"The Best Books I Read in 2011..." | Ignatius Press Authors, Editors, and Friends | January 3,
2012 | Ignatius Insight
"The Best Books I Read in 2011..." | Ignatius Press Authors, Editors, and Friends | January 3, 2012
Another year, another tantalizing list of good and great books noted and recommended in this seventh edition of "Best Books I Read..." As usual, several Ignatius Press editors,
authors, and staff were asked to offer their picks for the best books they read during the past year. The books didn't have to be published in 2010--no need to limit great
authors and books--nor did they have to be about a specific topic. Simply, "What were the best books you read in the past year?" No limit was set on the number of books,
and commentary was optional.
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.
G.K. Chesterton: A Biography by Ian Ker. The world's
greatest Newman scholar argues that Chesterton is the spiritual and
intellectual heir to Blessed John Henry Newman. Need I say more?
Toward the Gleam by T.M Doran and Looking for
the King by David C.
Downing. Two entertaining novels that have the Inklings as major
characters. It's especially fun to compare the two.
CBGB Was My High School by G.K. Stritch. Who needs
another coming of age memoir? Especially about girl involved in the New York
club scene of the 1980's? In spite of the subject holding absolutely no
interest for me, I found the book utterly compelling.
Banvard's Folly: Thirteen Tales of Renowned Obscurity,
Famous Anonymity, and Rotten Luck by
Paul Collins. John Banvard was the most famous artist of his day, and
you've never heard of him. And don't forget the fame of Delia Bacon and Martin
Tupper. Well, apparently you have! Fascinating book.
George Rutler. Fr. Rutler has the driest wit on the planet and perhaps the
most encyclopedic brain, and you would think that rubbing the two together
would make an unpleasant scratching sound, but instead all I could do was laugh
till I felt quite helpless. Consider the following: "As St. Petersburg is the
Liverpool of Russia, it is intriguing to learn from philology that the local
Liverpudlian accent pronounces 'hair and heir' and 'hairpieces and herpes' the
same." Every sentence in the book is like that.
St. Albert the Great by Kevin Vost. First biography of Albertus
Magnus written in over 60 years. Did you know that he determined that earth was
spherical and predicted that there was a great land mass west of Europe?
Nothing compares to his accomplishments as a scientist, philosopher,
theologian, preacher, and most importantly, teacher (he had a novice named
I have almost finished— but not
quite—Boswell's Life of Johnson. But I can see why it is the sort of book one can
continue to read and re-read over the course of a lifetime, and maybe never
finish because one does not want it to finish.
Oh, and I read some G.K. Chesterton. I discovered over 65
uncollected essays in London this summer, and I took in the new volume of Illustrated
London News Essays (1932-34), and re-read St. Thomas Aquinas, The Ballad of the
White Horse, Chesterton
on Shakespeare and The
Apostle and the Wild Ducks (which contains the line, "To judge Italy by the Leaning
Tower of Pisa, is like judging the human race by the bearded woman at the
British author Lucy Beckett lives in Yorkshire. She as educated at Cambridge University and taught English, Latin and history at
Ampleforth Abbey and College for twenty years. She has published books on Wallace Stevens, Wagner's Parsifal, York Minster and
the Cistercian Abbeys of North Yorkshire, as well as a collection of poems, two novels, The Time Before You Die and
A Postcard From the Volcano: A Novel of Pre-War Germany (Ignatius Press, 2009),
and In the Light of Christ: Writings in the Western Tradition (Ignatius Press, 2006).
She is married, with four children.
The best new theological book I have read this year is Julian
of Norwich, Theologian by
Denys Turner (2011), a wonderful explanation of the profound theological
thinking of a 14th-century anchoress who could not read Latin and
was barely educated, but who reflected long and fruitfully on what she had
seen, both as visions and intellectually, of the central truths of
For anyone who would like to make a start on reading Hans
Urs von Balthasar but is daunted by the huge extent of his work, Fr Aidan
Nichols's A Key to Balthasar (2011)
is exactly what its title says. Decades of familiarity with a very great
theologian, and his own wisdom and lightness of touch make this a seriously
helpful guide, for those who have studied Balthasar as well as for those who
have not yet begun.
Story of a Secret State: My Report to the World by Jan Karski (2011) was
published in 1944, then disappeared from view and has now been republished in a
new translation by Sandra Smith. Karski was a young Polish lawyer and diplomat,
a devout Catholic, who became a key figure in the Polish Underground during
World War II. He was captured by the invading Russians in 1939, and later
captured and tortured by the Gestapo. His detailed description of the highly
organised "secret state" the Poles prepared for a civilised
democratic future after the war is both inspiring and tragic, because this
future was betrayed by the US and the UK to the Soviet Union as the war ended.
Even more inspiring and even more tragic is his account of visits he made to
the Warsaw Ghetto and to Treblinka when the Holocaust was in ghastly progress.
Karski, with many dangerous adventures on the way, came to the west to report
on Nazi treatment of the Jews. He met President Roosevelt and the British
Foreign Secretary, with no result. He died a US citizen and professor, and was
eventually acknowledged as a hero by both post-Communist Poland and Israel. A
Tony Judt, a historian of tremendous breadth, intelligence and
independence of mind, grew up in London, taught in Cambridge, Oxford and
Berkeley, founded the Remarque Institute in New York University and died in New
York in the summer of 2010, after months of total paralysis from a particularly
cruel form of motor neurone disease. His last book, The Memory Chalet (2010), published after his
death, was written, somehow, with courage and resourcefulness hard to imagine,
during his illness. It is a series of essays about his own life and times,
beautifully written, warm, acute and interesting on every page.
The great novel of the year, for me, has been Life and
Fate by Vasily
Grossman (in an excellent English translation by Robert Chandler 1985), written
in Soviet Russia in the 1950s. The KGB thought they had destroyed the
manuscript and all traces of it in the 1960s, but one copy survived. It is a
panoramic story, with a huge cast of characters, of the war between Soviet
Russia and Nazi Germany, centred on the battle of Stalingrad. Grossman, as a
journalist on the front line, had seen it all for himself. Into scenes of
terrible brutality and destruction are woven the heroism, generosity and
goodness of many individual lives, and also the increasingly evident parallels
between the two totalitarian ideologies locked in mortal conflict. It is the
only novel I have read which thoroughly deserves to be compared with War and
Peace, and it has none of Tolstoy's heavy
theorising about history.
Bradley J. Birzer holds the
Russell Amos Kirk Chair in American Studies, Hillsdale College, Michigan, and the author of
American Cicero: The Life
of Charles Carroll (ISI, 2010); Sanctifying the World: The
Augustinian Life and Mind of Christopher Dawson (2007); and J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth (2003).
2011 proved one of my best reading years, frankly, in a long
time. In fact, I don't remember being able to enjoy and savor as many books
since my first few years in graduate school. Amazingly enough, I didn't read a
clunker throughout the year! That's got to be a first in my forty-four years
of existence. As Carl dangerously gave us no limits, here I go.
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third
Reich (1959). This
book has sat next to my bed for a little over twenty years. The beds have
changed, the nightstands have changed, and the locations of the beds the nightstands
have changed, but this book sitting next to it has not. It's massive and a bit
daunting. When my sabbatical began this August, I decided to take the plunge.
Without question, this was the best book I read in 2011. At the risk of being
hyperbolic in my very Birzer way, I can state that I think it one of the
greatest books I've encountered. For some reason it has gained the reputation
of being superficial. That would be the very last word I would ascribe to it.
It's majestic in its art, astounding in its reach, and sobering in its message.
For all intents and purposes, though it deals only with roughly twelve years
of German history, it might as well have been a microcosm for the entirety of
the 20th century. Toward the end of this massive book, Shirer very
well described his theme, paraphrasing Lord Acton when he wrote: Hitler was "a
power-drunk tyrant whom absolute power had corrupted absolutely and destroyed."
Never afraid to voice his own views, Shirer fully blames the German people for
supporting Hitler by commission and omission in nearly every way. Only when
the Nazis tried to take over the film industry in the 1930s did the German
people protest. Otherwise, they supported Hitler beyond comprehension until
his very last days and his marriage in the Berlin bunker. In Rise
and Fall, Shirer demonstrates the horrors
of the Holocaust, while also noting the very few Germans—a few academics
such as economist and philosopher Wilhelm Roepke and a few religious leaders
(almost equally Catholic and Lutheran)—who opposed the Nazis and
generally paid with their own lives. I came away from the book convinced that
Count Von Stauffenberg should, at the very least, be considered for
canonization, though his priest refused to give him absolution in the
confessional as he'd not yet set the bomb off to kill Hitler! Whether his
priest was an orthodox Thomist or a more radical Suarezite probably played a
role in his views on tyrannicide. I cannot praise this book enough, and now
that I've conquered the book, I'll try to write a longish review of it in 2012.
