The Inquiring Reader
Reviews, critiques, and thoughts

Recommended novels

  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

    Blood Meridian is a harrowing, violent tale of a boy who joins a band of mercenaries hired to hunt and kill Apache Indians in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. It is an epic novel conceived from historical memoirs that will haunt and inspire us both in its horror and in its beauty for ages to come.

  • Beloved by Toni Morrison

    Sethe – a woman who escaped slavery by crossing the Ohio River barefoot with a newborn child in her arms – lives with her daughter in an old house in Cincinnati, years after the Civil War. When another former slave from the same, Kentucky plantation shows up at her door, soon followed by a distraught and lonely girl escaping an unknown danger, Sethe’s story is fully revealed in all of its horror and spleandor.

  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

    The Left Hand of Darkness is a wonderfully dense novel with layers and layers of beautifully imaginative landscapes, poignant social commentaries and political intrigue.

  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

    A Southern family, once wealthy and respected by their town, drives itself into financial and moral ruin. Led by an abusive, hypochondriac mother and her spiteful youngest son, the family tries to redirect the course of their inevitable demise. Their rigid morals and stubbornness only bury them deeper.

  • Death in Spring by Mercè Rodoreda

    In a village secluded in the mountains, a young boy confronts the bizarre rituals of his society. He is aware of its cruelty and obsession with suffering, but it is all he has, and will, ever know.

  • Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

    After an unexpected divorce with his wife, the narrator moves into his friend's mountain home to get away from the city. He quits his mundane job as a portrait painter and decides to pursue his own artistic passions. He soon comes across a powerful painting in the attic of the house that kicks off a mysterious series of events.

  • The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

    The Broken Earth #3

    In the final book of the Broken Earth Trilogy, Essun realizes that her daughter seeks to destroy the Earth to end the endless suffering of Schaffa, the Stone Eaters, and all humanity. Essun rushes across the world to stop her, but Nassun refuses to listen to the woman that left her all alone in this cruel world.

  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

    David Mitchell's masterful storytelling and control of language produced a shockingly innovative novel, filled with wisdom, suspense and creativity.

  • Flights by Olga Tokarczuk

    Different moments in time hang in space like sheets, like screens lit up by one moment; the world is made up of these frozen moments, great meta-images, and we just hop from one to the next.

  • Gasoline by Quim Monzó

    Heribert is an established artist who can't seem to find his drive in life. His days revolve around romantic flings – even though he's married to his wife Helena – and exploring the bizarre depths of his own imagination. Monzó’s writing is comical and thought-provoking, creating an unconventional novel that's a pleasure to read and a great addition to his vast array of stories.

  • Hyperion by Dan Simmons

    Hyperion Cantos #1

    Hyperion is an intricate space opera that manages to blend detailed character development with an epic storyline. Through stories told from an array of characters, Simmons weaves a complex universe for a satisfying adventure.

  • The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

    Stormlight Archive #1

    The world's guardians have left humanity to petty rivalries and deceit. Highprince Dalinar Kholin must unite his kingdom before the Voidbringers return. Kaladin must escape slavery and find his true calling. Shallan must save her house from ruin while discovering the truth of the world and what is to come.

Recommended nonfiction

  • These Truths by Jill Lepore

    The history of the United States can be told in the language of prosperity, of war, of progress, or of oppression, among many others. Lepore depicts it as an endless ideological struggle, of ideas and philosophies that drive the American experiment from a shaky past into an uncertain, but hopeful future. From the first European settlers to make landfall on the American continent to the end of Barack Obama's presidency, Lepore writes an extensive and compelling history of our nation.

  • The Populist Explosion by John B. Judis

    The Great Recession has shown that the neoliberal promise of order and prosperity that once dominated global politics no longer holds true for large swaths of the population. The emergence of the Tea Party, Donald Trump, Occupy Wall Street, and Bernie sanders points to a changing tide in modern politics. Judis argues that they all use the language of populism to unite voters across traditional boundaries of class, race, and ethnicity to oppose a wealthy and corrupt "elite."

  • Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt

    Postwar is an awe-inspiring history of the European community rebuilt from the remnants of World War II. It plunges into the horrendous regimes of postwar dictators, perilous revolutions led by university students, and viscous wars that both tore down and gave birth to new nations.

  • How Propaganda Works by Jason Stanley

    How Propaganda Works rigorously defines, describes, and identifies propaganda in modern democracies. In today's world, propaganda has learned to wear a number of masks. Jason Stanley provides us with the tools necessary to build sound arguments against this enemy of reason.

  • Beautiful Country Burn Again by Ben Fountain

    How could the media and polls have been so wrong about the 2016 election? Ben Fountain compiles his own work on the campaign trail to paint a picture vastly different from what the media depicted at the time.

  • Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed

    In the ruins of WWI, war debt and reparations weighed heavily on European countries. The central bankers of Britain, France, and Germany had to come together alongisde the United States – now a first-class economic power – to rebuild the global economy. Their mistakes would soon drive the world to the Great Depression.

  • Property by Robert Lamb

    Private property is of the most fundamental human rights for some, while for others it's the principle cause of injustice and poverty in the modern world. In this survey of political philosophies both in defense of and against private property, Robert Lamb hopes to shed a light on why the institution is ultimately justifiable.

  • American Pragmatism by Albert R. Spencer

    Americans are known for our dismissal of traditions and norms, our rugged individualism, and our pragmatism. But, what is pragmatism? Albert R. Spencer surveys the philosphical tradition and how it relates to our understanding of American exceptionalism.

