University Press Publications–More Good Books

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In my last post, I discussed the nature of scholarly university press publications and some books I have read over the past year, along with a book I am currently working through.  In this post, I will discuss some books I have received in recent months that are both scholarly books and yet books with a wider appeal.

The following books are university press publications that I am currently trying to preview.  Due to having too many books and too little time, my first goal is “pre-reading.”  If you have never read, use, and studied How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, stop everything you are doing right now, order it, and carefully read at least the first few sections of that book.  (Some say that one is better off getting the original version of the book which was just by Adler.)  At any rate, pre-reading is an important aspect of getting into, embracing, and imbibing a book.

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Now, on to some very promising looking books.

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When I first read the title of this book, it was love at first sight.  I even like the way it is presented:  Destroyer of the gods with a lower case g in “gods.”  This book is published by Baylor University Press and is reasonably price at $29.95 in hardback.  Dr. Hurtado is Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.  Although he lives in Scotland, he was born in Missouri.  He has written or contributed to quite a few books and studies on early Christianity.

Part of my interest in this book comes from my current teaching on Augustine and his classic work The City of God.  In our time, Christians have awakened to and devoted energy to such topics as developing a Christian worldview or learning Christian apologetics.  Christianity is a warring faith, although the weapons, when used rightly, are not swords, spears, and shields.  Christians are called t be in the gods-toppling and idol-displacing business.  There is much to be learned and reminded of from the early centuries when Romans could not and would not countenance Christian truths.  As it notes on the review at the Baylor University website, Christians were called “silly,” “stupid,” “irrational,” “simple,” “wicked,” “hateful,” “obstinate,” “anti-social,” “extravagant,” and ”perverse.”   But more than insults were hurled at believers.

All of the books I have been teaching in my Humanities course recount the triumph of the Christian faith.  Those books include City of God (as previously mentioned), Eusebius’ Church History, and Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization.  I believe this book will prove quite useful and fun as I continue to read about and think about Christian confrontations with non- and anti-Christian thought.


There are quite a few features to the book New Deal Cowboy:  Gene Autry and Public Diplomacy by Michael Duchemin that caught my interest.  First of all, I have a love for singing cowboys, old westerns, and country music.  Gene Autry had basically several really successful careers.  As a country-western singer (with the emphasis on the western side), he was quite successful and is in both the Country Music Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame.  The song “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer,” which is anything but country or western, was his biggest hit, but not his only one.  Autry was also a successful film star and was one of the leading “Singing Cowboys.”  Many of his films are quite simplistic and formulaic with all the features that made westerns favorites in America for decades.

What is not all that well known about Autry is that he became involved in politics.  While he was an ardent New Dealer and supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt, his impulse was more patriotic than partisan.  The use of celebrities to support politicians and political causes is common today, but not new.

Perhaps my strongest motive for being interested in this book has lost some of its drive.  My dad served in the Army Air Corps in World War II as an airplane mechanic. He told me about meeting Autry on several occasions and about Autry’s general friendliness.  Gene Autry became a pilot and was carrying supplies in the areas where my dad was repairing the planes. If I had received this book a year ago, I would have passed it on to my dad before I ever read it.  In a short time, he would have returned it to me read and initialed in the back.  I would have enjoyed hearing what he had to say about it.  Sad to report, my dad was sick for much of 2016 and died in December.  Still, when I read this book, I will be thinking of what he might have said about the book.

New Deal Cowboy is published by the University of Oklahoma Press.

When I was in college, I got interested in the intersection between American history and Christianity.  I entered into a quest to discover how the Christian faith had affected both individual Americans and the nation and culture as a whole.  For a good many years, I felt like I was finding a pebble here and there to construct a picture of a nation very much impacted by Christianity.

I no longer see this as finding pebbles.  I am finding huge stones.  I recently received the book Reading the Bible With the Founding Fathers by Daniel L. Dreisbach, which was published by the Oxford University Press.  While it is wrong to someone canonize the Founding Fathers as though they were theologians first, political statesmen second, and mere men third, it is also misguided to ignore or demean the religious influences on their lives and thought.

The Oxford University Press makes these points about this book:

  • First in-depth study of the American founders’ use of the Bible in political discourse
  • Analyzes the diverse uses of, as well as the promises and perils of using, the Bible in political rhetoric
  • Challenges the belief that the ideas that informed the founding fathers were strictly or predominantly secular
  • Shows that Enlightenment rationalism competed with biblical Christianity in the founders’ political thought

All of these points are good ones and convincing; however, I would want to note that this book, which promises to be first rate, is not the first work to examine the issues that are given as bullet points.  John Eidsmoe’s Christianity and the Constitution, M. E. Bradford’s Worthy Company: Brief Lives of the Framers, R. J. Rushdoony’s This Independent Republic and The Nature of the American System, and a whole stack of other books have already explored these topics.

That criticism is not meant to diminish this book.  I have read some of Daniel Driesbach’s work in the past and he is first rate.  I am happy to add a large boulder to the this edifice.

Calling All Scholars

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Most of us who are book folks are readers and collectors.  We may read a lot and know quite a bit, but we are still amateurs and samplers.  There is nothing wrong with being a person who loves reading.  That love of books and reading translates into different things for all kinds of people.  I come across shelves of books in people’s homes that include almost nothing I would want to have or read.  Many of my favorite books and authors would have no appeal to them.

There are, at the same time, people who are by profession and training deemed scholars.  I am not one.  I do, however, press my nose against the glass and watch them work.  I don’t have the academic training, the acute sense of distinctions, and the narrow pursuits that characterize these people.  Most academic scholars are professors and teachers in colleges and universities.  They had to focus time and attention on particular specializations and prove a mastery of a subject.  Sure, we might quip that a doctoral student learns more and more about less and less until he knows virtually everything about absolutely nothing.  And, I can console myself in my lack of academic training by saying that my interests were too broad and that I did not want to be constrained by the strictures of academia.

