These days, the average reader has limited access to profiles of iconic philosophers that inspired the world; it either involves a lot of Wikipedia searching and digging through old and rare archives, or reading huge books with a lot of complicated words.

Therefore, when a normal-sized book promises to present you with a simplified introduction to everything that you need to know about, from Nietzsche to belly-dancing, you have no choice but to seize the opportunity. Trial by Ink is a collection of 21 literary and cultural essays by Arab-American author Yahia Lababidi that provides the wide-ranging insight that it promises in an exciting, surprisingly entertaining way.

In the introduction of Trial by Ink, Lababidi wrote that he was happy to not have to limit himself to discuss only one subject from the many that inhabit his mind. While it is arguable that a specified, more outlined frame of discussion would have helped the reader more, others might find it appealing to be able to engage with the subject matter and refer the subjects to their philosophical backgrounds.

The first part of Trial by Ink presents detailed profiles of writers, political activists, culture provocateurs, and others that deserted their urban lives and voluntarily endured emotional hardships and physical sacrifices in order to be of literary and cultural relevance. Lababidi also compares and points out the resemblance between styles, theories and ways of reasoning that these great thinkers shared.

The author’s own voice is clearer in the second part of the book. In the chapter titled Studies in Pop Culture, Lababidi talks about his days of camping outside a posh hotel in London hoping to see Michael Jackson as he emerged among his fans. Two completely gripping chapters focus on the pop king, his childhood and the rest of his perplexed life.

Lababidi also takes a deeper look at Egyptian society and discusses the schizophrenia that our society seems to suffer from. He cites belly-dancing as an example of a philosophy that is considered both an art and a sin by the same group of people. In discussing controversial issues such as this one, the author states his views clearly without being provocative; which in itself helps the reader view the subject as an opening to possible further discussion.

Even if you do not enjoy the author’s chosen subjects of Oscar Wilde, Nietzsche and Michael Jackson among others, the author presents backstage glimpses of their personal and public lives that make them both appealing and intriguing to read about.

Whether it is about German philosophers, belly-dancers or even serial killers, Lababidi proves that philosophy exists in every mind and whether we are aware of it or not, the way we think controls how we act.

Trial by Ink is recommended for anyone searching for a fast and simple way to learn about philosophy.