Book Haul: Thirty-Eight Dollars

Saturday, June 18, AD 2016




My bride and I enjoyed going to a used book sale last Thursday that we have been attending for about the last fifteen years.   We spent $38.00. As usual Don the spendthrift purchased most of the books:


1.  My bride purchased A Guide Through Narnia by Martha G. Sammons (1979) (Essays on C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” – but it was with the travel books, so I was expecting more of a Narnian gazetteer for travelers), The Bride Wore Pearls by Liz Carlyle (2012) (Historical romance novel set in the Victorian era; our Anglo-Indian heroine’s costume in the cover art is late Regency, though, and she hops into bed with our quasi-Masonic hero about half a dozen chapters in; not worth finishing), Lose 200 Lbs. This Weekend by Don Aslett (2000) (Another of his “de-clutter your life” books) and Schroeder’s Antiques Price Guide (1999) (The most recent they had there — presumably the collectors are hanging onto anything more recent; what I really needed was a print version of info I’d already found online about the collectible figurines I’m selling on eBay, plus tips on how to pack them for shipping).

I purchased all the rest:

2.   The Battle:  A History of the Battle of Waterloo by Alessandro Barbero (2003)-I like the fact that the author begins his book with quotes from Wellington indicating what folly it was to attempt to write the history of this battle.

3.   Ivory Vikings by Nancy Marie Brown (2015)-Speculation on the origin of nine medieval chess pieces.

4.   The Arms of Krupp (1968-paperback 1970)-William Manchester’s history of the German family of weapons manufacturers.

5.   The French and Indian War by Walter R. Borneman (2006)-The French and Indian War has been attracting more attention recently by scholars, which is a good thing.  The various French wars of the seventeenth and eighteenth century had an enormous impact on the colonies that would become the United States.  Our first steps toward a unified nation were taken as a result of these conflicts, and many of the men who led our forces in the American Revolution learned the trade of war in the greatest and last of these struggles.

6.   The Achievement of Samuel Johnson by W. Jackson Bate (1955)-A look at the writing and thought of one of my favorite literary curmudgeons.

7.   Bomber Offensive by Noble Frankland (1970)-One of the myriad Ballantine buck books on World War II that I gobbled up as a teenager.

8.   Abraham Lincoln by Thomas Keneally (2003)-One of the brief Penguin Lives where established authors write a short life of some famous individual.  The authors usually have no special expertise as a biographer of the subject they are writing about.  As one might expect, this experiment has produced mixed results.

9.   Leadership in War by Sir John Smyth (1974)-A look at British generals in World War II by a Brigadier General and holder of the Victoria Cross. (The Brit equivalent to the Medal of Honor.)

10.  Patton:  A Study in Command by H. Essame (1974)-A well written look at Patton by a British Major General who commanded a brigade in World War II.

11.  Aristotle For Everybody:  Difficult Thought Made Easy by Mortimer Adler (1978)-I have long been a fan of the work of the late Mortimer Adler.  A leader of the revival of interest in Saint Thomas Aquinas in the twenties, he founded the Great Books Program.  He spent his life explaining to moderns in the West their intellectual heritage.  A non-observant Jew, he long was attracted to Catholicism.  Baptized as an Episcopalian in 1984, the faith of his wife,  he was baptized into the Faith in 1999, two years before his death.

Continue reading...

So Many Books

Monday, April 4, AD 2016


I assume that all readers of this blog are probably book lovers.  Here are my answers to a favorite book meme that has been floating around the internet for years:

1. One book that changed your life: A Canticle for Leibowitz. An extended meditation on History and the role of the Church in History disguised as a first rate science fiction novel.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once: Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island: Lord of the Flies.

4. One Book that Made You Laugh: Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague DeCamp. A hilarious time travel novel where the protagonist seeks to stop the conquest of Italy by Belisarius in the Sixth century.

Continue reading...

8 Responses to So Many Books

  • 1. One book that changed your life: Doors of the Sea

    2. One book that you’ve read more than once: Lord of the Rings.

    3. One book you’d want on a desert island: Lord of the Rings.

    4. One Book that Made You Laugh: Going Postal.

    5. One book that made you cry: Doors of the Sea

    6. One Book You Wish Had Been Written: A History of the Outer Banks

    7. One Book You Wish Hadn’t Been Written: No Idea

    8. One Book You’ve Been Meaning to Read: Personal Knowledge, Polanyi

  • FYI: Erasmus wrote In The Praise of Folly, which I was required to read in college.
    Sadly, I don’t have good answers for too many of the questions.
    1. Changed life: The Gospels.
    2. One book repetitively: Too Many. Say, The Odyssey.
    3. Desert island: Heart of Darkness.
    4. Laugh: ?
    5. Cry: a Joyce short story from Dubliners, “Counterparts.”
    6. Wish had been written: True History of the Democrat Party.
    7. Hadn’t been written: None.
    8. Will read whatever catches my eye in the Public Library new book shelf.