Maybe there is a need for someone to call academic scholars to account, but I am not that person.  I like and admire and even envy what they do without necessarily regretting not following that pursuit.  One thing that characterizes scholars and scholarship is writing.  Men and women with PhD.’s write lots of books.  University presses pour out thousands of books each year.  The books range in size, topic, readability, and interest across the board in terms of topics and styles of writing.

It is easy enough to find some obscure, arcane, and even dreadful topic that gets put into a book and published by an academic press.  I can make up titles like Tariff Concerns in Unionization Conflicts among Irish Immigrants in New York during the 1890s, but even that title is too popular-sounding to compete with actual publications.

I have quite a few sources for academic publications whose books I routinely acquire and love.  I receive lots of books from Oklahoma University Press, which publishes a series called Campaigns and Commanders, which is outstanding.  Any book titled The Oxford Book of __________________ gets my attention.  Many southern university presses have published loads of books about the Agrarians and southern literary figures.  Any time I am rifling through a stack of cheap books and find university press publications, I give those books heavy consideration.

Take note of several details regarding university presses and their publications:

  1.  They are generally expensive.  Often, they are priced completely out of range for the average buyer.  $95 is not an unusual price for such books.  The reason is that many such works have a limited appeal and will be purchased mainly by university libraries.  It costs a fortune to publish one copy of a book, and that price decreases more and more as the number of copies increases.  The best seller that goes for $25 probably costs about $3 to publish.  That’s economics and the laws of supply and demand.
  2. University press publications are usually high quality in terms of paper and binding.  That also is a factor that drives the price up.
  3. University press publications are usually heavily footnoted and contain lots of bibliographical material.  That is usually a plus to me.
  4. University press publications are often narrow and specialized in their appeal.  Is that good or bad?  Depends.  I really don’t want a book on the American Civil War.  I already have hundreds of them.  But a book on that part of the battle for Atlanta, Georgia known as the Battle of Ezra Church is of some interest.


5.  Scholars who write for university presses have differing levels of writing ability and appeal to audiences.  Some are scholars who write for scholars.  Some are really hard for the average and non-specialized reader to follow.  Many assume a degree of familiarity with the topic that most of us do not have.  But there are academics, such as Niall Ferguson, Simon Schama, Thomas Kidd, and Thomas Foster, whose writing is quite enjoyable and attainable by more general readers.

All that being said, let me share a few readings and studies from scholarly publications that I read and/or attempted this past year.

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Some time back, I got to meet Dr. Jonathan Himes who teaches at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.  I also got to attend one of his English classes where he was teaching on Ovid.  Dr. Himes has also written some scholarly works related to his teaching fields and interests.  The book The Old English Epic of Waldere is one such work.  No, you will not find this on the best sellers’ list or at your local bookstore.  It does cost quite a bit for a small book.  To offset its small size, it is really well bound and is a detailed enough read that one does have to devote some serious time to it.

I am a late convert to anything Old English.  In fact, I am not all that many years past that age of ignorance where I might have described the King James Bible as being Old English.  (And I would have been certain that Chaucer’s work was Old English.)  My teaching career hinges upon lots of repentance and lots of retracing the roots of what I thought I knew.

For inexplicable reasons, I never read Beowulf in high school or college.  I upbraided a high school students once who called it stupid, but even then had not read it.  I now rank it as one of the pivotal and most important works of literature.  I love reading Beowulf, teaching the poem, gathering translations of it, and contrasting it with the interesting movie 13th Warrior.

But Beowulf is not complete and neither was it the only poem to exist in its time.  The heartbreak of reading Himes’ work on Waldere is that only a small fragment of that poems exists.  One can hope that some archival dig in some old library or monastery or cave in Britain will someday yield a much larger, if not complete, copy of this poem.

Both poems present an England that is being slowly Christianized.  Himes writes, “…the Waldere poet posits a hero who, like Beowulf, is not only the greatest champion of his people, but also the greatest moral example of the pagan world.”  The greater concept of heroes is a critical one for all of life.  We might tend to think of heroes as simply useful character-types for movies and certain kinds of books.  But it seems as if we as people cannot exist without some sort of heroic figures.  Day by day life calls for something or someone who transcends the ordinary, who inspires, leads, and models a way of handling circumstances that changes us.

The Anglo-Saxons of days long gone had a rich and complex world and worldview.  Tolkien upended all Beowulf studies when he argued that the poem contained structures and themes make it real literature.  It was not just a glimpse into old ways of warriors.  Anglo-Saxon warfare is interesting enough, and this book has a marvelous appendix devoted to weapons and wargear.

This book is a really useful supplement and resource for teachers and students of Beowulf and Anglo-Saxon history.  It is a fun glimpse at the scholarly work that goes into drawing out the words and meanings from a few damaged leaves of a manuscript.  Dr. Himes told me that he hopes to see a cheaper, more accessible version of this work put into print.  I would hope so, but until then, this small work is a useful and enjoyable gem.

One final quote:  “Waldere‘s scale of heroic action, its proportions of triumphant themes, and its tone of a Christian ethos clearly portray Walter as a hero of unequaled epic status, one whom Anglo-Saxon audiences may have celebrated even more widely than the protagonist of Beowulf.”

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I have previously reviewed The Fatal Land: War, Empire, and the Highland Soldier in British America in this blog.  Once again, I will be a name dropper and mention that I could Dr. Dziennik as a friend.  What I hate to admit is that he is a model scholar to a degree that leaves me in the role of student.  I suspected soon after I met him that he would begin to emerge in the world of historical research and writing.  For various reasons, some of the best historians are still being trained in the United Kingdom, the University of Edinburgh in Dziennik’s case, and then they cross the pond to teach in American universities.

The book’s title whets the appetite for a rousing read about kilt-wearing Scots, with pipes rousing them to a fighting pitch, plunging forth into battle and wailing away at Frenchies, Spaniards, Indians, and, awkward to admit, American Patriots.  One expects a book with a Mel Gibson-like hero combining the roles of William Wallace and Benjamin Martin (the hero in the movie The Patriot).

