Lives in Science

Lives in Science

It's easy to think of scientists as loners absorbed in their own thoughts. Sometimes they are. Their real lives, however, can be just as interesting as the wonderful ideas spilling out of their heads. It's great fun to watch big ideas bounce from mind to mind over the course of centuries. James Gleick's Isaac Newton is a short, accessible biography […]

Read More

Rabies, Cancer and Syphilis

Rabies, Cancer and Syphilis

Once, I went to the emergency room because I thought I had chest pains. It turned out to be a very expensive nothing, but hypochondria has its benefits. For one thing, it encouraged me to read all sorts of fun books about horrifying diseases. Rabid deals with rabies, an illness that has scared us for centuries. The book […]

Read More

How to Bury a Corpse

How to Bury a Corpse

If you've ever planned a funeral, or if you've ever spent your idle time thinking about death, you've no doubt felt yourself oddly curious about the details of the funeral business. No matter if you want to be buried, cremated, launched into orbit or shot out of a cannon, there's plenty of research to be done. […]

Read More

Fun with Superman

Fun With Superman

This year's One Book, One Chicago selection, The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, features two ambitious young men creating their own superhero in the late 1930s. Their creation owes a great debt to Superman, and in the same way that author Michael Chabon tips his hat to America's most iconic comic book creation, other writers […]

Read More

They’re All Lying to You

They're All Lying to You

Maybe you're the type who trusts in the basic goodness and honesty of your fellow man, who can calmly walk through life, confident in the truth of what average people and organizations have to say for themselves. As far as I'm concerned, that makes you a sap. They're all lying to you. Books told me […]

Read More

I Like Sports?

I Like Sports

I'm a Bears fan, born and raised. I don't have a choice in the matter. When I was a kid, my family had season tickets that were about as high up in Soldier Field as you could go, and I like to think I still follow the sport. But then again, I'm not much into […]

Read More

Say You Want a Revolution

Say You Want a Revolution

A little rebellion now and then can be good for one's constitution. Maybe one day you'll find yourself mad about something or other, and you'll want to take your fight to the Man. Before you do, remember that other people have tried it before, and there are plenty of lessons to learn. Thomas Paine and the […]

Read More

Literary Criticism is Not Boring!

Literary Criticism is Not Boring

Okay, so literary criticism is boring. If you're not into classic, historic or highfalutin literature, you really don't care what makes something classic, historic or highfalutin. But give it a chance . . . When you find a critic who can actually write, you stumble across a whole new landscape of writers and their words. […]

Read More

That Guy Knows Everything

That Guy Knows Everything

Did you ever wonder what it's like to know everything? Or at least to know enough to fake it? There are a few books out there which give you a glimpse of the world of ultimate knowledge. In The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking has apparently grown so smart he can claim on the first page […]

Read More

How to Pretend to Be Real

Pretend That You're Real

Did you ever want to pretend you existed in a different time and place? Honestly, I haven't, which is why I'm interested in reading about people who are. There are a great many people out there who love putting on costumes and living anywhere else but here and now. All Shall Be Well; and All […]

Read More