Books

Book Haul

books

 

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

War Novel Recommendations

I’d like to turn to our TAC readership and ask for book suggestions. Specifically, what would you recommend as some of the best historical novels dealing with war?

Some of the best that I’ve read have been:

War and Peace which although some of Tolstoy’s historical/philosophical digressions drove me nuts does certainly give a sweeping sense of Russia during the war with Napoleon.

The Cypresses Believe in God and One Million Dead — Donald recommended these to me, and although they are very long (not quite War & Peace long, but pretty astoundingly long nonetheless) I found them utterly gripping and they similarly give you a sense not just of individual characters but of the whole nation of Spain at war with itself.

Killer Angels is a much more modest book in scope, but is a compelling and clear account of a single battle more detailed than many history books.

Alan Furst’s espionage novels aren’t, perhaps, technically war novels, but they give a very strong sense of what war and rumors of war do to society.

The Sharpe novels and Aubrey/Maturin are also great historical novels dealing with the Napoleonic era.

What other novels would you recommend and why?

Bad History: Was the Persecution of Christians a Myth?

Donald McClarey has a well deserved barn-burner of a post up at The American Catholic about a new book entitled The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom out from University of Notre Dame theology professor Candida Moss. I’d seen a couple articles on this book before it came out and more or less passed over them as yet another fluffy work of pop scholarship intent on telling us that “everything we know is wrong” in relation to Christianity. However, the book appears to be getting a certain amount of press and is climbing the Amazon sales ranks, so it’s worth giving it a bit of attention as the politically motivated pop-history that it is.

Dr. Moss talks about her motivations for writing the book in an interview at HuffPo:

I initially became interested in this subject because of a homily I heard that compared the situation facing modern Christians in America to the martyrs of the early church. I was surprised by the comparison because modern Americans aren’t living in fear for their lives and the analogy seemed a little hyperbolic and sensational. After this, I began to notice the language of persecution and victimization being bandied about everywhere from politics, to sermons, to the media, but rarely in regard to situations that involve imprisonment and violence.

She goes on to argue that modern Christians have a view that persecution of the early Church was pervasive when it was in fact not:

[A] lot of weight rests on the idea that Christians were persecuted in the early church because, without the idea of near-continuous persecution, it would be difficult to recast, say, disagreements about the role of prayer in schools as persecution. … But intriguingly, the historical evidence for systematic persecution of Christians by Jews and Romans is actually very slim. There were only a few years before the rise of the emperor Constantine that Christians were sought out by the authorities just for being Christians. The stories about early Christian martyrs have been edited, expanded, and sometimes even invented, giving the impression that Christians were under constant attack. This mistaken impression is important because it fosters a sense of Christian victimhood and that victim mentality continues to rear its head in modern politics and society. It’s difficult to imagine that people could make the same claims about persecution today were it not for the idea that Christians have always been persecuted.

Moss also has a recent piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education summarizing her argument and promoting the book: Continue reading

CatholicTV Interviews Dave Hartline of The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn

Our very own Dave Hartline talks to CatholicTV on their ClearVoice™ program concerning his new book, The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn.

CatholicTV is the oldest Catholic TV network in the United States having been launched on January 1, 1955 by the Archdiocese of Boston.  58 years later they are still in operation, available on cable and via the Internet; in HDTV as well!  They are called America’s Catholic Television Network with their studios and offices located in Watertown, Massachusetts.

Patrick Leigh Fermor

[The topic here is neither American nor Catholic, so I was originally going to relegate it strictly to my personal blog, but in the end I found it too interesting to avoid sharing.]

Some years ago, I wrote here about Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts, a beautifully written travel book about the first stage of the author’s 1933 walk across Europe from from Holland to Constantinople.

The only customer, I unslung my rucksack in a little Gastof. Standing on chairs, the innkeeper’s pretty daughters, who were aged from five to fifteen, were helping their father decorate a Christmas tree; hanging witch-balls, looping tinsel, fixing candles to the branches, and crowning the tip with a wonderful star. They asked me to help and when it was almost done, their father, a tall, thoughtful-looking man, uncorked a slim bottle from the Rudesheim vineyard just over the river. We drank it together and had nearly finished a second by the time the last touches to the tree were complete. Then the family assembled round it and sang. The candles were the only light and the solemn and charming ceremony was made memorable by the candle-lit faces of the girls — and by their beautiful and clear voices. I was rather surprised that they didn’t sing Stille Nacht: it had been much in the air the last few days; but it is a Lutheran hymn and I think this bank of the Rhine is mostly Catholic. Two of the carols they sang have stuck in my memory: O Du Heilige and Es ist ein Reis entsprungen: both were entracing and especially the second, which, they told me, was very old. In the end I went to church with them and stayed the night. When all the inhabitants of Bingen were exchanging greetings with each other outside the church in the small hours, a few flakes began falling. Next morning the household embraced each other, shook hands again, and wished everyone a happy Christmas. The smallest of the daughters gave me a tangerine and a packet of cigarettes wrapped beautifully in tinsel and silver paper. I wished I’d had something to hand her, neatly done up in holly-patterned ribbon — I thought later of my aluminum pencil-case containing a new Venus or Royal Sovereign [pencil] wound in tissue paper, but too late. The time of gifts.