But Dr. Dziennik wrote this book as part of his research for obtaining a doctorate in history, and that labor sometimes cuts off the flow of a version of popular history that we would all like to believe.  The Scots, particularly the Highlanders, have had an uneasy history within the greater British (or could we say English?) Empire.  Scotland isn’t exactly the most hospitable land for surviving and thriving.  The military and the prospects of land and settlement in British America were both incentives for Highlanders.

In spite of the myth of the “Fighting Scots,” the Scots soldiers were not natural or inborn with martial skills.  This book is a carefully researched reconstruction of what motivated and sustained the Scottish soldiers.  Granted, such historical “matter of fact” may tarnish some of our love of the glory of the past, but historians are not primarily entertainers.

I would encourage any serious student wanting to major in history, teach or write history, or get a graduate degree in history to carefully read this book.  There is method to the manner of this book.  This is the kind of research that is necessary to get behind the broad brush painting that so many of us enjoy about history.  It calls for more sweat and the upending of some cherished beliefs, but that is the task of the historian.

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An important study of Herman Dooyeweerd can be found in Jonathan Chaplin’s book Herman Dooyeweerd: Christian Philosopher of State and Civil Society.  One of the biggest questions I have struggled to answer is this:  Which is harder–books written by Dooyeweerd or books written about Dooyeweerd?

First, a little background.  Herman Dooyeweerd was a Dutch philosopher who lived from 1894 to 1977.  Since he wrote in Dutch, the process of getting his works into English and then into accessible formats has taken some time.  He was a Christian with a strong Reformed (or Calvinistic) background.  His philosophy is built upon Christian foundations and his school of thought is often called Neo-Calvinism (not to be confused with New Calvinism).

Dooyeweerd had a big influence on quite a few Christian thinkers including Cornelius Van Til, R. J. Rushdoony, H. R. Rookmaaker, Nancy Pearcey, and Roy Clouser.  His followers continue to write about, debate, and explore his thought and its applications to a range of philosophical, theological, political, and social questions.  Here are a few testimonials to his influence:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Dr. P.B. Cliteur, wrote in 1994: “Herman Dooyeweerd is undoubtedly the most formidable Dutch philosopher of the 20th century.”                                                            G.E. Langemeijer, attorney general of the Dutch Appeal Court and chairman of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences, wrote that Dooyeweerd was “the most original philosopher Holland has ever produced, even Spinoza not excepted.”                                                                                                                                                                         Giorgio Delvecchio, an Italian neo-Kantian philosopher, viewed Dooyeweerd as “the most profound, innovative, and penetrating philosopher since Kant. ”                Philosopher Alvin Plantinga stated that “Dooyeweerd’s work was comprehensive, insightful, profound, courageous, and quite properly influential.”

I have been attempting to climb Mount Dooyeweerd for some years now.  Each time I attack the books by and about Dooyeweerd, I get a little closer to understanding him.  This particular book is one that I started a few years ago and then bogged down around page 30.  Now I am making another run at this work.  I plan on reading it all the way through this time.  If I don’t understand it, then I will read it again–Lord willing.


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Dr. Dooyeweerd looks a little doubtful that I will ever make succeed in truly understanding him.

The world of scholarship is extraterrestrial for me in many respects.  It would be easier and more accessible if I honed in on one area.  These books deal with Anglo-Saxon literature and history, British culture and the Highland Scots experience in the American colonies, and the political thought of a 20th century Dutch Christian philosopher.  At the very least, I can enjoy the efforts at reading these kinds of works.





Reading Charles Dickens–Wall of Shame #4

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Charles Dickens crowds himself into an already full array of British authors whose works dominate the thoughts and language of every culture and clime that the British Literary Empire has reached.  Christmas season itself is incomplete if there is a not a reading or viewing of Dickens’ Christmas Carol.  His name has become an adjective, even if it is an awkward one.  Certain stories, images of villages, and types of writing are described as Dickensian.

It is hard to believe that the man himself lived only 58 years.  Just looking at the incomplete works of Dickens published by the Oxford University Press is daunting.  Most aspiring novelists (and disgruntled bloggers) would love to have written just one book as good as the best known of Dickens’ works.  He pumped out lengthy books year after year and worked at an incredibly pace.

So far, I have said nothing new or particularly interesting about Dickens himself.  Yes, there are detractors.  Certainly, his vast array of odd, sundry, weird, lovable, hateful, and surprising characters is astounding, but it is hard to put his literary folks on the level of those of a Faulkner or Dostoevsky.  He was writing to sell and not writing to discover great truths.  He was, perhaps, a crowd pleaser.  And he was wordy.  Again, look at the Oxford collection.  His maxim seems to have been, “Never use 10 words to say something if 45 words will do.”

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I have often read of the well-read people who “read all of Dickens” when they were growing up.  I was not one of them.  I don’t think we had a Dickens book in our house.  (We subscribed to Readers’ Digest and The Texas Horseman magazines, and we had an unread copy of None Dare Call It Treason.)  I was aware of A Christmas Carol, but first read a Dickens’ book in ninth grade.  The book was A Tale of Two Cities, which I did not like until we got to the truly exciting conclusion.  If I had had any sense, I would have reread the book then and there, but instead, I waited for years before I began rereading and teaching that book.

Somewhere along the way, I read Oliver Twist and then moved on to Hard Times.  I also read A Christmas Carol on more than one occasion, along with a few other shorter selections of Dickens.  As is obvious, I am a lightweight in the area of Dickens.  I know enough to nod intelligently when the subject comes up, but I know that under the bright lights, with a good cop/bad cop interrogation, I would break rather quickly on the topic of Dickens.

I have managed to read a few things about him over the years.  I read a short biography which was useful, and I found the book God and Charles Dickens: Recovering the Christian Voice of a Classic Author by Gary L. Colledge incredibly convincing.  I also picked up copies of such Dickens’ biographies as the ones by Michael Slater and Peter Ackroyd.  At a Friends of the Library Sales and other bargain hunts, I picked up copies of

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At Friends of the Library sales and other bargain hunts, I picked up copies of What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool and The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London by Judith Flanders.


But having books by and about an author does not guarantee familiarity with the author.  A book owner can be just as uninformed as the guy next door with only a copy of the manual for his big screen television.

