2020 being what it is, I’ve become attracted to books that offer humanistic guidance and emotional support. This summer I binged my way through most of George Saunders’ published works, book after book, engulfing stories about people facing hard times and trying to do the right thing. No one writes more powerfully and compassionately about this topic than Saunders. Reading him, you become imbued with a sense of concern for others and an acceptance of their flaws. You feel magnanimous, expansive, warm.

After finishing the last of his books, though, the warmth began to fade. I went to my local…


It was after midnight when, reading by iPhone flashlight under the covers so as not to wake my girlfriend, I finished Jaswinder Bolina’s essay collection Of Color. I rarely stay up late to finish a book, much less to finish a book of essays on the day I bought it, and snippets of the text have been swirling in my head since I finished reading it several weeks ago. What is it about Bolina’s writing that pulled me in and left a mark?

That’s what I’ll be trying to get at in this review, but before I do, let me…


Michael Chabon’s novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is my favorite book of late. It blew me away. It blew a lot of people away when it was published, winning the Pulitzer in 2001. The book does many things well, but its greatest accomplishment is how vividly it renders its characters. “They could walk off the page,” proclaims the Newsweek review, and I fully agree.

As anyone who has written or tried to write fiction knows, characterization is hard. Even when someone like Chabon comes along and creates a believable cast of characters, it’s not always clear what…


You are about to read a saga: the tale of how my girlfriend got a faulty new Apple laptop replaced. I am not only the narrator of this saga. I am also its hero.

The heroics began at 8:57am on Wednesday, June 6th. I was sitting in front of the Apple Store in Union Square, reading Lolita and waiting to be let in. But the story itself began much earlier. Let me catch you up.

This February, my girlfriend, Steph, bought a new Apple MacBook Pro. Her old one — slower, fatter — had begun to signal its demise. …


In preparation for a recent trip to Spain, I purchased Giles Tremlett’s Ghosts of Spain. It was by all accounts the leader in its impossible category, the tell-me-everything-about-a-country-in-one-sitting kind. I am admittedly uninformed about world geography, culture, and politics. In short, I am American. But given a long plane ride and a 400-page book, I figured I could arrive in Spain with at least a basic level of cultural awareness.

Of course, what actually happened is that I landed bleary-eyed and having read only thirty pages. I didn’t know the current time, let alone anything significant about my destination. …


This may come as a shock, but there are no software developers in San Francisco. They have gone the way of the honeybees and vanished. What we have instead — in spades — are engineers.

If you program computers you are not a computer programmer. If you develop websites you are not a web developer. If you code you are not a coder. We are all of us engineers.

My fellow engineers, what in the actual what? Who do we think we’re fooling? The university I went to doesn’t even have an engineering school. The only thing I’ve ever fabricated…


Two weeks ago I traveled from San Francisco to Denver. The trip took thirty-three hours.

It was my first long train ride. A friend had told me about the route and I’d taken to the idea immediately. Relaxing, seeing the sights, traveling for its own sake… What’s not to like?

But when I told my other friends and coworkers about the voyage, my enthusiasm was met with confusion. Is it cheaper than a plane ticket? No, it costs twice as much. Are you stopping anywhere along the way? Nope. Then why?

To be honest I found it romantic. I pictured…


A dramatic reenactment of last weekend’s beer pong game. I’m on the right.

Something strange happened last weekend.

My roommate and I went to a house party thrown by some new grads, and when we arrived I heard someone say, “Stephen must have invited some of his older work friends.”

I am not only old. I am so old that I must also be a work friend.

Apparently twenty-five is old in San Francisco.

Getting old certainly has its disadvantages. For one, I’ve learned that I’m a lot worse at beer pong than I used to be, and I wasn’t that good to begin with. But there are also some good things about…


In 2014, theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli wrote a popular science book called Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey To Quantum Gravity in his native tongue, Italian. In the same year he wrote a much shorter book — a pamphlet, really — called Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. The shorter book was the first to be published in English, beating its older sibling by a year. In that time span, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics became an international bestseller and today remains the author’s best known book.

I find this to be a shame because Seven Brief Lessons on…


I am prone to random fits of curiosity. And when curiosity strikes, I often turn to books for the answer.

Two years ago I became curious about men’s leather dress shoes. Where do they come from? How are they made? I wanted to know, so I ordered Handmade Shoes for Men by László Vass and Magda Molnár, the most relevant book I could find on Amazon.

A 200-page book on shoemaking — covering in detail the anatomy of the foot, the phases of walking, and the parts of the cowhide best suited for the different components of the shoe —…

David Fish

Engineer @ Plaid. Incoming English MA student @ Columbia.

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