  • I am a book lover however the books I’m drawn to are religious in nature. Admittedly, I was a late bloomer to good reading. Here are my picks;

    1.) Life changing book. Will to Love. St. Maximilian Kolbe.

    2.) One book that you’ve read multiple times.
    Death on a Friday Afternoon. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus.

    3.) Island read. The entire volumes of Maria Valtorta’s The poem of the Man-God.
    This book also counts for question #5. Tears.

    4.) Laugh. Small Miracles / and Small Miracles II. By Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal. ( God gets the last laugh and tear in this marvelous collection of stories. One of my favorites when I’m feeling burned out or in need of a pick-me-up.)

    6.) Wish had been written. The Lambs Supper by Scott Hahn.

    Can’t answer 7 and 8. Yet.

  • Canticle for Leibowitz may yet prove to be prophetic. We seem to be at the end of the stage of Fiat Voluntas Tua, having passed through Fiat Homo and Fiat Lux some time ago. Sadly, however, we have no Quo Peregrinatur aboard which we may escape the coming destruction. But that was 3781 and this is 2016. Sic transit mundus.

  • Hummm. Thanks Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus.
    I just read the short Amazon review from Paul Hughes. This fiction could become non-fiction, but I hope it never does.
    Looks like a good read.

  • Book that changed my life: Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace
    Book read multiple times: The Screwtape Letters
    Book for a desert island: my college textbook with the complete works of Shakespeare (it was hardbound and weighed about 20 pounds but there’d be no worry about running out of material)
    Book(s) that made me laugh: the “Edge” series of Westerns by George Gilman. They were so riddled with cliches and bad puns that my husband figured he could do better — and that’s how we got into the self-publishing business 🙂
    Book that made me cry: Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally
    Book I wish had been written: The Catholic Church, Slavery and the Civil War. (I may have to write it myself)
    Book(s) I wish hadn’t been written: Mein Kampf and Rules for Radicals
    Book(s) I’ve been meaning to read: The later works of the American Winston Churchill, including “The Inside of the Cup”.

  • Canticle for Leibowitz is a book that should be more widely read. It is definitely in the top 10 that I’ve purchased as gifts.
    BTW, the husband of the woman who introduced me to my wife has a first hardback edition, and so I learned that later editions have a typo that has propagated throughout the years. Most editions near the end have a line where the abbot tells a young monk “Take your oaths on this side of the sign”; the first edition reads “Take your baths on this side of the sign”.

  • 1. One book that changed your life: Orthodoxy, by Chesterton.

    2. One book that you’ve read more than once: Don Quixote, by Cervantes.

    3. One book you’d want on a desert island: Summa Theologica by Aquinas

    4. One Book that Made You Laugh: Don Quixote.

    5. One book that made you cry: Divine Comedy by Dante

    6. One Book You Wish Had Been Written: The Lord of the World, by father Robert Benson.

    7. One Book You Wish Hadn’t Been Written: Books by Luther or Calvin.

    8. One Book You’ve Been Meaning to Read: The Lord of the Ring.

Book Haul

Sunday, March 22, AD 2015



My bride and I attended the book sale of the Normal Public Library in Normal, Illinois on Friday March 20, 2015 to feed my bibliophilia addiction.  For $50.00 my bride and I picked up quite a few books.  She got several books and magazines on crocheting, she being on a crocheting crusade for the past two years.  (I have to stay on the move in my house, lest I be covered over in afghans.)  I thought there might be some mild interest in the books I picked out, and here they are:

1.  Frontsoldaten by Stephen G. Fritz (1995)-A look at the common frontline soldiers of the Wehrmacht, and a tome that underlines this maxim of the British Army-Those who have not fought the Germans do not know war.

2.  Hard Magic (2011) and Monster Hunter Vendetta (2010) both by Larry Correia.  I have heard good things about science fiction/fantasy author Correia, but these will have been the first of his books I have read.

3.  Hitler’s Renegades by Christopher Ailsby- (2004)-An interesting look at the non-German troops who fought with the Third Reich.  The section on the Spanish Azul (Blue) division was a bit brief for my taste however.

