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Part Three of "The Best Books I Read in 2010..." | Ignatius Press Authors, Editors, and Friends | Part One | Part Two | Ignatius Insight
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, Sophia House, and Island
of the World: A Novel. His most recent work is
Theophilos: A Novel, which is set in the Balkans.
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 Ignatius Insight author
page for a full listing of his books published by Ignatius Press.
The Octave of All Souls, by Robert Eady, a wise and ironic novel set in small town
Canada, narrated by an 80-year-old women who during each octave of the feast of
All Souls prays for those who have died during the previous year--the good, the
bad, and the ugly, and everyone in between. Her candid reminiscences are at
times hilarious, and reveal the hidden greatness of an "ordinary" soul who is
insignificant in the world's eyes. Imagine Flannery O'Connor goes north. Though
not quite as dark, not quite as stark, Eady always gives us radical honesty
about our fallen human condition in its many manifestations.
The Well of English by Blanche Mary Kelly, and The Sudden Rose: an
Essay on the Unity of Art by
the same author. These two insightful books, first published in the 1930's, are
priceless. Out of print now, they can still be found from time to time through
used-book searches. I would place them on par with Etienne Gilson's Painting
and Reality and Jacques Maritain's Creative
Intuition in Art and Poetry. No, wait, Kelly
has a quality distinct from the philosophers; she expresses ideas in a style
that incarnates her themes.
Faith of the Fatherless, by Paul C. Vitz. The reknowned psychologist examines the
role of the absent father in the lives of major influential atheists in our
times, and also the role of indifferent or abusive fathers in the lives of
other atheists and agnostics who have played roles in reshaping contemporary
culture. As Vitz warns that we have become "a nation of practical atheists", he
also probes the causes and remedies—most especially the rediscovery of
Avatar at Night, by Tal Brooke, a completely engrossing spiritual odyssey, the account of
Brooke's personal quest for "enlightenment," embodying a generation's spiritual
lostness, the search into the mysterious East with its beguiling symbology and
sometimes paranormal manifestations. Highly readable, compassionate, radically
honest, witty, it offers a stark portrayal of the ways human consciousness can
be deceived by mystical phenomena. This is a very important book for several
reasons, not least of which is the exposure of the deceptions and corruption at
the heart of the Indian avatar Sai Baba, who calls himself God. The enormous
world-wide personality cult surrounding him surely needed unmasking. However,
the book is a crucial study on other levels. In the end it witnesses to Jesus
Christ's victory over the "powers and principalities" of darkness—a
darkness that masquerades as light. It is a warning about how vulnerable we are
to manipulation, a warning also about the times we live in, with its
proliferating false messiahs.
The End of Time,
by Josef Pieper. The ever-lucid Pieper offers meditations on the philosophy of
history, including such subjects as Kant and the idea of progress, optimism and
pessimism, nihilism, the survival of man, and the correct understanding of the
Anti-Christ. An excellent companion piece to Josef Pieper: An
Anthology (both from
The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr. The
title says it all. I hasten to add that this is a highly intelligent,
beautifully written analysis of the e-cultural revolution that is affecting
nearly everyone, not just in the content of our minds, but in the very structure
and function of our mind/brain processes. The author's arguments are fully
backed up by copious references to scientific and sociological studies. One of
the most crucial books I've read since...well, since I first learned to read.
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, 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 writes for several Catholic periodicals, pens a weekly Scripture column for Our Sunday Visitor newspaper, and is a
contributing editor for This Rock magazine.
A former Evangelical Protestant who entered the Catholic Church in 1997, he has a Masters in Theological Studies
from the University of Dallas. Carl lives in Oregon with his wife, three children, two cats, and some books and CDs.
