"The Best Books I Read in 2006..." | Ignatius Press Authors and Editors | January 7, 2006 | IgnatiusInsight.com "The Best Books I Read in 2006..." | Ignatius Press Authors, Editors, and Staff | January 7, 2007

http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2007/bestbooks2006_jan07.asp

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.

Dale 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. Chesterton.

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 Pigeonsand 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 Thompsonby 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 the Bible.

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.  


Mark 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.

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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 Italian Senate.

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, ever new.

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.


Fr. 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.

Jeff Grace 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 more?

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 sleep...

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.


Dr. 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 industry otiose.

Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales.The best of this genre--ever. One reads this over and over.

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?


Peter 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 You 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 titles.

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 country’s 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 based.

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 characters.

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 pleasurable read.

Sandra 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 spiritualism.

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.

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 P, 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 laypeople's devotions.

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.
 

Michael 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 divine providence.

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.


Carl E. Olson
is the editor of IgnatiusInsight.com. He is author of Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"? A Catholic Critique of the Rapture and Today’s 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, of The 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.

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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 opinion.

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. Enough said.


Joseph 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. Heartily recommended!

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.


Edward Peters 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 Peņafort (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.

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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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