4.  Art in the Third Reich by Berthold Hinz-(1979)-Proof positive that most art produced under the auspices of the Third Reich can be described in two words:  banal kitsch.

5.  The Ancient Near Eastern Tradition by Milton Covensky-(1966)-Part of the Major Traditions of World Civilization, one of those multi-volume looks at world history which were all the rage in the sixties.

6.  The Mughal World by Abraham Eraly-(2007)-A look at life in Mughal India by perhaps the foremost expert on that period.

7.  Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey The River of Doubt by Candice Millard-(2005)-A masterful look at the Amazonian expedition of 1913-14 that almost killed Roosevelt.

8.  History of the Byzantine Empire, vol. II, by AA Vasiliev-(1952)-I have always thought the best Byzantinists have been Russians, and perhaps the greatest of them was Vasiliev who emigrated from Russia in 1925 and who taught in the US for years.

9.  Samuel Pepys Diary by Samuel Pepys-A Random House edition of selections from the diary of Pepys.  Pepys was something of a rotter but he is never dull.  At random on a page I see three passages.  On the first he thanks God that it has been three years since he had a kidney operation to cut out a stone and that he is still free from pain. (I can empathize with his joy.)  In the next passage he listens to a preacher at church who preaches like a fool.  Finally he visits a friend, notes that his servant girl is pretty and searches her out for a kiss.

10. A History of French Literature by L. Cazamian-(1955)-A book that I trust will remedy my bone ignorance on the subject.

Continue reading...

14 Responses to Book Haul

  • Good Haul. Braudel, O’Rourke and Vasiliev especially. Has to make you wonder who beat you to the first volume of the last though.

  • Love library sales, and their modern version available on Amazon. 😀 (My kids have a great selection of used mythology books that were barely touched, but got cycled out of their libraries and into ours….for a tiny fraction of their original price tag.)

  • Arnold has an unpleasant habit, shared with more than a few Victorians, of assuming in his writings that all of prior history existed to labor with great effort to bring forth its pinnacle: people who thought just like him.

    *grin* Isn’t that kind of common in anyone who recognizes that not everyone prior thought just like them?
    Or are you drawing a contrast to those who believe they came to be in spite of all those prior generations who were obviously fools, as they don’t agree with him?

  • The Victorians, probably because of the technological wonders that they saw around them, tended to be pioneers in “presentism”, the idea that they were manifestly superior to all ages prior to them. We still have this, although it is diluted with pessimism that came in during the aftermath of WW I and, among leftists, a heaping helping of “noble savage mania” for third world peoples with which to belabor their own societies, while simultaneously embracing causes completely alien, and usually anathema, to most of the third world peoples they purport to champion. Arnold would have fitted in superbly on most left wing college faculties today.

  • Have fun! I don’t think your numbering is necessarily your reading priority but I would put number 8 at number one and number 17 at last.

  • Also the political and cultural geography of the Holy Land would be very interesting to me.
    I wonder what times in history he spotlights

  • The order of listing was random and I am planning to begin #8 this week.

    # 15 basically looks at the historical geography during Old and New Testament times.

  • Enjoy, Mr. McClarey, I appreciate your scholarship and your generosity in sharing.

  • #s 1, 7, 8 ,15 and 16 are my picks. I’d probably crack #1 first as a follow up to others of my winter readings. I.e. The Yanks Are Coming & When Hell Froze Over.

  • 8, 15, and the crocheting books BUT:
    Foxfier has a post about the history of Harlequin Books, which were ubiquitous and ignored in my experience of the “first” commercial paperbacks. These days? – hmmm – maybe if a box were found at the spring tag sale at church.
    Also a question: the local branch library near my elementary school had a series of dozens of early American history with names as titles ( ex. Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, Benjamin Franklin to almost the Civil War times). These were orange hardcover with title and a black silhouette, about 6″ x 10″ x 1″, had deep background of the life and how things were done (to education, medical care, law, arts, crafts, homemaking, farming, animals, building, and manners of social activity. Publisher forgotten. It would be good to have a set or a few to pass along. In the late 50’s, they were not new.

  • The article is kind of flawed– it correctly points out that not all romances are textual pr0n, but rather brushes over that part at the end. It’s like reading a history of anime that (correctly) points out that no, it’s not a synonym for animated perversion, and much later bringing up the “creative” and “more explicit” stuff. Plus, some “look, I used a big curse word, I’m to be taken seriously!” stuff at the end.
    Still, a very interesting, especially for the way that they basically went “hey, look! There’s demand for this– let’s fill it!”

  • A trick I’ve found for finding books that I saw but can’t identify enough information on is to go into the image search of Bing or Google until I recognize it.