I'll quickly note, at the start, a few
Ignatius Press books that I read (or re-read) this year, and benefited from
very much, in differing ways. Looking For the King: An Inklings
Novel (2010) by
David C. Downing was a delightful escape into the world of C. S. Lewis and
company. Light of the World (2010), the now rather famous book-long interview by Peter
Seewald of Pope Benedict XVI, is filled with wisdom, intelligence, holiness,
and a few surprises. Leisure: The Basis of Culture (orig. 1952; 2009), by Josef
Pieper, is a book that I'll return to often, a challenging reminder of the
nature of authentic culture. Credo: Meditations on the Apostles'
Creed (2000), by
Hans Urs von Balthasar is an excellent introduction to both von Balthasar and
the basics of the Catholic Faith. In Soft Garments: Classic
(orig. 1942; 2010), by Monsignor Ronald Knox is a master class in both
apologetics and essay writing.
I help lead a monthly men's theological reading group, and
once again we made our way through several outstanding books. One of them was Holy
People, Holy Land: A Theological Introduction to the Bible, by Dr. Matthew Levering and Dr.
Michael Dauphinais; (Brazos Press, 2005), which I highly recommend for anyone
seeking an accessible, theologically rich overview of Scripture and salvation
history. Another was Fr. James V. Schall's recent collection of essays, The
Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays (CUA, 2008), which is marked by
Schall's usual insight, wisdom, and great breadth of learning. In recognition
of the beatification of John Henry Newman, we also read Apologia
Pro Vita Sua (1864),
which is surprisingly personal and (not so surprisingly) absolutely brilliant.
Shame on me for not having read it sooner!
Three politically-oriented books that caught and held my
attention were Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated
Progressives for Centuries (ISI, 2010), by Paul Kengor; The Character of Nations:
How Politics Makes and Breaks Prosperity, Family, and Civility (Basic Books, 2009), by Angelo M.
Codevilla; and Soft Despotism, Democracy's Drift: Montesquieu,
Rousseau, Tocqueville, and the Modern Prospect (Yale University Press, 2009), by Paul A. Rahe. All
three are impressively researched and argued; all are bursting with examples of
the power of ideas—good, bad, and ugly—put into action, and how the
idea of power (and the desire for it) drive politicians, ideologues, and
intellectuals, all too often toward the wrong ends and with bad consequences
along the way. Along those same lines, I greatly enjoyed the collection, Steps
Toward Restoration: The Consequences of Richard Weaver's Ideas (ISI, 1998), edited by Ted J.
Smith III, which brought an even deeper appreciation for the thought of Weaver,
whose writings I've long admired.
The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual
Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis (ISI, 2010), by Robert R. Reilly, is an essential
guide to making a sober assessment of the serious
difficulties still be faced when it comes to Islam.
On a lighter note, The Wine Trials 2011 (Fearless Critic, 2010), edited
by Robin Goldstein, Alexis Herschkowitsch, and Tyce Walters, was an
entertaining and educational polemic (yes, a wine polemic!), fresh from the
vine, that alerted me to a number of fine wines under $15 a bottle. Some of
that wine, in turn, was my companion in enjoying one of the best books on jazz
I've yet read, The Jazz Book: From Ragtime to the 21st
Hill Book, 2009; Seventh ed.), by Joachim-Ernt Berendt and Günther Huesmann
(translated by Jeb Bishop), an impressively thorough, balanced, and thoughtful
book that is a must have for anyone who loves jazz.
One more work of fiction: Heartstone: Shardlake Goes
to War (Mantle,
2010), by C. J. Sansom, is the fifth book in the Shardlake mysteries, set in
England during the 1530s and 40s. A very good mystery, this is also a superior
historical novel as well as a good study of English religion and culture during
a bloody and trying era.
Catholic Controversies: Understanding Church Teachings
and Events in History
(Moorings Press, 2010), edited by Stephen Gabriel, is a rich collection of
apologetic essays, including pieces by Stephen M. Barr, Mark Lowery, Thomas
Madden, James Hitchcock, Fr. John Hardon, Mark Shea, J. Budziszewski, Avery
Cardinal Dulles, and many others—including one essay by yours truly (but
don't let that keep you from reading the book!).
Finally, while the excellent Light of the World generated the most press and controversy, I have to
say that my favorite papal work this year is Verbum Domini, the Holy Father's apostolic
exhortation on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church. For more
of my thoughts on this exceptional document, see my essay, "A Symphony of the
Word" on Ignatius Insight.
