What Are We Doing Here? by Marilynne Robinson

What Are We Doing Here?

New essays on theological, political, and contemporary themes, by the Pulitzer Prize winnerMarilynne Robinson has plumbed the human spirit in her renowned novels, including Lila, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Gilead, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In this new essay collection she trains her incisive mind on our modern political climate and the mysteries of faith. Whether she is inv...

Details What Are We Doing Here?

TitleWhat Are We Doing Here?
Release DateFeb 20th, 2018
PublisherFarrar Straus and Giroux
GenreWriting, Essays, Nonfiction, Politics, Philosophy

Reviews What Are We Doing Here?

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    This is not a lightweight read, as Robinson is an academic first, one who happens to write novels. Most of these essays are speeches Robinson gave at universities between 2015 and 2017, on themes of religion, politics, holiness, humanism, etc. She was clearly on a John Edwards, Calvinism, and Cromwell kick because several of the essays reference these characters, as well as looking at the true history of America and its "Puritan roots." While I b...
  • Hadrian
    Collection of some essays retreading Robinson's favorite topics - the role of the university in American life, the Midwest, bipartisanship, mainline Protestantism, John Calvin. Multiple essays carry the banner of rehabilitating Puritanism and seeing in it the forerunners of democracy, political liberalism, and much else of American intellectual life.
  • Kathleen
    My review for the Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifesty...What does a set of theological essays — essays that aim plainly to consider the nature of God and religious belief in the context of both politics and individual consciousness — have to offer an increasingly secular country?Marilynne Robinson intends to find out in her latest book, “What Are We Doing Here?,” an erudite, authoritative and demanding collection that p...
  • Haley
    These essays, as academic rather than literary artifacts, are so much stronger than the pseudo-philosophy that so many writers attempt. In many of these essays, Robinson engages seriously with the debate between science and religion, and has much to offer on the nature of human consciousness and the role of beauty ("We have in ourselves grounds for supposing that Being is vaster, more luminous, more consequential than we have allowed ourselves to...
  • Mark Jr.
    My favorite (self-described) biblicist, Calvinist, Edwards-and-Puritan-reputations-rehabilitating, America-and-humanities-and-Western-tradition-defending, mainline Protestant, United Church of Christ liberal.Robinson is like no other writer I know. I've never seen a more wickedly incisive takedown of reductive materialism. I've never read a better defense of the Puritans, not even from their more direct theological heirs. I've never enjoyed so mu...
  • Krista
    It is no accident that Marxism and social Darwinism arose together, two tellers of one tale. It is not surprising that they have disgraced themselves in similar ways. Their survival more than one hundred and fifty years on is probably owed to the symmetry of their supposed opposition. Based on a single paradigm, they reinforce each other as legitimate modes of thought. So it is with our contemporary Left and Right. Between them we circle in a mae...
  • Ted Morgan
    For some reason, I don't quite grasp her essays but I love their depth. Ms. Robinson is a subtle writer who suggests more than states (I think) and is remarkable as a highly theologically literate thinker and author. I keep going back to her works for refreshment.
  • Northpapers
    We have invented common ground so that we can fight on it. This ground is a place that is safe from conceptions of mind and spirit and a significant amount of nuance in our history. It has been hammered flat. But our terms come at the immeasurable cost of all that is immeasurable.In this dry and diminished conversation, Marilynne Robinson answers a deep-seated thirst for wonder. Her approach is to take exception to our culture's basic assumptions...
  • Tashfin Awal
    I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways and have chosen to give my honest opinion about it.This book was actually such an interesting read! It's always refreshing to see such an inquisitive angle to things we often take for granted, and to challenge our perceptions of the factors in our lives which we consider above us. While some of the ideas here relied a bit too much on biblical literature for my taste, it was overall an inte...
  • Jonathan Berry
    Marilynne Robinson is one of the most thoughtful writers of our time, capable of finding and savoring beauty in humanity, despite the millions of ways we pile insult and injury upon each other. In this newest collection of essays, talks, and addresses, she engages questions and concerns at the forefront of the American consciousness: What is the role of education, and to what extent are our current educational systems serving the populace as they...
  • Peter
    In the history of England there was a fault line that ran between the Catholics and the Protestants, the Tories and the Whigs, and this was duplicated in America’s DNA, beginning with the contrast between the harsh punitive laws of Sir Thomas Dale’s slave-driving, profit-seeking Virginia and the humanistic rights and liberties of John Winthrop’s Massachusetts Bay Colony. Robinson returns to this theme in multiple essays (which are the re-wo...
  • James
    What Are We Doing Here? has been my first foray into Marilynne Robinson's non-fiction essays, and it was like drinking from a fire hose! There is so much density of thought, so much artistry of language, that I am certain I could read it a number of times and still see different and compelling ideas come to the fore in new ways.Compiled from a number of her lectures from the past few years, this recently-released collection is timely, and Robinso...
  • Marks54
