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"The Best Books I Read in 2005
" | Ignatius Press Authors
and Editors | January 2, 2006
Regular readers of IgnatiusInsight.com know that books, authors, and the
printed word are the main focus of the site. And so we thought it would
be interesting for readers of IgnatiusInsight.com to find out what some
of the people associated with the site and with Ignatius Press have been
reading this past year. So we asked Dale Ahlquist, Mark Brumley, Fr. Joseph
Fessio, Thomas Howard, Peter Kreeft, Sandra Miesel, Michael OBrien,
Carl Olson, and Joseph Pearce to tell us the titles of some of the best
books they read last year.
The books didnt have to be published in 2005, nor did they have to
be about a particular topic. Simply, "What were the best books you
read in 2005?" Here are their answers.
Ahlquist, president and co-founder of the
Society, author of G.K.
Chesterton: Apostle of Common Sense, and associate editor of the
Works of G.K. Chesterton (Ignatius). He is also the publisher of
Gilbert Magazine, author of The Chesterton University Student
Handbook, and editor of The Gift of Wonder: The Many Sides of G.K.
The best books that I read in 2005 that werent by Chesterton were
and the World by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Miracle
of the Bells by Russell Janney, and Monsters from the Id
by E. Michael Jones.
I also re-read Chestertons Orthodoxy,
Everlasting Man, and The
Ball and the Cross and they were better than ever. If you dont
read Orthodoxy once a year it is like denying yourself food
Brumley is President of the Board of Directors
of Guadalupe Associates and Chief Executive Officer for Ignatius Press.
He is associate publisher of IgnatiusInsight.com. He also oversees magazines
for Ignatius Press, is project coordinator for the Ignatius Catholic
Study Bible, and is editor of Ignatius Press's Modern Apologetics Library.
Mark is also the author of How Not To Share Your Faith, and a contributor
to The Five Issues That Matter Most. Mark lives in Napa, California
with his wife and five children.
Here are the best books for me that I read in 2005. I have to say I may
have left something off the list. Really. Also, those listed are given
in no particular order. They exclude lots of Ignatius Press books I was
tempted to include. And they may include books I read part of in 2004.
Cube and the Cathedral by George Weigel. Weigel "nails it".
Europe's problem and the solution to it are there.
House by Michael O'Brien. A moving "prequel" to Father
Elijah and a worthy way to complete the Children of the Last
Days series. One question remains: What next?
Belinda by Hilaire Belloc. This was a delightful bit of satire,
respectfully rendered, on some forms of 19th century romance novels.
I regret not having read it until 2005.
the Way to Jesus Christ by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. A series
of essays on Christology. The "Popular Jesus" isn't necessarily the
"real Jesus". Only the "real Jesus" saves. Some great insights regarding
the "Jesus of history" and the "Christ of faith" discussion. Must reading.
Perelandra by C.S. Lewis. I've read this book umpteen times
before; it was a delight to read it again, as it will be in the future.
The Great Dance is profound. The exchange between Ransom and Weston
is insightful and at times frightening. Of course the planetary science
about Venus is all wrong. So what? I hope someone has the talent and drive
to create worthy screenplays for Out of the Silent Planet,
Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. I'm afraid, though,
what might be done with the Green Lady in Perelandra.
by Joseph Ratzinger. Another delightful re-read. Get to know the new
pope by reading the first part of his memoirs. This is really a great introduction
to the man.
Philosophy of Tolkien by Peter Kreeft. Kreeft on Tolkien. What
more need be said?
Giants, Literary Converts by Joseph Pearce. I know. It looks
like I'm padding the list with Ignatius Press books. But I'm not. Look at
all the Ignatius Press books published in 2005 that I left off my list.
That doesn't mean I didn't read them or didn't like them. Anyway, Pearce
is always a treat. Some of the essays in this book are just good. Others
are great. None are uninteresting. Even when treating someone I've never
been able to get excited aboutsuch as Roy CampbellPearce is
always worth reading.