  • I have never – this is not hyperbole – laughed harder than I did when reading P.J. O’Rourke’s essay “So Drunk”. It’s sort of experimental gonzo journalism. The essay “Die, Eco-Weenies” is also a stand-out.

    I know very little about the Byzantine Empire. I’m ok with my ignorance about French literature (you can’t know everything) but I think I’m missing the boat on Byzantium. The Catholic State has rarely been tried. And speaking of the French, I think that the quality of their attempt is probably over-stated. I have a fondness for the Austrians’ efforts. The Byzantines, I should know better.

  • Yes, the old ones when the publisher’s wife was ‘editor’ … sort of old fashioned and cerebral … as in the Nancy Drew series … kind of enjoy gleaning first aid methods as a side hobby.
    For Don: This site has been freezing a lot lately and the comment notifications are sporadic. Since you have this post on Almost Chosen People, Foxfier’s response to a comment here were sent under that site in the email, but not this site.


Friday, September 30, AD 2011


Hattip to Mrs. Darwin at my co-blogger Darwin Catholic’s eponymous blog, for the following book meme questions:


1. Favorite childhood book?
American Heritage Golden Book of the Civil War

2. What are you reading right now?
Early Byzantine Historians; The Road to Disunion:   Secessionists at Bay;  A World on Fire;  Lincoln’s Sword;  Bismarck:  A Life.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?

4. Bad book habit?
Buying way, way too many as my basement library can attest.
5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?

6. Do you have an e-reader?
My I-pad is a surprisingly good e-reader.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
 I have always read several books at a time.  I am a slow reader and a few pages from several books each day suits my pace.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
A series on US Presidents I read through with my autistic son.  Even for a kid’s series the research was abysmal.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
A World on Fire, a comprehensive look at Britain’s role in out Civil War, by Amanda Foreman, Phd from Oxford and mother of five young kids.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Every day, mostly while browsing the net.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Science fiction, alternate history, fantasy, history and politics.

13. Can you read on the bus?
Presumably not, as I have difficulty reading in a car on the rare occasions when I am not driving.

14. Favorite place to read?
In bed.  A grand way to end the day.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
Open-handed.  I like to encourage people to read.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Never, although my wife does, one of her few imperfections.

Continue reading...

14 Responses to Bookquisition

  • Your basement sounds like mine, Don. And I still have about 50% of my collection in a storage shed. We’re also reading the excellent “Early Byzantine Historians,” too, I see. Given how expensive or flat-out unavailable (in English) most of the primary sources are, it’s invaluable. Treadgold hasn’t written a clunker yet.

  • Oh, and I still have my copy of the AH Golden Book of the Civil War–I prevailed upon my parents to buy it for me when we visited Gettysburg. A brilliant condensation of the original for younger readers. Not dumbed down in the slightest. I have to admit I loved the panoramas of the battles. My eldest son is starting to show some interest in the conflict, so I am going to hand it off.

  • Are you referring to Reagan’s An American Life? I thought the first half was interesting, but the second half of it revolved around the subtleties of diplomatic communications. I didn’t think of it as a reflection of worsening Alzheimer’s. I think he was just that interested in economic and political matters in his first term and international affairs in his second. You could be right, though.

    Oh, and which is more intimidating: The Brothers Karamazov or The Divine Comedy? It’s funny how much less intimidating some books seem once you’ve “beaten” them.

  • I just got done with his section on Procopius Dale. I have found few historians who elicit more divergent views and theories than Belisarius’ Boswell.

    The panoramas in the Golden Book were stunning and started me down the wargaming path.

  • “Oh, and which is more intimidating: The Brothers Karamazov or The Divine Comedy?”

    The Divine Comedy without a doubt Pinky. No novice should attempt it except with a well annotated version. The Grand Inquisitor might disagree with me that it is more difficult than the B-Ks however. 🙂

  • The Divine Comedy is somewhat intimidating. I found myself jumping back and forth between the text and the footnotes, since I often couldn’t recognize what he was referring to. I was unable to read Goethe’s Faust. That had to have been the worst for me. It just made no sense. I had read Dr. Faustes and knew of the legend. But Goethe’s play made no sense to me. I grew bored with Milton’s Paradise Lost. Among the classics, Les Miserable, though long, was one of the easiest reads for me.

  • Among Christian works, I would recommend Solomon among the Postmoderns by Peter Leithart. Superb! Also, anything by New Testament scholar N. T. Wright. And of course everything C. S. Lewis has ever written.

  • I have treasured pat everything I have ever read by CS Lewis.

