Staff Picks: Sinner Semester, Tony Judt


This Week’s Reading

Raced through a great book this week, The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose. He took a semester off from Brown and went undercover at Falwell’s Liberty University. The portrait he paints of the place is nuanced and fascinating. —Caitlin Roper

I was amazed to learn, from the strangers at Wolfram Research, that the best hangman word is not “syzygy” but “jazz.” And by the inimitable Jed Perl on Salvador Dali and his “cosmic junkyards,” and what one presumes will be Tony Judt’s last published essay. And, finally, anyone caught up in the resurgent moralistic fuss over steroids and baseball should read Eric Walker’s definitive and dismissive “Steroids, Other ‘Drugs,’ and Baseball.” —David Wallace-Wells

The Burdens of Manliness,” an article in the summer 2010 Harvard Journal of Law and Gender. John M. Klang makes an amusing disclaimer: “I am sure to provoke disbelieving groans from some of the thoughtful readers of this Journal … I should add at the outset, however, that mine is neither a contrived joke borne of some middle-aged fraternity dare nor a stale plea left over from the sensitive troglodyte yearnings of the 1980s Men’s Movement.” —Daisy Atterbury

Seeing as Tom McCarthy’s new novel, C, is coming out in a few weeks, I thought it might be worth re-reading his last, Remainder. It was. In contrast to many recent “novels of ideas,” McCarthy doesn’t discuss concepts and theories: he sets them in motion, in a way only the narrative arts can—leaving the discussion for his readers. A beautifully rendered work. —Mark de Silva

Finally picked up Paul Harding’s Tinkers, the tiny book from Bellevue Literary Press that won the Pulitzer last year. I recommend it. —Thessaly La Force

I’ve been slowly making my way through The Magic Mountain. For the length of an entire subway ride, I can escape to a European sanatorium, where six-course meals are served by dwarves, young ladies whistle with their nitrogen-inflated lungs, and naps on reclining deck chairs are mandatory. —Miranda Popkey

Rereading The Beautiful and Damned. Why? Because there it was at St. Mark’s Books, and there I was late for a haircut with nothing to read—and because, really, what could be better? —Lorin Stein