James R. Otteson, Adam Smith (Continuum: New York, 2011).
Already recognized as a (though, the
to my mind) leading scholar of the Scottish Enlightenment and classical liberal
philosophy, Otteson has produced a small but packed book on the life and
thought of this most important moral philosopher and economist, Adam Smith. In
particular, Otteson demonstrates that The Theory of Moral Sentiments had to come before his more famous Inquiry
into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Far from being the mindless Social Darwinist his opponents would one
day paint him as, Smith appears in the more than able hands of Otteson as a
very broadminded and deep-thinking scholar, a man concerned with the most
fundamental and important of questions. A meticulous scholar himself, Otteson
is one of the most impressive persons I know, and I've known him since we first
sat together in Intensive German our freshman year at Notre Dame, 1986. Just
as Smith was both philosopher and economist, Otteson holds a double
appointment—as a full professor in the philosophy as well as the economic
departments—at Yeshiva University in New York.
Tom Wolfe, I am Charlotte Simmons. While I've read many of Wolfe's
non-fiction books, I'd never read one of his novels before. As with The
Rise and Decline of the Third Reich, I
am Charlotte Simmons is certainly not a small book. The similarities
don't end here. They're equal not just in length, but in brutality. Wolfe's
insightful novel follows the life of a brilliant but innocent 18-year old from
the mountains of North Carolina through her freshman year at an Ivy-League
style university. According to Wolfe, his book is accurate. Certainly, I
don't think we have such horrors at Hillsdale College, nor did we at Notre
Dame. So, I've been spared these things in my own life in academia. But, even
if 10% of what Wolfe claims goes on at larger and at most elite-ranked schools
is true, our youth are being baptized in a rapacious decadence in their college
years. While this book is well worth reading, be forewarned, there are no
heroes in the story. Reading this book was akin to watching the aftermath of a
car wreck on the highway. We crane our necks in curiosity, say a quick "Hail Mary"
for the victims, and keep driving, continuing with our prayers that such things
never happen to those we love. Throughout the story, we pity Charlotte for her
choices, and, in the end, we find ourselves pitying our culture as a whole.
Stunning cultural criticism without relief or joy.
The Landmark Herodotus and The Landmark Thucydides. Thanks to the graciousness of
two close academic friends, Aeon Skoble and Sarah Skwire, I had the chance to
participate in a Liberty Fund colloquium dedicated to the first two histories
written in the world. Herodotus strove for a mythic history, taking customs
and traditions at face value, while Thucydides mocked the supernatural. Both
provided excellent reads—but, I'll side with Herodotus. Give me the gods
any day over mere plain old pride and egoism. Free Press, by the way, produces
the Landmark series. I greatly admire the craft of making books, and Free
Press has outdone itself in providing maps, essays, annotations, illustrations,
etc. to augment these texts. Regardless of the text (already, of course,
outstanding, as proven over thousands of years), these versions of the books
themselves are works of art.
Homer, The Odyssey (Fagels trans). This story is, of course, the story
that began all others. Brilliant and moving in every way, the Fagels
translation rings with beauty and immerses the reader into a world in which one
cannot separate myth from legend from history. "The great Nile swelled by the
rains of Zeus—and make a splendid rite to the deathless gods who rule the
vaulting skies." Gods, demi-Gods, monsters, heroes, and men populate this
world, overrunning it all with pride, fear, lust, and all things mischievous.
While I will probably not return to this book for pleasure (as I do with The
Aeneid), I'm glad to have read this as an
adult. Who cannot sympathize with the man alone, separated from his wife and
child, ready to return home, only to be delayed over and over again by
circumstance, misfortunate, and the prickly whim of the gods? While Circe
provides more intimidation than the Detroit-based TSA, at least Circe found
some form of redemption for her evils.
Josef Pieper, The End of Time: Meditation on the
Philosophy of History
(1954; Ignatius Press, 1999). Did Pieper write anything that shouldn't be
read? What an amazing mind in almost every way. As a professional historian
as well as a lover of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and T.S. Eliot, I'm somewhat
obsessed (in a healthy way) with the notion of time, of the liturgy, of the
seasons, and of the possibility of escape into eternity. Pieper explored all
of these questions in a riveting manner. What is history? What is time? What
is the apocalypse? Pieper understood history as an essential part of God's
cosmos, central to working out the drama of the Logos. Deeply influenced by
Scripture as well as by the works of Donoso Cortes, Christopher Dawson, and
George Orwell, Pieper wrote "the end will be characterized by one single
governmental structure equipped with prodigious power, which, however, fails to
establish any genuine order. At
the end of history there will be a pseudo-order maintained in being by the
exercise of power."
Christopher Dawson, The Movement of World Revolution (1959; new edition forthcoming
this year from CUA Press). In 1959, Life magazine proclaimed this book to be the book of a generation, a way to understand not only
the then-present world of the Cold War but, equally important, to understand
how the world had arrived at the point it had. One of the first meta-histories
of the post-war era, The Movement of World Revolution is quintessential Dawson: precise where necessary,
sweeping where possible, always elegantly argued and written. Dawson's
argument: with the secularization of religion, populations would need to be
fulfilled. Lost, population turn to ideologies and nationalisms. In the end,
secularization leads to loss of all freedom and all personality, and man,
through the ideological mechanism of the nation-state, will become merely a cog
in a vast, grinding machine, a terrestrial hell.
As I mentioned earlier, I'm on sabbatical this academic
year, and much of my reading has been connected to my project, exploring the
Christian Humanism of Russell Kirk, especially between 1936 and 1964. To that
end, I've happily reread his Randolph of Roanoke (1951); The
(1953); St. Andrews (1954); A Program for Conservatives (1954); and Academic
I've enjoyed each thoroughly, and I'd recommend any one of these for any reader
of Ignatius Insight. Sadly, only The Conservative Mind is still readily available. It should be remembered
that Kirk's conservatism was not the current commoditized conservatism of
moralistic government, never-ending war, and American expansion abroad. For
Kirk, conservatism meant conservation of the dignity and liberty of the
individual person, a protection of the personality uniquely given to each
person by the Creator. Kirk's vision was the vision of John Paul II and
Benedict XVI, even though he did not convert to the Catholic faith until 1964,
when he was 46.
In immersing myself into Kirk's world of the 1920s, 1930s,
and 1940s, I also read a number of then prominent authors. The most difficult
was Isabel Paterson and her radical individualism as found in The God of
Another radical individualist who attracted me as much as Paterson confused me,
though, was Albert Jay Nock, a classicist and Anglican of sorts. While I
certainly found much of what he argued wrong headed or offensive (I also loved
a lot of it), I have rarely encountered a writer as good as Nock. This summer,
I devoured his autobiography, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (1943); his two memoirs on the
New Deal—A Journal of These Days (1934) and A Journal
of Forgotten Days (1948)—his
insightful discussion of the liberal arts, Theory of Education in the
(1932); and most of his published letters. And, happily, most of his works are
still available. I also reread a number of books by the most famous Humanists
of the day, Irving Babbitt—especially Democracy and
(1924)—and Paul Elmer More. Reading Babbitt, a Harvard professor of
French classics, must be an acquired taste. While I gained much from him, I
would never read his works for enjoyment or personal growth. The opposite is
true for Paul Elmer More, a Princeton classicist. I have yet to read a thing
from More I didn't take to instantly—in style and thought. In
particular, I recommend his Pages from an Oxford Diary, a "Confessions" of sorts written
on his deathbed. It is truly one of the most moving accounts of grace I have
ever encountered. I have read it time and again, and I will continue to do so
until I find myself on my deathbed.
One of the great joys of the year was rereading my favorite
C.S. Lewis book, That Hideous Strength (1943), the last of the Ransom/Space trilogy. I never
tire of this book, and I could never count how many times I've read it. It's a
perfect mix of philosophy, theology, and joy.
I also thoroughly enjoyed Tony William's America's
and Stratford Caldecott's Beauty for Truth's Sake: On the
Re-enchantment of Education (2009). Each of these deserves large reviews and success.
And for pure entertainment in 2011: Tom Clancy's Dead
or Alive (2010), Against
All Enemies (2011), Locked
On (2011); and Phill
Brown's Are We Still Rolling (2010)?