Scripture and Metaphysics by Matthew Levering. Good discussion
of contemporary Trinitarian theology and Aquinas. Okay, I have some
reservations re: his essay on Balthasar, but I still highly
recommend the book. Lots to learn from here. It is certainly more than textbook
Thomism recast in contemporary jargon. There are some real insights here.
The Meaning of It All by Richard Feynman. Revealing social essays
by one of the top physicists of the 20th century. They reveal how right
and how wrong an insightful scientist can be on social, ethical, and religious
The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene. A good and a relatively
accessible discussion of String Theory and the search for a Theory
of Everything. A follow up to the author's popular, The Elegant
Universe. Some overlap but not as much as you might think.
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Yes, I know. Everyone else
on the planet has already read it. So I've been busy. Give me a break.
Xenocide by Orson Scott Card. See comment on Ender's Game.
Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card. See comment on Ender's
Alone is Credible by Hans Urs Von Balthasar
Kindly Light by Thomas Howard. Still a great conversion story.
Joseph Fessio, S.J., Th.D. is Provost of
Ave Maria University and Professor of Theology. He is the Founder and Editor
of Ignatius Press. He also founded the St. Ignatius Institute of the University
of San Francisco and Campion College before coming to Ave Maria University.
He has taught both philosophy and theology courses at several schools. Fr.
Fessio wrote his dissertation on the ecclesiology of Hans
Urs von Balthasar under the direction of Joseph
Cardinal Ratzinger. He holds the degrees of B.A. and M.A. from Gonzaga
University; M.A. from the Fourvière Jesuit Faculty of Theology in
Lyons, France; and Th.D. from the University of Regensburg in Germany.
From Aristotle to Darwin and Back by Etienne Gilson (Out of print,
hopefully to be reissued by IP)
Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Ratzinger (Read for the
Truth of the World
(Theologic, vol I) by Hans Urs von Balthasar
Cento Domande sull'Islam by Khalil Samir Khalil (being translated
for Ignatius Press)
La Forza della Ragione by Oreana Fallaci
Die Haeresie der Formlosigkeit by Martin Mosebach (being translated
for Ignatius Press)
On the Divine Names by Dionysius
The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius
Thomas Howard is a highly acclaimed writer
and literary scholar, noted for his studies of Inklings C.S. Lewis and Charles
Williams as well as books including Chance or Dance: A Critique of Modern
Secularism, Hallowed be This House, Evangelical Is Not Enough: Worship of
God in Liturgy and Sacrament, If Your Mind Wanders At Mass, On Being Catholic,
The Secret of New York Revealed and Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey
to Rome. He has also produced a video series, aired on EWTN, titled
"Treasures of Catholicism." Dove Descending, his study of T.S. Eliots
Four Quartets, is being published by Ignatius Press this year.
Visit his IgnatiusInsight.com
author page for a full listing of his books published by Ignatius Press.
Lives of the English Poets by Dr. [Samuel] Johnson
Enthusiasm by Ronald Knox
Ronald Knox by Evelyn Waugh
The Seven Ages of Man by Christopher Hollis
A Spiritual Aeneid by Ronald Knox
Autobiography by Lady Diana Cooper
Roxburgh of Stowe by Noel [Lord] Annan
Melbourne by David [Lord] Cecil
Persons and Places by George Santayana
Half a dozen of Josephine Teys murder mysteries (bedtime reading)
Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy
at Boston College. He is an alumnus of Calvin College (AB 1959) and Fordham
University (MA 1961, Ph.D., 1965). He taught at Villanova University from
1962-1965, and has been at Boston College since 1965. He is the author of
numerous books (over forty and counting) including, most recently, The
Philosophy of Tolkien, You Can Understand the Bible, The God Who Loves You,
and Socrates Meets Sartre. See his
IgnatiusInsight.com author page for full listing if his Ignatius Press
The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The Theology of the Body Explained by Christopher West
Sex and the Secular City by Stephen Kellmeyer
House by Michael O'Brien
Miesel is a Catholic journalist, medieval
historian, and co-author of the best-selling The
Da Vinci Hoax. She holds masters degrees in biochemistry and
medieval history from the University of Illinois. Since 1983, she has written
hundreds of articles for the Catholic press, chiefly on history, art, and
hagiography. She regularly appears in Crisis magazine and is a columnist
for the diocesan paper of Norwich, Connecticut. Sandra has spoken at religious
and academic conferences, appeared on EWTN, and given numerous radio interviews.