I’ve since read what was intended to be the second volume of a three part narrative of the trip, Between the Woods and the Water. It is similarly a joy to read. Continue reading

So many books! So little time!

So many books! So little time! And, unfortunately, not enough to afford them all. Erasmus’ motto, “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes” worked during college, but is hard to get away with once you’re married with children and have a spouse to answer to. =)

We’ve heard much lately of Pope Benedict’s interview with Peter Seewald: Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times, regarding which Ignatius Press’ Carl Olson has been doing a magnificent job rounding up reviews and discussion across the web; and George Weigel’s “sequel” to his reknowned autobiography of John Paul II: The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II — The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, and Patrick W. Carey’s biography Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ: A Model Theologian.

Here are a few more on the horizon that might be of interest to our readers (and which are definitely on my “to read” list from 2010). Continue reading

Waiting for Blood

I’ve been ending day lately with an hour or two of reading Jose Maria Gironella’s, The Cypresses Believe in God, a massive novel set on the eve of the Spanish Civil War. Given the novel’s sheer size, and that it starts out spending so much time just giving a sense of early 30s Spain as a place and time, as the civil war itself begins to approach one feels with the characters a certain creeping unreality, as the descent of politics and then society as a whole into factional violence seems to become first imaginable, then possible, and finally inevitable.

Having fallen asleep, as it were, in 1935 Catalonia, it was with an odd sense of unreality that I clicked on a link this morning and found a New York Times columnist declaring it impossible to work with his political opponents peacefully and darkly predicting “there will be blood”.

Roundup of Catholic Blogosphere Reaction to Pope’s Condom Comments

The Pope’s comments in an unauthorized excerpt release from Peter Seewald’s latest book, “Light of the World, The Pope, The Church and The Signs of the Times”, has caused quite a stir.

Basically he said, as an extreme example, if a male prostitute was to use a condom during sex, it was a step towards a better morality.

Pope Benedict wasn’t speaking ex-cathedra.

Nonetheless, the secular media, like clockwork, has declared that condoms are now allowed by all fornicators (not like dissident Catholics were following the teachings of the Church anyways).

So here is a short roundup of the better informed among us:

Pope Approves Restricted Use of Condoms? – M.J. Andrew, TAC

Understanding Pope’s Dilemma on Condoms – Jimmy Akin, NCRgstr

Condoms, Consistency, (mis)Communication – Thomas Peters, AmP

Pope Changed Church Condoms Teaching? – Q. de la Bedoyere, CH

A Vatican Condom Conversion? – Mollie, Get Religion

Pope: Condoms, Sex Abuse, Resignation & Movie Nights – John Allen

What The Pope Really Said About Condoms in New Book? – Janet Smith

Ginger Factor: Pope Approves of Condoms! – Jeff Miller, The Crt Jstr

The Pope and Condoms – Steve Kellmeyer, The Fifth Column

Condoms May Be ‘First Step’ In Moralization of Sexuality – Cth Herald

Pope Did Not Endorse the Use of Condoms – Fr. Zuhlsdorf, WDTPRS?

Did Pope Change Teaching About Condoms? – Brett Salkeld, Vox Nova

(Hat tips:  The Pulpit & Henry Karlson)

"The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II" — George Weigel's sequel to "Witness to Hope"

George Weigel’s new book, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II — The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, which was published by Doubleday on September 14, is the fulfillment of a promise the author made to Pope John Paul II less than four months before the pope died. In “A Promise To Pope John Paul II” (“The Catholic Difference” 9/17/10), Weigel gives his account of his parting words to the late Pope before his death:

The conversation over dinner was wide-ranging, and at one point, after the usual papal kidding about my having written “a very big book,” John Paul asked about the international reception of Witness to Hope, his biography, which I had published five years earlier. He was particularly happy when I told him that a Chinese edition was in the works, as he knew he would never get to that vast land himself. As that part of the conversation was winding down, I looked across the table and, referring to the fact that Witness to Hope had only taken the John Paul II story up to early 1999, I made the Pope a promise: “Holy Father,” I said, “if you don’t bury me, I want you to know that I’ll finish your story.”

It was the last time we saw each other, this side of the Kingdom of God.