In the stack, eagerly awaiting to be read in 2012: Neil
Peart, Far and Away (2011); Norman Maclean, Young Men and Fire (1972); C. Bradley Thompson, Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea (2010); Claes Ryn, America
the Virtuous (2003);
Mark Powell, Prophets and Sages: An Illustrated Guide to
Underground and Progressive Rock, 1967-1975 (2010); and Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs (2011).
Mark Brumley is President and Chief Executive Officer for Ignatius Press. He is the editor of A Study Guide to
Jesus of Nazareth and is editor and co-author of A Study Guide to Jesus of Nazareth Holy Week. He 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
The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin. It took me a while to get around to this
controversial book. Interesting discussion of the rise of string theory
and some of the problems its proponents have. Part of the trouble with physics
the author doesn't address but indirectly alludes to (referring to issues
involving realism)—the need for a solid metaphysics to underpin physics.
The politics of recent physics is interestingly discussed in the book. That's
probably what has so many people upset.
The Capitalist Manifesto by Mortimer Adler and Lee Kelso. Re-read it in light
of the Occupy Movement and the downturn in the economy. This book clarifies
what genuine capitalism is and what the issues are regarding economic rights,
their relation to political democracy, and the nature of a free economic.
The Resurrection of Jesus by Michael R. Licona. The new standard work.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
A book club pick, with Joseph Pearce leading the discussion. Lots of fun.
The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne. A classic. Another book club
The Genesis of Science by James Hannam. Take that, Stephen Hawking and Leonard
Mlodinow. Not that they would take the time to read this book or think about
their own positions in light of it.
"One Teacher": Doctrinal Authority in the Church by Le Groupe Des Dombes
Church, State, and Society by J. Brian Benestad. A thought-provoking book misnamed as
an introduction to Catholic social teaching. It isn't introductory. It's a
significantly advanced text. Too much Leo Strauss lurking behind the text for
my taste, but still an insightful and must-read text for those who want to
think about politics and the Church's teaching. Benestad is an
under-appreciated resource, in my view.
Everywhere and Everywhen by Nick Huggett. Philosophy of science that interacts with
General Relativity. Some interesting insights but nevertheless the book begins
from what I take to be an inadequate metaphysics.
Surnaturel: A Controversy at the Heart of Twentieth-Century
edited by Serge-Thomas Bonino, O.P. Half the story, told in bits but
Man and the State by Jacques Maritain. Re-read it in light of Occupy
Movement. An endless source of ideas.
J. Budziszewski, who holds a Ph.D. from Yale
University, is a professor of government and philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin. He is
the author of several books, including What We Can't Not Know: A
Guide (Ignatius Press, 2011), The Revenge of Conscience, How to Stay Christian in College, and
The Line Through the Heart: Natural Law as Fact, Theory, and Sign of
A.G. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit,
Conditions, Methods, trans.
by Mary Ryan, with foreword by James V. Schall, S.J. (Catholic University of
Joseph M. Callewaert, Knight Commander of the French Order of Merit, was born in Belgium and educated in France. Now a U.S. citizen, he
lives in Gulf Breeze, Florida, where he enjoys life as an ardent historian of St. Paul the Apostle. He is the author of
The World of Saint Paul (Ignatius
Press, 2011), and he has also written delightful travelogues about undiscovered France
as well as Lights out for Freedom, a retelling of his youthful experiences of living in Belgium during 52 months of Nazi occupation.
I have, at home, a library consisting of a few thousand of
books acquired during my lifetime, I like to re-read many of my favorites and
this year 2011 was particularly interesting.
The Harvest of Hellenism. By F.E Peters. Simon &
Schuster, 1970. 800 pp.A history of the Near East from Alexander the Great to the
Triumph of Christianity. This is a masterly work of history. Eastern Hellenism has
produced Gnosticism, the University, the catechetical school, pastoral poetry,
monasticism, the romance, grammar, lexicography, city planning, theology, canon
law, heresy and scholasticism!
Founders of the Middle Ages. By E. K. Rand. Harvard University
Press. 1928. 365 pp. A classic which I consult regularly. The aim of the book is
to make clear the importance of certain great men (Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine,
Boethius, Cassiodorus and others), of certain great movements in thought and
culture during the early Christian centuries, particularly the fourth, fifth
and sixth, and to point out the significance of these men and these movements
as precursors of certain aspects of medieval civilization.
The Aeneid of Virgil. Translated by R.F Fitzgerald. Random House, 1983,
402 pp. On my vacation in the Bahamas, I took with me the Latin
edition of Virgil's Aeneid published in the "Collection BudŽ, in Paris, with
the French translation with the necessary notes and explanations. I think it is
the best translation in the English language.
I sing of warfare and a man at war
From the sea-coast of Troy in early days
He came to Italy by destiny
To our Lavinian western shore.
The Birth of the Modern. Modern Society 1815-1830. By Paul Johnson. Harper Collins
1992, 1095 pp. This book presents the fifteen years (1815-1830) as those during
which the matrix of the modern world was largely formed. The post-Napoleonic
wars saw great and rapid changes in Britain and continental Europe and still
more fundamental one elsewhere. The United States transformed itself from a
struggling ex-colony into a formidable nation, growing fast in territory and population.
Never before had so much cheap land become available, and the hungry people of
Europe were moving overseas in vast numbers to possess it. The age abounded in
great personalities: warriors, statesmen and tyrants; outstanding inventors and
technologists; and writers, artists, and musicians of the highest of genius are
brought to the fore. The author has tried to get the men and women who lived in
those days to tell the story in their own words. Those distant
voices—happy and angry, shrill and passionate, cynical, frivolous,
evocative always—constitute the vivifying principle of this book.
The Third Reich. A New History, by Michael Burleigh. Pan
Macmillan, London, 2001- 965 pp. This work was read to prepare for a conference
in which I had to present a paper about the Holocaust. It deals with the
progressive and almost total, moral collapse of an advanced industrial society,
at the heart of Europe, many of whose citizens abandoned the burden of thinking
for themselves. They put their faith in evil men promising a great leap into a
heroic future, with violent solutions to Germany's and modern society's
problems. The consequences for Germany, Europe and the wider world were
catastrophic, but no more so than for European Jews, who were subjected to a deliberate
campaign to excise and expunge every one of them, which we rightly recognize as
a uniquely terrible event in modern history. This extraordinary book will
remain unmatched for years to come.
The World of Saint Paul. By Joseph M. Callewaert. Ignatius
Press, 2011, 210 pp. I strongly feel that my book is an engaging work that
reads like a novel. It recounts the story of the great Apostle to the Nations.
This no dry tome or ponderous biography. It is a fascinating and
well-researched work which provides a popular and informed account of this
great apostle and his age. For those who know very little about St. Paul
– which unfortunately includes many Christians—Catholic and
Protestants alike—it is a superb introduction.
Anthony E. Clark, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Asian History at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington.
He completed his doctoral studies at the University of
Oregon, where he studied Chinese history, literature, philosophy, and religion.
His current research centers on the history of the Church in China, and he has
recently finished a book on the Catholic martyrs saints in China. His other
interests include East/West religious dialogue, especially between Catholic and
Buddhist ideas of faith and salvation. Dr. Clark has written several academic
books and articles on the topic of Chinese history and has been a guest on
"EWTN Live," "Catholic Answers Live," and Relevant Radio to talk about
Catholicism in China. His "Saints of
China" series, an in-depth history of the Catholic Church in China, recently aired on EWTN.
Every year I confront the same unhappy conundrum; good
writing is accomplished by good reading, but writing takes time away from
reading. Emerson said that, "There is creative reading as well as creative
writing"; reading and writing are indispensably wed. That said, I was able to
read a some good works this year, though the best books I read are the one's I
haven't yet finished. Yes, I suffer from starting a good book, setting it down
after marking my place, and then starting another – so that now there are
books with marked pages scattered throughout my house. I agree with the oft
asserted claim that the worst thing about new books is that they distract us
from reading old ones, so I made an effort to read the older, and more dusty
volumes, that sag my wooden shelves. But here's what I read in 2011:
By far the best book I read this year, and any year for that
matter, was St. Augustine's City of God. I'm embarrassed that I haven't read this before, but at 44 I know that the old
adage is correct; it is never too late. . . . Augustine's inerrable logic is
refreshing, and his ability to humbly admit the impossibility, at times, of
inerrable logic, is also humbling. I relished in his meditations on time, its
impossibility, and God's transcendence of temporal materiality. And, yes, as I
read the daily news I am reminded daily of the real, and disappointing,
confrontation between the "two cities."