  • Mrs. McClarey dog-ears books? I can’t believe it! Not that I’m above dog-earing, but how can a librarian do it? I sure hope the Librarian Guild doesn’t find out, they’ll probably pull her membership card – that or assign her to something lame like organizing the periodicals alphabetically and by date.

  • (Guest comment by Don’s wife Cathy:) Now you know why I ended up working at Don’s office, RL! ;(
    RE: Brothers Karamazov vs. Divine Comedy — I’ve read the Divine Comedy (& highly recommend the Viking Portable Dante edition — excellent translation & footnotes; I’ve also read bits of John Ciardi’s translation, but not all the way through). Haven’t read the Brothers Karamazov yet; don’t see a real need to (beyond a cultural literacy/”Cliff Notes” knowledge of the plot), so I guess that would be more intimidating for me.
    Speaking of Cliff Notes, I loved the Classics Illustrated comic books as a kid (gave me tastes of a lot of great stories before my reading skills/vocabulary/attention span were up to tackling the originals), and was happy to find reprints of many of them (often done ostensibly as “Cliff Notes”-style study guides to the unabridged books) which I could share with our own 3 kids when they were younger.

  • Is your wife in agreement that the best thing in bed is reading, and do you usually have the mustard and chips in that location? TMI

    Had to give up reading in bed when the eyes started growing tired. Miss it. But reading on the deck in the summer is a good second fulfilling location.

  • I never eat in bed Elizabeth. My wife is equally enamored of reading in bed. Our three kids attest that reading is not all we have done in that location over the years. 🙂

  • Faust – now that’s intimidating. I’m afraid of anything that was originally written in German. No disrespect to our Holy Father; I just don’t understand how anyone can think in that language.

  • Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man and Orthodoxy are worth reading. Dorothy Sayers’ The MInd of the Maker, too. And The Priesthood of Adam and an Offering of Uncles (forget who wrote it).

    Yes, I was struck by the apparent oddity of Faust. A little too creative, or too far from my understanding of the world, perhaps. And very difficult to read.

    Craig Barnhouse’s When God Interrupts is I think a very profound though extremely popular book aimed at a lay audience.

Ten Books

Monday, July 13, AD 2009

Weighty Subjects

Judging from our posts, I believe it is safe to say that we at The American Catholic are a bookish lot.  I think this applies also to most of our learned commenters.  I have always loved books, a trait I inherited from my sainted mother who had a deep passion for the printed page.  If I were not married to a fellow bibliophile, and a librarian of course !, I can imagine my love of books perhaps having been a sore point in my marriage.  “Another bookstore?”  “Can’t we go anyplace without you dragging me to a dull bookstore?”  “You paid what for that history of the Peninsular War!?!”  “The books are in the dumpster.  Say a word and you may end up there too!”   Instead, both I and my bride of 27 years view bookstores as homes away from home, to the vast amusement of our kids.

In this post I am going to list ten books I would recommend.  These ten books have all had some impact on my life.  I invite everyone who is interested to also give their book recommendations in the comments.

1.   The Bible-Since my parents gave me my first Bible, at my request, on Christmas Day 1970, I have attempted, and usually succeeded, in reading a chapter from the Old Testament and a chapter from the New each day.  The varied type of literature in the Bible I find endlessly fascinating:  novels, court chronicles, proverbs, otherworldly prophecies, military history, gospels, letters, an endless literary and intellectual feast.  Aside from the spiritual benefits of the Bible, which of course is the main reason for reading the Bible, no one in our civilization can be considered to be well-educated if they are bone ignorant of this book. 

Continue reading...

32 Responses to Ten Books

  • Only ten books? I will try. It’s difficult.

    1) The Pillar and Ground of the Truth by Pavel Florensky
    2) The Bride of the Lamb by Sergius Bulgakov
    3) Theo-Drama Volume V by Hans Urs von Balthasar
    4) Reflections of a Russian Statesman by Pobedonstsev
    5) Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky
    6) The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
    7) The Philokalia, Volume II
    8) On First Principles, Origen
    9) Poetic Diction by Owen Barfield
    10) Dune by Frank Herbert

  • 1. Theo-Drama, volume 4 by Hans Urs von Balthasar
    2. The Idiot by Dostoevsky
    3. Complete Poems, Gerald Manley Hopkins
    4. Phaedrus, Plato
    5. The Clown by Heinrich Bohl
    6. The Symbolism of Evil by Paul Ricoeur
    7. The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
    8. Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
    9. Catholicism by Henri de Lubac
    10.Showings, Julian of Norwich

  • 1. God at the Ritz – Lorenzo Albacete
    2. Lost in the Cosmos – Walker Percy
    3. A Matter of Interpretation – Antonin Scalia
    4. St. Thomas Aquinas – G.K. Chesterton
    5. Radicals for Capitalism – Brian Doherty
    6. Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
    7. The Ethics – Aristotle
    8. The End of the Affair – Graham Greene
    9. 1984 – George Orwell
    10. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

  • Mark,

    I almost put Confederacy of Dunces but eliminated it in favor of Lost in the Cosmos. Good book.

