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Part Two of "The Best Books I Read in 2006..." | Ignatius Press Authors, Editors, and Staff | Part One
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. 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 late husband John raised three children.
Books I read in the past year and recommend for others, in
no particular order.
The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism and the
Culture of the Modern (University of Chicago Press, 2004) and The Darkened Room: Women,
Power, and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England, both by Alex Owen (University of
Chicago Press, 1989). Disregarding their feminist jargon, the case histories in
these books offer ample evidence as to why we should stay far away from
Knowing the Enemy, by Mary Habeck. A chilling guide to the sources of radical Islamicism.
Europe At Home: Family and Material Culture, 1500-1800, by Raffaella Sarti. A fascinating survey of everyday life in
Early Modern Europe.
Witches and Witch-Hunts, by Wolfgang Behringer (Polity,
2004). An excellent overview tracing the phenomenon to modern times, by a noted
authority on witch trials.
The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of
the Western Religious Tradition, by James A. Herrick (InterVarsity Press, 2003). Good guide to
the roots of modern occultism and New Age errors.
The Remarkable Life of John Murray Spear: Agitator
for the Spirit Land,
by John Benedict Buescher, (University of Notre Dame Press, 2006). Witty
exploration of a nineteenth century spiritualist.
Marking the Hours: English People and Their Prayers,
1240-1570, by Eamon
Duffy (Yale University Press, 2006). Lavishly illustrated examination of
In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000, ed. Michelle P. Brown.
(Smithsonian P, 2006). Exhibition catalogue from a blockbuster show at the
Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian, with scholarly articles.
Icons from Sinai: Holy Image, Hallowed Ground, eds. Robert S. Nelson and
Kristin M. Collins (Getty Publications, 2006). Gorgeous exhibition catalogue
from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles with much background on St. Catherine's
Monastery and the spirituality of icons.
The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the
Elders of Zion,
byWill Eisner (Norton, 2005). Last book by a great cartoonist, skillfully
using the graphic novel for to refute the cornerstone of modern anti-Semitism.
Finally, Martin Scorcese's The Departed is the most profane film I've ever
seen but it's superb: crackling script, excellent performances, and a somber
moral thanks to the director's remaining Catholic sensibility.
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.
I haven't read many recently published books this past
year, but have greatly enjoyed the following "golden oldies":
Prague Notebook: The Strangled Revolution, by Michel Salomon, published in
English in 1971, a history of the short-lived move toward democracy in
Czechoslovakia (1967-68) crushed by the Soviets.
If This is a Man and The Truce, by the Italian Jewish writer
Primo Levi, memoirs of his imprisonment in Auschwitz as a young man, published
in Italian 1958, in English 1969.
The Eighth Day, by Thornton W. Wilder, a novel published in 1967, in rich
and innovative prose Wilder (author of Our Town and Bridge on the San Luis Rey) examines the effects of a murder on the lives of
several people in small-town America, notably the family of a man who is
unjustly convicted of the murder. A gripping exploration of human character and
Peace Like a River, a novel by Leif Enger, a young American Evangelical
Christian, published two or three years ago. Faith permeates the book, but it's
not sweet piety of the shallower sort. It's that rare phenomenon, a truly
Christian novel that is also a work of literature. The dramatic story (again
about murder and repentance) presents to us a superb portrait of Christian
fatherhood (indeed of manhood), the struggle with personal sin, injustice,
humiliation. There's plenty of pathos, hilarious humor, a dramatic plot, and
all embodied in an outstanding writing style that's a joy to read. As an added
bonus, it actually has depth!
The Fall of a Titan, by Igor Gouzenko. This novel by the famous Russian
defector, dramatizes the radical devaluation of human life and the devastation
of conscience under Stalin. The "titan" of the title refers to a
thinly fictionalized Maxim Gorky, the writer who for a time served the
Bolshevik revolution only in the end to be disillusioned and destroyed by it.
First published in 1954. Cautionary note: this dark, dark, dark tale is inherently moral yet portrays much moral degradation, thus I
suggest it's not for young readers.
Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, by Jerry Mander, first published
1978. If you have a visceral knee-jerk reaction against this title, as I did
before I cracked the cover, you might want to consider that the reaction could
be symptomatic. This is a highly readable book, not lunatic fringe paranoia--the insights are backed up by plenty of sociological, psychological and
scientific studies. It is best read in conjunction with Neil Postman's three
important critiques of technological-man: Amusing Ourselves to Death,
The Disappearance of Childhood, and
Technopoly: the Surrender of Culture to Technology.
The Triumph of God's Kingdom in the Millennium and
End Times, by Fr. Joseph Iannuzzi, OSJ. first published 1999. This slender book is a healthy
anodyne to the various millennialist theories and heresies arising in our
times. Solid biblical scholarship, drawing primarily on the early Church Fathers
and documents of the Church.
The Antichrist, by Fr. Vincent Miceli, SJ, first published in 1981, a book
I've reread many times, always learning something new from it. A rich and solid
presentation of this often confusing subject, drawing on Fathers and Doctors of
the Church, and augmented by sober reflections by the author. There's a lot of
wildly differing material available on this subject, even within Catholic
circles. This one is reliable, in no way inflammatory. Call it an essential
reference work for the "end times."
The Flight From God, by Max Picard, first published 1934. The Swiss
Catholic philosopher probes the consciousness of modern man with a
philosophical/poetic style that I find altogether unmatched by other writers
addressing the same theme. It is more than philosophy, more than an essay on
Man or a meditation on the implicit atheism of modern consciousness. This is
spiritual insight of the highest order. Sadly, the English edition of the book
is out of print, but doubtless the dedicated biblio-trufflehunter will be able
to find a copy. I also strongly recommend Picard's The Hitler Within
Ourselves and The World of Silence.
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 to 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 two children.
Search for IgnatiusInsight.com articles by Carl Olson
Christianity and The Crisis of Cultures and
Values In a Time of Upheaval, by
Joseph Ratzinger. He packs more theological knowledge, erudite wisdom, and untrammeled truth into one page than most authors can manage in an entire book.
And, of course, you don't want to miss Deus Caritas Est,
his first encyclical as Pope Benedict XVI, a profound reflection on the Christian belief that "God is Love."
Dove Descending, by Thomas Howard. A great poem,
T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, is treated with the learned
respect it deserves. No deconstructionist blathering or nonsensical post-modern
interpretations here--just marvelous insight from one of the few writers who has
the vocabulary and vision to do Eliot justice.
Penguin Guide to Jazz (7th edition), by Richard Cook and Brian
Morton. No, I haven't read all 1,725 pages, nor have I listened to all of the
thousands of CDs listed. But one can always dream. An indispensable guide for
anyone serious about collecting and hearing the best jazz.
Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. A handsome
and welcome distillation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Recommended for anyone wanting to learn the basics of the Catholic Faith.
Brother Cadfael Mysteries, by Ellis Peters. I wish I had
discovered these marvelous mystery novels sooner--and that I had time to read
more of them. They are a delightful blend of mystery, history, and romance (in
the old and best sense of the word).
The Rough Guide to Frank Sinatra, by Chris Ingham. An excellent
guide to the messy life and marvelous music (not to mention various movies) of Francis
Albert Sinatra, marked by a pleasant balance of objectivity and
America Alone, by Mark Steyn. The witty and often caustic writer has
created controversy with his examination of demographics, Islam, and the future
of the West. Yet his ideas aren't so much original (his comments about Europe and
Christianity often echo those of a certain Cardinal Ratzinger) as they are
unflinching and politically incorrect, delivered with an inimitable humor.
Islamic Imperialism: A History, by Efraim Karsh. The head of the
Mediterranean Studies Programme, King's College, University of London, has
penned a history of Islam that is long on facts and analysis and thankfully
short on polemics. His central (and obviously controversial) thesis is that
Islam, from the start, has been mostly consumed with personal and political
domination, not spiritual or religious truth.
