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"The Best Books I Read in 2007..." | Ignatius Press Authors, Editors, and Staff | January 1, 2008
We've once again asked a number of Ignatius Press editors, authors, and staff for their picks for the best books they read during the
past year (see last year's list). The books didn't have
to be published in 2007 (and many weren't), nor did they have to
be about a particular topic. Simply, "What were the best books you
read in the past year?" 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.
Jesus of Nazareth, by Pope Benedict XVI. A lifetime of learning comes together in the most important
subject of all. I savored each page.
Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder. I read this after
the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis (near my home). This passage
captured much of the feeling here: "The moment a Peruvian heard of the accident
he signed himself and made a mental calculation as to how recently he had
crossed by it and how soon he had intended crossing by it again. People
wandered about in a trance-like state, muttering; they had the hallucination of
seeing themselves falling into a gulf."
Treasures of Britain,
by Roy Strong. Among other things it gives an honest assessment of the how the
dissolution of the monasteries and the destruction of shrines and images cost
England most of its culture.
of P.G. Wodehouse,
probably six or eight books, which can be consumed like peanut butter cups, but
are even more satisfying. The laughter lingers long afterwards.
Gospel, by David Athey. An entertaining and
moving first novel by a Catholic writer published by a Protestant publishing
house [Bethany House]. How he snuck it by them, I don't know, but even more
mysterious is why he couldn't get a Catholic publisher to publish it.
The Order of Things, by James V. Schall, S.J. A book that takes everything apart and puts it back
Myth of Hitler's Pope, by Rabbi David G. Dalin. A Jewish
scholar defends Pope Pius XII against the ridiculous charges that he did not do
enough to help the Jews being persecuted by Hitler.
Religion and the Rise of Western Culture, by
Christopher Dawson. A glorious study of Medieval civilization. A book that
should be read by everyone even remotely connected to education.
Ways: How Bulgarian Greens, Swedish Housewives, and Beer-Swilling Englishmen
Created Family-Centered Economies—and Why They Disappeared, by Allan C. Carlson. An author who is a non-Catholic and
understands Catholic social teaching better than most Catholics do.
Days, by E. C. Bentley. A memoir by G.K.
Chesterton's best friend, with a wonderful glimpse of the young Chesterton.
Offbeat Radicals: The British Tradition of Alternative Dissent, by Geoffrey Ashe. Shows how Chesterton influenced Gandhi.
Speaking of Chesterton, I re-read The Man Who Was Thursday, Christendom in Dublin,
All I Survey, Sidelights, Chaucer, All is Grist, Four Faultless Felons, Come to
Think of It, and The Resurrection of Rome. Plus a lot of uncollected essays. He's a pretty good
writer. One of these days I'm going to get serious and read more by him.
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
quite know how to list my reading for the year when Carl asks me to do so. Do I
include Ignatius Press books or not? Many of the Ignatius Press books published
in the year I read in manuscript form. They are books and I read them, but it
still seems odd listing them here. So I have elected not to do so this time.
That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis. Re-read. Upteenth time. Better than ever.
Silas Marner, by George
Eliot. Read it for our book club, but since we have not yet met to discuss it,
I will withhold comment.
Fidei: Thomism And the God of the Philosophers, by Ralph McInerny. I would take
issue with certain points regarding de Lubac, but this is still an interesting
overview of issues related to natural theology by one of the great Thomists of
the late 20th century and early 21st century.
The Keys of the Kingdom,
by A.J. Cronin. Interesting novel. Ahead of its time. Some problematic
theology here and there but on the whole a good novel.
Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen. I had never read it before. Loved it. Would read it again at the drop
of a hat.
The Jesus Legend, by
Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd. Good rebuttal to the Jesus Seminar, and
the other revisionists.
Jesus of Nazareth, by
Pope Benedict XVI. Superb. What else can one say?
Magisterium, by Avery Cardinal Dulles. Probably will
become the standard text.
Can We Trust the New Testament? by Mark D. Roberts. Good popular apologetic for the historical
reliability of the gospels.
The Missing Gospels,
by Darrell L. Bock. Good overview of the "alternative gospels" by a
leading Evangelical New Testament scholar.
Day Without Yesterday: Lemaitre Einstein, And the Birth of Modern Cosmology, John Farrell. A great primer on
Lemaitre and his contribution to the Big Bang Theory. A little harsh regarding
certain hierarchs but generally sympathetic to the faith and reason dialogue.