Outside the Catholic sphere, she has also written, analyzed, and edited
fiction. Sandra and her husband John have raised three children.
The Rage and the Pride by Oriana Fallaci. Islamism denounced
with inimitable panache
Sunshine by Robin McKinley. Clever adult contemporary fantasy
involving vampires and a coffee shop clerk
of the Earth and God
in the World by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Graceful, lucid explication
of Catholic belief in conversation with a journalist
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling. Surprisingly
better than the two previous novels in the series
Europe at Home: Family and Material Culture 1500-1800 by Raffaella
Sarti. The fascinating panorama of Early Modern everyday life
Searching for Ancient Egypt: Art, Architecture, and Artifacts,
edited by David P. Silverman. Catalog of choice items from the University
of Pennsylvania collection with exceptional text
Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide by Bat Ye'or.
Islamic suppression of infidels, numbingly chronicled
Saints and Their Symbols: Recognizing Saints In Art and Popular Images
by Fernando and Gioia Lanzi. Pretty coffee table book surveys traditional
legends and the cult of sainthood
O'Brien, born in Ottawa, Canada, in 1948
is a self-taught painter and writer. Both his written work and visual art
have been reviewed and reproduced widely. He is an author of several books,
notably his seven volume Children of the Last Days series of novels,
including Father Elijah, A Cry of Stone, and Sophia House.
He is also the author of A Landscape With Dragons, an examination
of the phenomenon of contemporary pagan influence in children's culture.
Visit his IgnatiusInsight.com author
page for a full listing of his books published by Ignatius Press.
The Medium and the Light: reflections on religion by Marshall
McLuhan. McLuhan is widely lauded as the great teacher-visionary of media
in the modern age. It is not so well known that he was also one of its strongest
critics. A convert to orthodox Catholicism, in this collection of letters
and interviews he brings his prodigious intellect to bear on the condition
of modern society and its attitude towards religious truth.
The Flying Inn by G.K. Chesterton. An old favorite, a slender
tale which offers the reader a good deal of sheer fun integrated with layers
of significance. When a puritanical Islamic state rises in England and pubs
are made illegal, a stalwart yeoman resists with a mobile clandestine pub.
A Century of War by William Engdahl. Engdahl is an economist.
Generally I find the subject of economics mind-numbing and never read about
it. However, I couldn't put this book down. It has been highly praised by
world economists for its analysis of the economic and historical factors
in the emergent modern era, with a particular focus on Anglo-American oil
politics. Solidly referenced and utterly fascinating, this book was for
me an eye-opener.
Technopoly: the surrender of culture to technology by Neil Postman.
Brilliant, hard hitting, and wide-ranging in its analysis of the radical
shift in consciousness brought about by the media revolution. A sober warning
that builds upon the insights Postman presented in Amusing Ourselves
The World of Silence by Max Picard. A Swiss philosopher and orthodox
Catholic, Picard wrote a number of books, most of which (if not all) are
presently out of print in the English language. They are extraordinary gems,
and this one is the most personally meaningful for me. It could be called
a work of philosophy or a prose-poem or a meditation. Well, it's all three,
The Judgment of the Nations by Christopher Dawson. Considered
to be one of the finest historians of the 20th century, often referred to
as a "cultural historian," Dawson was much more far-seeing than this strict
definition implies. A devout Catholic, in this collection of essays he moves
beyond his usual approach and offers insights that are no less than prophetic
and which have become even more urgently needed in the 21st century.
