The Great Agnostic

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 Some biographies praise their subjects so effusively that they seem to take on the status of demigods, full of power, wisdom, and something more than mere humanity. Others do a disservice to the subject by making, perhaps unintentionally, his concerns seem narrow and his work seem uninspiring. Susan Jacoby’s The Great Agnostic is of the latter category.It recounts the life of Robert Ingersoll, the 19th-century American Freethinker dubbed “The Great Agnostic.” Relatively unknown in m … [Read more...]

Strange Gods

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 Pop quiz: define “idol.” If the first thing you think of is Israel dancing around a golden calf at the foot of Mt. Sinai, Catholic blogger Elizabeth Scalia would have you know that you’re a bit out of date. But with the publication of her new book on idolatry, Strange Gods, it might be more appropriate to wonder if she’s the one late to the party. From Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart to Presbyterian pastor Timothy Keller, Seattle mega-church preacher Mark Driscoll to pop theolog … [Read more...]

This Town

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 As a recent transplant to Washington, D.C., I seemed well-placed to review This Town. My hope was that Mark Leibovich, a veteran political journalist with the New York Times and previously the Washington Post, was going rogue and painting a vivid and gruesome picture of how America’s capital really works. The book would be a call to arms and show how D.C. is sick and needs fixing.But This Town is not a book that shows how D.C. really works. Instead, the book itself is a perfect c … [Read more...]

The New Digital Age

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 3D printing leading to global manufacturing on demand, the complete reshaping of the idea of going to school, fleets of driverless cars... these are just some of the innovations Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen describe in their new book, The New Digital Age. In the book, Schmidt and Cohen don their Nostradamian hats and offer a slew of predictions about how emerging technological innovations will dramatically change our lives. The authors are interested in the wide array of impending … [Read more...]

The Village

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 The first time I ventured into Greenwich Village — that quintessential New York City neighborhood, celebrated for being at once countercultural and culture-defining — it was for a cupcake. Tourists and locals alike used to line up around the block at Bleeker and West 11th, waiting up to two hours for a Magnolia’s vanilla-vanilla. (That’s vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream frosting.) Today, however, we Uptowners don’t have to venture so far from home to get our hands on these gourmet … [Read more...]

Against Fairness

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 Stephen T. Asma’s book is titled Against Fairness, but it doesn’t take too long for the reader to discover what he is for. Asma thinks we’ve neglected nepotism, favoritism, and particularity in our relationships and our moral reasoning. Our natural impulse to play favorites is, in his opinion, actively suppressed: children have to bring in Valentine’s cards for the whole class, fast-tracking a friend in a job search is unethical, etc. In a world fixated on fairness, Asma turns to fictio … [Read more...]

The Evangelicals You Don’t Know

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 Any reportage on American Evangelicals that cautions its audience not “to dismiss these people as... zealots who have surrendered their ability to think rationally” immediately stands apart from most religious journalism. So Tom Krattenmaker’s The Evangelicals You Don’t Know: Introducing the Next Generation of Christians is a welcome work by that standard alone.Unsatisfied with the attitude that “not only insults these Christians but also mocks what is supposed to be a hallmark of t … [Read more...]


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