First and Last Lines

In the simplest terms, Bitcoin is just another currency.

Optimistically, the entirety of humanity will benefit as a result.

Conrad Barski and Chris Wilmer, Bitcoin for the Befuddled

In June, the book club was at Zoe’s house, which meant that Elizabeth had to carry her heavy ceramic bowl of spinach salad with walnuts and bits of crumbled goat cheese a grand total of half a block.

The air smelled like fall, and Harry watched the firefly go all the way under the canopy of leaves before turning around.

Emma Straub, Modern Lovers

Amid melting snowfields, a profusion of colorful butterflies and other pollinators, and a riotous display of wildflowers, native and non-native to the Rockies, Paul R. Ehrlich and Michael Charles Tobias met for a couple of days at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in the mountains above Crested Butte, Colorado, to hike together and discuss the fate of the world.

PE: In fact, it’s later than you think.

Paul Ehrlich and Michael Tobias, Hope on Earth

There are consequences to excessive hope, just as there are to other forms of intemperance.

The course of the party and the course of the country can both be changed, but only after we understand that the problem is us.

Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal

It’s not easy being an economist.

Give the economist a little credit for explaining and depicting the brief, shining moments when there has been a difference.

Todd Buchholz, New Ideas From Dead Economists

They spent the afternoon butchering horses.

Grace threw the remainder of her sucker onto the console and yelled for the puppy as the Bronco spun in the muck and Banks crossed the cattle guard and pulled onto the road and drove west into a swollen red sun.

Matthew McBride, A Swollen Red Sun

On a top-ten list of mapped features, the coastline is a shoo-in for first place.

It’s simpler and perhaps no less effective to store the blue line electronically on Google Earth, where it’s assured a wider audience.

Mark Monmonier, Coast Lines

On the last day of summer, in the year I graduated from college, I moved to Chicago, that rough and burly city in the middle of America, that middle knuckle in our national fist, and rented a small apartment on the north side of the city, on the lake.

There wasn’t any note, but it wasn’t like any note was necessary.

Brian Doyle, Chicago

As I was a stranger in Olondria, I knew nothing of the splendor of its coasts, nor of Bain, the Harbor City, whose lights and colors spill into the ocean like a cataract of roses.

I look for her still.

Sofia Samatar, A Stranger In Olondria

We know what class is.

But they are who we are and have been a fundamental part of our history, whether we like it or not.

Nancy Isenberg, White Trash

The history of contemporary American conservatism is a story of disappointment and betrayal.

This generation of conservatives must be willing to face the future with confidence, and with hope.

E. J. Dionne, Why the Right Went Wrong

Often, the best way to learn is to do: so we’re going to start off by creating a simple application.

There is going to be an explosion of depth and creativity in the JavaScript development community—and I sincerely hope that you will be part of it.

Ethan Brown, Learning JavaScript

Certain historical facts have been twisted to fit Eugene Allen’s fictive universe.

[Eugene Allen, August 20, 1973]

David Means, Hystopia

Robert Hatfield heard the dogs howling.

But it’s where I have to stay.

Joshua Blu Buhs, Bigfoot

The agitator’s harangue may appear simply as the raving of a maniac—and may be ignored as such.

But it does at the very least expose the true social and psychological content of the agitation—the essential prerequisite for its prophylaxis.

Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman, Prophets of Deceit

She works in one of those Park Avenue buildings which tourists feel obligated to photograph.

I cherished her and celebrated her, and we restored each other.

John MacDonald, Nightmare in Pink

Augustine, a teenager studying in Carthage in the 370s, begins to ponder what he will one day consider the inevitable shortcomings of human philosophy ungrounded in the word of God.

That would be the glory of a world in which the liberty to choose any religion or no religion is recognized as a universal human right, and forced conversion becomes, finally, nothing more than a hideous oxymoron from the past.

Susan Jacoby, Strange Gods

It is very likely that never in human history have there been as many treatises, essays, theories and analyses focused on culture as there are today.

Models of committed writers, I cite them, in conclusion, as evidence that however rarefied the air might become, and life might turn against them, dinosaurs can manage to survive and be useful in difficult times.

Mario Vargas Llosa, Notes on the Death of Culture

In the spring of 1790, Xavier de Maistre, brother of the conservative political philosopher Joseph de Maistre, made the best that he could of a house arrest and commenced a forty-two-day journey around his room, which he turned into a detailed travel account that not only would become an exceedingly renowned work of French literature but also launched a literary genre.

