Free 24 min read

Sophie Roell On Books

Uri Bram: I’m delighted to be here today with Sophie Roell, co-founder and editor of, certainly the best book curation site on the internet. Sophie, thanks for joining  –– could you guess for us how many books you have read at this point?

Sophie Roell: It’s very hard to come up with a number because there are different levels of reading books. So some books I really read properly word for word and some I just skim and everywhere in between. So I’ve certainly read – I’ve certainly skimmed and looked at – I probably look at about seven books a week and I’ve been doing this for about a decade so you do the math.

Uri Bram: I'm doing the math and I make that somewhere around 4,000 books, which is incredible.

Sophie Roell: Yeah, that’s possible. But the other aspect is that

Free 12 min read

A.J. Jacobs on Puzzles

Uri: I'm delighted to be here today with AJ Jacobs, author of The Puzzler, a fantastic new book about puzzling in all its forms -- crosswords, jigsaws, mazes and more -- and also about the meaning of life. So, I thought I'd ask A.J. some things that have been puzzling me lately. A.J., what goes on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?

A.J.: I do happen to know that classic riddle — traditionally it’s a human. In the morning of life there’s a baby crawling around, in the afternoon there's an adult on two legs, in the evening you have a cane as well.

But I have heard alternate answers, and I’m a big fan of alternative answers. When I was a teenager, my friend said you could take a dog and chop off two legs and glue

Free 4 min read

Browser Interview: Abe Callard

Uri: I'm excited to talk today with Abe Callard, who edited our wonderful video-recommending Viewer newsletter that wrapped up last week.

Abe, after two years of choosing videos, can you tell us what you’ve learned about the world of YouTube?

Abe: If you want more views and more engagement, the most important thing is to display a voracious interest in your subject matter. Many videos on hot topics fail to get traction because of the creator’s impassive tone and editing style (just look at r/videoessay for a litany of these), while a creator like BobbyBroccoli regularly pulls hundreds of thousands of views on videos about obscure scientific scandals from the 70s because he seems genuinely obsessed with them. That obsession is contagious.

Uri: Are there any types of video that seem especially easy or hard to find on YouTube?

Abe: This is probably selfish (it happens to

Free 15 min read

Adrienne Raphel on Crosswords

Uri: I'm delighted to be here today with Adrienne Raphel, the author of Thinking Inside the Box, a brilliant book about crosswords. Adrienne, you’ve been enjoying crosswords since your youth – can you tell us a little bit about how you came to them?

Getting Into Crosswords

Adrienne: I think I should start off by just laying out that I am not a super crossword expert. I’m no Dan Feyer. I’m not Stella Zawistowski. I bow to those people: it’s amazing to meet them all. It’s an incredible community of people.

I’ve been a word enthusiast since before I can remember. I don’t really have any memory of a time when I couldn’t read, which is probably because I have a slightly older brother who I was very competitive with and he read fairly early; and just because my family likes competition and

Free 6 min read

Tomiwa Owolade On Social And Moral Movements

Uri: I’m delighted to be here today with writer and critic Tomiwa Owolade. Tomiwa, you seem to have an ongoing interest in social and moral movements and how they happen. In one piece, you write “the means through which our moral norms spread will always be somewhat imperfect, haphazard, bungling,” which I really respect. But still I want to ask you – do you have an overall model of social change? When moral movements do succeed, what makes the difference?

Tomiwa: I espouse the view expressed by the French social theorist and literary critic René Girard that we are mimetic creatures; we like to imitate other people. Which raises the question: who do we often imitate in particular? I think, as Thorstein Veblein noted, we imitate the fashions of high-status people.

I think moral movements typically succeed when they are adopted by high-status people. This is why I’m not

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