What We Are Reading Today: Our Great Purpose by Ryan Patrick Hanley

Updated 18 September 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Our Great Purpose by Ryan Patrick Hanley

Adam Smith is best known today as the founder of modern economics, but he was also an uncommonly brilliant philosopher who was especially interested in the perennial question of how to live a good life. 

Our Great Purpose is a short and illuminating guide to Smith’s incomparable wisdom on how to live well, written by one of today’s leading Smith scholars, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

In this inspiring and entertaining book, Ryan Patrick Hanley describes Smith’s vision of “the excellent and praiseworthy character,” and draws on the philosopher’s writings to show how each of us can go about developing one. For Smith, an excellent character is distinguished by qualities such as prudence, self-command, justice, and benevolence — virtues that have been extolled since antiquity. 

Yet Smith wrote not for the ancient polis but for the world of market society — our world — which rewards self-interest more than virtue. Hanley shows how Smith set forth a vision of the worthy life that is uniquely suited to us today.


What We Are Reading Today: The Seine: The River That Made Paris by Elaine Sciolino

Updated 09 November 2019

What We Are Reading Today: The Seine: The River That Made Paris by Elaine Sciolino

The Seine: The River That Made Paris is a wonderful book from Elaine Sciolino that takes readers on a journey along the Seine river, through France’s fascinating history and a thousand little anecdotes that fill it with life. 

The book “tells the story of the Seine’s origin, its little known source in Burgundy, and the goddess that gave the river its name,” said a review in goodreads.com. 

It also “tells the stories of dozens of fascinating characters that have spent their lives on, around and along the river,” the review added.

It said “Sciolino met with people living on their boats, fishermen, the river police, the firefighters who put out the fire in the Notre Dame Cathedral using water from the Seine, and many more.” 

The characters “come to live with her skillful writing and share their stories of how the Seine has shaped their lives,” said the review.

Sciolino is a writer and former Paris Bureau Chief for The New York Times, based in France since 2002. 

She contributes to The New York Times’ Food, Culture, Styles and Sunday Review sections.