Is A God, by
Anthony Flew, Roy Abraham Varghese. An intellectual autobiography by one of the
twentieth century's leading philosophical atheists. Despite the controversy
over the extent tot which Varghese and others may have influenced the final
text, it is clear that Flew's perspective is accurately represented and that
his ideas have changed. It is not clear whether he is truly a deist or an
uncertain theist. However, it is clear that Flew is no longer an atheist.
by Alister McGrath. A nice rebuttal to Richard Dawkin's embarrassing
demonstration of his philosophical and theological incompetence in The God
Delusion. I say
"nice" because McGrath, a leading Evangelical historical theologian,
is a "nice" guy in his response to Dawkins, although McGrath does a
good job of marshalling his arguments.
Infinite Book, by
John D. Barrow. A fun book on the nature of infinity by a leading physicist and
popular science writer.
Priority of Christ,
by Robert Barron. A fascinating read by an up-and-coming theological and
Thrill of the Chaste,
by Dawn Eden. Dawn's "on point", "right now" take on what's
wrong with "Sex in the City".
Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus, by Timothy Paul Jones. Good popular
work on textual criticism and Ehrman's attack on biblical Christianity based on
his claims about textual variants.
I know I
read some other more offbeat stuff but either I don't want to divulge the truth
to the world and risk "fanboy" cracks or I have forgotten what I
read, which probably means it shouldn't be included here.
Journalist and architect Moyra Doorly is the author of
No Place For God: The Denial of the
Transcendent in Modern Church Architecture, a critique
and examination of the banality and ugliness that is evident in so many modern
Catholic parishes and cathedrals.
The best books I read in 2007 were, in no particular order:
Status Anxiety, by Alain
de Botton. He claims that modern societies are geared to material achievement
and induce fear and rivalry in their citizens. The meritocratic ideal is
intolerant of those who fail to achieve and brands them as losers, an attitude
quite unknown in the Middle Ages. Whatever the problems of the Medieval
peasant, they could not compare with the anguish of the unsuccessful American.
the Hours: English People & their Prayers, by Eamon Duffy. Since the Middle
Ages is the most maligned period in history and implicit in that view is a
criticism of the Medieval Church, I welcome any study of the period which
demonstrates that Catholicism in pre-Reformation Europe was vibrant, thriving
and loved by the general population. This is a wonderful follow-up to Duffy's The
Stripping of the Altars.
Crisis of Civilization,
by Hillaire Belloc. This indictment of the Capitalist system came as something
of a surprise, a welcome surprise.
of a Soul, by St
Therese of Lisieux. This was the first account of the spiritual life that had
me laughing out loud with delight. It was also interesting to read that St
Therese was not taken to Mass until she was considered old enough. Even at age
five she was still too young to attend May devotions.
Chamber, by John
Grisham. This novel about a man on death row whose grandson becaomes his
atorney was brilliant and harrowing at the same time. In fact I read twelve
John Grisham books in 2007, one after the other. I just couldn't stop.
Catherine Harmon is the managing editor of
Homiletic & Pastoral Review and Catholic World Report.
The Confessions of St. Augustine. I'm sure I'll be rereading this one for the rest of my life.
End, by E.M.
Forster. Much of Forster's early 20th-century critique of both cultural
liberalism and conservatism still rings true today.
Portrait of a Lady,
by Henry James. An all-time favorite.
Children of Men,
by P.D. James. Skip the goofy movie, read the amazing book.
Bernard Nathanson. As someone born and raised in the post-Roe v. Wade U.S., I
was interested in Nathanson's inside-look at the pro-abortion movement, as well
as the story of his eventual change-of-heart.
The Spirit of the Liturgy,
by Joseph Ratzinger. Everyone on every side of every liturgical debate should
read this book.
to the Devout Life,
by Francis de Sales. A much-needed spiritual kick-in-the-pants.
The Regensburg Lecture,
by James V. Schall. Very helpful in wading through all of the hype and outrage
surrounding the Pope's controversial speech.
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, Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome and Dove Descending.
He has also produced a video series, aired on EWTN, titled
"Treasures of Catholicism."
The Night Is Far Spent: A Treasury of Thomas Howard was published by Ignatius Press in 2007.
Visit his IgnatiusInsight.com
author page for a full listing of his books published by Ignatius Press.
Stricken Deer, by Lord David Cecil. His amazing, elegant, and exquisitly
sympathetic life of poor William Cowper, the 18th century poet and hymnologist,
written when Cecil was 29. It caused something of a sensation.
Quiet Lives, by
Lord David Cecil. Cecil's sketches of Dorothy Osborne, and Thomas Gray (the
Gray's "Elegy" poet), wonderfully worth reading even if you don't
know who the two subjects are. Cecil was Goldsmith's Professor of English at
Oxford, and a friend of C. S. Lewis and company. Very amusing man. Member of the
astonishing Cecil clan.