During the past year, I have been going through the painful process of revealing–step by step–my wall of shame.  This has reference to books that any person in my situation should have long since read and mastered.  The first book, Treasure Island, cost me lots of friendships, opportunities, and social events.  “I can’t believe that he had never read that book until now,” I would overheard people saying in the store as I passed by.  The second, The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad,  did not have as bad an effect.  Some who read it confessed to not liking it.  The third, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, is still a work in progress and will be continued in 2017, but who knows when or if it will be finished.

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Now, I can reveal that I have read yet another book that should have been read at least 20 years ago and maybe even 40 years ago:

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It is easy to make jokes about this:  “Did you have great expectations about this book?”  The answer is, “Yes.”  I must confess, once again, that for a couple of hundred pages in the middle, I was asking myself, “Why this book is so highly esteemed by such people as Dr. Leland Ryken?”  But the rule for a classic is to stay quiet and keep reading.  I benefited from an on-line source that cleared up a few things along the way that left me confused.

Several key points:

  1.  Dickens is not Hemingway.  Slow down, read aloud, listen to the descriptions, and enjoy the process.
  2. Dickens will weave in a number of characters who may or may not play major roles in the plot.  Sometimes, they don’t go by actual names, but are called such things as “the Aged” or “the Avenger.”
  3.  Dickens enjoys using sublte and dry humor.  Sometimes, it is so subtle and dry that it can be missed.
  4.  Dickens uses odd, unlikely people and scenarios and is not adverse to throwing a ghost in here and there.
  5. Dickens really likes using coincidences.  Some of the connections he creates are not believeable or likely, but he knew that he was writing fiction and that he was writing to entertain.  Brutal, realistic writing comes a century later.
  6. Dickens really does incorporate Christian elements.  He was not overly fond of the church of his day, but he does adhere to Christian thought in his writings.
  7. Dickens is a master of pulling together all the various parts of his book into a grand conclusion.  He surprises and delights.  The pain is worth the pleasure that follows as he brings the story together.  He is a master storyteller.

I hope to erase a few more shameful pages from my life by reading another Dickens novel or two over the next year.  Until then, I will soon begin the next Wall of Shame reading venture.

If there happens to be anyone out there anywhere who has not read Great Expectations–and I doubt any such person exists–you are in for a treat.

What Kids Should Read! Warning!

Recently John Barach, pastor and scholar and home schooling parent in Louisiana, asked this question to his Facebook friends:                           Give me a list of the top ten (or so) books you *wish* you’d read in your school years … or you wish your kids would read before they graduate. Fiction and especially non-fiction, please. And if there are ages or grades you think are best for these books to be read, I’d be glad if you’d add them.

I have tried to assemble all the suggested titles and will give them here with no comment from me, but I have included some of the contributors’ comments.

Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm,  Brave New World, 1984, That Hideous Strength.  This contributor noted that these books kept him from being drawn toward totalitarianism.  And A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (15+).

The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs by Joel Salatin.  This contributor says, “This book wasn’t out when I was a kid, but I have a feeling that it will have an impact on my life nonetheless. It is like Schaffer in muck-boots.  What Salatin lacks in strict, reformed orthodoxy he makes up for in hope-filled obedience.”
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Watership Down
Count of Mt Cristo
Canterbury Tales  (At least one contributor regreted reading this, and that led to a side discussion about why we read books.)
Works of Voltaire and Victor Hugo
David Howarth’s histories such as 1066 and Voyage of the Armada
Malcolm Gladwell’s books, such as Outliers and David and Goliath (ages 14-15)
John Paul Sartre-No Exit-high school. The contributor said that Sartre convinced her that God existed.
Augustine’s Confessions and an abridged City of God.
Dorothy Sayers’ Murder must Advertise-fasinating insights into reality.
Gaudy Night and Busman’s Honeymoon: great framework for understanding men and women, and issues of sexual sin.
T homas Sowell Basic Economics and Applied Economics, and also his Culture series.
McLuhan’s Gutenberg Galaxy
Will and Ariel Durant’s  histories.
Nourishing Traditions ( highschool).
Taking Charge of Your Fertility – a fabulous look at how and why and when a woman’s body does what it does.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The contributor says that the author comes at it from a fairly liberal perspective, but her experiences and knowledge about how we get our food and the importance of supporting local food sources is fascinating. High school.
Robert Alter Art of Biblical Poetry and Art of Biblical Narrative.  The contributor writes, “These are all books I’d like my daughter to have read by the time she has graduated high school.”
V Philips Long, Art of Biblical History.
John Buchan’s books
Baroness Orczy’s works
Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini! (All I would recommend for 12-plus.)
Anything by Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X. At least the “Letter from Birmingham Jail”.
Confessions by Augustine, Free Will by Rousseau, Penses by Pascal, and by Virginia Woolf 
Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin,
Bounty Trilogy by Nordhoff and Hall
Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl
Chosen by Chaim Potok
Children of the Promise by Randy Booth
Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard
Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler
Praying Life by Paul Miller
Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges
Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
I Loved a Girl by Walter Trobisch.
Some odd duck by the name of Ben House said, “Here are the more popular books I assign during the Humanities and related classes: 

Beowulf, Song of Roland, The Fairie Queene, Paradise Lost, A Tale of Two Cities, Les Miserables, The Odyssey, Pride and Prejudice, Huckleberry Finn, Moby Dick, The Unvanquished, The Great Gatsby, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Hie to the Hunters. I have a few other favorites that are hard sells to the kids, such as The Deerslayer by James F. Cooper. I love Paul Johnson’s History of the American People and Ernle Bradford’s books such as The Great Siege (kids love it), Hannibal, and Thermopylae. He adds, “My guv’mint students usually enjoy Ayn Rand’s short work Anthem. I like using Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live? with both the book and film series.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Science Set Free by Rupert Sheldrake, which the contributor says is a “way to frame the rest of my scientific education.”

Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home by Rupert Sheldrake
Jane Jacobs’ Death and Life of Great American Cities
Isaac Watts’ Logic
Lord of the Rings (to be read every year from 6th grade on)
One contributor added these books “because music is such an important part of my child’s education”:
Understanding Music; Ring of Truth: The Wisdom of Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung; Death Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde
The Sword of the Prophet by Serge Trifgovic
God’s Battalions and How the West Won by Rodney Stark (also perhaps others by him, very engaging).
Bill Bryson’s books. The writer says, “They have me snorting with laughter in airports and other places I’ve been reading them, but on a more serious note, they helped to increase my desire to travel and see other places….
Another wrote of the impact of reading Zane Grey’s books. “And we did travel to many of the places he mentioned in his books, and developed a love of the red rocks, deserts, canyons … and took you kids to many of those locations.
Henry Hazlit: Economics in 1 Lesson. Should be in every Sr. Year Curriculum.
Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Should be required reading by Grade 10 at least.
It is good, and reminds me of another book my kids need to read around age 17…a book that recommends S&W: On Writing by Stephen King.
Nancy Pearsey’s Finding Truth, not so much to teach new ideas, but give a strategy to organize thoughts to reach people with the truth.
One contributor wrote, “I think it is important to read Dickens before you turn 18. I’ve found that the people who don’t like him read him in college or later when they have “more sophisticated” ideas of literature. Tale of Two Cities is fine, but Hard Times, Bleak House, and OLiver Twist were formative.

John Barach responded, “I’m a big fan of The Pickwick Papers.  Oliver Twist wasn’t my favorite. Somewhere I remember reading C. S. Lewis saying that he had recently (re?)read Oliver Twist and didn’t think he would do so again.

The same contributor who spoke of Dickens also said, “As for things I wish I read (or could’ve read) earlier: Emily Dickinson’s poetry, Circus Days and Nights by Robert Lax, and for 11th/12th: David Dark’s Everyday Apocalypse. Annie Dillard, and Figures of Speech by Arthur Quinn.

On Food and Cooking (McGee), Home Comforts (Mendelson)

Prodigal God by Tim Keller and Supper of the Lamb by Robert Capon
Island of the World by O’Brien….very heavy, so likely not til 12th gr,
The Aubrey/Maturin series  by Patrick O’Brian, also not until 11/12th.

Madeleine L’Engle’s series starting with A Wrinkle in Time

Ideas Have Consequences-Richard Weaver

Til We Have Faces-Lewis
Jayber Crow– Wendell Berry
City of God-Augustine
The Quest for Community-Robert Nisbet
Knowing God-J.I. Packer
One contributor said, “I read a bunch of Stephen King in Middle & High School. Though I can’t recommend all of it due to some of its sexual raunchiness, there are few writers I’ve found who match King’s ability to evoke childhood horror. It wasn’t out when I was in High-school but Cormac McCarthy’s The Road comes close yet holds hope close to the reader & an powerful but silent appreciation for society, culture, & tradition. I’d recommend this for Junior or Seniors. I think this would be a great read in concert with teaching on Original Sin.
John Locke’s Second Treatise in Government (for high school)
The Federalist Papers
Writings of the Anti-Federalists (should be read along with the Federalists)
To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee (high school)
Lee by Douglas Southall Freeman.
A Disquisition on Government by John C. Calhoun.
Religion and the Rise of Western Culture by Christopher Dawson.
How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol.
Ben Hur by Lew Wallace.
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Has good chapters on listening and on self-management.

Bruchko – adventurous missionary story.

How To Speed Read (The contributor said, “I’ve forgotten the title, but the book was very influential for me.”)

