| || ||
"The Best Books I Read in 2006..." | Ignatius Press Authors, Editors, and Staff | January 7, 2007
Last year's "Best of 2005" list was popular among Ignatius Insight readers, so we've again asked a number of
Ignatius Press editors, authors, and staff for their picks for the best books they read during the past year. The books didn't have
to be published in 2006 (and most weren't), nor did they have to
be about a particular topic. Simply, "What were the best books you
read in 2006?" Commentary was optional. Here are their answers.
Ahlquist, president and co-founder of the American Chesterton
Society, author of acclaimed books on Chesterton, including
G.K. Chesterton: Apostle of Common Sense and
Common Sense 101: Lessons From G.K. Chesterton,
as well as associate editor of the Collected
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.
Seeing With the Eyes of G.K. Chesterton An interview with Ahlquist
Recovering The Lost Art of Common Sense | An excerpt from Common Sense 101
I made the wonderful discovery of Alice Thomas Ellis this
year. She is an English writer who died just a couple years ago. A Catholic
convert, mother of seven, and a great cook, she wrote on food, family, and
faith, with an incredible caustic wit that is a sort of combination of Jane
Austen with a stiletto and Attila the Hun without the soft parts. I read her
novels, The Inn at the Edge of the World, The Sin-Eater, Birds of Desire,
The Summer House, and The 27th Kingdom, and two
books of her Catholic essays, A Cat Among Pigeons and God Has Not Changed, which were no-holds-barred
attacks on modernism. Savage delights.
Small is Still Beautiful, by Joseph Pearce, should be required
reading by every student of economics, politics, and social sciences. It is an
insightful revisiting of E.F. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful, and one of the best explanations of the Catholic
idea of subsidiarity, something about which most American Catholics are
clueless. Another thing I liked about the book: small chapters.
Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity,
Islam, by The Cardinal Formerly Known as Ratzinger (with Marcello Pera) could hardly be more
timely, as is turning out to be the case with everything that Pope Benedict XVI
wrote before he took his present job.
Of interest to Minnesota readers (and maybe a few
enlightened folks elsewhere) is Dial M: The Murder of Carol Thompson, by William Swanson, an account of the
most notorious murder (and murder trial) in Minnesota history. In 1963, a
criminal lawyer named T. Eugene Thompson was convicted of arranging the murder
of his wife in their nice suburban home while their four kids were at school.
He was sentenced to life in prison, but was paroled after twenty years. Still
denying his guilt after he got of prison, he was subsequently invited one
evening to his daughter's home, where his four children privately put him on
trial again for their mother's murder. What happened? Why should I tell you?
I also read a bit of G.K. Chesterton this year, mostly
uncollected pieces, of which there are only a few thousand. But a re-reading of
his book on Charles Dickens was a divine treat. His description of Dickens' "innocent
love of living and ignorant love of learning" describes Chesterton himself. I
wish it described me.
Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J. is author of the best selling Fundamentals
of Catholicism (three volumes) and of the popular introduction to
the Scripture, Inside
He has been editor of Homiletic
& Pastoral Review for over thirty years.
Here are my best choices of 2006:
Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, by Tom Bethell
Christ, The Ideal of the Priest,
by Blessed Dom Columba Marmion, OSB
Christ, The Life of the Soul, by
Blessed Dom Columba Marmion, OSB
Evolution and Other Fairy Tales, by Larry Azar
The Heresy of Formlessness: The Roman Liturgy
and Its Enemy, by Martin Mosebach
In The Light of Christ: Writings in the Western
Tradition, by Lucy Beckett
The first five I reviewed in Homiletic & Pastoral Review. The last one will be reviewed in the spring of 2007 in Homiletic & Pastoral Review.
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.
Search for IgnatiusInsight.com articles by Mark Brumley
The Philosophy of Democratic Government, by Yves Simon. A classic work for
anyone who wants to think about political society.
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. Dickens creates another
outstanding set of characters and a superb story.
Ecumenism and Philosophy, by Charles Morerod, O.P. An
intriguing discussion of the philosophical underpinnings of ecumenism.
God is Love, by Benedict XVI.
The Holy Father's first encyclical. Must-reading for all Catholics, of course, but also for non-Catholics.
Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, by Joseph Ratzinger. A powerful
analysis of the situation of western culture, includingprofound reflections
on the Enlightenment, the right to life and the abortion battle, and the nature
of faith. Includes a foreword by Marcello Pera, the former President of the
Values in a Time of Upheaval, by Joseph Ratzinger. Those who want
to think clearly about the relationship of morality, religion, and the
political order must read this book.
Without Roots, by Joseph Ratzinger, Marcello Pera.
This is a valuable contribution to the discussion regarding the Christian foundations of Europe
and the significance of secularization on the one hand and the rise of Islam in
Europe on the other. Includes an exchange of letters between Cardinal Ratzinger
and Marcello Pera.
The Limits of a Limitless Science, by Stanley L.Jaki.
Outstanding essays on science, philosophy, and theology by one of the great
historians of science.
The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis. Umpteenth reading. Ever ancient,
Socrates Meets Sartre, by Peter Kreeft. A volume
in a series of fictional dialogues between Socrates and other philosophers. This work considers, among
other things, whether Sartre can be seen as a covert agent for Christianity.
Lord of the Elves and Eldils, by Richard Purtill. A tremendous
volume on the fantasy fiction and philosophy of Tolkien and Lewis. I can't
emphasize enough how great Purtill is. You may think you've read enough on this
subject, but unless you have read this book, you haven't.
The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, by Robert Wilken. A good
introduction and overview of the ideas and writing of the early Christians.
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. His essay, "Is Dialogue with Islam Possible? Some
Reflections on Pope Benedict XVI's Address at the University of Regensburg," was one of the most popular IgnatiusInsight.com pieces of the past year.
I didn't get a chance to read much. But here are a few books
on Islam that I thought were useful:
America Alone, by Mark Steyn.
The Force of Reason, by Oreanna Fallaci. (Or something like that. I read
the Italian: La Forza della Ragione.)
Eurabia, by Bat Y'eor.
The Sword of Islam, by Serge Trifkovic.
is the managing editor of Homiletic & Pastoral Review.
Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson. Vol. 1 of the 3 volume Baroque Cycle. "Science Fiction" that is set in
the 17th and 18th centuries. Stephenson is always worth reading but he
needs a better editor. In the words of Ambrose Bierce: "The covers
of this book are too far apart."
Warped Passages, by Lisa Randall. Here's an excerpt from the New York Times Book
Review, "Lisa Randall's chronicle of physicists' latest efforts
to make sense of a universe that gets stranger with every new discovery makes
for mind-bending reading. In 'Warped Passages,' she gives an engaging and
remarkably clear account of how the existence of dimensions beyond the familiar
three...may resolve a host of cosmic quandaries. The discovery of extra
dimensions...would utterly transform our view of the universe."
Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life, by Alister McGrath. Highly recommended. He does a good job of
showing just how silly Richard Dawkins' theology is.
The Resurrection of Jesus, by N.T. Wright and J.D. Crossan in
dialogue. Really good exchange between Wright and Crossan, but only for those
who can read Crossan without blowing a gasket!
Fabricating Jesus,by Craig A. Evans. Just starting to read this, but a quick scan has me convinced this is
an excellent book.Good treatment of higher biblical criticism.
The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and
Religion, by Joseph Ratzinger and Jurgen Habermas. Just starting this one as well, but need I say
Reasoning and the Logic of Things, by Charles S. Peirce.This is a collection of lectures delivered by
Peirceas the Cambridge Conferences Lectures of 1898. It's a
summation of his philosophy and supposedly geared to be accessible to
non-mathematicians. It helps me to read this right before going to
The Mind of the Universe, by Mariano Artigas. Excellent
treatment of the relationship between science and religion. Fr. Artigas
is a professor of natural science as well as theology (and Dean of the
Ecclesiastical Faculty)at the University of Navarre, Pamplona, Spain.
What I Believe, by Anthony Kenny. From a
major Thomistic philosopher who is also a self-designated agnostic. Interesting
read, especially where he debunks Dawkins.
Hypathia of Alexandria, by Maria Dzielska. Short and sweet
historical treatment that gets behind the veil of legend to provide an
historically founded account of the life of the female neoplatonist master of
the late 4th and early 5th century Alexandria.
Religion in the Making, by A.N. Whitehead. Philosophical treatment of religion from the father
of modern process philosophy. I promised myself to re-read this after
having read more of Aquinas, so I am.
