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I liked what I looked like when I was reading Voices from Chernobyl. Once I looked up at my reflection in the subway train window and I was surprised at how interesting and serious I was. I felt very guilty and strange for these superficial concerns, but not guilty enough to not take a picture. I keep thinking lately that I look like what I want to look like, and it feels good. Especially...
Last month, Tom Meyers and Greg Young, aka The Bowery Boys, published their first book, Adventures in Old New York: An Unconventional Exploration of Manhattan’s Historic Neighborhoods, Secret Spots, and Colorful Characters. Loosely based on their popular podcast—without the accompaniment of which it long ago became impossible in our household to wash the dishes or sweep the floors—the book offers a rich assortment of stories about the city’s always-disappearing past and the many visible...
I read this book for pure pleasure, which is to say I didn’t mean to write about it. SPQR, by Cambridge classicist Mary Beard, promised pure nerdy pleasure: a general history of Rome from its origins (traditionally 753 BCE, though the truth is both older and hazier) to the reign of Caracalla, when, in 212 CE, Roman citizenship was extended to all free men living within the bounds of the empire. This was a...
Long ago, before Google was humanity’s all-knowing sage of indispensable wisdom, people used to go to libraries. At these libraries, there were stacks upon stacks of books that anyone with a library membership card could open up and read. One could gloss the pages of seminal works of fiction, or learn about biomechanical engineering, if they felt so inclined. But, if someone felt stumped by a passage or got tired of the alphabetized rows...

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