The Names of Things

"The writing in The Names of Things is beautiful, hypnotic, and exacting; this is a book to be read slowly, to be savored and absorbed as each piece of the story falls into place.”
- Nina Sankovitch, Read All Day

At once a love story, an ethnography, an adventure novel, and a meditation on grief, The Names of Things explores the inward and outward journeys that mark us, and the stories we tell ourselves in order to make sense of them. Reminiscent of Per Pettersen’s Out Stealing Horses, Wood’s novel has a compelling, cumulative power that comes by way of language as clear and fresh as water, and a profound, keenly humane watchfulness that well serves both the book’s nameless anthropologist, and Wood, its author.”
- Katherine Min, author of Secondhand World

"John Colman Wood sees the world like an anthropologist but he doesn't write like one—he writes much better. In this gripping novel he dwells deeply in an exotic African culture, evokes its humanity along with its customs and rituals, and weaves a tale of adventure that uses the fine texture of his prose to envelop us and make us feel we are there. Rarely if ever has the experience of fieldwork been transmuted into such a good story."
- Melvin Konner, author of The Tangled Wing and The Evolution of Childhood

"The Names of Things beautifully renders one man’s struggle to balance his life’s work with the love of his life. As much spiritual journey as it is physical adventure, this gripping novel is about an anthropologist who sheds his self-conscious role as a studier of man and becomes, almost in spite of himself, a man himself. It is a dramatic portrait of the fine line between selflessness and selfishness. But above all it is a profound and moving story, and John Colman Wood is an anthropologist of the human heart."
- Tommy Hays, author of The Pleasure Was Mine

"John Colman Wood’s The Names of Things is a thoughtful, patient, and ultimately rewarding book. It’s about, among many other things, the connections human beings make, that in spite of everything, we will always make. To quote from the book, 'What he saw in the people was what the old anthropologists called communitas. It wasn’t that the people sang and moved. It was their singing and moving together…' Singing and moving together, Wood has found a way to express this profound and beautiful idea through fiction."
—Peter Orner, author of The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo and Love and Shame and Love