Finally, a rereading of Fydor Dostoevsky's The Idiot. I will
say no more about this classic, but would suggest to anyone who loves the
book, or who would like to read it for the first time, that you should obtain
a DVD copy of the 8-hour long film version recently produced by Russian
State TV. It comes with English subtitles. If you order it online, take
care to choose the 4-disc version directed by Vladimir Bortko, not the 1951
Alan Bridges film. The new Bortko film (starring Evgeny Mironov as Prince
Myshkin) is almost word-for-word true to the novel, and brings it alive
in an unprecedented way (perhaps especially helpful for the non-Russian
E. Olson is the editor of IgnatiusInsight.com.
He is author of Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"? A Catholic
Critique of the Rapture and Todays Prophecy Preachers (Ignatius
Press, April 2003), recognized by the Associated Press as one of the best
religious titles of 2003, and co-author, with medievalist Sandra Miesel,
Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code (Ignatius,
2004). Carl has written for numerous Catholic periodicals and is a regular
contributor Our Sunday Visitor and National Catholic Register.
A former Evangelical Protestant, he has a Masters in Theological Studies
from the University of Dallas. Carl lives in Oregon with his wife and daughter.
Experiments Against Reality: The Fate of Culture in a Postmodern Age
by Roger Kimball. Kimballs The Rape of the Masters is
more recent and more caustic (and quite humorous), but this book is more
substantial, with perceptive observations about T.S. Eliot, Muriel Spark,
Nietzsche, Sartre, and Josef Pieper, to name just a few.
Modern Culture by Roger Scruton. Provides much helpful context
for understanding "culture" in general and modern culture in particular.
Sometimes eccentric, never dull, and always thought provoking. Worth it
alone for the chapter on Derrida and deconstructionism (aptly titled "The
The Theology of Joseph Ratzinger: An Introductory Study by
Aidan Nichols, O.P. I bought and read this between the death of John Paul
II and the election of Benedict XVI. Was it prescience? No, I just finally
found a used copy at a reasonable price and I'm happy I did. A helpful
guide to the life and work of a great theologian written by another very
The Revelation of John: A Commentary on the Greek text of the Apocalypse
by Stephen S. Smalley. I have about thirty-five commentaries on The Apocalypse,
and this new work from InterVarsity Press ranks in the top three. Smalleys
work is scholarly and detailed, but he isnt afraid to go against the
contemporary grain: he carefully argues that the Apostle John indeed wrote
the last book of the Bible and that he did so "just before the fall
of Jerusalem" in A.D. 70.
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Yes, I finally
read it. And, of course, thoroughly enjoyed it. Its rather interesting
to compare it to Lewiss space trilogy; I re-read Out of the Silent
Planet and Perelandra early in 2005. The range and imagination
of Lewis are remarkable.
Declare by Tim Powers. A Cold War thriller with a supernatural
twist that sometimes reminded me (in content, not style) of the novels of Charles Williams.
The detail is stunning, but never detracts from a gripping plot, masterfully
imagined and written.
Toward the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer by U.M. Lang.
A clear, comprehensive explanation of the historical and theological basis
for "facing east" (or, "facing God") in liturgical celebration.
Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, in the
Foreword, "I wish the book a wide and attentive readership."
So what are you waiting for?
Between War and Peace: Lessons from Afghanistan to Iraq by Victor
Davis Hanson. A professor of classics and expert on military history brings
a historical perspective to current events in the Middle East that is not
often heard in the usual media din and spin.
Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer's Art by Will Friedwald. Forget
the mob, the affairs, and the arrogance. Meet Sinatra the singer, musician,
and artist. A fascinating and well-researched consideration of what set
"The Voice" apart from his peers and his imitators.
Mass and Modernity: Walking to Heaven Backward by Fr. Jonathan
Robinson. What do Kant, Hegel, Comte, and Hume have to do with Mass at the
local parish? Probably much more than most Catholics would think, although
the connections are hardly obvious or always direct. A valuable study of
how culture affects worship and what can be done about it. (Read
an interview with Fr. Robinson here.)
