Entries by Jason Sullivan

The Last Days of the Dinosaurs: An Asteroid, Extinction, and the Beginning of Our World by Riley Black

It’s something we know without recalling perhaps when and where we learned it: The dinosaurs were taken out by an asteroid. (Well, the non-avian dinosaurs went extinct. The avian dinosaurs—birds—made it.) The most famous of the Earth’s mass extinction events (its fifth), it happened around 66 million years ago. Without it, this very day could […]

Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen

If you are of a certain age, you may recall Jonathan Franzen, even if you have yet to read his work. Think back to 2001, when Oprah selected Franzen’s “The Corrections” for her book club. This made the literary author decidedly uncomfortable. He publicly stated he considered himself from the “high-art literary tradition” and that […]

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Heist tales lend themselves well to a cinematic telling. The visuals are all there, from the hushed planning to the eye-darting execution. Sometimes you think the crew might just make it out with the goods. Other times you just know they are doomed from the start. But what of a heist novel? I didn’t think […]

Mercury Rising: John Glenn, John Kennedy and the New Battleground of the Cold War by Jeff Shesol

Shared national narratives matter. They cohere generations around a belief system: that the country’s general purpose is, in a word, good. Such binary choices that reduce complex entities to either “good” or “bad” are often fraught with circumstance. But sometimes the circumstances ease the choice. Take the Cold War. Of course one could easily pierce […]

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Character-driven versus plot-driven stories: Readers of literary fiction often claim the former while just about everyone else stakes the latter. (Just look at the bestseller lists.) But they are not mutually exclusive, of course. You can have both. One fairly recent example where varied readers said, “You have to read this,” to other readers would […]

Inside Story: A Novel by Martin Amis

A frequently asked question of authors in “The New York Times Book Review” goes something like this. “You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which authors do you invite?” From the answers, we are to glean literary leanings. To me, what’s also being revealed is authors’ idea of a dinner party. I’m partial to lively dinner […]

The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes by Zachary D. Carter

If there’s one college course that seems to fall into the “liked it/hated it” dichotomy, it’s probably Macroeconomics. For every student who leans into studying the national economy, there’s another who will be just fine to never again read such phrases as “elasticity vs. inelasticity of demand.” There’s one man to credit (or blame) for […]

The Silence by Don DeLillo

Illusory though it is, there’s an endorphin-rush moment when you begin a novel that feels as though it was written just for you. The story’s arc is almost irrelevant. What blows your hair back are the observations in sentences that seem perfectly formed. It’s as if your limbic system has been waiting for this moment. […]