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. His most recent book is
Through Shakespeare's Eyes: Seeing the Catholic Presence in the
Plays. Pearce 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. He is also the editor of the Ignatius Critical Editions.
Visit his IgnatiusInsight.com
author page for more about his work and a full listing of his books
published by Ignatius Press.
Looking for the King by David Downing (Ignatius Press, 2010) and Death of a
Liturgist by Lorraine V.
Murray (Saint Benedict Press, 2010) were the two most enjoyable new works of
fiction that I've read in the past year. The former is a masterfully told
mystery story, which weaves in and out of the world of Tolkien, Lewis and the
Inklings; it's a must-read for all lovers of Tolkien and Lewis, and for all
lovers of well-written and well-woven thrillers. The latter is a simply
delightful satire, masquerading as a murder mystery, on the nonsensical world
of liturgical modernism.
Apologetics for the Twenty-First Century by Louis Markos (Crossway, 2010) and More
Christianity: Finding the Fullness of the Faith by Fr. Dwight Longenecker (Ignatius Press, 2010) are
the two most dynamically engaging works of apologetics that I've read recently.
The former engages with the wit and wisdom of Chesterton and Lewis to shed
light on the challenges faced by Christianity in our secular fundamentalist
age. The latter takes Lewis's Mere Christianity as its starting point but leads the reader to the
"more Christianity" to be found in the Catholic Church. Father
Longenecker writes with a sublime simplicity that is simply sublime.
The highlight of the year, for me, was the Beatification of John Henry Newman
by the Holy Father in September. In commemoration of this momentous event, Ignatius
Press published Blessed John Henry Newman: Theologian and
Spiritual Guide for Our Times by Keith Beaumont (Ignatius Press, 2010) and The
Heart of Newman, a selection of Newman's
writings edited by (Ignatius Press, 2010). Taken together, these two volumes
should be in every Catholic's library. The first serves as the perfect
introduction to Newman's life and work, the second is an excellent synthesis of
some of his finest writing.
In last year's selection of my favourite books I mentioned Roads
to Rome by John
Beaumont (St. Augustine's Press, 2010), a book for which I had written the
preface but which had not yet been published. It is now available from St.
Augustine's Press. I cannot recommend this particular book highly enough. It's
a meticulously researched compendium of hundreds of prominent English Catholic
converts stretching right back to the Reformation. As a reference work, Roads
to Rome is indispensable for anyone wishing
a deeper knowledge of the history of the Catholic resistance and revival in
An entirely different sort of Roman road is the subject of Roads
and Ruins: The Symbolic Landscape of Fascist Rome by Paul Baxa (University of
Toronto Press, 2010). This intriguing and fascinating work demonstrates how the
fascist ideology radically changed the historic landscape of the Eternal City.
My final choice is Christianity and Literature: Philosophical
Foundations and Critical Practice by David Lyle Jeffrey & Gregory P. Maillet (IVP
Academic, 2011), a work which I've read in manuscript but which will not be
published until the spring. It's a penetrating and panoramic engagement with
the great works of western literature from the salient and sapient perspective
of two fine Christian literary critics.
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, including Annulments and the Catholic Church: Straight Answers to Tough Questions and
Excommunication and the Catholic Church: Straight Answers to Tough Questions (both from Ascension Press), and is the translator of the English
edition of The
1917 Pio Benedictine Code of Canon Law.
His canon law website can be found at www.canonlaw.info.
Benedict XVI,Light of the World (2010)
Brian Ferme, History of Sources of Canon Law (2007)
John Ray, The Rosetta Stone (2007)
Raymond Arroyo, Mother Angelica (2005)
Joseph Koterski, "Natural Law" (Teaching Co, 2002)
Joseph Ratzinger, Called to Communion (1996)
Peter Jugis, Analysis of humano modo in Can. 1061 (1992)
Jacob Neusner, Invitation to the Talmud (1973)
John Merryman, The Civil Law Tradition (1969)
Pietro Gasparri, Catechismus pro adultis (1931)
Tracey Rowland, Dean of the John Paul
II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne, Australia, author of Culture
and the Thomist Tradition: after Vatican II (Routledge: London,
2003), Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI (Oxford University Press, 2008), Benedict
XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed (T & T Clark: London, 2010), Patron of the Australian Catholic Students Association,
part-time cat butler, and wife of Stuart Rowland.