In keeping with my usual China theme – it is, after
all, my academic discipline – I read Paul Mariani's recently-published, Church
Militant: Bishop Kung and Catholic Resistance in Communist Shanghai. This is a highly-readable and compelling study of
Communist-Catholic antagonisms in 1950s Shanghai. I was particularly moved by
Bishop Kung's prescient assertion that, "If we renounce our faith, we will
disappear and there will not be a resurrection. If we are faithful, we will
still disappear, but there will be a resurrection."
I also read the short work by Pope Benedict XVI, Christianity
and the Crisis of Cultures. Despite my
resolution to avoid this year books with the word "crisis" in the title (I
witness enough crisis in the news), I was nourished by the Pope's usual
insights on being a Catholic in the modern world. Benedict reminds us all of
Pascal's advise to, "begin with the folly of faith, and you will attain
Back to China: Since last year marked the 400th
anniversary of the death of one of history's greatest missionaries, Matteo
Ricci, I read Ronnie Hsia's, A Jesuit in the Forbidden City: Matteo Ricci
1552-1610. It is indeed a pleasure to read
a work that manages to combine literary clarity and scholarly enterprise.
Ricci's legacy remains a testament to the prominence of Jesuit history in the
Church, and the importance of cultural understanding when transmitting the
Gospel to other lands.
In preparation for the book I am presently writing on the
Catholic martyrs of Shanxi, I read Nat Brandt's absorbing book on the
Protestant martyrs of Shanxi, Massacre in Shansi. For anyone who does not normally read books on Chinese topics, I
recommend this work, which carries one along a gripping narrative of
perseverance and sacrifice in the face of cruel anti-Christianism. It is also
advisable for those of us who are Catholic to read works that remind us of the
not infrequent holiness of our Protestant brothers and sisters.
George Santayana once wrote that, "A country without a
memory is a country of madmen," and as a historian I am certain that he is
correct. But now and again we who love history should read about the history of
history (historiography). So, I was happy to finally read John Lewis Gaddis'
delightful commentary on how historians "map the past," in The Landscape of
History. I was so impressed with Gaddis'
remarks that I assigned this book in one of my courses, to the unanimous
appreciation of my students.
I'm not sure if this counts as "a book," but I did read
through the fascinating personal memoirs of Shanghai's bishop, Aloysius Jin Luxian,
who I have met several times. Yes, I have mixed feelings about a few of Jin's
assertions, but I have no mixed feelings regarding his tireless efforts to
restore the Church in China. These memoirs are soon to be published by Hong
Kong University Press, and their historical value is such that anyone
interested in Chinese Catholicism must buy and read this interesting work.
As a Church news junkie, I was raptly attentive to each page
of Benedict's recent interview with Peter Seewald in, Light of the World. The Pope confronts several sobering realities in
today's ecclesial context, though not without the hopefulness of a mature
theological understanding of the Paschal mystery. This book is also a summons
to greater attentiveness to our own actions: "Man is clearly in danger, and he
is endangering both himself and the world." In his usual wisdom, the pontiff
reminds us that all can still be repaired through "an encounter with God."
During Lent this year my priest recommended St. John Climacus',
The Ladder of Divine Ascent, which sat
for weeks on my nightstand. While largely written for the monks, most
specifically of Mount Sinai Monastery, it nonetheless offers trenchant insights
into the spiritual life and the ascent toward God. This work is little read
today, which is a pity, as it is one of those rare classics that render
timeless advice for living the Christian life. I paused when I read, "It is the
property of angels not to fall, and even, as some say, it is quite impossible
for them to fall. It is the property of men to fall, and to rise again as often
as this may happen. But it is the property of devils, and devils alone, not to
rise once they have fallen."
Does my own book count? I finally received the codex version
of my book on the martyr saints of China, China's Saints, which I read through enough times to count for all
ten books on this list. Writing is painstaking work; it is, as Hemingway said,
a form of "bleeding." ("There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at
a typewriter and bleed.") Authors fear that after years of writing their books
are consigned to neglected shelves, ornaments that little change the world
around them. So, in my final entry I commend the authors of the previous nine
books on my list, and render my thanks for bleeding onto pages that, hopefully,
shall change the world we share.
Dr. Eric Cunningham has been at Gonzaga since 2003. A specialist in modern Japanese history, Dr. Cunningham also teaches courses in
world and East Asian history. He earned his BA in History from the University of Colorado in 1984, an MA in East Asian Languages and Literatures from the
University of Oregon in 1999, and a PhD, History, also from the University of Oregon in 2004. Dr. Cunningham's other areas of scholarly interest include
intellectual history, popular culture, psychedelia, postmodernism, literary critical theory, Zen Buddhism, and eschatology.
Meditations on the Tarot by Anonymous (Valentin Tomberg).
In spite of its controversial title, a very holy book!
Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxis. Not the best writing in the world, but an
amazing story and an amazing person—some good spiritual direction.
Tools Matter for Practicing the Spiritual Life by Sr. Mary Margaret Funk.
Secret History of the World: As Laid Down by the Secret
Societies by Mark Booth.
Scandalous, but fun and thought-provoking.
Beauty Will Save the World by Gregory Wolfe. A wonderful book.
The Book of Genesis. Illustrated by Robert Crumb.
How Can Mankind Find the Christ Again by Rudolf Steiner. A classic in
the Steiner library.
China's Saints: Catholic Martyrdom During the Qing
Anthony E. Clark. Great scholarship.
Humility by Dietrich von Hildebrand. Short and sweet.
Lucid Dreaming by Robert Waggoner. Maybe the most comprehensive book on
Meaning in History by Karl Lowith. I read it once a year at
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, 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.
Jesus of Nazareth. Benedict XVl. 2 vols. Reading these two volumes made
one want to shout them from the housetops. Mighty vistas of theology, biblical
studies, and sane spirituality are unfurled.
The Spirit of the Liturgy. Benedict XVl. The Bishop of Rome
carries on from Romano Guardini's earlier volume of the same title,
with the same breadth, depth, and sagacity that marked Guardini's
The Life of Dr. Samuel Johnson. James Boswell. This is perpetual
reading for me—virtually daily. It is the best antidote against the fatuity,
vacuity, and sheer ruin of modern discourse and imagination.
Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen. Pure delight. Language in its most
finely-wrought perfection. Common sense and moral perspicacity enough
to leave modern discourse in tatters.
Brian Jones is currently an MA philosophy student at the University of St. Thomas in Houston;
he received an MA in theology from Franciscan University. He and his wife,
Michelle, recently welcomed the birth of their first child, Therese Maria.
The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God by Michael Pakaluk. Walker Percy once
said that "this life is too much trouble, far too strange, to arrive at
the end of it and then be asked what you make of it and have to answer,
'Scientific humanism.' That won't do. A poor show." The mysterious nature
of life lay in the fact that it is continually mixed with the splendor of
goodness and also the bitterness of pain. Yet, thanks to this wonderful book,
we see the abundant goodness of God's mercy everywhere, especially in midst of
suffering. The story of Ruth Pakaluk, Michael's first wife, is a magnificent
display of sanctity in the midst of the world. I bought the book for my wife,
and read it in a week before giving it to her. I just could not put it down.
The portrait of Ruth's life is an inspiration for anyone who truly seeks to
become a saint. As Michael mentions in the book, "heroic virtue" has
become rather distorted in our day because it seems to entail that saints are
only those who do the most extraordinary of things. But the true meaning of
heroism, and of holiness, is to cultivate a disposition of interior openness
and transparency in our hearts so that God may work through us. This is the joy
of Ruth's life and, like all the saints, the greatest argument for the
existence of God.
The Very Rich Hours of Jacques Maritain: A Spiritual Life by Ralph McInerny. Maritain is one of
the greatest figures of the Thomistic revival inaugurated by Pope Leo XIII. The
scientific rationalism that bombarded Maritain and his wife Raissa at the
Sorbonne led them to the brink of despair, and ultimately a suicide pact. Yet,
their journey into the Catholic faith, and their rich life of friendship is
beautifully detailed. McInerny also provides insights into the real depth of
the Maritains spiritual life and their integration of the intellectual life
with the call to holiness. What better reminder this Christmas season than to
recall the greatest tragedy of all: "not to become a saint."
Another Sort of Learning
by Fr. James Schall, S.J. In reality, a book by Fr. Schall could be
put on anybody's book list. McInerny once quipped that Fr. Schall is
undoubtedly the Chesterton of our times. Reading tidbits of Fr. Schall each day
provides a framework for gazing upon the world in true wonder and amazement.