The Truth About Tolerance: Pluralism, Diversity and the Culture Wars
by Brad Stetson and Joseph G. Conti. Two Evangelical professors of social
ethics write an accessible study and sophisticated critique of tolerance:
what it is, what it isnt, and how to know the difference.
A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling
by John Taylor Gatto. He won city and state "Teacher of the Year"
awards and worked in the public school system for thirty years. Yet Gatto
persuasively and passionately argues that public education is not only a
complete bust but also a horrible mistake (at best) and a radical experiment
(at worst) that is destroying authentic learning.
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. Im reading it (in a theological
reading group) for the fourth time and enjoying it more than ever. The first
time I encountered this classic book, in 1993, I realized Christianity was
much larger than I had ever imagined. It now helps me appreciate that Christianity
is far more joyful than I could ever explain. Thankfully, Chesterton explains
it very well and I never tire of reading it.
Pearce has firmly established himself as
the premier literary biographer of our time, especially in interpreting
the spiritual depths of the Catholic literary tradition. He is the author
of acclaimed biographies of G.K. Chesterton, Oscar Wilde, Hilaire Belloc,
and J.R.R. Tolkien, and books on English literature and literary converts.
He is Writer-in-Residence and Associate Professor of Literature at Ave Maria
University in Naples, Florida, and is the Co-Editor of the St. Austin
Review and the Editor-in-Chief of Sapientia
Press. Visit his IgnatiusInsight.com
author page for more about his work and a full listing of his books
published by Ignatius Press.
I enjoyed reading Clare Asquith's new book on Shakespeare's Catholicism,
Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare.
Very well researched and well reasoned and sufficiently provocative
on a provocative subject! And, for the most part, she's right! And, on the
subject of Shakespeare, I thoroughly recommend Fr Peter Milward's new book
Shakespeare the Papist (Sapientia Press 2005).
The Myth of Hitler's Pope by Rabbi David Dalin (Regnery Press
2005) is an excellent demolition of the lies and distortions of Cornwell,
Goldhagen et al, which was met with an embarrassed and embarrassing silence
by the New York Times and other citadels of secular fundamentalism
whose motto should be "If the truth hurts, hide it!"
I recently re-read several of the Narnia books, which retain their freshness.
The final thirty pages of The Last Battle must rank amongst
the finest expositions of mystical theology ever written and it's
in a children's book!
The other two books that caught my attention are not yet published but are
earmarked for publication in the very near future.
From Lebanon to California: A Cultural Journey is a fascinating
autobiography by Henry Zeiter, a man so learned, erudite and awash with
wisdom that I basked in his presence as I read the pages. It's published
by Libris (I believe) and should be out in February or March.
Dove Descending by Thomas Howard (Ignatius Press, Spring 2006).
A wonderfully captivating journey into T.S. Eliot's masterful poem Four
Quartets written and reasoned in Thomas Howard's charming and inimitable
way. A delight!
has doctoral degrees in canon and civil law. He currently holds the Edmund
Cardinal Szoka Chair at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan.
He has authored or edited several books and is the translator of the English
edition of The
1917 Pio Benedictine Code of Canon Law.
His canon law website can be found at www.canonlaw.info.
Thomas Wolsey Late Cardinall, Lyffe and Deathe (1588) by G.
Roll Me Over: An Infantryman's World War II (1997) by R. Ganter
The Greek Way (1942) by E. Hamilton
Celibacy In The Early Church (1997) by Stephan Heid
The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life (2004) by James
The Vision of Matthew (1979/1991) by J. Meier
The Concept of Sin (1977) by Josef Pieper
Guide to Thomas Aquinas (1952) by Josef Pieper
Saint Bernadette Soubirous (1954) by F. Trochu
The Secret Man: Watergate's Deep Throat (2005) by B. Woodward
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