    I had never read anything by Marilynne Robinson before I read this new book of essays by her. Having done so, I must acknowledge that I now need to read more books by this author, probably starting with her novel, Gilead. This is a marvelous book of essays on humanism, religion, metaphysics, ethics, Puritanism, writing, conscience, and plain old critical thinking. These essays are challenging, well thought through and rigorous, and demanding on t...
  • Sharon Gallup
    This was one of my free giveaways win. it took me a bit of time to read this as yes it isn't a story it is essays written by Marilynne Robinson. If you are a christen who believes in the bible this is a really informative of why we are here and how the past and future follows the teaching of the bible and in God and Jesus Christ and the teachings of mankind. (love, conscience and faith, hope and the practices of life). I took alot out of these es...
  • Michael Gonzales
    I just LOVE Marilynne Robinson. This is to say that my review is surely biased. I’ll be brief. If you’re bored by those subjects to which Robinson *religiously* gravitates—Puritanism, critiques of positivism, Western history, theology, etc.—then yeah, you might find this book unenjoyable, but also frustrating and challenging, which you might find ultimately satisfying. She repeats herself. Revisits the same subjects and figures, occasiona...
  • Clayton
    An uneven collection, with too many discussions of the same narrow range of topics--mostly Puritanism, Protestant theology, the decline of the humanities, and "Darwinism," which Robinson continues to deploy in her shifting, own idiosyncratic way that bears little relation to the life and works of Mr. Charles D. In What Are We Doing Here?, she sticks mostly to the hits that longtime readers know and love. Nothing wrong with that--Emersonian that s...
  • Chris devine
    What are we doing here? Wasting my time. This book is so dry and annoying, it's somehow both religious and anti religious at the same time, and I can pretty much sum the whole book up with don't be a dick. It seems like she's trying to fix the world, specifically the US, and if everyone lived by the slogan don't be a dick, we'd be pretty ok. The one redeeming essay was A Proof, a Test, an Instruction, which was primarily about Obama, and it was i...
  • Micah
    These challenging essays ranging from meditations on Faith, Hope, and Love, to a reexamination of the Puritanism and Calvinism also offer hope to those ruefully wondering why they chose to throw themselves into the humanities. I couldn't always keep up with Marilynne's sharp mind, and I might have tapped out of one or two essays after repeated mentions of the name "Oliver Cromwell," but overall, I was stretched and edified by this collection.
  • Marina
    This is a good book, I gave it 3 stars because I couldn't finish it. If I had started it at any other time other then the middle of a busy semester I would have been able to finish it and love it. So for right now it hasn't been finished, however, I will come back to it when I able to read more then 1 or 2 pages at a time.
  • Bob
    Summary: A collection of essays based on talks given, mostly at universities, between 2015 and 2017, questioning what she sees as a surrender of thought to ideology."I know it is conventional to say we Americans are radically divided, polarized. But this is not more true than its opposite--in essential ways we share false assumptions and flawed conclusions that are never effectively examined because they are indeed shared" (Preface, p. ix).The t...
  • Joshua Parks
    Many of these essays share a similar topic: a defense and re-appraisal of the Puritans' theological, cultural, and political legacy. While it was interesting to see Puritan thought from several angles throughout the book, those essays did eventually get a bit tedious. More enjoyable, challenging, and interesting to me were the topical essays scattered in between, specifically those about public universities, President Obama, the theological virtu...
  • Peter Reczek
    Marilynne Robinson is always thought provoking. A bit too religious but an important public intellectual.I wish I could write like her!!
  • L
    Some of the essays are simply wonderful (the final essay in particular), while others feel a bit repetitive. Maybe I’m just not interested enough in Puritans (although it is a topic of interest!), but several of the essays felt a little dry. I’m all for grounding an analysis of our current state of affairs in the past, but it often felt like the point of an essay was to reflect on Puritans and their role in history rather than use them as a p...
  • Bonnie
    This collection was a mixed bag of academic lectures for a specialized audience and salient op-eds on our current religious and political climate. I do not share Robinson's deep enthusiasm for John Calvin and the Puritans, though I appreciated her perspective. I very much appreciated the essay "Slander" and its implications for religious people. I do which there would have been an organization by content, date, or theme, as well as context for ea...
  • Laura
    There are two major themes in these essays: religion as it pertains to modern American life and culture, and the Puritans. Many of these essays are about Robinson’s fascination with the early colonial history (and the British history that preceded it), and specifically about the Puritans’ role in the shaping of America. To put it her argument simply and bluntly: the Puritans got a bad rap. But, beyond a few interesting tidbits, like how the P...
  • David Curry
    Marilynne Robinson alerts us in the introduction to her collection of essays, What Are We Doing Here?, that she is “too old to mince words.” While we can remind her that she also fully partakes of the tendency of the elderly to repeat themselves, we need to concede that some of what she repeats is eminently worth hearing — for instance, her passionate argument against turning America’s colleges and universities into business schools and t...
  • Anna
    Some of it I loved and some was eh.
  • Katie
    I think I would actually send people interested in Robinson’s ideas about religion to her novels, rather than this book. I appreciate how she structures her writing on a sentence level, but these essays are riddled with straw men and “I don’t like the implications of X, therefore not X” type of arguments. The most interesting parts were her defense of the Puritans and the final essay, “Slander.”