | Feb 27, 2014

Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and ChinaBy Stephen Roach(Yale, 345 pages, $32.50) China forecasting is a mug’s game. The terrible example before us all is Gordon Chang, who in 2001 published a book titled The Coming Collapse of China, which…

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