Henry Adams, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres
Aeschylus, The Oresteia: Agamemnon / The Libation Bearers / The Eumenides
Dante, Divine Comedy
Athanasius, On the Incarnation
Honoré de Balzac, Père Goriot
Georges Bernanos, Diary of a Country Priest
Bonaventure, The Journey of the Mind to God
Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings
James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson
George Mackay Brown, Magnus
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday
Christopher Dawson, Religion and the Rise of Western Culture
John Donne, Complete Poems
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
John Milton, Paradise Lost
John Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua
Erwin Panofsky, Meaning In the Visual Arts
Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History
Tacitus, The Annals of imperial Rome
Eric Voegelin, Anamnesis
Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences
John P. White, The Birth and Rebirth of Pictorial Space
Larzer Ziff, Literary Democracy: The Declaration of Cultural Independence in America
A list of genre books for precocious readers between the ages of 10 and 20:
Brian Aldiss, Frankenstein Unbound; Hothouse; Cryptozoic!
J.G. Ballard, The Crystal World
Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination, The Demolished Man; Golem100
James Blish, Cities in Flight; A Case of Conscience; Black Easter; The Day After Judgement
Ray Bradbury, The Golden Apples of the Sun; The Illustrated Man; The Martian Chronicles; A Medicine for Melancholy; Fahrenheit 451; R is for Rocket; Dandelion Wine
Ernest Bramah, Kai Lung’s Golden Hours
John Brunner, Stand on Zanzibar; The Squares of the City; The Jagged Orbit; The Shockwave Rider; The Sheep Look Up
Algis Budrys, Who?; Michaelmas; Rogue Moon
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes; A Princess of Mars
James Branch Cabell, Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice
Karel Čapek, War with the Newts
Robert W. Chambers, The King In Yellow
Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep; The Lady in the Lake; Farewell, My Lovely; Killer in the Rain; The Long Goodbye
Avram Davidson, The Phoenix and the Mirror
Samuel R. Delany, Nova; Babel 17; The Ballad of Beta-2; The Einstein Intersection
Philip K. Dick, The Divine Invasion; A Maze of Death; Radio Free Albemuth; Martian Time-slip; VALIS; The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch; The Transmigration of Timothy Archer; Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said; We Can Build You; Ubik; Now Wait for Last Year; The Man in the High Castle
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
Lord Dunsany, At the Edge of the World
Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest; The Thin Man; The Maltese Falcon; The Dain Curse; The Glass Key
Robert A. Heinlein, Have Space Suit-Will Travel; Time For The Stars; The Star Beast; The Door into Summer; Double Star; Red Planet; Starman Jones; Citizen of the Galaxy
Frank Herbert, Dune
William Hope Hodgson, The House on the Borderland
Robert Holdstock, Mythago Wood
Robert E. Howard, Solomon Kane
Elmer Kelton, The Good Old Boys; The Time It Never Rained; Massacre at Goliad; Llano River
Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time; A Swiftly Tilting Planet; A Wind in the Door
R.A. Lafferty, 900 Grandmothers; Reefs of Earth; Past Master; Ringing Changes;
Through Elegant Eyes: Stories of Austro and Men Who Know Everything; Golden Gate and Other Stories; Does Anyone Else Have Something Further to Add?; Strange Doings; Iron Tears
John le Carré, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Spy Who Came in from the Cold; The Honourable Schoolboy; Smiley’s People
Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea; The Tombs of Atuan; The Farthest Shore; The Lathe Of Heaven
Elmore Leonard, Hombre; Valdez Is Coming; The Law at Randado
Ross Macdonald, The Underground Man; The Barbarous Coast; The Galton Case; The Goodbye Look; The Zebra-Striped Hearse; The Ivory Grin; The Way Some People Die; The Far Side of the Dollar; Blue Hammer; Black Money
Richard Matheson, I Am Legend, The Shrinking Man
Walter. M. Miller, A Canticle For Leibowitz
Michael Moorcock, Elric of Melniboné; The Sailor on the Seas of Fate; The Weird of the White Wolf; The Sleeping Sorceress; The Bane of the Black Sword; Stormbringer
Walker Percy, The Thanatos Syndrome
Keith Roberts, The Chalk Giants
Robert Silverberg, Son of Man; Thorns; The Man in the Maze
Clifford D. Simak, City
Isaac Bashevis Singer, A Crown of Feathers; Gimpel the Fool; In My Fathers Court; The Spinoza of Market Street
Clark Ashton Smith, Zothique; Hyperborea; Xiccarph; Poseidonis; The City of the Singing Flame; The Last Incantation; The Monster of the Prophecy
Cordwainer Smith, The Best of Cordwainer Smith; The Instrumentality of Mankind
Theodore Sturgeon, More Than Human
Jack Vance, The Gray Prince; The Narrow Land; To Live Forever; Showboat World; The Dying Earth; The Blue World; The Languages of Pao
Kate Wilhelm; Fault Lines; Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang; Juniper Time; Margaret and I
Gene Wolfe, The Fifth Head of Cerberus; The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories; The Shadow of the Torturer; The Sword of the Lictor; The Claw of the Conciliator; The Citadel of the Autarch
Roger Zelazny, Creatures of Light and Darkness; Lord of Light; Isle of the Dead; My Name is Legion; Roadmarks
Peace Shall Destroy Many – Rudy Weibe
The Lord of the Rings – Tolkien
The Accursed Kings – Maurice Drouin (awesome historical novel series)
Mere Christianity – CS Lewis
Brave New World – Huxley
America’s Test Kitchen cookbook and baking book, as well as The Food Lab, if you want your children to understand the “why” of the way things are best prepared.

Christmas and Books–Mere Suggestianity

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There are a few problems here.  On the one hand, there are not many shopping days left until Christmas.  On the other hand, many of the better books are not easily found in your local book chains.  Add to that the problem that there just are not enough good independent bookstores.  My favorite “indies” are in Dallastown, Pennsylvania and Oxford, Mississippi.

There are some bargain books to be found for sure.  True collectors object to the black remainder marks on the bottom of a book, but in my book buying philosophy, getting is the first objective.

I am certain that Stronger Together by Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine could be picked up for a fraction of its original cost (but still more than its worth).  But no serious reader wants that book.  As comedy, it is unappealing.  As fantasy, it is too comical.

So, I will mention a few good books that I have acquired that might fit the needs of the serious book man or woman in your life.  Since they are not available in most cases in your local book store, you can order them.

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  1.  Russell Kirk: American Conservative by Bradley Birzer.  For those who are really interested in conservative thought, 20th century political movements, and political philosophy, this book is a gem.  I started it a few weeks ago and will be picking it back up very soon.  Kirk was an amazing and prolific writer.  His topics ranged from history to politics to literature and ghost stories.  I have made it my practice to be reading some of his political writings and fiction along with this biography.

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An added note:  Dr. Bradley Birzer is a fine historian and biographer.  His books on J. R. R. Tolkien and Christopher Dawson are both top shelf.

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2.    Preaching Christ from Psalms by Sidney Greidanus.  If this book consisted only of its lengthy first chapter, it would be a great book.  I am still slowly plodding my way through this work.  It is vast and varied.  It is a great read through book, but not one that you should ever finish.  By that, I mean that the contents can be read and referenced many times.  One of my plans for 2017 is to read several books on Psalms as well as some slow reading of the Book of Psalms.  This book will be the foundation for my studies.  I now want everything that Greidanus has written, but will try to refrain from a buying splurge until this book is finished.

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3.  The Poems of T. S. Eliot, Volumes 1 and 2.  I was thrilled to receive this set of books.  The poetic works of Eliot can be found in many one volume editions, but this definitive work, published by Johns Hopkins Press.  Here is what I wrote previously about these books:

God blessed Britain in the Twentieth Century with a bevy of great literary figures. Christians often celebrate C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and G. K. Chesterton. Less often, we notice Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, and Christopher Dawson. But one of the best known literary figures–a Nobel Prize winner as well–was the American-born T. S. Eliot.
Johns Hopkins Press has published 2 incredible volumes that contain his poems along with extensive notes and commentaries.
These 2 new books are getting acquainted with some of the other literary works in my library.
These 2 volumes are “must haves” for the poets, literary students, and collectors of fine books on your Christmas list.

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4.  Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T. J. Stiles.  I consider a Pulitzer Prize win a good recommendation for a book.  This one is really inviting.  We often think of George Custer in regard to this tragic blunder-filled death at Little Big Horn.  (Maybe not “tragic” from the viewpoint of the Indian tribes.)  But Custer was a much more significant figure than just a historical tragic note.  The history of post-Civil War America is largely a history of the settlement of the frontier, meaning the Rocky Mountain and Pacific states.