How the West was Lost by Alexander Boot (I.B. Tauris: London, 2006). Boot is a
Russian émigré who divides his time between London and Burgundy. How
the West was Lost offers a social and
intellectual history of the successive defeats of Catholics in the culture wars
since the 16th century. Boot uses the labels Modman Nihilist,
Modman Philistine and Westman to describe the protagonists. His main point is
that Modman Nihilist and Modman Philistine work together to defeat Westman.
They couldn't do it own their own. The nihilist needs the philistine, the
philistine needs the nihilist.
I Drink, Therefore I am: A Philosopher's Guide to Wine (Continuum: London, 2009) by Roger Scruton. Scruton
is definitely a Westman by Boot's standards. If you have ever been to a
restaurant where different foods are paired with particular wines, then you
will understand the format of this book. Instead of pairing food with wine, it
pairs philosophers with wines. Two philosophers however, for whom Scruton
could find no wine, were Karl Rahner (more commonly classed as a theologian)
and his teacher, Martin Heidegger. Scruton remarked that the only writers that
are more reliably obscure than Rahner are those who set out to explain what
Rahner says. Scruton's advice is, 'don't go there: life is too short'.
Street Saints: Renewing America's Cities by Barbara J. Elliott (Templeton Foundation Press, 2004).
This book is a great antidote to the kind of despair that can overwhelm Westman
when he feels completely out-numbered by Modman Nihilist and Modman Philistine.
The title of the book comes from chapter 58 of the Book of Isaiah: Your people
will rebuild the ancients ruins/And will raise up the age-old foundations/You
will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
The sections on Henri Nouwen and Mother Teresa towards the end of the book were
The Theology of Benedict XVI: The Christocentric Shift (Macmillan, 2010) by Emery de
Gaál. Father Emery de Gaál's work is indispensable for anyone who wishes to
understand the Christocentric shift in the papacies of John Paul II and
Benedict XVI and in contemporary theological anthropology generally. It
is the deepest analysis of the topic currently available and one of the many
good things that has come out of Cardinal George's Mundelein stable.
The Pope and Jesus of Nazareth edited by Adrian Pabst and Angus Paddison (Veritas,
2009). This is a collection of fifteen scholarly essays on Pope Benedict's Jesus
of Nazareth. They represent a wide variety
of theological positions. Even the ones that are not by members of the BXVI fan
club are fun to read.
The Theology of Hugh of St. Victor: An Interpretation by Boyd Taylor Coolman (Cambridge
University Press, 2010). Until I read this book the Victorines were a
fascinating species of medieval monk whose works I knew to be important but I
hadn't really found my way into them. This was a great introduction and a
really beautifully written book. My favourite section was on memory practices
and the significance of the liberal arts for memory and biblical exegesis.
Diotima's Children: German Aesthetic Rationalism from Leibniz to
Lessing by Frederick C.
Beiser (Oxford University Press, 2009). Beiser is just brilliant in the field
of early modern German intellectual history. In this work he explicitly
rejects the idea that anything, even soup cans and urinals, can be classified
as art. He wants to re-establish the 'intimate connection between beauty,
truth and goodness, the necessity of rules, the importance of taste, and the
cognitive dimension of aesthetic experience'. The central thesis of his book
is that we need to recover the aesthetic tradition before Kant.
The Political Problem of Religious Pluralism: and Why Philosophers
Can't Solve It, by
Thaddeus Kozinski. (Lexington: 2010). Kozinski's book offers the best
juxtaposition of the ideas of Rawls, MacIntyre and Maritain I have read. It
carries a foreword by the irrepressible James V Schall SJ.