As for the “pale and intrepid reader” and the “companion of these pages,” they hope—and this wish also goes out to the reader of the present book— to have “opened some doors for you too,” hoping “that some parallel freeway project of your own invention is already germinating” (Cortázar and Dunlop 37).

Bernd Stiegler, Traveling in Place

It doesn’t always start with a suitcase.

She told me home is the place where there is someone who does not wish you any pain.

Darryl Pinckney, Black Deutschland

On August 26,1995, a fire broke out in Westhampton, on the westernmost edge of the celebrated Long Island Hamptons, one of the most beautiful areas in the United States.

For government is still the most effective instrument available by which a politically organized society can pursue its common objectives, including the shared aim of securing the protection of legal rights for all.

Steven Holmes and Cass Sunstein, The Cost of Rights

Around and around we went, like circling through wads of lint in a dirty pocket.

Otherwise he’d just stand around looking like Smokey the Bear watching all the forests burn down.

John MacDonald, The Fearful Yellow Eye

“They are all trying to blame this on me,” Nebraska senator George Norris laughed as he pointed to a knot of shivering reporters watching Franklin Roosevelt prepare to take the oath of office.

Because of their actions, and the actions of their countrymen, they did at least put themselves in a position to prevent catastrophe should the next thousand-year flood thunder down the basin centuries ahead of schedule.

David Welky, The Thousand-Year Flood

Ancient Rome is important.

This book, I hope, is not just A History of Ancient Rome but part of that conversation with its Senate and People: SPQR.

Mary Beard, SPQR

The date was April 14, 1912, a sinister day in maritime history, but of course the man in suite 63-65, shelter deck C, did not yet know it.

On a crystalline fall day you can almost hear the tinkle of fine crystal, the rustle of silk and wool, almost smell the expensive cigars.

Eric Larson, The Devil in the White City

Once upon a time I was very lucky and located a sixty-five-foot hijacked motor sailer in a matter of days, after the authorities had been looking for months.

He puts his hand on my arm, beams at me and says, “Welcome to the world.”

John MacDonald, The Lonely Silver Rain

The church was cold.

For the first time, she felt and comprehended the weight of love….

Mary Westmacott, The Burden

These facts have never been revealed.

But what happened to the child?

Laudomina Bonanni, The Reprisal

When I finished “Happy Days” in August, 1939, anchored to an Underwood Noiseless Portable in the lovely Summer home of Dr. and Mrs. Frederic M. Hanes, high up in the North Carolina mountains, it would have astonished me unfeignedly if one of the native necromancers had dropped in from a neighboring Alp and told me that two similar volumes would follow it.

After the convention of his half-wits in Cleveland in 1936 a report was circulated that he was experimenting with a mike fixed to his shoulders by a stout framework, so that he could gesture normally without any risk of roaring futilely into space, but if he actually ever used it I was not present, and so cannot tell you about it.

H. L. Mencken, Heathen Days

Nothing good ever comes in the mail.

“I’ll just have to say it myself.”

Libby Cudmore, The Big Rewind

The recollections here embalmed, I should say at once, have nothing in common with the high, astounding tales of journalistic derring-do that had a considerable run several years ago, after the devourers of best-sellers had begun to tire of medical memoirs.

Since 1910, save for a brief and unhappy interlude in 1938, I have never had a newspaper job which involved the control of other men’s work, or any responsibility for it.

H. L. Mencken, Newspaper Days

The Laboratory of Molecular Biology sat at the end of Hills Road on the southern edge of Cambridge, England.

“The next decade,” promised Brian Kennedy, “is going to be amazing.”

Ted Anton, The Longevity Seekers

This is a book about why six men changed—why they moved from one set of political beliefs to staunchly different ones.

By paying close and sustained attention to these perilous journeys, by asking ourselves where they went right and wrong, by extending our sympathies as far as they can possibly go, and imagining ourselves into lives where we could make similarly fraught choices, perhaps we can learn something that will enable us to better live our own lives, to be more aware of the possibilities—to be more bold , and more humble, somehow at the same time.

Daniel Oppenheimer, Exit Right

Hercule Poirot was sitting at the breakfast table.

“You do think of things, don’t you?”

Agatha Christie, Third Girl

Ahmed is looking at the clouds in the sky, the clouds, the wondrous clouds, floating up there.

But for that, there is forever.

Karim Miské, Arab Jazz

These casual and somewhat chaotic memoirs of days long past are not offered to the nobility and gentry as a coldly objective history.

No school tomorrow!

H. L. Mencken, Happy Days

Gwenda Reed stood, shivering a little, on the quayside.

