Here are a few of my favorite essays that I’ve published over the years, about books and ideas and historical personages that interested me. For a more complete list, have a look here.


Since 2012 my main freelance writing gig has been with The History Channel (but not, I’m always forced to assure people, the part that’s actually on TV).

For History.com, the brand’s main website, I’ve written 40 or so encyclopedia articles on topics ranging from ancient Greek philosophy to Enlightenment Europe to modern American cities.

But the majority of my work has been writing articles and overseeing project-wide editorial coverage for History Here, a mobile app—free on iOS and Android—that tells the vast and varied story of American history through paragraph descriptions linked to points on a map. It’s been quite a journey—and one that was nominated for two Webby awards in 2013. Read more thoughts and data-points here.

Since 2008 I have been writing and editing for the website Culture-Making.com. Originally created to promote my friend Andy Crouch’s book Culture Making: Rediscovering Our Creative Calling, over several years and hundreds of blog posts, the site has grown into a repository of quotation and commentary about the true, the beautiful, and the interesting.

Everything I’ve blogged about for Culture Making

In the late 2000s I published most frequently in Comment Magazine; several of these pieces have been linked near and far by sites like the New York Times and The Morning News.

How Not to Do Your Physics Homework In 1995 I strung up a 200-foot pendulum in the central well of the Bunker Hill Monument. What could possibly go wrong?

Subtleties A brief meditation on the history and philosophy of foreign film subtitles: what they look like, how they get written, what they mean.

You Had Me at ‘Hello’ What do you say when you answer the phone? How a bargeman’s call became the international standard for disembodied greetings.

All my Comment essays.

Since the site launched last year, I’ve been writing and editing occasionally for Ozy.com, a new news website out of Mountain View. My output has been a mix of assigned pieces outside of my history-science-and-culture comfort zone: Shadow Banks, for instance. I’ve also published fun pieces on John Muir and on the horse flu that brought 19th century America to a brief standstill.


From 2000 to 2003 I was editor of re:generation quarterly, a magazine about culture, community, and faith.

A Star in the East: The Enduring Myth of Prester John About the centuries-long search for a mythic Christian king of the Orient.

The Heart of the Pathetic A review of V.S. Naipaul’s Among the Believers and A Turn in the South, with notes on library book vandalism.

Omission Impossible: Why We Need Enemies

Fast and Right through Me A review of Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

And finally, one essay exclusive to this blog …

A Graphical Analysis of National Anthem Lyrics … with attention to length, word frequency, and general bloodthirstyness.