Darwinian Fairytales, by David C. Stove. Atheist and philosopher Stove takes
on many of Darwin's key theses in a rollicking and unique polemic that has
something to offend and entertain nearly everyone.
Lost in the Cosmos, by Walker Percy. I first read "the last self help
book" ten years ago. A second reading this past year gave me even more
appreciation for Percy's often surprising and always engaging apologetic for
theism in general and Christianity in particular. It's the only "self help"
book you'll ever need.
Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the
Masses, and Life
at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass, by Theodore Dalrymple. An
agnostic British doctor who spent many years working among prisoners and the
poor offers penetrating and often disturbing
analysis of the human condition, all delivered with exceptional style and wit.
Mystery and Manners, by Flannery O'Connor. For my money, the best book
by a Christian about the meaning and art of writing fiction. The Mind
of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers is also
superb, but I keep coming back to O'Connor's collection of essays because (just
as in her fiction) she cuts to the quick like no one else and provides
concrete, hard-nosed advice.
The Life of the Mind, by Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. Sure, I'm biased,
having posted numerous essays by the great Jesuit professor on this website.
But here's the bottom line: I never, ever tire of reading his books and essays.
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.
In the Light of Christ: Writings in the Western
Tradition, by Lucy Beckett (Ignatius, 2006). A much-needed panoramic overview of the Western
literary canon. Ideal for those exploring the wonders of Christendom for the
first time, or for those wishing to revisit some of their favourite writers.
The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature,
by Elizabeth Kantor (Regnery, 2006). In some respects this is similar to the
previous book, but in other respects is very, very different. Like Beckett's
volume, Kantor's is a panoramic overview of the literary canon; unlike
Beckett's volume, it is gutsy and gritty and goes on the attack against the
iconoclastic Philistines who purportedly "teach" literature in the
modern academy. This book is truly offensive in the best sense of the word. It
takes no prisoners and pulls no punches. For those who like to discuss
literature over a cup of tea with Austenesque decorum, Beckett's book would be
an ideal gift; for those who prefer a pugilistic approach, brawling with the
brainless denizens of modernity, Kantor's Guide will add power to your punches!
The Solzhenitsyn Reader, edited by Edward E. Ericson, Jr.
and Daniel J. Mahoney (ISI Books, 2006). The finest contribution to
Solzhenitsyn studies for several years. Since Solzhenitsyn is the most
important writer in the world today, this volume of "new and essential
writings", edited by two leading and long-established experts, is most
welcome. It is ideal for those seeking an introduction to the great Russian and
his enduring legacy.
Dove Descending: A Journey into T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, by Thomas
Howard (Ignatius Press/ Sapientia Press, 2006). Sublime. There is no other word
to describe Thomas Howard's wonderful, and wonder-filled, journey into Eliot's
finest poem. Since the poem is in every respect a holy place, the journey is
also something of a literary pilgrimage. Thomas Howard is a truly gifted and
learned guide on such a pilgrimage. As the Dove descends, love ascends towards
its source, leaving the reader closer to Heaven. Take the pilgrimage!
The Annotated Waste Land with Eliot's Contemporary
Prose, edited by
Lawrence Rainey (Yale University Press, 2005). Rainey's journey into Eliot's
other great poem is not as sublime as Howard's, not least because the former's
secularism obscures his vision of Eliot's profoundly Christian inspiration. If
not sublime it is nonetheless solid as a work of scholarship. This book is
certainly not the last word on the subject but it does represent a good
launching pad into the Waste Land.
Hopkins: Theologian's Poet, by Aidan Nichols (Sapientia
Press, 2006). If Howard on Eliot is a marriage made in heaven, so is Nichols on
Hopkins. Fr. Nichols is one of the finest theologians in the English-speaking
world and, as such, is uniquely qualified to guide us through the deep theology
of Hopkins' poetry. This book is essential for those seeking a greater
understanding of the Jesuit genius who revolutionized modern poetry with the
radical power of Tradition.