  • An American Sickness by Elizabeth Rosenthal

    American healthcare is in disarray. Pharmaceuticals are at astronomical prices, hospital bills can send people plummeting into bankruptcy, and millions of Americans go without health insurance every year. How did it get to this, and what can we do to fix it?

Recommended short stories

  • Borderland by Olga Tokarczuk

    Borderland is somber story about a writer in a post-apocalyptic world who is trying to make sense of the collapsing world around him.

  • With the Beatles by Haruki Murakami

    Memories shift and change over time. Our relationships are defined by the sensations that stick out from all the others – the fluttering of our hearts for the first time, the music that plays on the radio. As old age comes for all of us, how will we remember our past?

  • The Station by J. Robert Lennon

    A man is sent to a deserted island and required to perform a bizarre, remedial task every three hours in the station's control room. Across the island is the Facility, an old building with no entrance that he's edging to investigate.

  • Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Joyce Carol Oates

    Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God looks at what is important to us when faced with uncertainty and destruction. It is a vivid story of environmental collapse in the near future, filled with despair, anxiety, beauty, and relief.

  • Playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain by Jamil Jan Kochai

    In Playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Jamil Jan Kochai questions the morality of war-based video games. These games don’t represent some idealism of the past, they represent a deep-rooted, neo-imperialistic ideology under which young Americans are being indoctrinated.

  • Pursuit as Happiness by Ernest Hemingway

    Hemingway himself appears as the narrator in this never-before-published short story about marlin fishing off the coast of Cuba. He charters a fishing boat with an old acquaintance, Mr. Josie, and tries to reel in a huge marlin.

  • The Trip by Weike Wang

    A playful, yet deeply emotional reflection on intercultural relationships. A man follows his wife to China to meet her extended family and watches as she forms her identity and immerses herself in her native culture – all the while growing further and futher apart from one another.

  • The Lost Performance of the High Priestess of the Temple of Horror by Carmen Maria Machado

    In the dark and dismal streets of pre-war Paris, France, a young girl loses her mother to illness. She joins the crew at a local theater that is known for its staged violence, fake blood, and unhinged main actress. The girl has nowhere else to turn.

  • Hold Your Fire by Chloe Wilson

    At work, Fiona designs and builds missiles used for war; at home, she is pushed to assume the roles of a loving wife and mother. When her son gets bullied at school, she has to decide which role she will play.

  • Only Orange by Camille Bordas

    Family relationships are difficult. In Only Orange, Camille Bordas explores the inner workings of family through the perspective of a deeply cynical woman in her mid-thirties, struggling with a slew of personal and interpersonal issues while on vacation with her family in southern Spain.

  • Uncle Jim Called by David Rabe

    Uncle Jim Called is a retrospection for those who have regrets over lost loved ones and a warning for those who will inevitably understand these feeling one day.

Recommended articles

  • White-Collar Populism by Dustin Guastella

    The rise of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic Party mark a reemergence of progressive politics in the American Left. Although they do share similar policies, Dustin Guastella claims that Warren represents the interests of "liberal professionals" – the white-collar class that has marginalized working-class interests for the past fifty years.

  • In Every Dark Hour by Jill Lepore

    What is the future of American democracy? Headlines posit that it's failing and there is nothing we can do about it. Jill Lepore takes us back to the 1930s when democracies around the world were truly in peril, and argues that with civic-mindedness we can write our own future.

  • Baking Bread in Lyon by Bill Buford

    Bill Buford writes about his experience as an apprentice in a bakery in Lyon, France. After failing to secure a job at one of the city's top tier restaurants, he turns toward his neighborhood bakery and finds a passion he didn't know he had.

  • Farewell to Agro by M. H. Perry

    What would it look like for a small, family farm to turn from growing mass-produced commodities such as corn, wheat, and beans to growing native wildflowers? M. H. Perry gives us a first-hand account of what her farm went through, giving us a wonderful and inspiring glimpse of rural America.

  • Demon-Driven by Casey Cep

    William Faulkner produced some of the best, most insightful American writing in our nation's history. But it is primarily concerened with a South grappeling with economic, social, and racial issues following the Civil War, and Faulkner's life and personal views certainly call his writing into question.

  • 100 Dollars by Daniel Uncapher

    What does $100 mean to you? A rotisserie chicken at Costco costs $5. A bottle of water $1.50. A gallon of gasoline $4. These goods may seem expensive, or they may seem unimaginably cheap considering the effort and resources that go into producing them.

  • Fear of a Populist Planet by Seth Ackerman

    Seth Ackerman moderates a debate on populism between some prominent political scientists. They discuss how the Left's shift towards centrist economic policies has opened up an opportunity for Right wing parties to appeal to working-class voters.

  • How We Got to Sesame Street by Jill Lepore

    Sesame Street was created during a time of abundant government spending in social and educational projects. Not too long after, the Reagan years brought deregulation and enormous cuts in public spending. How did it hold up?

  • The Next Word by John Seabrook

    Can a computer write an article for The New Yorker? John Seabrook investigates the intersection of writing and artifical intelligence.

Recommended comedy

  • Kid Positive by Adam Levin

    Looking for a funny short story to pull you away from the current state of affairs? Adam Levin's Kid Positive hilariously articulates the thoughts and emotions of a boy as he grows and changes through a set of memories.

  • X-treme Rules of the X.F.L. by Eli Coyote Mandel

    Who doesn't love a few cheap shots at one of America's great sports? Especially one that touches almost every part of our society.

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