Lyttleton--Hart-David Letters. A
3-vol. collection of letters written between 1955 and 1962, between the
publisher Rupert Hart-Davis, and his former Eton "beak" (master)
George Lyttleton, of the gold-plated Lyttleton family. Gloriously literate,
clever, urbane, flashing letters. The best sort of bedtime reading.
The Coasts of the Country: A Treasury of Mediaeval English Devotional Literature, edited by Clare Kirchberger. A splendid collection of thirteenth
to fifteenth century prayers and spiritual writings, very readable and helpful to modern
readers—almost, shall we say, required reading? A good, bracing tonic for
those whose prayers are flagging.
The Desert Fathers, by Helen Waddell. Her famous small collection of writings from the Egyptian desert hermits of the
fourth century. This is very rough and searching stuff. One feels called on the
carpet as one reads what these saints have to say.
Dr. Paul Kengor is a professor
at Grove City College and the executive director of the College's The Center
for Vision and Values. He is also a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution
on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. Kengor is a frequent
television political commentator and opinion page contributor, as well as the
author of several best-selling books. He is the author of God and Ronald
Reagan, God and George W. Bush, God and Hillary Clinton, The Crusader: Ronald
Reagan and the Fall of Communism, and co-editor with Peter Schweizer of Assessing the Reagan Presidency. He is the co-author, with
Patricia Clark Doerner, of The Judge: William P. Clark,
Ronald Reagan's Top Hand
Books that I've enjoyed in 2007, some of which I read for the second or third time, and
not all of which I've finished, include:
America's Bishop: The Life and Times of Fulton Sheen, by Thomas C. Reeves (Encounter,
Life of Christ, by Fulton J. Sheen.
The Seven Storey Mountain, by Thomas Merton.
A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia, by Alexander Yakovlev (Yale University Press, 2002).
Whittaker Chambers, by Sam Tanehaus (Random House, 1998).
Veritatis Splendor and Fides et Ratio, by Pope John Paul II.
The Apostles, by Pope Benedict XVI (Our Sunday Visitor, 2007).
As a curveball (pun intended), I've also enjoyed a baseball book, Leigh Montville's Ted
Williams (Broadway, 2004).
Finally, I've just begun M. Stanton Evans' long-awaited, extraordinary re-examination of
the life of Senator Joe McCarthy, Blacklisted by History. The book will be dubbed revisionist
history, but it is necessary to revise what so many got wrong in the first
place. McCarthy certainly was not perfect, but he is nowhere near the raving
demon portrayed by leftist journalists and historians. He was also, from what
we can tell, a committed Catholic.
For the record, the only book published in 2007 that I actually finished in 2007 was
one that I happened to write (with Patricia Clark Doerner), which, yes, is an
embarrassingly transparent plug for our book, The Judge:
William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press). Seriously, here's a secret: not every book an
author writes is special to the author. This one, however, is.
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 Descartes, 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
The only two really great new books I read in 2007 were (a) Michael O'Brien's new novel,
the World, and (b) Anne Rice's
novel Jesus of Nazareth: Out of Egypt.
Michael's book was predictably
good, perhaps his best one yet, an intergenerational, long, yet exciting read
about the Catholic heroes of Croatia. Michael is spinach.
Anne was a competent
trashy novelist, then got converted to the full Catholic faith, and wrote one
of the most remarkable books I've ever seen. Like the movie Life is
Beautiful, a plot summary sounds
absolutely impossible and ridiculous. It is a book supposedly written (or
thought) by Jesus Himself as a kid! Yet it works, remarkably well. There is not
an inauthentic note in it. I'd rank it third on the all-time list of Jesus
fiction, only the third time anyone has successfully written a piece of fiction
about Jesus (the first being Dostoyevski's "The Grand Inquisitor" and
the second being Lewis's Narnia chronicles (they should be called the Aslan
One movie stands out as
memorable: a grainy, almost minimalist pro-life love story, Bella. If you want eight more book titles, they would be
classics I read before but read again in order to teach them: Tolstoy's "Death
of Ivan Ilyitch" and Confession. Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" (yes, that atheist manifesto; it either bowls you
over with laughter or sends you screaming into the arms of the Church),
Chesterton's St. Thomas Aquinas, Lewis's Till We Have Faces (his very greatest book), Augustine's Confessions (Sheed translation) for the umpteenth time. as well
as Plato's "Gorgias" (I think that is Christ's favorite Platonic dialog). If that's only seven, let's
add Dinesh D'Souza's The Enemy Within, an unusual, challenging, disturbing, a bit over the
top, but wonderfully non-liberal perspective on Islam.
Read Part Two of "The Best Books I Read in 2007..."
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