The book is really what a university education should entail, and any student
worth his water ought to read Schall. Of course, the book is not merely for the
university students, but for fostering what Sertaillanges called "the
intellectual life." This is not some ivory tower
"intellectualism," but living and experiencing the delightful joys of
knowing truth, of conforming ourselves to what is.
The Death of Psychiatry by
E. Fuller Torrey, M.D. Written back in 1974, Dr. Torrey's succinctly details
the impending fall of the field of psychiatry. Not only has psychiatry gone
awry, the current model is unsalvageable and, in Torrey's words, "must be
destroyed." A view of the human person that is limited to a materialistic
or biological conception cannot affect and further any real psychological
integration. Anyone interested in the destructive tendencies of modern
psychiatry and psychology, and how to recover what is still good in them, would
be wise to read this excellent piece.
Thomism in An Age of Renewal
by Ralph McInerny. McInerny provides an illuminating analysis of the
gradual eroding of the Catholic intellectual tradition since (not because of)
Vatican II. St. Thomas Aquinas, in most Catholic and non-Catholic circles, was
(and is) seen to be rather archaic, and no longer relevant for an age anxiously
wading in the waters of progress, nihilism, and egalitarianism. McInerny has
shown that Thomism is relevant for all ages and cultures because it is not one
philosophy among others (i.e., pragmatism, post-modernism, language
philosophy), but is philosophy itself. The Church has put forth the Angelic
Doctor as the model philosopher because what he taught is in fact true. Those
who dismiss Aquinas do so with a biased agenda, and not because they have
actually read or sought to understand him. McInerny continually calls to mind
that St. Thomas has provided the best framework for the integration of the
richness of faith and reason, something to which the modern world so desperately
Rev. Mr. James Keating, Ph.D., is Director of Theological Formation at the Institute
of Priestly Formation at Creighton University, Omaha. Before joining the staff of the IPF Deacon Keating taught
moral and spiritual theology for 13 years in the School of Theology at the
Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio. He has given over 400 workshops,
retreats and days of reflection on the Catholic spiritual/moral life. In the
field of his professional research, the interpenetration of the spiritual and
moral life, Deacon Keating has authored or edited ten books and dozens of
essays for theological journals.
Cardinal Francis George, The Difference God Makes (Crossroad)
Scott Hahn, Covenant and Communion (Brazos)
Wilfrid Stinissen, Into Your Hands, Father (Ignatius)
Nancy Klein Mcguire, An Infinity of Little Hours (Public Affairs)
John of Avila, Audi, filia---Listen, O Daughter (Paulist)
Dennis Billy, Contemplative Ethics (Paulist)
Jean Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence (with
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College.
His books include
The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press,
Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism,
God and Ronald Reagan, and the newly released Dupes:
How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century, among others.
Father Donald Calloway, No Turning Back: A Witness to
Mercy. This is the
best book I read in 2011. It is the remarkable, shocking story of an
ex-Grateful Dead "deadhead," drug abuser, thief, and someone who imbibed in
every hedonistic pleasure, only to turn himself around completely and become a
remarkable man of the cloth. Every Catholic in America should read this book
and pass it along to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. It is a crucial read
for fallen-away Catholics and for rebellious young Catholics who think they're
too cool for the faith. This book will put them in their place—a
page-turner they will not be able to put down. If Father Calloway was a
Protestant with a story like this, this book would have sold a million copies.
Every Evangelical in America would be talking about it in their book clubs.
That this book isn't a bestseller and household title among Catholics shows yet
again how ill-informed and unread Catholics are when it comes to their own
faith. Sorry if that's a bit harsh, but it's true—and as a former
Protestant, I know what I'm talking about.
Joseph Ratzinger, Christianity and the Crisis of
Cultures. This is a
profound little book published by Ignatius Press. It is worth the price for
this one nugget of wisdom alone: the West suffers from a "confused ideology of
freedom," one that ultimately leads to the "self-destruction of freedom."
Abortion is the single best illustration of that. When a woman exercises the
"freedom" to abort, she destroys the first and most fundamental freedom of
another: the freedom to exist.
Augustine, The City of God, with Introduction by Thomas
Merton. I purchased this Modern Library edition of Augustine's classic simply
for the introduction by Merton. I pulled it from a shelf at the local Barnes
& Noble and couldn't stop reading the introduction. I had to own it.
Merton's was one of the most gifted Catholic writers of the last hundred years,
Clarence Thomas, My Grandfather's Son. This is a wonderful book about a
terrific man—and devout Roman Catholic—who has been horribly
maligned by the secular left. His story is captivating. Supreme Court Justice
Clarence Thomas has suffered, and he has persevered, largely because of his
faith. This is another must-read. Here again, every Catholic should know about
this book. If Thomas was a Protestant...well, you know.
Walter Eckman, Meet the Presidents. I did a Q&A with Eckman on this
book. This is a fun, vivid, artfully constructed tour of our presidents, their
birthplaces, and various historical sites. It is an excellent travel companion,
absolutely ideal for home-schooling families. If you home school, you should
get this book. If you enjoy history and historical sites, you should get this
book. If you like studying our presidents, you should get this book.
Tim Goeglein, The Man in the Middle. This is the most redeeming book
of 2011, done by the man who did outreach to faith-based groups for President
George W. Bush—including outreach to Catholics. Goeglein is not Catholic,
but he greatly respects Catholics and knows and reads and quotes Catholic
figures better than most Catholics. Goeglein endured a humiliating fall from
grace in a plagiarism incident that cost him his job. It was front-page news.
This book is a candid admission of his guilt and redemption. The role of
President Bush in that redemption is deeply moving. Please see my review for Catholic
Exchange. You must read the amazing dialogue between Goeglein and Bush in the
Oval Office. It is wonderful. You'll want to forward it to friends.
Steve Turner, The Band That Played On. This is a neat book on the lives
of the eight extraordinary musicians who continued to play while the Titanic
sunk. Cool theme, eh? We've seen this moment represented in movies, and it is
indeed true. This book covers those eight lives, all the way to their mutual
tragic end. As the ship went down, they calmly played "Nearer, My God, to
Frank Kravetz, Eleven Two: One WWII Airman's Story of
Capture, Survival and Freedom. Here is a heartwarming story of a man who survived a stay
in Hitler's POW camps. His name is Frank Kravetz, Pittsburgh native, Roman
Catholic, alive and well at the age of 88. I had the pleasure of reviewing his
book and meeting him. The Catholic elements are touching, especially how Frank
pulled a loose thread from under his prison mattress and weaved it into a
Rosary decade. That was the kind of thing that got Frank through the hell of
Nuremberg Prison Camp. I strongly recommend this book to home-schooled
youngsters. It offers an excellent historical/autobiographical narrative for
teaching about life and major events from the 1930s and 1940s era, particularly
WWII, of course.
Lee Edwards, William F. Buckley Jr.: The Maker of a
Movement. I mentioned
this book in my review last year, but I found myself referencing it several
times again this year and cracking it open again. The material on the Catholic
faith of Buckley is very interesting. Click here for
my review for The National Catholic Register.
George W. Bush, Decision Points. Likewise, last year I mentioned
George W. Bush's Decision Points, which I started reading in 2010 but really dug into and
returning to again in 2011. The chapter on Bush's decision on embryonic stem
cell-research alone is worth the price.
Fr. David V. Meconi, S.J., is Professor of Patristic Theology at St. Louis University, where he is also the Director of the
Undergraduate Studies Program. He is also Editor of Homiletic & Pastoral Review as well as the editor of Ignatius Press'
upcoming Annotated Confessions of St. Augustine, as well as a ground-breaking
study, The One Christ: St. Augustine's Theology of Deification (Catholic University of America Press).
The best book I read this year was Dr. Eleonore Stump's Wandering
in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering (Oxford University Press, 2011).
Eleonore is a colleague of mine here at St. Louis University and, daresay, is
among the most sought-after philosophers of our age. Her work here uses the
insights of St. Thomas Aquinas to address the reality of how a benevolent God
can allow a human life to go terribly wrong but argues that suffering should
never be easily dismissed but perhaps, just perhaps, there is an invitation to
a greater love than what any evil could spoil. Throughout this work there are
some of the most profound insights into intimacy, desires of the human heart,
and attentive presence to others, both divine and human, which I have ever
encountered on the printed page.