Faith and Reason: From Hermes to Benedict XVI (Leominster: Gracewing, 2009) by
Aidan Nichols OP. This book offers a bird's eye view of the different ways in
which the faith-reason relationship has been construed in Catholic scholarship
over the past couple of centuries. Nichols concludes that Benedict XVI seems
to desire to unite 'philosophy and theology in a single, internally
differentiated but also internally cohesive, intellectual act'. What one finds
in Benedict's many publications is a 'convergence of the mainly philosophical
disclosure of logos with the chiefly theological revelation of love'. 'Love and
Reason', he writes, are the 'twin pillars' of reality. This in turn gives rise
to a theological anthropology which pays equal attention to the head and the
heart, to objectivity and affectivity. Conversely, Nichols summarises the
Christianity of the Hermesians (Catholic Kantians) as 'morally serious and
dialectically engaged', 'distanced from popular piety, sceptical of liturgical
richness' and 'filled with a Kantian sense of duty'. He suggests that it could
be considered as 'the ecclesial version of the ethos of the Prussian state
official'. This book should be read alongside John Milbank's essay: 'The New
Divide: Classical versus Romantic Orthodoxy' (Modern Theology January 2010).
Newman and his Contemporaries by Edward Short (London: Continuum,
2010). Newman and His Contemporaries is
hot off the press from Continuum. It reads like a Victorian Dance to
the Music of Time, except the characters
are all real historical figures. Anyone interested in Newman or, more
generally, Victorian Catholic England, will love it.
James V. Schall, S.J., is Professor of Political Philosophy at Georgetown University.
He is the author of numerous books on social issues, spirituality, culture,
and literature including Another
Sort of Learning, Idylls and Rambles, A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning,
The Life of the Mind (ISI, 2006),
The Sum Total of Human
Happiness (St. Augustine's Press, 2007), The Regensburg Lecture (St. Augustine's Press, 2007),
and The Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays (CUA, 2008).
His most recent book from Ignatius Press is
The Order of Things (Ignatius Press, 2007). His new book, The Modern Age,
is available from St. Augustine's Press. Read more of his essays on his
Several books that I read last
year particularly moved me. One was Christopher Morley's 1918 The
Haunted Book Shop,
which is really a detective story but has such insight into books and
especially, a favorite topic, used bookstores. Its companion volume, Parnassus
on Wheels, is
especially charming. I owe these books to Monica See who thought that I needed
something to distract me during recovery. She also sent me William Saroyan's
novel The Human Comedy which I quite liked also.
Robert Reilly's Closing of the Muslim Mind, is a most necessary read for
The book that was most moving to me was George Weigel's second volume on John
Paul II, The End and the Beginning. I did a long comment on it, "The Greatest of
Men" at Ignatius Insight. This book was given to me by Anne and Bill
Burleigh just in time for a stay in the hospital which gave me time to read it.
I also liked very much Robert Spitzer's New Proofs for the
Existence of God. It is
a demanding read, but well worth it. A young teacher at one of the local high
schools who is interested in fairy tales sent me George Macdonald's The
which I quite enjoyed. Professor David Walsh at Catholic University gave me his
Irish mother's book of charming short stories, Chance Encounters:
Short Stories & Poems by
Another student gave me Charles Schulz's My Life with Charlie Brown, which is a collection of talks
and writings of Schulz on his most famous characters. Mary Keys' book, Aquinas,
Aristotle, and the Promise of the Common Good, was quite enlightening. Still another student found
somewhere a 1915 John Lane edition of Poems by Chesterton, a book I have only
begun to look at. And finally I should like to mention Aidan Nichols' wonderful
book, G. K. Chesterton, Theologian, and Tracey Rowland's Benedict XVI: A Guide for
the Perplexed, both of
these books are worth considerable attention.
Russell Shaw is the author and co-author of numerous books,
including Nothing to Hide: Secrecy, Communication and Communion in the
Catholic Church, and is the former information director of the National Conference of
Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference and Knights of Columbus. He is also a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre
of Jerusalem, the father of five and the grandfather of nine.