Another interesting book related to this is Kill Jeff Davis: The Union Raid on Richmond, 1864 by Bruce Ventor.


My story on this book can be found on the Porter Briggs Voice of the South website.

5.  Speaking of the Porter Briggs Voice of the South, a few months back, I did a story on William Faulkner’s book The Unvanquished.  Consider it unsaid that recommendations regarding Faulkner’s works are always relevant for any season.  While gathering pictures for that story, I came across the most powerful image of a burned out plantation house.  Keep in mind that such a building fit in well with Faulkner’s book and to the references in my story to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.  

The Civil War resulted in the actual destruction of many Southern plantations as well as the destruction of the economy that enabled the plantations to thrive before the war (Pinhole Photograph by Michael Falco from the book, Echoes of the Civil War: Capturing Battlefields Through A Pinhole Camera)

This picture, which is actually of a plantation house that burned in recent years, captures the defeat of the south powerfully. Notice the sun going down in the distance.

My editor, Bill Izard, contacted the photographer Michael Falco.  The picture is from his new book of pinhole photographs titled Echoes of the Civil War: Capturing Battlefields Through A Pinhole Camera.  

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There are many, maybe too many, Civil War coffee table books.  But this book and the work in it sets it apart.  Better just go ahead and order 2 copies of this book–one for yourself and one for that person on your guest list.  The beauty of these photographs coupled with the horrors of thinking of Civil War battlefields calls to mind that statement from Yeats’ poem “And a terrible beauty was born.”

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6.  The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Christ’s Crucifixion by N. T. Wright.  This book really looks good.  Many readers of theology grab up everything that Wright writes thinking that Wright’s writing is right.  (Sorry.)  I am not the biggest fan of the good Bishop of Durham even though I stood next to him once some years ago.  Still, I have a great appreciation of him.  I look forward to diving into this book soon.

7.  If Daniel Silva had a new book out, I would recommend it.  It is somewhat hard to imagine Gabriel Allon celebrating Christmas on King Saul Boulevard with his Jewish family and friends, but one can always hope.

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8.  Based on 2 ventures into the world of Craig Johnson and his iconic character Sheriff Walt Longmire, I think I can safely recommend the Longmire series.  If you like the books, you might like the television series.  If you like the television series, you might like the books.

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If you are still wondering about a “hard to find the right book for this guy person,” drop me a line and I might have further suggestions.

No Better Time for Political Reading

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What an election year it was.

The Republicans nominated a man whose party affiliation was not clear.  Was he even a Republican?  Did it matter?

Then there was the rift between the Republican Party establishment and the conservative factions in the party.

Add to that, the candidate was older than most.  Plus he had no experience as an elected political leader.

The Democrats were burdened by having been in power too long with too many growing complaints about the economy and too many scandals looming.

Somebody needed to clean up Washington, or to put it another way, someone needed to drain the swamp.

Perhaps even bigger than the national scene was the specter of international threats and terror.  The enemies of what America stood for were ruthless and determined to infiltrate and undermine our way of life.

One candidate thrilled the crowds, while the other, although appearing more cerebral, failed to connect with the common man.

No fear because there was a blue wall that would come through with lots of electoral and popular votes.

The whole race might just hinge on a group of swing states.

Those are the facts of the Presidential election as discussed in a new book.  The book is titled When America Liked Ike: How Moderates Won the 1952 Presidential Election and Reshaped American Politics by Professor Gary A. Donaldson of Xavier University of Louisiana.  There are not a lot of substantial similarities between the 1952 election and the one we have just witnessed (endured?  suffered from?).  Despite my opening statements, 1952 was not a precursor of 2016, but there are patterns that emerge in each election, coalitions that come together, factions that divide, issues the pop up, and methods that are developed that impact elections for years and decades to come.

Much that defines the modern day Republican Party can be discovered in the issues of the 1952 election.  Contrary to what is often said and what many of us might wish, the Republican Party is not THE Conservative Party.  It is, in our time, more conservative on many issues than the Democrat Party.  But conservatism is a wide-ranging collection of viewpoints and ideas that unites a loose coalition in some cases around a candidate or party.  Often conservatism is a measuring rod, so that like the word “tall,” the word “conservative” means something when compared to something else.

In the 1940s-1950s, conservative Republicans tended to be isolationists.  They would have opposed on principle some of the efforts such as the Marshall Plan that were used to combat or limit the spread of Communism.  The isolationist/conservative wing of the Republican Party was largely headed by Senator Robert Taft of Ohio, and the other wing of the party, the globalist/moderate/establishment wing was headed by Thomas Dewey of New York.

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Before Goldwater or Reagan, the leader of conservative Republicans was Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, the son of President William Howard Taft.

By the time the 1952 election came around, the Republicans had lost the last 3 elections when it ran globalist candidates (Wendell Wilkie in 1940 and Thomas Dewey in 1944 and 1948).  One could count the losing Republican candidates in 1936 (Alf Landon) and 1932 (Herbert Hoover) as globalists, but the issues were a bit different in the 1930s.  The conservatives within the party wanted to finally see their man–Senator Taft–win the nomination.  The big issue was, “Could Taft win in November?”  Most political pundits and advisors thought not.

The man who dominated the political scene at the Presidential level in both 1948 and 1952 was General Dwight Eisenhower.  Democrats would have gladly nominated him in either of those election cycles.  So would Republicans.  But Eisenhower was coy, quiet, vague, non-commital, and unwilling to get into the race in 1948.  He played the same game early in the 1952 race, but then willingly entered the fray.  And, he entered the political arena as a Republican.

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A combination of his winsome public personality and his military record helped Dwight D. Eisenhower win the Republican nomination and then the Presidency in 1952.

The Democrats had a dilemma.  Technically, in spite of the passage of the 22nd Amendment, incumbent President Harry Truman was eligible to run for a second full term (which would have given him nearly 3 full terms as President).  Although HST toyed with the idea of running, he faced great obstacles within the Democrat Party and an even greater challenge than he had in 1948.  Had he run against Eisenhower, he would not likely have repeated his surprise victory as he did in 1948.