The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and
Historical Representation: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation by Hayden White (Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1990). While this may not be the kind of book one reads quietly
before bed, it has proven very important in my understanding the recent
emphasis on the importance of narrative in the humanities, especially in art
and literature. Far from White's intention, his reflections here helped me to
see how theology is a "story" about the ultimate Word in Whom all
other stories and words find their truest meaning and this book explained how
postmodernism, while making us all suspicious of over-arching narratives, has
also ushered in a new cultural situation with new opportunities for real
Oxford & Cambridge Conferences by Fr. Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (1903).
Every couple of weeks another Jesuit here at St. Louis University and I go out
for an ale and enjoy a "N-ox", playing off the Latin words for night
(nox) and Oxford (Oxoniensis) where we met during studies. Over the year we read
various texts and are now making our way through the lectures Rickaby gave to
undergraduates while serving as chaplain at the Oxbridge schools. The
erudition and the humanism of the early 20th century Jesuits only confirms the
goodness of God's creation and how Christ is the answer for every human heart and nation.
The Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems by Wendell Berry (1999). Each
Sunday I try to sit with a few of Berry's poems here and enjoy some quiet and
his multi-layered invitations simply to be.
Persuasion by Jane Austen. Surely I was assigned this in high school
but I am just now getting around to it for the first time and as I found myself
welling up inside and at times howling outside, I came to realize why many
regard this as Miss Austen's best work.
In this House of Brede as well as The Battle of the Villa
Fiorita by Rumer Godden (1969 and 1963). While many of us are familiar with the first novel
about a hard-headed London business woman leaving the world behind to join a
cloistered Benedictine community, The Battle is an equally strong "Catholic" piece of
literature where marriage and children are held sacred and the Church emerges
as the guardian of all things the pure of heart desire.
Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History by Robert Hughes. Does Rome ever
fail to fascinate? From Bernini to Benedict, Mussolini to Marcus Aurelius,
they're all here.
Prison Writings of Alfred Delp, S.J. (Orbis Press' Modern Spiritual
Masters Series). This Jesuit resistor is
not too well known, but the reflections he put down while awaiting execution in
Berlin's Plštzensee Prison during 1944-45 are unmatched for the forgiveness
they convey and the insights into the human condition they offer.
The Confessions by St. Augustine of Hippo. While I may teach the Confessions at least twice a year, this year was different as I
prepared the annotated version for Ignatius Press. Going through this classic
line by line and thus significantly slower than usual, the brilliance and even
the humor of Augustine struck me in new and unexpected ways.
Lorraine V. Murray's latest book is Death of a
Liturgist, a mystery about a groovy liturgist who meets a rather satisfying comeuppance when he tweaks the
traditions at St. Rita's parish. Another recent book is The Abbess of Andalusia, the story of Flannery
O'Connor's Catholic journey. In Confessions
of an Ex-Feminist Lorraine writes about her own journey from faithful Catholic to rabid feminist
and atheist, and back again. Murray, a religion columnist, lives in Decatur,
Georgia, with her husband, Jef, a Tolkien artist, and a hamster named Ignatius.
All seven of her books can be seen www.lorrainevmurray.com.
Here are my favorite books from 2011:
The Pain of Christ and the Sorrow of God. Every Lent I pull out my tattered copy of this book and marvel at these short sermons, delivered by Dominican priest
Gerald Vann at Westminster Cathedral in 1947. Vann takes readers on a
soul-wrenching journey that begins with Christ's agonizing night in the garden
and ends between the two thieves. Along the way he probes the sacred dimension
of time, and elucidates why the Act of Contrition once contained a deeply
powerful thought, namely that a penitent was sorry for his sins "because they
have crucified my loving Savior, Jesus Christ." Vann also explores how we can
better recognize our own sins, especially our daily betrayals of others.
The Love That Keeps Us Sane. So many books about St. Therese of Lisieux paint her as a
sugary-sweet, simpering soul surrounded by cloying clusters of roses. In fact, Therese
herself recoiled from such overly pious portraits of saints, and I believe she
would have really appreciated this book, since it explores her struggle to lead
a hidden and humble life. Author Marc Foley, a Discalced Carmelite priest,
shows that Therese maintained her sanity by keeping her sights set on God
rather than the world's adulation, and knowing when to keep silent.
Why Catholics Are Right. Michael Coren explores in great depth and with an admirable
amount of factual background the most common attacks on Catholicism. It will be
a great help to anyone who has ever found himself floundering by the punch bowl
at a party, somewhat startled by a remark about, say, the priest-abuse scandal,
and wishing he had a few facts at hand to help dispel the errors and
exaggerations that too often pass for truth when it comes to Catholicism. The
chapter on the abuse scandal alone was reason enough for me to declare this
book a favorite--but the author also clarifies common misconceptions related to
Church history, theology, and teachings on life.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta: A
Personal Portrait. As is the case with St. Therese too many books about Mother Teresa
portray her as a dry and stuffy saint, far removed from us ordinary mortals.
This book is a gem indeed because author Monsignor Leo Maasburg —who
traveled with Mother Teresa for many years—reveals something I suspected
all along, which is that she had a very vivid and delightful sense of humor.
The author himself has a priceless penchant for detecting humor in difficult
situations, and reveals many heretofore unknown facts about Mother Teresa. Who
knew, for example, that over the years she gave out over 40,000 Miraculous
Medals, including a handful to Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega?
Novelist Fiorella De Maria, author of Poor
Banished Children, was born in Italy of Maltese parents. She grew up in Wiltshire, England, and attended Cambridge, where she received a BA in English Literature and a
Masters in Renaissance Literature, specializing in the English verse of Robert Southwell, S.J. She won the National
Book Prize of Malta (foreign language fiction category) for her second novel The Cassandra Curse. Fiorella lives in Surrey with her husband and
her three children and blogs at
"The Singular Anomaly".
Favourite Films watched in 2011:
Goodbye Lenin! I was given this film by a German friend and it is one of the most
charming European films I have ever watched. Set in the final days of the GDR,
the film begins with the hero (Alexander) being arrested by the Stasi on a
protest march, causing his mother, a staunch Socialist, to collapse with a
heart attack. While she is in a coma, the Wall comes down and everything she
has ever worked for and believed in completely disappears. When she wakes up,
Alex is warned that a shock may kill her and he attempts to hide the truth of
Germany's re-unification from her by creating the GDR in her flat. A little
white lie quickly gets out of control with painfully funny consequences. I
laughed and cried at this tragi-comic portrayal of an epic moment in European
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
The King's Speech
Favourite Reads of 2011:
The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley. This really is a stunning, heartbreaking book set
in the forgotten world of pre-First World War England where a man in his
sixties, Leo Colston, remembers his loss of innocence during the first summer
of the twentieth century. I am always interested in how authors deal with
memory, both that of individual characters and collective memory such as a
significant moment of history, and what makes The Go-Between so painful to read at times, particularly near the end, is the
knowledge that the First World War will consign every detail of that society to
history and that few of the male characters to whom we have been introduced
will survive to old age.
Letters from a Lost Generation, edited Alan Bishop and Mark Bostridge. This book brought home to
me more than any other book I have read on this subject, the devastating human
cost of the First World War. Letters from a Lost Generation is a collection of letters between Vera Brittain, the famous
British writer and four men; her fiance Roland Leighton, her brother Edward and
their two close friends Victor Richardson and Geoffrey Thurlow, all four of
whom were killed during the course of the war. The horror of the First World
War is well-known but a book like this reveals the grief felt by millions of
families whose sons, husbands and brothers were lost during those terrible
years. I defy anyone to reach the end of the last letter dry-eyed.
One Day in the Life of Ivan
Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I re-read
this book because I first read it as a teenager and Solzhenitsyn has been one
of my heroes ever since. It is a truly exceptional story with a deceptively
simple style, which draws the reader in right from the start and paints such a
vivid picture of daily life in Russia's labour camps that it is almost
palpable. I remember shivering with the cold and being so completely
overwhelmed afterwards that it was days before I could speak about it because I
couldn't find a way to describe the book that could do it justice. This book
should be read in one sitting if possible to experience the full power of the
story. It is the work of a master craftsman and an extraordinary human being.
E. Olson is the editor of Catholic World Report and 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, one dog, and a few thousand books and CDs.