Picking out the best of the best is easy for me this year. It
was Tolstoy's magnificent novel Anna Karenina, which I found to be simply the
most honest, compelling, and in its own way uplifting examination of
the man-woman relationship in all its mysterious complexity that I've ever
Other books--very different--that I enjoyed included Cardinal
Francis George's The Difference God Makes, America's Bishop (about Fulton Sheen) by Thomas
C. Reeves, and Henry Morton Robinson's 1950 bestseller The Cardinal, which provides a fascinating
look into aspirations, anxieties, and self-image of American Catholics in the
middle years of the last century. How times have changed!
Fr. D. Vincent Twomey, S.V.D. holds both a Ph.D. in Theology and is Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology at
the Pontifical University of St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, Ireland. A formal doctoral student under Joseph Ratzinger, Twomey is the
author of several books, including Pope Benedict XVI:
The Conscience of Our Age (A Theological Portrait), and his acclaimed study, The End of Irish Catholicism?
The Pope's interview with Peter Seewald, Light of the World (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010) tops my
list of best books read in 2010. Like his previous two interview-books with the then-Cardinal Ratzinger, Seewald shows
his skill as a superb journalist by the way he gets the Pope to discuss in some depth many of the controversial issues
affecting Church and society. In addition, Seewald coaxes from his interviewee various insights into the Pope's personal
life, which reveal the real man I've had the privilege to knowing for some forty years. Reading the book reminded me of
the relaxed and stimulating colloquia and seminars our former professor held with us, his doctoral and postdoctoral
students, when he would enter into a discussion with great openness to the opinions of others and then lead the
discussion to a yet higher level, always seeking the truth, always attempting to be fair to the opinions of others.
Every intervention of his was noted for its clarity, its depth and its eloquence. The same applies to every page of this
book that is so easy to read and has a superb forward by George Weigel.
Lucy Beckett's second novel, A Postcard from the Volcano. A Novel of Pre-War Germany (San Francisco:
Ignatius Press, 2009), is quite an extraordinary achievement. Starting with the outbreak of World War I and ending on
the eve of World War II, this beautifully crafted and finely written novel has as its central character a young German
aristocrat, who comes alive in the pages. No only does the author give us a real insight into the coming of age and
young manhood of Max von Hoffmanswaldau and into the various characters sucked into the maelstrom of war-ravaged Eastern
Europe, she also explores the complex philosophical, theological and political questions that paved the way for the
holocaust. At times, her dialogues on philosophical and theological questions are almost Platonic in their form. Her
insights into the souls of the characters and their spiritual struggles are invariably very moving. My only reservation
concerns the ending, which at times seems to be marked by an undeservedly negative impression (common in the Anglo-Saxon
world) of the attitude of the Catholic Church in Germany to the rise of Nazism.
While in Berlin doing supply work in a parish there, some friends gave me a present of a book of memoirs, Beim
Namen gerufen. Erinnerungen (Munich: Ultstein, 2000, 6th impression), by Baroness Elisabeth zu Guttenberg, a
relative of the leaders of the German resistance to Hitler, most of whom (including her brother-in-law) were executed by
the Nazis after the failed coup in July 20th, 1944. It was originally written (in English) at the request of the
American officers who camped in their castle in Bavaria during the occupation. This is an expanded German version,
which, regretfully, is no longer in print. It deserves reprinting. This is a unique perspective on Nazi Germany and on
the rebuilding of Germany after the War, by someone who played a not insignifcant role in both. The German resistance to
Nazism gets little attention. It deserves more. The author tells her own story with frankness and devoid of all
sentimentality. A convert, her faith was her mainstay as it was for her relatives, the Guttenbergs and Stauffenbergs.
Theirs is a story of lived faith and heroic courage.