The End and the Beginning covers the last six years of John Paul II’s life, including:

  • Karol Wojtyla’s epic battle with communism through the prism of previously classified and top-secret communist files
  • the Great Jubilee of 2000 and his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land
  • September 11th, and the Pope’s efforts to frustrate Osama bin Laden’s insistence that his war with the West was a religious crusade
  • the Long Lent of 2002, when the Church in America grappled with the twin crises of clerical sexual abuse and episcopal misgovernance;
  • John Paul’s ongoing efforts to build bridges of dialogue and reconciliation with the Churches of the Christian East
  • his struggle with illness, “which brought him into at least one ‘dark night’ spiritually; and his heroic last months, in which his priestly death became, metaphorically, his last encyclical”

(Given that Weigel was personally engaged in the Catholic just war debate over the war in Iraq, it will be interesting to see the extent to which he covers this aspect of John Paul II’s pontificate).

Related

Catholic Manga, Saint Paul: From Tarsus To Redemption

Rome Reports has a spiffy video report on a Japanese form of comic book entertainment called manga that is utilized to teach the story of Saint Paul:

The manga comic book, a Japanese style, illustrates the story of Saint Paul’s conversion to Christianity.

The book is full of vivid images of Paul’s journey from his violence towards Christians to ultimately his with them.

It is recommended for ages 12 and up.  With Japanese-influenced art and simple, descriptive quotes, readers can learn about Paul in this easy to read comic book.  The creators are releasing a second volume on Saint Paul this summer.

For a prior posting on this comic book genre by Rome Reports click here.

Elena Kagan Says It Is Fine If The Law Bans Books

SCOTUS nominee Elena Kagan has argued before the Supreme Court that it’s fine if the Law bans books.

Her rationale?

Because the government won’t really enforce it.

I’m no legal scholar but this sounds like a 3rd grade argument.

Aren’t our nominees suppose to have better reasoning skills and a solid grasp of the U.S. Constitution?  As well as a fundamental understanding  of such concepts like Freedom of Speech?

Continue reading

Brideshead vs. RCIA

Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited is one of my favorite novels, and unquestionably my favorite Catholic novel. (Spoiler warning for those who haven’t read it — this post has to do with events which take place at the very end.) Not only does Brideshead give powerful and beautiful expression to Catholic themes, but having read it in my late teens, not long before leaving home, it represents one of those crystallizing experiences for me through which Catholicism became not merely something I was brought up in, but something deeply my own and at the root of my understanding of the world.

And yet, there’s a key element of the plot which clashes with the modern experience of joining the Church — as I was reminded tonight when attending the opening RCIA meeting as a member of this year’s team. Near the very end of the novel, Julia (a cradle, though intermittently lapsed, Catholic) tells the man she has been living with for several years (they’re in the process of divorcing their estranged spouses so they can marry): Continue reading

Witches, Essays, Agriculture and More

I was thinking of writing a lengthy piece over lunch, when I wrote up my task list and realized that “lunch” needed to be no more than twenty minutes long. So instead, I present a number of pieces that struck me as interesting lately, but which I don’t have a whole post worth of things to say about.

InsideCatholic just reprinted a lengthy piece by medievalist Sandra Miesel discussing the realities of witch burning in the Middle Ages through “Age of Reason”. It’s an article well worth the time to read, avoiding both the slanders of anti-Catholics and the overly rosy rebuttals used by some apologists.

Entrepreneur Paul Graham has an interesting essay on what an essay should be, why people ought to write them, and how high school English classes do a pretty poor job of teaching people this skill. Continue reading

Ten Books

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

Simply Filthy

With all the discussion of whether British behavior in the Colonies justified the Revolutionary War, I can’t help being reminded of an exchange in one of my favorite books, 84, Charing Cross Road:

August 15, 1959

sir:

i write to say i have got work.

i won it. i won a $5,000 Grant-in-Aid off CBS, it’s supposed to support me for a year while I write American History dramatizations. I am starting with a script about New York under seven years of British Occupation and i MARVEL at how i rise above it to address you in friendly and forgiving fashion, your behavior over here from 1776 to 1783 was simply FILTHY.

Continue reading

Alphonse: A Monster For Our Time

Catholic writer Matthew Lickona has the first issue of a graphic novel out, and the topic is an interesting one.

Alphonsemon’ster n.
1. An animal, a plant, or other organism having structural defects or deformities.

2. A fetus or an infant that is grotesquely abnormal and usually not viable.

– The American Heritage? Medical Dictionary
Alphonse is the story of eight lives that intersect because of an attempted abortion. Why “attempted?” Because while there are no angels or demons on either side, there is definitely a monster in the middle: Alphonse.

Rendered “grotesquely abnormal” by his unwitting mother’s use of controlled substances, he is both sentient and freakishly coordinated. He is also deeply wounded, twisted by fear and rage after the attempt on his life – and bent on revenge.

But violence begets violence. Alphonse is pursued even as he is pursuing, and haunted by the insistence of his only friend that there is another way…

Continue reading

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