Many fine, even exceptional, books have
been published this past year by Ignatius Press; I'll mention just one that I
found to be particularly rewarding: Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To
The Resurrection, by Pope Benedict XVI, which provides an exceptional example of how
Catholics should approach, read, and contemplate the Gospels and all of
Speaking of Scripture, this past year I
have been teaching a weekly study of the book of Proverbs. In doing so, I have
relied upon an exceptional commentary, Evangelical scholar Bruce K. Waltke's
two-volume Proverbs: New International Commentary on
the Old Testament (2
vols.; Eerdmans, 2004, 2005). It is certainly detailed (1400+ pages!) and even
dense, but contains an amazing amount of rich observations and essential
As usual, ISI published several exceptional books this year, two of which have
made a strong impression. Beauty Will Save the World: Rendering the
Human in an Ideological Age (ISI, 2011), by
Gregory Wolfe, is an important and challenging work about the centrality of
authentic culture, the relationship of art and faith, and the recovery of
Christian humanism. Modern and American Dignity: Who We Are as
Persons and What That Mean For Our Future (ISI,
2010), by Peter Augustine Lawler, takes a long, keen look at American culture,
and provides a strong and thoughtful critique of the many deep ethical and
philosophical problems therein.
Along somewhat similar lines, but from a more academic, sociological
perspective, The Religious Crisis of the 1960s (Oxford, 2007), by Hugh McLeod (a self-described liberal), is a
thoughtful and often illuminating examination of the roots of the cultural and
religious upheaval of the Sixties.
The Servile Mind: How Democracy
Erodes the Moral Life (Encounter Books, 2010),
by Kenneth Minogue, focuses more on the political realm, but digs into the
meaning of he moral life, the problem of individualism, and the danger of
servility that appears to be encroaching steadily and openly in the West. Also,
I finally got around to reading Render Unto Caesar: Serving
the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life by Charles J. Chaput (Doubleday,
2008), by Abp. Charles J. Chaput, and found it to be what I
expected: erudite, engaging, exhortative, and expository. A good book to read
(or re-read) in the months leading up to the 2012 elections.
Farrell O'Gorman's Peculiar Crossroads:
Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, and Catholic Vision in Postwar Southern
Fiction (LSU Press, 2004), is an informative
study of two of my favourites authors, with a particular emphasis on the
historical, cultural, and religious context in which Percy and O'Connor
developed their thought and penned their various books, essays, and stories.
The Roger Scruton Reader (Continuum,
2009), edited by Mark Dooley, brings together some of the best
work of a philosopher who has tackled a wide ranger of topics—morality,
politics, art and architecture, culture—with plenty of verve, combative
humor, and clarity. David Bentley Hart's fine book, Atheist Delusions:
The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (Yale, 2009), tackles the topic of the new atheists, and does so
with a combination of scathing wit, literary and rhetorical flair, and
impressive historical knowledge.
For whatever reason, I read several books
about music and musicians this year. How the Beatles Destroyed
Rock n Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music (Oxford, 2009),
by Elijah Wald, is an impressively researched, vigorously argued work that goes
after nearly every assumption and stereotype regarding popular music, beginning
in the mid-1800s. Beyond and Before: Progressive Rock Since
the 1960's (Continuum,
2011), by Paul Hegarty and Martin Halliwell, is occasionally bogged down by
academic jargon and a stuffy sense of self-importance, but is also filled with
great information about the genesis and place of progressive rock music. Is
This the Real Life? The Untold Story of Queen (Da Capo Press, 2011), by Mark Blake, is
well-researched and avoids the shallow hagiography that often afflict such
books. Ultimately, the book shies away from the elephant in the room (Mercury's
deadly hedonistic homosexuality), but the members of Queen do emerge as complex,
fascinating, and flawed men who really do (or did) love music.
And while we're on the topic of complex, fascinating, and flawed musicians,
James Kaplan's biography, Frank: The Voice (Sphere, 2010), emphasizes all three aspects, sometimes to a fault,
yet managing to be sympathetic while completely avoiding being sycophantic. The
Faber Pocket Guide to Haydn (Faber & Faber, 2009), by Richard Wigmore, is far less gossipy,
providing plenty of helpful material about the great composer's life and work.
Ashley Kahn's Kind Of Blue: The Making Of The Miles Davis
Masterpiece (De Capo Press, 2000) is also exhaustive (but never exhausting, thankfully), presenting
every detail of the creation, production, marketing, and influence of the
biggest-selling jazz album of all time.
I didn't read much fiction in 2011. An exception was the thoroughly
entertaining novel, Heartstone, the fifth Matthew Shardlake mystery (Penguin,
2011), written by lawyer/historian C. J. Sansom, and set in England in the
Finally, two books that I am still reading but merit mention
are Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011)
by Janet Reitman, and Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and
Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine (Baker Academic, 2011), by Khaled Anatolios. The first is a
well-researched and fascinating expose of one of the most bizarre and disturbing
"religions" of the past century. The latter is a brilliantly argued and written
work of historical theology that is especially concerned with the thought and
influence of St. Athanasius, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Augustine.
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 recent books include
Through Shakespeare's Eyes: Seeing the Catholic Presence in the
Plays and a new edition of Solzhenitsyn: A Soul in Exile. 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.
In Defense of Sanity by G. K. Chesterton (Ignatius Press, 2011) is a
selection of the great man's finest essays. In these days of dumbing down, the
art of the essay is sadly neglected. As such, this new volume is doubly
welcome: first, because it shows G.K.'s genius in a literary form at which he
truly excelled; and second, because it will serve to introduce people to the
joy of the English essay.
I'm delighted that Ida Elizabeth by Sigrid Undset (Ignatius Press,
2011) has been resurrected. Undset is so much more than the author of Kristin
this gritty novel, she shows her true credentials as a practitioner par
excellence of Catholic realism in fiction. Few twentieth century recipients of
the Nobel Prize for Literature are as worthy of the award as Undset.
Having enjoyed the fiction of Sigrid Undset, a twentieth
century novelist who is rightly revered and was justly rewarded for her work, I
must mention the novels of Maurice Baring,
a simply superb novelist who has not received the plaudits that his literary
masterpieces warrant. I cannot get enough of Maurice Baring's work. Although
climbing the cultural edifices that he erects can be exhausting the experience
is always exhilarating. I have particularly enjoyed Robert Peckham, C and Cat's Cradle, each of which should be read
regularly as a reminder of the cultural heights to which the true inheritors of
Christendom can ascend.
The Letters of Magdalen Montague by Eleanor Bourg Nicholson is the
work of new fiction that I enjoyed most this year. This novella, published by
the excitingly adventurous Kaufman Press, reminded me of the forays into
fiction of the Great Decadent novelist, J. K. Huysmans. Nicholson's voice, in
the persona of the troubled and troubling protagonist, resonates with an
ornamentally Baroque grandiloquence that is poisoned by the cynical sneer of
the nihilistically decadent dŽbauchŽ. In the finest tradition of Huysmans,
Wilde, Greene and Waugh, The Letters of Magdalen Montague shows a hardened heart melted in the heat of
Finally, Simone Weil's Apologetic Use of Literature:
Her Christological Interpretations of Ancient Greek Texts by Marie Cabaud Meaney (Oxford
University Press, 2008) is an account of a great mind's engagement with the
Great Books of classical antiquity. Along with Louis Markos' From
Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics, and William F. Lynch's Christ
and Apollo: The Dimension of the Literary Imagination, Meaney's book offers
valuable insights into the pagan mind and its ripening towards final fruition
in the Incarnate Word.
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.
This year was a year to re-read several titles from past years (which I needn't list), either to refresh my memory of them or to bring more to my reading than I did the last
time, but aside from finally getting to several of the Narnia texts (Prince Caspian, The Magician's Nephew and The Horse and His Boy), three works
stand out for me: Donald Fairbairn, Understanding Language (2011); Gerhard Mźller, Priesthood and Diaconate (2002); and Urban Navarette,
Structura Juridica Matrimonii (1968).
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.
Infinity Dwindled to Infancy: A Catholic and
Evangelical Christology by
Edward T Oakes SJ (Eerdmans, 2011). This is a 'must have' book for anyone
trying to understand the territory of Christology. It begins with the
Patristics and ends with all the usual suspects: Rahner, von Balthasar and
Ratzinger. It also includes a treatment of the significant magisterial
statements from the Second Vatican Council to the present. It comes out of the
same Mundelein stable as Robert Barron's The Priority of Christ and it is dedicated to Cardinal
Francis George of Chicago. In short, one can safely open it without fearing a
depressing encounter with the historical Jesus.
Reason Fulfilled by Revelation: The 1930s Christian
Philosophy Debates in France edited
and translated by Gregory B Sadler (CUA Press, 2011). This book sets out the players in the 1930s
Christian Philosophy debates in France and places them into the categories of:
Neo-Thomist Opponents of Christian Philosophy, Thomist Proponents of Christian
Philosophy and Non-Thomist Proponents of Christian Philosophy. Having
explained the basic fault-lines the editor then offers English translations of
significant articles by Etienne Gilson, Antonin D. Sertillanges, Bruno de
Solages, Maurice Blondel, Fernand van Steenberghen, Etienne Borne, Gabriel
Marcel, LŽon No‘l and Emile BrŽhier.
Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry by Hans Boersma (Eerdmans, 2011).
Hans Boersma worships in a Protestant community but he shares much of the
theological outlook of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI. This book is an account
of how the tapestry of a sacramental ontology was woven by the early Church
fathers but was subsequently unravelled and "cut up" by people like Ockham and
Scotus before the Reformers attempted a patch up job which had its own
limitations. Boersma tries to reconnect the threads with reference to the
ideas of the ressourcement
theologians, principally Henri de Lubac and Yves Congar.
The Modern Age by James V Schall (St. Augustine's Press, South Bend,
Indiana, 2011). Fr. James V Schall is in the Navy Seal class of Jesuit legends.
The Modern Age is the latest
collection of his occasional essays. It includes: The brighter side of hell,
Judgement and Modernity, Revelation and Political Philosophy, One Hundred Years
of Orthodoxy and What is Theology?
Person, Being and History: Essays in Honour of Kenneth
L Schmitz edited by Michael Baur and Robert
E Wood (CUA Press, 2011). This is a Festschrift collection on the philosophy of
Kenneth L Schmitz. When Schmitz was enlisting in the Royal Canadian Air Force
at the outbreak of WWII he was asked by the enlisting officer for his religion.
He said he didn't have one. The officer replied: "that won't do laddie". He
eventually agreed that the officer could tick the RC box. Schmitz went to war
and survived and then the Canadian government had a scheme to offer tertiary
education for ex-servicemen. He ended up being sent to St. Michael's College
at the University of Toronto because of the tick in the RC box. It was there
that he came into contact with Etienne Gilson and he ultimately became a
Catholic philosopher himself. This collection of essays is a tribute to his
scholarship on the philosophy of the person, on being and on history. It
includes a chronological bibliography of all his publications.
Romance and System: The Theological Synthesis of
Matthias Joseph Scheeben by Aidan Nichols (The Augustine Institute, Denver: 2010). This is in
the door-stopper class of books. It runs for 537 pages. It is Nichols' Summa of Scheeben for those whose knowledge of academic
German is insufficient to cope with the original, especially the original in
Gothic script. It is highly valuable for students of contemporary theology but
it comes with the warning that it is dense and not one of Fr Nichols' creamy
English toffee books to be enjoyed with a gin and tonic. One needs to be cold
sober to absorb it.
Johann Georg Hamann and the Enlightenment Project by Robert Alan Sparling (University of
Toronto Press, 2011). Hamann was an opponent of Kant and of Frederick of
Prussia so I regard him as playing on the side of the angels. This book
examines the political philosophical aspects of his thought.
Tradition and the Rule of Faith in the Early Church
edited by Ronnie J. Rombs and Alexander Y. Hwang (CUA Press, 2010). This is a collection of essays on
the themes of tradition and the rule of faith in honour of Joseph T. Lienhard
SJ. It's full of historical gems.
Learning to Love at the School of John Paul II and
Benedict XVI by Livio Melina, translated by Fr. Joel Wallace (Modotti Press, Melbourne, 2011). This
book is a user-friendly guide to themes in what is popularly called the
theology of the body (although Benedict XVI tends to use the more literal
expression "Catechesis on Human Love") written by the International President of
the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family who was a former member of
Cardinal Ratzinger's staff in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The New Vichy Syndrome: Why European Intellectuals
Surrender to Barbarism
by Theodore Dalrymple (Encounter Books, 2010). Theodore Dalrymple is a British
psychiatrist who writes opinion pieces for a number of journals including the Spectator. He argues that the source of the demise of
European culture is that Europeans no longer believe in anything but personal
economic security. Of course, there are still some pockets of Christian belief
and practice, but Dalrymple provides an excellent analysis of the general
contemporary European failure to resist new forms of barbarism.
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
My own list begins with two books of Robert Spitzer: New
Cosmolocigal Proofs for the Existence of God and Ten Universal Principles. Spitzer is an unending fund of
insight, genius, and pertinence.
I also enjoyed David Goldman's It's Not the End of the
World, It's Just the End of You. Few
books shoot more sacred cows.
A sleeper is the Belmont Abbey College Reader, as good a short collection of
what one ought to read as can be found.
I was given The Essential Rilke, a collection with German on one
page and English on the other. "Whoever has no house now will not build
I was also given Little, Big: "His thick letters were
consigned to this Edgewood place, and he waited for a reply until he couldn't
wait anymore, and so their letters crossed in the mail as all true lover's
letters do, and she saved them and tied them with a lavender ribbon, and
years later her grandchildren found them and read of those old people's
I was particularly struck by the steady profundity of Brian
Benestad's Church, State, and Society and J. Budziszewski's What We Can't Not
Finally, I was given Peanuts Treasury. Lucy looks innocently at Charlie
Brown. 'Charlie Brown I want to ask you something.' To a perplexed Charlie, she
continues: 'Do you think I'm a crabby person?' Charlie is honest. He tells her,
'Yes, I think you're a very crabby person.' At this Lucy yells, turning Charlie
over, 'WELL, WHO CARES WHAT YOU THINK!'
I care about all of these books. They made me think and
undermined any crabbiness I might have had.
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.
First, Transformation in Christ, by Dietrich von Hildebrand. A
phenomenologist's view of the interior life. Long, detailed, sometimes heavy
going—and an absolutely fascinating analysis of the dynamics of spirituality.
Having read it, you'll keep it close at hand for ready reference.
Second, The Eustace Diamonds, by Anthony Trollope. An occasionally
plodding but ultimately illuminating tale of venality and self-seeking on the
fringes of the Victorian upper caste. The story features central
characters who'd be serious contenders in any competition for Most
Despicable Heroine and Least Admirable Hero in English Literature.
Third, The Autobiography of William Allen White. Think American politics and
journalism are shabby affairs today? White's informative book is a reminder of
how much worse things were a century or more ago, when politicians were
routinely bought and owned by moneyed interests and nobody thought it odd that
a Kansas newsman like White should double as an upfront, unapologetic party
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?
Top of my list is Pope Benedict XVI's second volume of his
trilogy, Jesus of Nazareth (Vatican/San Francisco, 2011), devoted to Holy Week. It is
an astonishing achievement at every level: academic, theological and,
Finola Kennedy's life of Frank Duff, A Life Story (London/New York, 2011) was an
eye-opener for me. Kennedy's carefully researched objective portrayal of the
founder of the Legion of Mary affords her readers a genuine insight into the
human greatness, spiritual depth and theological originality of this man of
God—and one of our greatest contemporaries.
Michael Burleigh's Earthly Powers
(London, 2005) is a fascinating, historical account of the interaction
of religion and politics covering the period stretching from the French
Revolution to the Great War. Among other insights, it shows how, in the process
of secularization, politics in Europe itself took on the guise of a
religion— inevitably with tragic effects.
Considering the present plight of the Church in Ireland, George Weigel's The
Courage to be Catholic
(New York: Basic Books, 2002), written in response to what might be called the
meltdown of Catholicism in the USA resulting from a series of exposures in 2002
of clerical sexual abuse and episcopal negligence, was an inspiration and a
source of hope.
Finally, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshim Hamid (London: Penguin,
2008) raised profound religious and moral issues by way of fiction. This short
novel allows the reader to gain insight into how Western prejudices could turn
a Western-educated Muslim of secular sympathies into what seems (to Western
eyes) to be a fundamentalist, while at the same time it raises questions about
those very prejudices.
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.
God and Other Minds by Alvin Plantinga. The former Notre Dame philosophy professor's
seminal work on his version of the ontological argument. The text is
inarguably dense, evidence of Plantinga's meticulous use of analytical philosophy.
Yet, his findings in the later chapters are surprisingly accessible, so
long as the reader keeps to the method of inquiry. On a side note,
Plantinga was very gracious and a gentleman in answering some questions from me
on his first few chapters.
Ransoming the Time by Jacques
Maritain. Of particular note in this collection is Maritain's discussion of
anti-Semitism and its relation to Christophobia. In the shared pathology
binding these two maladies, Maritain exposes, in almost Augustinian fashion,
the inherent divisions that are the root of human conflict. Maritain was
especially noteworthy in his keen perspective on anti-Semitism, which he
witnessed and assessed in his own time, thus without the benefit of the
erudition of hindsight.
Previous Editions of "The Best Books I Read...":
"The Best Books I Read in 2010..."
"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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