  • Wow, Don. You make me look lame…

    1. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
    2. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkein
    3. The Everlasting Man – G.K. Chesterton
    4. Introduction to Christianity -Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
    5. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
    6. Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
    7. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion – David Hume
    8. Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
    9. Crossing the Threshold of Hope – Pope John Paul II
    10. The Revolution: A Manifesto – by Ron Paul (too recent, I know… but it did crystalize my political and economic disposition and refocused my preference for Jeffersonian principles)

    Here’s a few big-fat books that take far too much time to say that I’ve “read”, or that I’m really wanting to read.

    1. The Bible. A book that I don’t think you ever really “read”, you just revisit. I’ve never read it enough, of course… like most, sadly.

    2. Tragedy and Hope – Carroll Quigley. Probably the most sober and gut-punching rendition of history I’ve ever been in the process of reading. Here Quigley just doesn’t list events… he names names for 1300 pages.

    3. The Creature from Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffen. A very readable history of the Federal Reserve and its shenanigans. This book will make you a cynic over what men will do for money and prestige.

    4. Man, Economy and State by Murray Rothbard – a book I’ve been desperate to fit in to my reading list a long with the works of Ludwig von Mises, Hayek and a host of other free-market economists.

  • I’m sorry to say I don’t read many books these days – most of what I read is online in the form of encyclicals and other documents from the Vatican archives.

    I’ll give it a try nonetheless. I wouldn’t say this is an ‘all time’ best list, but a ‘books I’ve really liked recently’ list.

    1. The New Testament
    2. Life in a Medieval Village – Frances & Joseph Gies
    3. A History of Britannia vol. 2 ‘The Wars of the British’ – Simon Schama
    4. Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments – Randy Alcorn
    5. Chance or Purpose – Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn
    6. God is Near Us – Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Ratzinger)
    7. Aristotle’s Children – Richard E. Rubenstein
    8. America Beyond Capitalism – Gar Alperovitz
    9. Economic Democracy – Robert Dahl
    10. The Outline of Sanity – Chesterton

  • Whatever happened to the notoriety of books that once comprised the Canon of Western Literature?

    Has the deplorably blatant nihilism of the modern age really made extinct the various remarkable works of the great and noble writers of the past?

    And don’t put down the libraries and the bookstores (as well as used bookshops); these happen to be distinguished hollowed grounds for certain autodidacts!

  • Interesting responses! Keep them coming!

  • Only 10?

  • I’m sure I’m leaving out something, but here are my ten, not necessarily in order.

    1. Reflections on the Revolution in France – Burke
    2. The Federalist Papers – Hamilton, Madison and Jay
    3. The Brothers Karamazov – Dostoyevsky
    4. That Hideous Strength – C.S. Lewis
    5. Lord of the Rings – Tolkien
    6. The Seven Storey Mountain – Thomas Merton
    7. The Great Divorce – C.S. Lewis
    8. Brideshead Revisited – Waugh
    9. Time and Again – Jack Finney
    10. Misery – Stephen King

    Okay, the last one might need an explanation. I read it for the first time when I was 13 and it is the book that made me want to be a writer. Yes, the plot is about a writer named Paul who is then imprisoned by his “number one fan,” but that’s not why it made me want to write. So it has a special place in my heart.

  • “Only 10?”


  • Just at the moment concerning non-fiction….I would need a seperate list for fiction and non-fiction.

    .Reflections on the Revolution in France – Edmund Burke
    .From Dawn to Decadance – Jacques Barzun
    .The Quest for Community – Robert Nisbet
    .Prejudices and The Social Philosophers (essentially part 1 and 2 of the same things) – Robert Nisbet
    .The Roots of American Order and the Conservative Mind – Russell Kirk (essentially part 1 and 2 of the same things)
    .The Essential Russell Kirk
    .The Portable Conservative Reader
    .The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings
    .Postmodernism Rightly Understood – Peter Lawler
    .Rallying the Really Human Things – Vigen Guroian

  • Wouldn’t it have been better to have the Top 10 parcelled out in categories (e.g., philosophy, religion, literature, etc.)?

