16 July, 2008

And now for some recommendations

Well, I've been plowing through mountains of books lately, and after this long but not particularly arduous month of reading, I'm putting out a small list of "must reads" for anyone who might be interested. Think of it as the literary equivalent of the Oscars, though I can't say I bothered to hire a would-be comedian.

History has been the big summer subject for me so far, especially early American to get a bit of background on the time period I'll be covering in American Civ I next semester. The best of those I've completed are:

1. 1776 by David McCullough, always an enjoyable author.
2. Washington's General, by Terry Golway, who writes here about the often underappreciated Nathanael Greene, one of Washington's most trusted generals and winner of the war in the south.
3. A Few Acres of Snow By Robert Leckie. This covers all of the wars between France and England in the New World (and believe me, more went on than just the French and Indian War!), tying them very nicely to the various swings of alliance and arguments going on simultaneously in Europe and provided most of the impetus for the colonial wars. He does tend to jump around a bit, referring to events that are fairly well out of the historical scope of his subject, but makes up for it by the interestingness of many of his other asides (about the culture, commerce, housing, etc of the time). Another plus is his fairly detailed treatment of Isaac Jogue's story and his inclusion of the tale of my own ancestor, Guillaume Couture.

Another history book I have to mention, though it has little to do with American history is Warren Carroll's Founding of Christendom. It starts from basically prehistory and really approaches history in what I believe is the only sensible way: from the perspective of salvation history rather than from a Hegelian or Marxian viewpoint which subordinates the human person and God Himself to the progress of time.

Another work I have to mention is Pope Benedict's Introduction to Christianity. It's one of the best things I've read in ages. I've noticed that a lot of Catholic writings that have come out lately tend to approach subjects in a very similar manner; this book astounded me by the originality of its approach to about every topic it covers. And it's original in the best of ways, of course: very much like Pope John Paul's writings in the logic of its arguments and the warmth of its appeal to modern society, but also similar in its conviction that God cannot ultimately be comprehended, that modern culture needs to move beyond its preoccupation with fathoming everything. It also gave me some very clear answers to why Plato isn't enough, to why I can't help reading him without coming away dissatisfied, and some very interesting insights into the connection between the rationalists of ancient Greek culture and of modernity. I'll probably go into this last subject in a bit more depth in some future entries.

Until then, I'll sign off, hoping that this entry has let everyone know that I haven't fallen off the edge of the world after all, and am still planning on (more or less) keeping up with this writing.

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