Four Ages of Understanding, by John Deely. Huge, heavy, massive tome; a post-modern history of
philosophy from the Thomistic master John Deely, out of The University of St.
Thomas in Houston.
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. Eliot's
Four Quartets, was published by Ignatius Press in 2006. Visit his IgnatiusInsight.com
author page for a full listing of his books published by Ignatius Press.
The Lord, by Romano Guardini. I read this almost yearly. It is the
best book since the Bible.
Liturgy and Personality, by Dietrich von Hildebrand. Vintage
Guardini; inexpressibly profound. Renders almost the entire self-scrutiny
Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales.The best of this genre--ever. One reads this over and
The Theology of the Body, by John Paul II, translated (this is crucial) by Michael Waldstein. A
magnificent translation of the Holy Father's epochal study.
The Spirit of Catholicism, by Karl Adam. Indispensable. Magisterial. Unanswerable.
The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevski. What can one
say in the face of a tornado?
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). In addition to Socrates
Meets Sartre, Kreeft's most recent Ignatius Press books include
Can Understand the Bible, The
God Who Loves You, and The
Philosophy of Tolkien. See his IgnatiusInsight.com author page for full listing if his Ignatius Press
No one book stands out in my memory but one movie does. It is a movie I did not see in 2006, and that is the point. It is Mel Gibson's
The Passion of the Christ, and the point is that after seeing it once, when it first came out, I felt no need to see it again, as I do with
my other favorite movies (I think I have watched A Man for
All Seasons twenty times) because every scene continued to be completely unforgettable
and more real than any movie image.
Karl Keating is
the founder and president of Catholic Answers. He had been working as an attorney for several years
when, on leaving Mass one Sunday, he found anti-Catholic tracts on the windshields of the cars
in the church parking lot. He wrote his own tract in reply and distributed
copies of it at the Fundamentalist church responsible for the anti-Catholic
tract. That was the start of what has become the countrys largest
lay-run apologetics and evangelization organization. Catholic Answers was incorporated in 1982, and in 1988 Karl left the practice
of law and went into apostolic work full time. That year marked the publication
of his Catholicism and Fundamentalism, the first book to deal extensively
with challenges posed by "Bible Christians." Other books followed:
What Catholics Really Believe, Nothing But the Truth, The Usual Suspects,
and Controversies. Read more about his books on his IgnatiusInsight.com author page.
Holy War, Just War, by Roberto De Mattei. I confess I'm biased on this
one: I wrote the introduction.The authorcontrasts Christian holy
warwith Muslim jihad and shows that they differ in key ways.
Peace in the Promised Land edited by Srdja Trifkovic. A
collection of essays that, taken together, offerthe most
realisticproposals for an equitable solution that I have seen.
A Traveler in Italy, by H.V. Morton. Nearly all of Morton's travel books
are outstanding. This just happens to be the latest one I read, in preparation
for a trip last month to Italy.
Inside Hitler's Bunker, by Joachim Fest. A competent and
brief account of the last days of Hitler; it is saidto bethe book
on which the movie Downfall was
June 1941 by John Lukacs. Similar to other books Lukacs has written
on World War II--lots of intriguing insights.He brings a Catholic
andconservative perspective to the conflict.
The Third Man by Graham Greene. Actually written as a treatment for the
movie of the same name, starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton. The final
screenplay is more polished, but the book offers a different look at the
Sprezzatura by Peter D'Epiro. The title refers to things that are
difficult yet exquisitely done. The subtitle is 50 Ways Italian
Genius Shaped the World, whether in
politics, art, literature, or technology.
City Secrets: Rome by Robert Kahn. Not your standard travel guide but
recommendations by artists, writers, and scholars tonot-often-visited
places in the Eternal City.
From Berkeley to Berlin and Back by Dale Vree. Long out of print,
this is the story of how the future editor of The New Oxford Review entered and left Marxism.
How to Read a Poem by Burton Raffell. I started this one years ago but
finished it only in 2006, so I think it qualifies for this list. There aren't
many who, on finishing this primer, won't bring down from their shelves several
poetry books that they've been meaning to read for years.
Trent's Last Case by E.C. Bentley. Detective story aficionados call
this a landmark book in the genre. Maybe so. I just thought it was a
Read Part Two of "The Best Books I Read in 2006..."
| || || |