At the Pharmacy

First published in “The Petersburg Gazette,” 1885, subtitled “A little scene.”

February 24, 2022, 6 min read


First published in 1901 in The Courier.

February 17, 2022, 7 min read

It Was Probably the Name of a Deity

Justin Kaplan’s “When the Astors Owned New York” tells the story of a family feud that fueled the creation of New York’s most famous grand hotels.

February 10, 2022, 16 min read

How and Why Should One Live?

An unpublished article from Tolstoy’s drafts, dated October 6th, 1905. Tolstoy stresses the importance of searching for the meaning of life, and suggests that the wisdom to help us find it is closer than we might think.

December 16, 2021, 3 min read

An Intellectual Blockhead

First published in The Petersburg Gazette, 1885 (23 June).

December 2, 2021, 8 min read

The Writer

First published in The Petersburg Gazette, 1885

November 19, 2021, 6 min read

At the Station

Leonid Andreyev’s short story, first published in 1903, deals with the distinction between two types of work: working on a task and working set hours. It is probably more relevant today than it has been at the time of its publication. Here is my new translation.

November 4, 2021, 9 min read

Announcing the Circle of Reading

I’m publishing my new translation of Leo Tolstoy’s last major work, The Circle of Reading, as a daily newsletter.

October 14, 2021, 2 min read

Remember the Graces: Lord Chesterfield’s Letters to His Son

Lessons from the 18th century handbook for worldly success.

October 5, 2021, 20 min read

The Only Morality

John Ruskin on the relationship between taste, morality and art.

September 16, 2021, 8 min read

3 Lessons on Human Nature From Liar’s Poker

How to create the illusion of desirability; the importance of second order consequences; and why investors aren’t afraid of losing money as much as they’re afraid of not having a good excuse.

September 9, 2021, 7 min read

Dostoevsky on Why We Don’t Do What’s Best for Us

How “the most beneficial” benefit interferes with our pursuit of self-interest.

September 3, 2021, 4 min read

A Scythian Funeral

Seneca on the shortness of life.

August 26, 2021, 9 min read

The Lasso

On the importance of pressure for creative pursuits, and how the things that set us back could help us advance.

August 19, 2021, 5 min read

Orwell on Self-Censorship

Does censorship affect every writer, even those covering “unpolitical” topics? George Orwell argues that it does, and, moreover, that it leads to self-censorship and the ossification of language.

August 12, 2021, 5 min read

Hatred Alone Is Immortal

On William Hazlitt’s principle of the pleasure of hating, and what the “apple of discord” can teach us about how to deal with it.

August 5, 2021, 5 min read

The Plight of Starving Billionaires

From 1921 to 1923 the German government printed money to balance its budget and used inflation to control unemployment. This is what happened.

July 29, 2021, 13 min read

How Sam Walton Turned a Tiny, Failing Variety Store Into Walmart

Sam Walton’s autobiography sits at the top of Jeff Bezos’s reading list, and it’s not difficult to see why. It’s a story of the creation of a colossal retail empire—from scratch.

July 22, 2021, 19 min read

You Won’t Have a Single Rival

The Enchiridion is a distillation of Epictetus’ Stoic philosophy. It has remained popular for centuries among great thinkers and leaders. Here are the key ideas you can apply today.

July 15, 2021, 12 min read

What Was Authority?

Hannah Arendt argues that not only has authority disappeared, but that we no longer understand the meaning of the word. Furthermore, its disappearance actually leads to a loss of freedom, and not, as might be assumed, the reverse.

April 29, 2021, 8 min read

A Tyranny Without a Tyrant

Hannah Arendt’s essay On Violence offers a unique perspective on the rise of unrest and violence in the 1960s. The reasons she gives have not been resolved, which may well explain the situation in the world today.

April 22, 2021, 7 min read

That Much More Complicated Piece of Mechanism—Man

When Andrew Carnegie sold his steel empire in 1901, he became one of the wealthiest Americans in history. What’s more impressive is that he worked his way up to the top from nothing. Here are five stories from his autobiography that reveal some of the reasons for his extraordinary success.

April 15, 2021, 10 min read

Great Expectations Create Great Capabilities

Our potential expands to fill the magnitude of our goals. In order to thrive, we must set goals that are beyond what we think we can achieve today.

April 8, 2021, 6 min read

Meaningful Tension

Viktor Frankl on the modern phenomenon of the existentual vacuum, and how we can find meaning in seemingly hopeless situations.

April 1, 2021, 7 min read

“Man” by Maxim Gorky

My translation of Maxim Gorky’s philosophical prose poem “Man,” first published in “Знание” in 1903

March 25, 2021, 12 min read