The True and Only Wealth of Nations: Essays on
Family, Economy and Society, by Louis de Bonald; translated by Christopher Olaf Blum (Sapientia
Press, 2006). Christopher Blum, a professor at Christendom College in Virginia,
is to be congratulated for bringing the hugely important political thought of
Louis de Bonald to the English-speaking world. Reacting healthily against the
insipidly insidious secularism of the French Revolution, de Bonald's thought
remains relevant to the problems facing the world today, and retains its
potency as a rebuttal of, and riposte to, secular fundamentalism.
The Eyewitness: An Anthology of Short Stories, by Hilaire Belloc; edited by
Matthew Anger (Self-published, 2006). A most welcome anthology of some of
Belloc's finest short stories and satirical essays.
Common Sense 101: Lessons from G.K. Chesterton, by Dale Ahlquist (Ignatius, 2006). As
a champion of the Chestertonian, there is none to match Dale Ahlquist.
Irrepressible, indefatigable and full of the same rambunctious joie de vivre as
his hero, Ahlquist romps through Chesterton's world of wit and wisdom with
gusto and carefree abandon. He is such fun, and writes and reasons so well,
that one is almost as exhilarated by his presence as by Chesterton's, though of
course, and as he would be the first to admit, it is the genius of GKC that
brings the words of Ahlquist to life.
From Lebanon to California: A Marriage of Two Cultures, by Henry J. Zeiter (Xlibris, 2006). This autobiography
is a real gem. Written by a man of high culture and profound insight, the book
serves as an exposition of "every good thing our Christendom brings"
(to misquote Belloc). Dr. Zeiter reminds me very much of Belloc's and
Chesterton's great friend, Maurice Baring, in his cultivated cosmopolitanism
(in the best sense of that much-maligned word). The whole book is an
introduction to the best the West can offer. The book's author is himself a
living monument of the civilization that only the Church can save. Everyone
should get to know Henry Zeiter, and this book is the best way of doing so.
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 most recent book is Excommunication and the
Catholic Church (Ascension Press, 2006. Read IgnatiusInsight.com interview here.)
His canon law website can be found at www.canonlaw.info.
Summa on Marriage, by Raymond of Peñafort (1241).
The Diary of a Young Girl, by A. Frank (1944).
The Psalms are Christian Prayer, by T. Worden (1961).
Germans against Hitler, by T. Prittie (1964).
Contraception, by J. Noonan (1965).
The Battle of the Little Bighorn, M. Sandoz (1966).
Abortion, byJ. Connery (1977).
The Holocaust, by M. Gilbert (1985).
Language in Motion: the Nature of Sign, by Schein et al. (1995).
The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde, by J. Pearce (2000).
"Natural Law and Human Nature", by J. Koterski (2002) on tape.
The Bible and the Constitution, by J. Pelikan (2004).
Dr. Jose Yulo teaches courses on philosophy, western civilization, United States history, and public speaking at
the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He has a Doctorate in Education from the University of San Francisco, with an emphasis on
the philosophy of education. He also holds a Master's degree in political communication from Emerson College in Boston, as well as a
Bachelor's degree in the classical liberal arts from St. John's College in Annapolis, MD. Originally from Manila in the Philippines,
his research interests lie in Greek philosophy, the histories of Greek and Roman politics and warfare, and the literature of J.R.R. Tolkien. He is
a regular contributor to IgnatiusInsight.com.
Search for IgnatiusInsight.com articles by Dr. Jose Yulo
Here are some titles for 2006 in no particular order from my humble, green, Hobbitt library.
Germania, by Tacitus.
The Abolition of Man and The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis.
Slouching Towards Gomorrah, by Robert Bork.
Aeneid, by Virgil.
The Rise of the Roman Empire, by Polybius.
The Punic Wars, by Adrian Goldsworthy.
An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture, by Roger Scruton.
The Roots of American Order, by Russell Kirk.
50 Questions on the Natural Law, by Charles Rice.
How to Think about the Great Ideas, by Mortimer Adler.
The Da Vinci Hoax, by Olson and Miesel.
The Force of Reason, by Oriana Fallaci.
God and the World, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Memory and Identity, by Pope John Paul II.
Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott.
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