    That is, it would have been quite difficult for me to have one book (Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind/The Roots of American Order) of a certain defined category ranked higher above another (De Civitate Dei) when, in fact, within that book’s rightful category, it would have resided amongst the highest echelons.

    In other words, it (at least, to me) becomes a false ranking when not distinguished in their appropriate categories.

  • Crud — cross-posted; jonathanjones02 beat me to it.

  • This is books we recommend, as opposed to the traditional most influential, stuck on a desert island, best ever, etc?


    1) Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
    2) The Iliad by Homer
    3) The Divine Comedy by Dante
    4) The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
    5) Confessions by Augustine
    6) The Great Seige – Malta 1565 by Ernle Bradford
    7) The Little World of Don Camillo by Giovanni Guareschi
    8 ) The Brothers Karamazov – Dostoyevsky
    9) Fields Without Dreams : Defending the Agrarian Ideal by Victor Davis Hanson
    10) No Exit by Sartre

    I chose to put these together imagining that someone had agreed to read up to ten books recommended by me in order to understand how I believe the world to be. Rank is not necessarily an indicator of quality so much as how indicative I consider the book.

    If I could squeeze one more thing in it would be:

    The Final Dialogues (Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo) by Plato

    I have no explanations as to why these (clearly more significant works than some I did include) didn’t make they list. It’s just that I would have guided someone to read the others first.

  • In addition to the fiction/non-fiction breakdown, there should also be a seperate category for religious works, which could cover both non-fiction and fiction. My list would begin with Guardini’s The Lord. If graphic novels were allowed, I’d recommend Alphonse: Untimely Ripp’d by Lickona and Gugliotti.

  • The queries about categories are reasonable, but one of the purposes of this post was to cause people to think carefully about their choices. It is difficult, at least I found it so, to be limited to 10 books, and the difficulty is deliberate in the intention behind the post of having people think hard about what their choices would be.

  • Of course, if one has real trouble picking, one can always post one’s whole library:

  • Whose Brendan Hodge?

    Anyway, that’s some impressive catalog — in spite of the fact that Tim Powers, Jane Austin and the fiercely anti-ecclesial Voltaire (although, somewhat understandable given his admittedly inestimable natural talent and biting wit, which even certain hierarchs themselves acknowledged) was included in the list.

  • If those authors trouble you, e, I can’t imagine what my bookshelf would do to you 🙂

  • Joe,

    How does that ole phrase go? De gustibus non est disputandum?

  • It’s my library. Or at least, our library. My wife and I combined when we got married, of course, and now our raising children has added other sections to the collection. Here’s a fun way to view it:

    I really can’t recommend LibraryThing enough. It’s free for the first couple hundred books in your catalog, and a lifetime membership of $25 gets you permanent use of a catalog as large as you need. With modern books, you just have to type in the ISBN and it will pull in the title, author, publication date, etc. Incredibly useful for keeping track of your library.

    Voltaire I only had because he was assigned in college. No great fondness. If you want to go after disreputable authors that I like I guess you could take aim at Camus, Sartre or Lucretius.

    Jane Austen and Tim Powers, however, I will make no apologies for, both are among my favorite authors. 🙂

  • Voltaire did some fairly good historical works on Louis XIV and Charles XII.

  • I’ve read a lot of books but can’t really come up with 10 that signficantly changed my life or my point of view on various issues. I can list some that did:

    1. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace. Not only did it make a fantastic movie, it shows in a compelling fashion how the Greek, Roman, and Jewish cultures all interacted in the time of Jesus.

    2. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Excellent portrayal of how small choices and habits become big ones.

    3. The Screwtape Letters, also by C.S. Lewis — no explanation necessary

    4. The Romantic Manifesto by Ayn Rand. While I’m not a big fan of Rand or of Objectivism in general, this book which explains her ideas about art helped me finally figure out why classic art is so good and modern art so unappealing.

    5. Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel — wonderful portrait of the relationship between Galileo and one of his daughters who became a nun, as well as Galileo’s relationship with the Church

    6. The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day — compelling story of Day’s conversion and her founding of the Catholic Worker movement

    7. Called out of Darkness by Anne Rice — just read this recently; one of the best “reversion” stories I’ve read in a while

  • Oh, and I almost forgot to include “Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America” by Steve Kellmeyer (a book I actually proofread prior to publication). Now I don’t agree with EVERYTHING in this book (and most Catholics who read it probably won’t), but the author does make two points I find compelling:

    1. The Church ought to be concentrating more resources on ADULT education and formation, which is far more cost effective than trying to run parish schools or CCD programs;

    2. If adults are properly formed in the faith, the Catholic formation and education of their children will take care of itself.

