With the riots of April 1968, Washington entered the most turbulent period in the history of the city since the Civil War. Events tested the relations between the District and federal governments, between the white and black races, and between the capital and the rest of the United States. For the next four decades, the city would experience times of lawlessness and chaos, malfeasance and near bankruptcy, and often the contumely of members of Congress. But Washington would endure these trials and would emerge as a strong and better capital of the United States, a city that came closer to embodying the ideals of the nation than ever before.

-Tom Lewis, Washington: A History of Our National City



The Pleasure of Reading

I was an only child, and spent the long afternoons of childhood in rooms full of my father’s books. Like many only children I have a certain immunity to loneliness and am content with my own company to the point of smugness. Perhaps that is why I squandered the opportunity my singleness gave me to lose myself in reading.

-Alan Hollinghurst in The Pleasure of Reading: 43 Writers on the Discovery of Reading and the Books that Inspired Them, edited by Antonia Fraser


St. Marks Is Dead

Four hundred years ago, on a long, thin island, flanked by two rivers, the Lenape camped in the forest that would become St. Marks Place.

-Ada Calhoun, St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street


Suspicious Minds & Much More


“[Rob] Brotherton illustrates how incomplete, contradictory, coincidental, and incongruent information can allow people to see conspiracies and connections where there are none, due in part to the theories’ plausibility and humans’ innate desire for order, as well as a given individual’s understanding of how the world works.” Here‘s a review of Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories.

The 10 best genre-bending novels. Here.

It’s a pot-boiler, a soap opera, a plot-driven novel that has the high-falutin’ literary world (which considers itself above this sort of nonsense) mesmerized. It’s a novel (or in this case, a set of novels) that bridges the difference between high- and middle-brow. It is, at the same time, resolutely familiar and totally new. But how? Nobody seems to really have an answer to that simple question.” Here‘s The Story of the Lost Child. And more on Ferrante.

Colm Tóibín’s award-winning 2009 novel, Brooklyn, comes to the screen. Here.

“My new novel…[is] about John Lennon, of the Beatles of course, who owned a tiny Island off the West Coast of Ireland that he bought in the 1960s. He only visited it twice ever, for an hour each time. He had plans to build a house, then he forgot about the island and he gave it to a commune for a while, some hippies. Towards the end of his life he talked about the island again and about maybe going back and building a house.’ Here‘s novelist Kevin Barry (Beatlebone).



The House of Twenty Thousand Books

Almost as important as the words were the way the books felt and smelled. In turning the thick pages of old books, in heavy, cracked, cardboard covers or vellum bindings, or the crumbly, flaky pages of other volumes, one could imagine what Marx might have felt as he held a particular tome in his hands while researching his great tracts in the Reading Room of the British Museum. In the cloying smells released when ancient volumes were opened up, one could sniff out hints of lost printing techniques and paper-making methods, of inks manufactured centuries ago.

Sasha Abramsky, The House of Twenty Thousand Books

City on a Grid

Though New Yorkers sometimes think urbanity began with them, grids are nothing new, nor are the arguments pro and con.

-Gerard Koeppel, City on a Grid: How New York Became New York


What the Eye Hears

Whenever there’s a mixed bill of tappers, you can bet that all the dancers in the show will cram onstage at the end for the Shim Sham.

-Brian Seibert, What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing


The Invention of Nature

Alexander von Humboldt was born, on 14 September 1769, into a wealthy  aristocratic Prussian family who spent their winters in Berlin and their summers at the family estate of Tegel, a small castle about ten miles north-west of the city.

-Andrea Wulf, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World


Mrs. Engels

No one understands men better than the women they don’t marry, and my own opinion–beknown only to God–is that the difference between one man and another doesn’t amount to much.

-Gavin McCrea, Mrs. Engels: A Novel


Avenue of Mysteries

Occasionally, Juan Diego would make a point of saying, “I’m a Mexican–I was born in Mexico, I grew up there.”

-John Irving, Avenue of Mysteries