We can go back if we like….

Agatha Christie, Sleeping Murder

The presidential administration of Lyndon Johnson is remembered primarily for two matters: civil rights, considered a success, and the war in Vietnam, viewed almost universally as a disastrous mistake.

The fires of the 1960s may have burned the liberals’ house to the ground, but when the smoke had cleared, its foundation—the Great Society—remained and remains intact.

Randall Woods, Prisoners of Hope

Idea for a novel: we have a banker rob his own bank.

‘That’s up to you.’

Paul Murray, The Mark and the Void

Like it or not, you are a negotiator.

This may require experimentation and a period of adjustment that is not so comfortable, but in the end, you are likely to maximize your negotiation power if you believe what you say and say what you believe.

Roger Fisher and William Ury, Getting to Yes

There are two methods, it seems to me, of approaching this strange business of the Pale Horse.

“If you want to go to the Old Vic in future,” she said firmly, “you’ll go with me.”

Agatha Christie, The Pale Horse

A woman in a black velvet coat pushed through the revolving doors of the Grosvenor Hotel and, waving a miniature Union Jack in each hand, waltzed slowly around the marble hall.

The more electricity in the air, the better her performance.

David Jaher, The Witch of Lime Street

Tommy Beresford removed his overcoat in the hall of the flat.

We must do all we can to make up to them for having such a dull time in this war….

Agatha Christie, N or M?

As the economy closed, the world became smaller.

Internet, watch out.

Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian, Information Rules

When at last I was taken out of the plaster, and the doctors had pulled me about to their hearts’ content, and nurses had wheedled me into cautiously using my limbs, and I had been nauseated by their practically using baby talk to me, Marcus Kent told me I was to go and live in the country.

“That,” I said, “is Joanna’s little joke.”

Agatha Christie, The Moving Finger

Summer 2009 came too early.

Soon one can no longer see the suburbs, the Old Settlement, or the sea.

Olja Savičević, Adios Cowboy

Who is there who has not felt a sudden startled pang at reliving an old experience or feeling an old emotion?

The mark on Norton’s forehead—it was like the brand of Cain….

Agatha Christie, Curtain

The century of revolution in the United States after the Civil War was economic, not political, freeing households from an unremitting daily grind of painful manual labor, household drudgery, darkness, isolation, and early death.

Yet, whatever their effect on economic growth, these measures taken together, would create a more equal, better-educated society, together with new sources of tax revenue to resolve the fiscal headwind and pay for new high-priority government programs—particularly preschool education.

Robert Gordon, The Rise and Fall of American Growth

It was five o’clock on a winter’s morning in Syria.

“Then,” said Poirot, “having placed my solution before you, I have the honour to retire from the case….”

Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express

In the longer work from which the discussion of Augustine’s two cities is drawn, Augustine faces in two directions.

For judges in administering the law condemn to exposure to wild beasts worse criminals than are condemned to be put to death by the sword.

Alan Ryan, On Augustine

Before my wife turned vegetarian, I’d always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way.

The look in her eyes is dark and insistent.

Han Kang, The Vegetarian

Between 7.30 and 8.30 every morning except Sundays, Johnnie Butt made the round of the village of Chipping Cleghorn on his bicycle, whistling vociferously through his teeth, and alighting at each house or cottage to shove through the letter-box such morning papers as had been ordered by the occupants of the house in question from Mr. Totman, stationer, of the High Street.

How else would they know what’s going on round here?

Agatha Christie, A Murder is Announced

So pervasive is its influence that Americans today can scarcely imagine a world without the Federal Reserve.

It was an imperfect bill—nonetheless, after a decade of debate, division, panic, study, conspiracy, party platforms, elections, and legislative work, it was a highly worthy achievement.

Roger Lowenstein, America’s Bank

Steven pulled up the collar of his coat as he walked briskly along the platform.

Pour moi, every time the central heating….”

Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas

The earliest known inhabitants of what is now the state of Maine were the “Moorehead People,” named for archaeologist Warren K. Moorehead, who excavated many of their sites.

We modify the earth, the oceans, the atmosphere, and the weather at our peril—and the peril of all life on earth.

Richard Ellis, Swordfish

Linnet Ridgeway!

For, as Mr. Ferguson was saying at that minute in Luxor, it is not the past that matters but the future.

Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile

The boundaries of the American West are a series of doors pretending to be walls.

Such imaginings, profound and silly, cannot be detached from what the West is, has been, and will become.