The Democrats had several candidates who flirted with the nomination, but none seemed to be capable of winning.  Vice President Alben Barkley was too old (age 74 and nearly blind).  Senator Richard Russell was too southern to please the northern wing of the Democrat Party.  Fellow southern Senator Estes Kefavuer was not southern enough on racial issues to keep the south from reverting back to the Dixiecrat movement of 1948.  Averell Hariman of New York was too liberal.

The most attractive candidate (since Eisenhower declared himself a Republican) was Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson.  There were a few problems with Stevenson, however.  First of all, he was divorced, and in 1952 that was awkward–to say the least–for a Presidential candidate. Second, he was indecisive.  He had tested governing skills and leadership abilities, but he was not prone to make the tough decisions in a timely way and stick to them.  Greatest of all, he did not want to run.  In fact, he was drafted by the Democrats at their convention.

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This later picture of 2 time Democrat Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson became famous for the image of the worn out shoe he was wearing.

Both parties went to their nominating conventions in the summer of 1952 without knowing who would be the nominees.  Republicans supporting Taft had an edge going in to their convention, but the Eisenhower forces overcame them to give Ike the nod.  The Democrat Party was in worse array, with the Truman legacy, scandals, and too many years in power.  The reluctant Stevenson finally emerged as the candidate.

In contrast to the angst many of us felt about the 2 major party candidates this year, both parties in 1952 nominated talented and capable men.  Even though Stevenson became the darling of the liberals, he was a fiscal conservative and somewhat partial to states’ rights (and he was proud of his family connections in the south).  Eisenhower, with no elective office experience, proved to be an apt politician with proven leadership skills. The rejected Republican candidate Robert Taft was a man of strong principles and abilities.  Although not many were happy with him in 1952, Harry Truman was a strong and good leader.

Nothing in the preceding paragraph is meant as an all out endorsement of any of the men mentioned.  They had their flaws–personal and political–but all were honorable men who could have led the country well.  But one man won and it was because, as the title indicates, America liked Ike.

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President Harry S Truman flashes his famous smile. Surrounded by microphones, he lacked a lot in his speaking style.






Churchill Biographies–I’ll Take One Of Each and More

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Today, we celebrate the birthdate of soldier, statesman, writer, orator, and world-changer Winston Churchill.  There are so many fascinating aspects of his life to explore.  He remains incredible, controversial, far-sighted, narrow, brusque, ambitious, wise, well-read, brave, stubborn, and more.  He has those who are fierce detractors of his labors, but perhaps more who still admire him.  He was eminently quotable and at times, the most visionary and courageous man of his age.

Of the writing of books about Churchill, there is no end.  Of course, in his time, he wrote quite a few books himself.  He is the only historian and political leader to win the Nobel Prize for literature.  Sadly, all too many studies of the man focus on the political leader and not the writer.  I am not sure when I first started admiring and puzzling over this man.  Through the years, I have collected dozens of biographies and quite a few of his writings.  I may never get them all read, but I have no intention of ceasing to try to collect and read as many works in the area sometimes called Churchilliana as possible.

Books about Churchill that I really liked and remember:

  1.  Winston’s War: Churchill 1940-1945 by Max Hastings.  I don’t know whether it is because I read this only a year or so ago or whether it is the sheer outstanding nature of the book, but this one is a favorite.  Churchill was, above all, a man of great leadership skills.  At the same time, he could blunder badly, and the Empire he was leading was pretty well tattered and worn by the mid-1940’s.  That being said, this book is a fine balance of the story of World War II and this remarkable leader.

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2.  Churchill: A Life by Paul Johnson.  This book is a fine combination of Paul Johnson’s unique way of writing and thinking with Churchill’s fantastic life.  Johnson covered Churchill in his Modern Times work, but this book basically assesses the strengths and character of the man.  In recent years, Johnson has been churning out short insightful biographies and this is one of the finest.

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3.  Winston Churchill by John Keegan.  This is another short biography by a first rate military historian.  I enjoyed Keegan’s discussion of how Churchill’s speeches rallied the nation.  Keegan grew up in Britain during Churchill’s time.

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4.  Books by John Lukacs.  This historian has written quite a few books about World War II, Britain role, and Churchill.  Any book by John Lukacs is worth snatching up, and his writings on Churchill are always good.

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5.  As if playing the role of the key leader of the Free World in World War II wasn’t enough, Churchill went on to play a significant role in naming and defining the Cold War.  This whole book–Our Supreme Task: How Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech Defined the Cold War Alliance by Philip White–is a fascinating story of how a small, struggling Missouri college managed to get Churchill to come give a speech.  That event proved to be one of the greatest events in the 20th Century.

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6.  Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years by Martin Gilbert.  It has been years since I read this book, but I have always loved reading about the times when Churchill was warning Britain about the dangers of Nazism and was little heeded.  Martin Gilbert has written and compiled a number of single and multi-volume works on Churchill’s life.  I have several of his works on Churchill.

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Among the Gilbert works is the one pictured below, simply titled Winston Churchill.  It must be one of the first that I read and that must have been nearly 40 years ago.

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7.  Churchill: A Study in Greatness by Geoffrey Best.  This was another fine study of Churchill.  While there is no shortage of works that criticize or attempt to shred the man, the subtitle of this one pretty much tells you of the author’s approach.

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8.  Never Give In! The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches.  Of course, it is essential to have the words of those great and defining speeches.  This collection is a good one.

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9.  Memoirs of the Second World War by the big man himself.  While Churchill’s multi-volume history of the Second World War might be a bit too daunting for many, this work covers the same ground in just one hefty volume.

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10.  The Three Volume Trilogy by William Manchester and Paul Reid.  It is a shame to admit this, but also a source of hope, when I say that I have all three of these volumes but have not yet begun to read this.  Since today is his 142nd birthday, I may try to get to this three much acclaimed volumes sometime for his (or my) 145th birthday.

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