Fr. Aidan Nichols, O.P., writes so many outstanding books that it is difficult to keep up with him. Two recent works I
should like to mention: The Realm. An Unfashionable Essay on the Conversion of England (Oxford: Family
Publications, 2008) and G.K. Chesterton. Theologian (Manchester, NH, 2009). The first is a wide-ranging
discussion on such diverse topics as "culture and civilization, history and literature, ethics and philosophy, and even
politics and economics" (to quote from the Preface). In his discussion he proposes Catholic Christianity, as it puts it,
as "a form for the public life of society in its overall integrity". Its relevance is not limited to England. I used the
"unfashionable essay" as a discussion text for a circle of young Irish clerics and laity, who found much in the book to
inspire us in our concern about the conversion of Ireland. His book on Chesterton, apart for providing a most wonderful
selection of quotable quotes, highlights the significance of Chesterton as a theologian in his own right.
Within the field of moral philosophy, the most simulating book I read was Animal Rights and Wrongs, Third
Edition (London: Metro Book in association with Demos, 2000) by the English, secular philosopher Roger Scruton.
The author's own affection for, and understanding of, the animal world shines through this thoughtful essay on the close
relationship between man and the animals that does justice to the precise nature of the radical difference between them.
But the book's title does not do justice to its content, which, among other things, is illuminating about the role of
sentiment/intelligent emotion/the passions in the moral life. Exploring this, the "animal" side of our humanity, the
author make a major contribution to our understanding of virtue ethics.
I should like to mention very briefly two books by the eminent American moral theologian, William E. May,
Marriage. The Rock on Which the Family is Built, Second Edition (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009) and
Theology of the Body in Context. Genesis and Growth (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2010). At a time
when the traditional family based on marriage is under attack throughout the Western World, May uses reason and
revelation to show how marriage is foundational for the family, for the authentic formation children and for the well
being of society. This edition contains two new chapters (on the theology of the body and Pope Benedict's teaching on
marriage), which enrich the original book. In his second volume, May develops in greater detail John Paul II's
inspirational theology of the body with great clarity and understanding. What is so impressive is the way May has
incorporated a more spiritual dimension to his already rich, developed moral theology.
I almost forgot to mention one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read: Danube by Claudio Magris,
translated from the Italian by Patrick Creagh (London: The Harvill Press, 2001). Magris is Professor of Modern German
Literature at the University of Trieste since 1978. In this book, Magris traces the River Danube from its (disputed)
source (or sources) in the Black Forest to its estuary in the Black Sea in order to explore the historical events,
personalities, and culture that make up central Europe, most of which is unknown to Western readers. The erudition of
the author is immense, his powers of observation astute, while his judgement on the peoples, cities and nations that
crowd around the basin of this majestic river can at times be disturbing. It all makes for a fascinating read. It is a
major contribution to what nineteen-century educated Germans called "Bildung"--that broad and accurate insight into
history and culture in all its manifestations which they expected the educated person should have. What a rare
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.
Scholasticism and Politics, by Jacques Maritain. An erudite discussion on the
nature of democracies that exist without legitimate authority. Maritain
thankfully pointed out that American democracy, in contrast to those on the
continent, was more influenced by Locke than by Rousseau.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, by G. K. Chesterton. Chesterton's examination of
what Aquinas had to argue against, contained in the teachings of Siger of
Brabant, is as illuminating now as it was then. The temptation to believe
in the possibility of multiple truths inevitably leads to via untruth to no
truth at all, as Aquinas keenly perceived.
The Innocence and Wisdom of Father Brown, by G. K. Chesterton. In
"The Eye of Apollo," Chesterton's sleuth-priest timelessly assessed
of pagan stoics that they "always fail with their strength."
Few truer conclusions based on human nature were ever established.
The Declaration of Independence, by Thomas Jefferson. This is read in class
every semester. Much confusion in American political theory arises when
one does not carefully read Jefferson's first few paragraphs in which he
establishes where rights come from, how these unalienable rights build on each
other, and what government's proper role regarding these rights should be.
Previous Editions of "The Best Books I Read...":
"The Best Books I Read in 2009..."
"The Best Books I Read in 2008..."
"The Best Books I Read in 2007..."
"The Best Books I Read in 2006..."
"The Best Books I Read in 2005..."
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