“Tolle lege” — “take and read.” That’s what the child’s voice told St. Augustine in Confessions, and the passage from St. Paul that he chanced upon (“Not in riots and drunken parties,” etc.) precipitated his conversion. Confessions is an amazing book, an extraordinarily moving spiritual autobiography, and were this Lent or close to Lent, I’d suggest that. I try to reread it every Lent myself. But it’s summer, not Lent, so let me suggest something in a different register.
Are you philosophically inclined? Have you also reacted with snorts and muttering contempt when confronted by postmodernist accounts of science, according to which the insights of science are strained through the meat grinder of epistemic skepticism, emerging at the other end as a series of more or less nonsensical pronunciamentos? Are you, moreover, impatient with the dictates of political correctness and the reign of our academic diversity mongers dispensing their species of group-think? If you answered Yes, let me recommend the work of the Australian philosopher David Stove (1927–94). A handy-dandy anthology of his work is available under the title Against the Idols of the Age, edited, and with an introduction by, one R. Kimball, viz me.
Since I mentioned R. Kimball, let me also urge you to tolle lege his new book, published just a day or two ago, The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia. Modesty forbids me dilating on the book’s many excellences, but on the principle that you can judge a book by its cover, let me note that it features a beautiful cover reproducing Thomas Cole’s Mt. Etna from Taormina. What’s inside the book is pretty nifty, too.
Finally, let me mention a classic work of travel literature, deeply pertinent to the journey we are taking in this country. I mean of course Hayek’s classic, The Road to Serfdom, the perfect vade mecum for the fiscally incontinent Age of Obama.
— Roger Kimball is editor of The New Criterion.
Germain Grisez, The Way of the Lord Jesus, Volume I, Christian Moral Principles (1983). I think this is a new classic (“new” as classics go that is): a groundbreaking Catholic moral-theology book that answers the call for renewal made by Vatican II — solid, packed full of original insights, and, I think, inspirational.
Germain Grisez, The Way of the Lord Jesus, Volume II, Leading a Christian Life (1993). This volume treats the specific issues (e.g., life in chapter six, marriage in chapter eight, justice in chapters six and eleven). One can find well-argued apologetics here (chapter one), a rigorous defense of traditional morality regarding life and sex, and even the principles of a political philosophy.
Michael Korda, Ike: An American Hero (2008) was a fun read. Korda obviously likes Ike — which I think is a good feature of a biography. I was also convinced by Korda’s defense of Eisenhower against detractors of his roles as a strategist in World War II and as president a decade later — in any case Korda explains clearly the disputes.
Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (2012). My one book from this year brings one up to date on how religion has thrived or declined in the last century in America, and develops what I think is an accurate diagnosis of our present religious condition with a realistic assessment of how it can be improved. This is well argued — his interpretations always account for wide ranges of facts and so explain a great deal — and sometimes his views are even inspirational.
— Patrick Lee is the John N. and Jamie D. McAleer Professor of Bioethics and the director of the Institute of Bioethics at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
CLIFFORD D. MAY
The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, by Amity Shlaes
I should have read this earlier, but now is a great time, because the economic-policy mistakes that FDR made are being repeated by the Obama administration. (The political strategy that FDR followed is also being repeated.)
Power, Faith and Fantasy, by Michael Oren
Until you read it, you cannot possibly understand the history of U.S.–Middle East relations. What amazes is how consistent have been the themes and conflicts since Thomas Jefferson first pondered what to do about Islamist hijackers (of ships).
Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover’s Secret History of the Second World War and Its Aftermath, edited with an introduction by George Nash
Completed more than 50 years ago, it’s just been made public. I’m only beginning to dig in (it’s over 800 pages) to this tough critique of FDR’s foreign policies. Seems fascinating.
One Second After, by William Forstchen: If you, like me, have been left without electricity for days by the recent “Derecho,” you should read (or reread) this account of what an electromagnetic-pulse attack would do to America.
— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy.
JOHN J. MILLER
We’re in the middle of baseball season, but it’s never too soon to think about football — and my favorite recent football book is Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football, by John U. Bacon, who watched up close as disaster struck a beloved team. You won’t find a better inside account of what it’s like to be a part of a big-time college program.
— John J. Miller, director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College, hosts Between the Covers for NRO and is the author of The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football.