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Books read in 2012, pt. 2

January 8, 2013
  • Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life by Douglas Wilson. Unlike any other book on writing you will ever read. Wilson does not merely show you how to write (“avoid the passive voice”), but shows you how to be a writer.

  • The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton. A mind-bending “metaphysical thriller” unlike any other book I have ever read. The main character is sent as a spy into a clandestine group of anarchists who aren’t what they seem to be.

  • Bringing Heaven Down To Earth by Nathan L.K. Bierma. A book about how our theology of heaven should impact our living on this earth. Powerfully demonstrates the importance of heaven to daily living.

  • All The Trouble In The World by P. J. O’Rourke. Plague, pestilence, war, famine, overpopulation, pollution—all covered with a sarcastic and irreverent spin by O’Rourke, one of the funniest writers alive.

  • The Defendant by G. K. Chesterton. An important early work by Chesterton, consisting of different defences of things, such as “A Defence of Skeletons,” “A Defense of Rash Vows” and “A Defense of Second Editions.” The essay “A Defense of Ugly Things” should be required reading for aspiring Christian artists.

  • Paedofaith by Rich Lusk. A defense of the faith of infants and the efficacy of baptizing them. It convinced me.

  • The Odyssey by Homer. Read for Lit 215 The classic adventure story. This poem is truly a classic, because it can be enjoyed many times on multiple levels.

  • Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. Read for Lit 215. This play powerfully shows the despair of ancient Greek thought and the limits of man’s abilities.

  • The Aeneid by Virgil. Read for Lit 215. Caught more of this book the second time around, but I am still not sure if I prefer it to The Odyssey.

  • The Glass-Walking Stick And Other Essays by G. K. Chesterton. I have never read an essay by Chesterton that I did not enjoy.

  • The Autobiography by G. K. Chesterton. One of his best works. Chesterton writes an autobiography, yet rarely mentions himself in it. Reading this makes me wish I had lived to be one of his friends.

  • Intellectuals by Paul Johnson. Johnson defines an intellectual as someone who values ideas over people. This book examines a group of intellectuals, including figures as diverse as Rousseau, Hemingway, Sartre, Marx, and Tolstoy, and asks of them this question: did their life match up with the moral values that they promoted in their works. A gripping, shocking and enlightening work.

  • Jesus: A Biography from a Believer by Paul Johnson. If I had to give an unbeliever one book to read besides the Bible, this would be it.

  • All About The Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can’t Save Black America by John McWhorter. A book that argues for the musical value of hip-hop while effectively dealing with the myth that it is a serious force for social and political change in America. The author takes the view that real change won’t be the result of a “hip-hop revolution” or any kind of revolution, but will come from slow, hard work. It also had the added value of turning me on to the music of The Roots.

  • After America: Get Ready for Armageddon by Mark Steyn. The sequel to America Alone, and twice as depressing. Steyn reveals an America that is fat, lazy, apathetic, and doomed. While much of the book is taken from his columns in National Review, he makes some important insights, and the “Decline” chapter is sobering.

  • The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. Read for Lit 215. This was my first time reading the great work. The Comedy is not easy reading, but it is worth the metaphorical climb up the slopes of Mount Purgatory to reach the Paradise that is this poem. Every Christian should read this book.

  • Selected Poems and Two Plays by William Butler Yeats. I read this researching a speech in for Public Speaking class. Yeats’ poetry ranges from descriptions of his Irish homeland to esoteric philosophy and theology. Reading this book makes me appreciate how deeply weird Yeats was.

  • Ideas Have Consequences by Richard Weaver. The voice of one crying in the wilderness. Weaver reveals the root of the problems of our age—Nominalism. This anti-utilitarian, pro-environment book is a classic that all thinking conservatives should read. Don’t expect a Glen Beck-style tirade. Weaver analyzes philosophy, literature, art, music, and sociology in order to diagnose the problems of the modern world. He also gives foundations for a conservative environmentalism.

  • Beowulf by an unknown bard, translated by Seamus Heaney. Read for Lit 215 The more I read this book, the more I realize how much it influenced Lord of the Rings.

  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. A brainy take on the vampire adventure novel with a very disappointing ending. Don’t waste your time on it.

  • On The Wealth of the Nations by P. J. O’Rourke. O’Rourke explores The Wealth of the Nations and its writer, Adam Smith, the Fred Mertz of European economics. The funniest book on economics that I have read.

  • Generally Speaking by G. K. Chesterton. Another collection of Chesterton essays. I don’t remember the exact contents, but I don’t doubt that they were good.

  • St. Francis by Robert West. St. Francis is one of the most appealing figures in Christian history, and after reading this book I took him on as a role model.

  • The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. Douglass gives a thoughtful account of his years as a slave, and his successful attempts at becoming educated and escaping his captors. An important reminder of the value of education, and a rebuttal to those who would minimize the horrors of American chattel slavery.

  • The Jesus I Never Knew by Phillip Yancey. Yancey goes beyond the popular picture of the effeminate Aryan Jesus to look at the Jesus of the Gospels, who too often is ignored by the Church.

  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by another unknown bard, translated by Brian Stone. Read for Lit 215. A jolly Christmas tale of temptation and triumph. A short, easy read for anyone who wishes to read some Arthuriana, but doesn’t want to tackle Malory’s massive Le Morte d’Arthur.

  • The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. Brandon Sanderson begins his own fantasy saga with this volume. While weak on dialog, Sanderson’s storyline and worldbuilding are gripping and fascinating.

  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Saw the movies. Loved the book.

  • King Lear by William Shakespeare. Read for Lit 215. Some see this play as nihilistic. However, I think that it is a brutal and realistic study in the consequences of actions and the whims of fate.

  • Good Omens by Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman. Imagine the Monty Python troupe re-making Left Behind, and that will give you but a small hint of this romp through the end of days.

  • The Gutenberg Elegies by Sven Birkerts. A collection of essays, written in different styles, but with the same common theme of the way modern technology has negatively affected our reading habits. Elegantly written. Did I mention that I have Alan Jacobs’ copy?

  • Goldfinger by Ian Fleming. A James Bond novel, with expensive wine, exotic locales, and women whose behavior is not endorsed by the writer of this blog. And doesn’t Bond know he’s going to get lung cancer from smoking all those Chesterfields?

  • The Myth of Religious Neutrality by Roy Clouser. A book every Christian scholar should have. Clouser demonstrates that everyone has a religious allegiance, even if they claim to be “non-religious.” He shows of how our often unconscious presuppositions affect our thinking. The chapter on math is especially valuable, as it shows how the meaning of the seemingly simple proposition 1+1=2 is determined differently by people of different religious commitments.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2013 3:58 am

    I skimmed “A Defense of Ugly Things,” and my first thought was Flannery O’Connor’s assessment of the grotesque in Southern literature. It seems the reasons for it might be broader than she thinks.

    • January 12, 2013 7:22 pm

      I actually haven’t read all of O’Connor’s assessment of the grotesque in Southern literature, which reveals how much of a poser I am. I will make a mental note to read it once I get back up to Chicago.

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