• HUMAN NATURE

The Book of Woe

Psychotherapist Gary Greenberg explores the failures and flaws that lie within psychology’s premiere handbook for the classification of mental disorders.

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  • HUMAN NATURE

One Thousand Mustaches

The Walrus. The Van Dyke. The Handlebar. For something so simple, facial hair on a man's upper lip -- the mustache, or "Mo" -- is subject to infinite variations, limited only by the human imagination. Thankfully we have facial follicle fiend Allen Peterkin (The Bearded Gentleman) to provide an entertaining survey of the 'stache throughout history, culminating in its current renaissance.

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  • HUMAN NATURE

A Twitter Year

You can find out a lot about a year by surveying the real-time, 140-characters-or-less responses to breaking news on Twitter. In this orderly, fun-to-peruse almanac, journalist Kate Bussmann compiles telling tweets about many of 2011's key events: from the Royal Wedding to the death of Osama Bin Laden to the Super Bowl and the post-Christmas East Coast blizzard that came to be known as the "Snowpocalypse." File it under #veryinterestingread. 

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  • HUMAN NATURE

Adventures in the Orgasmatron

Poor Wilhelm Reich, whose books were burned for their much-maligned promotion of orgone energy, those cosmic sex rays once endorsed by C-list celebrities. Freud's rogue disciple gets an overdue rehabilitation in Turner's respectful yet rollicking study. The lasting effects of Reich's assault on consensus science and sexology are still being felt, as Turner makes clear in his survey of Reich's erotic legacy.

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  • HUMAN NATURE

Obliquity

The most interesting, useful, and liberating book of advice this year, economist John Kay's argument for the efficacy of indirection is both intuitive and practical, supported with examples from business, politics, sports, parenting, and literature. The best path to both goals and satisfaction, says Kay persuasively, is most surely an indirect one.

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  • HUMAN NATURE

Pleasure Bound

Deborah Lutz strips the petticoats from the Victorian era to reveal the velvet underground of sexual shenanigans indulged in by royalty and commoner alike.

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  • HUMAN NATURE

The Truth About Grief

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's theory of the five stages of grief may be among the most powerful received ideas of our era. But in this well-researched, illuminating book, Ruth Davis Konigsberg uses both science and sympathy to argue against the five stages and toward a more rounded understanding of this fundamental human emotion.

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  • HUMAN NATURE

The Man Who Lied to His Laptop

Stanford's technology maven Clifford Nass dissects the curious web of emotions and expectations that bind man and machine, discovering that hardwired components of our brains, evolved to deal with organic beings, adapt themselves instinctively to creatures of silicon and plastic, too.

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  • HUMAN NATURE

Framing Innocence

In 1945, Life magazine could print a frontal picture of a topless, six-year-old Natalie Wood. In the year 2000, loving mother Cynthia Stewart was prosecuted for snapping a candid shot of her eight-year-old daughter in the shower, intended solely for family viewing. Poet Lynn Powell smartly ponders this telling change in attitudes and laws.

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  • HUMAN NATURE

Becoming Animal

Anointed by Utne Reader as one of a select hundred transformative visionaries, ecologist and philosopher David Abram here attempts to imaginitively engineer the reunion of contemporary man and his animal-respecting ancestors, seeking in near-shamanistic terms a new perspective on where we fit in the vast web of life.

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  • human nature

How Pleasure Works

Is there a unifying engine of desire behind the variegated affections of humanity? Yale psychologist Paul Bloom attempts to parse the hidden mechanisms underlying our preferences, be they sexual, musical, or literary. Read more...

  • human nature

Sex

Mark Doty unforgettably remembers his early marriage and the awakening sexuality of the affair it engendered; Jeanette Winterson concocts a wickedly irreverent modern myth; James Lord, Robert Bolaño, Tom McCarthy, and Jennifer Egan are among the rest of the contributors to Granta's -- dare I say it -- orgy of good writing on the subject of sex. Read more...

April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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