Book Reviews

A son’s portrait of his murderous drug lord father, Pablo Escobar 30 September 2016

This unsettlingly shallow memoir of a drug kingpin falls flat.
A review of “Pablo Escobar, My Father” by Juan Pablo Escobar.
[Washington Post]

Cosmic Certainties 19 September 2016

More trouble with string theory, an attempt to do away with inflation, and a novel theory of dark matter, critiqued.
A review of “Fashion, Faith and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe” by Roger Penrose.
[Wall Street Journal]

There and back again and there again 5 July 2016

Why I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy
A summer reading enthusiasm.
[Slate]

New Directions 24 June 2016

On the way to Desert Storm, U.S. troops stopped in California in order to buy consumer GPS units at local stores.
A review of “Pinpoint” by Greg Milner and “Finding North” by George Michelsen Foy.
[Wall Street Journal]

Book Review: ‘The Interior Circuit’ by Francisco Goldman 9 August 2014

Ka Wong Seng looks as if it fell into a Chinatown wormhole and emerged complete with roasted duck.
Review of Goldman’s memoir of Mexico City, which I think does not succeed in its aims.
[Wall Street Journal]

How High the Moon? 4 October 2013

Book Review: ‘Dreams of Other Worlds’ by Chris Impey and Holly Henry
Where the Milky Way’s missing arms went and other tales of astronomical discovery.
[Wall Street Journal]

Jack Ryan’s Quest 3 October 2013

Hunting Red October
In praise of Tom Clancy’s early work (and in criticism of his later work) on the occasion of his death.
[The Millions]

Red Rover: Inside the Story of Robotic Space Exploration, from Genesis to the Mars Rover Curiosity by Rogers Wiens 12 May 2013

A Review
When does NASA take risks? How it’s still possible to improvise, and what it’s like to run a scientific instrument on Mars.
[Washington Post]

The Assurance of Chemists 5 November 2012

Are Gut Instincts Obsolete in Political Campaigns?
A skeptical response to the idea that social science techniques are useful and beneficent influences on politics.
[Zocalo Public Square]

Building a laboratory on a hill 15 March 2012

A review of Jon Gertner’s “The Idea Factory”
A new book about Bell Labs succeeds in evoking the excitement of the place, though falls short on its exposition of the underlying science.
[Foreign Policy]

The Nucleus of the Digital Age 3 March 2012

A review of George Dyson’s “Turing’s Cathedral”
In pursuit of hydrogen bombs, a math genius and a brilliant tinkerer in Princeton developed the modern computer.
[Wall Street Journal]

Chronicle of a War Foretold 5 January 2012

Violence Begets Violence in Mexico
How nobody understands what spurred 45,000 drug-related murders in Mexico, though Ioan Grillo’s new book El Narco does a good job of trying to.
[Zocalo Public Square]

The Philosopher-Fisticuffers 14 September 2011

A review of Enrique Krauze’s new book Redeemers
Which consists of 12 profiles of Latin American figures, and is a good read.
[Zocalo Public Square]

Bob Dylan 18 November 2004

I felt so symbolic yesterday
A review of Chronicles, the first volume of Bob Dylan’s autobiography, a new biography of Woody Guthrie, and a collection of essays about Dylan.

Derek Walcott 4 November 2004

The death of earth
A review of Derek Walcott’s new book-length poem.

Johnny Cash 16 September 2004

Ring of Firesales
A review of a new book about Johnny Cash’s Folsom prison concert

Nicholson Baker 2 September 2004

Room with a point of view
A review of Checkpoint, Nicholson Baker’s new novel.

In defense (reluctantly) of Michael Moore 8 July 2004

Sinned against
A review of a book which is a big fast stupid attack on Michael Moore.

Dan Brown’s aftermath 13 May 2004

Da Vinci, codes, and all that
The good, the bad, and the ugly of books about Da Vinci and the nature of mathematics.

String Theory 15 April 2004

All strung out
A review of Brian Greene’s book “The Fabric of the Cosmos”.