1A Collection of Essays by
Orwell was famous for sticking close to reality, for facing unpleasant facts, for describing ideas not ideologically but as they actually played out in concrete circumstances.
Anna is a magnetic person propelled by a love that is ardent and unexpected but also headlong and unpredictable. She’s ultimately unable to surmount the consequences of her actions or even live with the moral injuries she causes. Was Anna right to follow her heart? Should she have settled for a mediocre life in line with convention? This is a foxlike love story, with many angles, which does not lead to easy answers.
This essay dismantles a common form of contemporary hubris — the belief that it is possible to solve political problems as if they were engineering problems, with rational planning. Oakeshott distinguishes between technical knowledge and practical knowledge. Technical knowledge is the sort of information that can be put in a recipe in a cookbook. Practical knowledge is the rest of what the master chef actually knows: the habits, skills, intuitions and traditions of the craft. Practical knowledge exists only in use; it can be imparted but not taught. Technocrats and ideologues possess abstract technical knowledge and think that is all there is. Their prefab plans come apart because they simplify reality, and don’t understand how society works and the rest of what we know.
This is nominally a novel about Huey Long. But it is also a novel about irony, the way good can come from bad, and bad can come from good, the way people march into public life imagining they are white lambs only to be turned into guilty goats. The main characters are tainted and mottled, part admirable, part noxious. The book asks if in politics you have to sell your soul in order to have the power to serve the poor.
Through the figure of Pericles, Thucydides shows us how to live a life of civilized ambition, in which individual achievement is fused with patriotic service. He also reminds us that in politics the lows are lower than the highs are high. That is, when politicians mess up, the size of the damage they cause is larger than the size of the benefit they create when they do well.
“The Confessions” is a religious book, but it can also be read as a memoir of an ambitious young man who came to realize how perverse life can be when it is dedicated to fulfilling the self’s own desires. “I came to Carthage, where a cauldron of illicit loves leapt and boiled about me,” Augustine wrote. “I was not yet in love, but I was in love with love, and from the very depth of my need hated myself.” Gradually, he orders his love, putting the higher loves above lower ones, and surrendering to God’s ultimate love. He also reconciles with his mother, Monica, the ultimate helicopter mom.
“In a passage that could come from Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma, Petroski writes that, ‘Even if a building is well designed structurally, it can still succumb to failure through no fault of its own.’”
Haven’t have time to read this year? We’ve got you covered.
A few months ago, I asked Dan Pink for book recommendations. He replied with an excellent list: “6 books on the Art and Science of Sales.” The second book on Pink’s list is Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People, first published in 1936. Pink writes that “Some readers…