Richard White, “It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own

The September sun beat down hotly on Le Bourget aerodrome as the passengers crossed the ground and climbed into the air liner Prometheus, due to depart for Croydon in a few minutes’ time.

Ca, c’est très gentil!’ said Hercule Poirot.

Agatha Christie, Death in the Clouds

The autumn I turned fourteen, I came down with whooping cough.

We stood in line, the late-November chill frosting our breaths, and someone looked at me, looked right through to the jacket and the tie, knew them as he had known his own palm, opened his lips and closed them, silently, only the white air coming from his mouth.

Seth Lerer, Prospero’s Son



Randall Munroe, Thing Explainer

In this story of the three important decades of Lee de Forest, it is his inventions of the vacuum tube and the radio that will make the talking picture possible.

That is the story of Lee de Forest, the man who would be King of Radio, Television, and Film.

Mike Adams, Lee de Forest

I was surprised to see a white man walk into Joppy’s bar.

We laughed for a long time.

Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress

Two charged images dominate American life from the end of World War II to this moment.

It’s worth waiting around to see how it turns out.

Peter Hales, Outside the Gates of Eden

Tempest Landry didn’t see himself as a bad man.

“You want a apple?” he replied.

Walter Mosley, The Tempest Tales

The frontier as a determining factor in modern Western civilization has never been fully examined by historians or other scholars.

Our inspiration may come from history, in looking back to the early sixteenth century when the lamp was lifted beside the golden door of the Great Frontier to change the destiny of mankind.

Walter Webb, The Great Frontier

To recant the degeneracy tale with the proper panache, we first need to understand who was involved in gathering information on American natural history in the eighteenth century, why they gathered this information, and how the study of natural history was conceptualized at the time.

In the face of all that, support of the theory of degeneracy—in the sense that Buffon and his followers used the term—diminished and then disappeared.

Lee Dugatkin, Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose

In spite of myself, my heart is racing toward Africa.

Look through the eyes of another species and perhaps the occasional good we do will stand out from the constant stream of wreckage.

Craig Packer, Into Africa

Delegates from forty-four nations met in the New Hampshire resort of Bretton Woods in July 1944 to construct the postwar international economic order.

These last have very little to do with the discipline of economics, but everything to do with reality.

Dani Rodrik, Economic Rules

Senator Deschle’s comment is more colorful than most, but its basic conclusion is not unique.

If negativity ever happened to disappear from our electoral battles, we can safely assume that so would our freedoms and any chance we have to lay claim to being a democratic nation.

John Geer, In Defense of Negativity

Back then, Moving Day in L.A. was a phantom holiday that occurred, for many Angelenos, every other month or so.

Maybe it’s time I learn to count my blessings.

Walter Mosley, Rose Gold

The hallmark of the Unites States has been growth.

But that is a question for subsequent volumes in this series to ponder.

James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom

Shopping for food: we all do it, whether at the supermarket, or from traditional neighborhood shops, or in a market.

Our ability to survive as a species and to coexist with the myriad other species with which we share the planet depend on our recognizing the fruits of the Enlightenment and defending its spirit: its rationality, its empiricism, and its call to everyone’s right to life liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Noel Kingsbury, Hybrid

Here is a recipe for clotted cream.

But first we all need some light.

Eugenia Cheng, How to Bake π

Since The Zen of Seeing appeared, I have been asked to give workshops on “seeing/drawing as meditation” at many colleges, universities and other such institutions.

And it is brief.

Frederick Franck, The Awakened Eye

“Yeah, brothah,” Billy Psalms said before he downed half a paper cup of Blue Angle red wine, “Freddy Bumpus made a big mistake when he married Vanessa Tremont.”

I guess we bettah be gettin’ back to the war.

Walter Mosley, The Right Mistake

We are all forecasters.

And that, too, is why he is a superforecaster.

Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner, Superforecasting

To observe your mind in automatic mode, glance at the image below.

They will make better choices when they trust their critics to be sophisticated and fair, and when they expect their decision to be judged by how it was made, not only by how it turned out.

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

Very little is known, though much has been written, about the true nature of the jinn, the creatures made of smokeless fire.

Sometimes, for we have not wholly rid ourselves of perversity, we long for nightmares.

Salman Rushdie, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights

I have never stopped being slightly anxious about the premise of this book.

Even as you proclaim yourself “Safe behind walls” there is always a revelatory anagram of your self in the mottos you hide behind.

Simon Goldhill, Freud’s Couch, Scott’s Buttocks, Brontë’s Grave

2017 2015

This page last modified on 2016 November 5.