  • I thought Candide was hilarious.

  • 1. Aspects of Alterity – Brian Treanor
    2. The Brothers Karamozov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
    3. History and Truth – Paul Ricoeur
    4. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
    5. Mystery and Manners – Flannery O’Connor
    6. Politics of Prudence – Russell Kirk
    7. The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene
    8. Radical Hermeneutics – John D. Caputo
    9. Reflections on the Revolution in France – Edmund Burke
    10. A Soldier of the Great War – Mark Helprin

  • had The Brothers Karamazov and Reflections on the Revolution in France on my list too, but since Mr. McClarey has limited us to 10 (sob!), I decided to pick books nobody else has yet mentioned.

    1. Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts – Clive James (A very hard to characterize book. Cultural Amnesia is a book profiling seminal 20th century writers, artists, statesmen and tyrants. Hitler and Mao make an appearance; so does Louie Armstrong, and, of all people, Tony Curtis. So do a lot of intriguing lesser-known writers; James seems to have read just about everything of worth written in the last century. Read it and you’ll come away with at least a dozen authors you’ll want to become better acquainted with. James is not shy about offering his opinions and many of his profiles highlight the disgraceful record of 20th century writers who provided intellectual cover for Fascists and Communists – his take-down of Jean-Paul Sartre is masterful.)
    2. The Complete Stories – Franz Kafka
    3. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
    4. The Deptford Trilogy – Robertson Davies
    5. Animal Farm – George Orwell
    6. The Gormenghast Trilogy – M. Peake (don’t bother with the third book; the first two are superb)
    7. The Fatal Shore – Robert Hughes
    8. Citizens – Simon Schama
    9. Modern Times – Paul Johnson

    And, because we’ve all listed books that aren’t exactly beach reading, I’m going to end on a light note:

    10. Wodehouse’s Short Stories

  • I’m not trying to break the rules or anything, but I can even think of parts of books I can recommend. For me, James Joyce’s numerous sins (which include, in my opinion, “Finnegan’s Wake”)are erased by the sheer beauty of the last paragraph of “The Dead.” I first read it when I was 16 and I still believe that it is one of the loveliest, most evocative paragraphs ever written in English.

    “The snow was general all over Ireland,…,”

  • I’m late to this, but I want to contribute my top-10:

    1. Holy Bible, RSV-Catholic Edition
    2. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis
    3. Triumph – The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church, a 2000 Year History by H.W. Crocker, III
    4. A History of Christendom Vols. 1, 2, & 4 by Warren H. Carroll
    5. Witness To Hope, The Biography of Pope John Paul II by George Weigel
    6. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    7. Clash of Civilizations by Samuel P. Huntington
    8. Uncommon Faith by John F. Coverdale
    9. Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam by Pope Benedict XVI & Marcello Pera; Forward by George Weigel, Translated by Michael F. Moore
    10. God’s Choice by George Weigel

    Honorable Mentioned: The Foundation Trilogy would have been up there as in Donald’s, but I would definitely place it in my number one spot in a separate “Science Fiction” top-10, but strictly just books in general, it didn’t make it, maybe five years ago, but not today.

    Many books by George Weigel would be in the next ten of course.

    I want to read The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene some day.

    Also I do want to read The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day. Any good books written by Dorothy Day that anyone would recommend would help.

    I am also open to any good recommendations on the Spanish Civil War and the French Revolution. I’ve read Warren Carroll, which is by far the best I’ve read so far. I’d like similar recommendations. Is Reflections on the Revolution in France by Burke one?

    Blackadder’s St. Thomas Aquinas – G.K. Chesterton, is the second time I’ve heard Chesterton mentioned in a reading on St. Thomas Aquinas. That’s enough for me to put it on my Amazon wish list and mark it as a Christmas gift to myself.

  • 1. The Cypresses Believe in God – Jose Maria Gironella
    2. One Million Dead – Jose Maria Gironella
    3. The Jesuits – Malachi Martin
    4. Rich Church, Poor Church – Malachi Martin
    5. Cider With Rosie – Laurie Lee
    6. The Cure of Ars Today – George Rutler
    7. Jesus of Nazareth (Vol. 1) – Pope Benedict XVI
    8. Salt of the Earth – Peter Seewald
    9. God and the World – Peter Seewald
    10. The Art of Eating – MFK Fisher

  • Pingback: Newspapers Dying: Loons Hit Hardest « The American Catholic