Brian Sholis

  • culture October 31, 2011

    Soccer Men by Simon Kuper

    In 2009, journalist Simon Kuper drew wide attention with the publication of Soccernomics, co-written with economist Stefan Szymanski, which explored the ways statistical analysis could explain the odd phenomena of the beautiful game. His timing was impeccable: In the last few years, as companies like Opta have refined their ability to extract quantifiable information from soccer’s fluid choreography, the world’s top clubs have turned to statisticians to help edge out the competition. North London’s Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger is a pioneer of this strategy, and Italy’s AC Milan deploys it in

  • culture October 29, 2010

    The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time by David L. Ulin

    David Ulin would readily admit that what, how, and why one reads inevitably change over time. What concerns him is that the act of reading is itself now being changed by the times.

    Los Angeles Times book critic David Ulin would readily admit that what, how, and why one reads inevitably change over time. What concerns him is that the act of reading is itself now being changed by the times. The quiet space we require for reading “seems increasingly elusive in our over-networked society,” he writes, “where … it is not contemplation we desire but an odd sort of distraction, distraction masquerading as being in the know.” I have suffered from a form of this allergy to deep engagement and its corollary need for “information”; for the better part of the past decade I mostly

  • From Head to Hand: Art and the Manual

    The title of critic David Levi Strauss’s new book, paired with his reputation for engaging political subjects, suggests From Head to Hand: Art and the Manual might be a fruitful addition to the recent spate of books that link craftsmanship to broader questions about economic worth. The best known of these are Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman (2008) and Matthew B. Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft (2009), both of which draw on a tradition of moral criticism, inaugurated by John Ruskin and William Morris, that protests capitalism’s tendency to undervalue skilled labor. Being aesthetes, Sennett

  • culture December 14, 2009

    American Power by Mitch Epstein

    Earlier this decade, prompted by a lawsuit his father was facing, photographer Mitch Epstein returned to his western Massachusetts hometown. Holyoke had become an unfamiliar landscape in the years since he had left as a young man, so he decided to document the changed circumstances of his parents’ lives. The resultant photographs and video installations in the series “Family Business” can be understood as an attempt to render visual the tectonic social and economic shifts the United States has undergone since midcentury. American Power, Epstein’s new book, attempts something similar, but on a

  • The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America

    Stewardship of the land remains as contentious an issue today as it was one hundred years ago, when Theodore Roosevelt laid out his vision for conservation and ran into opposition from corporate lumber and mining interests. In The Big Burn, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Timothy Egan tells the story of Roosevelt’s prophetic vision for America’s landscape and the debates he gleefully exacerbated. The book focuses, with cinematic flair, on the August 1910 forest fire that ravaged three million acres in the northern Rockies, while providing an opportune challenge to the newborn US Forest Service.

  • Civic Passions: Seven Who Launched Progressive America (and What They Teach Us)

    Current economic and social conditions—growing income disparity, battles over immigration, corporate titans’ sway over political affairs—have led many contemporary critics to point out correspondences between the United States of the past two decades and the nation of the late nineteenth century’s Gilded Age. For optimists pursuing a similar analogy, the recent election of a community organizer as president, his push for health-care reform, and this summer’s minimum-wage hike recall the Progressive response to Gilded Age industrial capitalism. Cecelia Tichi trenchantly summarizes such comparisons


    The prolific anthologist and writer Alberto Manguel has become, since the publication in 1996 of A History of Reading, one of the foremost gentleman scholars of books and the act of consuming them. In 2000, he wrote Reading Pictures: A History of Love and Hate, which narrates the stories told by an idiosyncratic selection of artworks and images, and he followed that in 2004 with A Reading Diary, which chronicles his experience rereading twelve favorite books in a year. Now, in The Library at Night, Manguel meditates on repositories of books, his thoughts provoked by the construction, next to


    Over the last decade, at least, authors have come out against bioethics, depression, capitalism, love, Christianity, common sense, Freud, and consolation, among any number of other subjects. Blame it on Susan Sontag. The polemical muscle of her 1964 essay “Against Interpretation” gave license to an essayistic discourse that, in announcing outright its position, is far more assertive than the open-ended, digressive ruminations of, say, Montaigne (“On cannibals,” “On repentance”) or the amused musings of Charles Lamb (“On the Inconveniences Resulting from Being Hanged”). Few agitators have wielded