In the bleak midwinter, long, long ago (the 2010s), we at the CRB had a tradition of inviting our whole merry gang of writers and readers to contribute a few book recommendations to close out the year. Back now by popular demand, here is our list of books we’ve loved this year—perfect for stuffing into a stocking or cracking open by the fire. Enjoy!
Ryan T. Anderson
The Ethics and Public Policy Center
In the middle of 2020, while the world was in lockdown due to COVID-19, Carl Trueman published one of the most important books of the past several decades. In The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to the Sexual Revolution (Crossway, 2020), Trueman built on insights of contemporary writers such as Charles Taylor, Philip Rieff, and Alasdair MacIntyre to show how modern thinkers and artists such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Percy Shelley, and William Blake gave expression to a transformative worldview. This worldview—what Taylor calls a “social imaginary”—made possible and plausible the arguments of the theorists who shaped the postmodern sexual revolution: people such as Sigmund Freud, Wilhelm Reich, and Herbert Marcuse. Trueman’s is a penetrating analysis of several hundred years of recent intellectual history, showing why people are willing to believe ideas today—without need of argument, evidence, or proof—that every one of our grandparents would have rejected out of hand.
The only problem? The book was over 400 pages long. And most people have never heard of—let alone studied—many of the names I listed above. While a pointy-headed academic like me viewed that as a feature, not a bug, in a learned tome of intellectual history, I knew that many of Carl’s potential readers would not have the time or appetite to wade through some of his finer, more nuanced discussions. So I emailed Carl, praising the book as essential reading for our moment. But I also suggested that he consider writing a shorter, more accessible version of the basic argument for non-specialists who would benefit from the essential narrative, to better understand the historical moment in which they find themselves and to inform the work they do in ministry, culture, politics, business, and, most importantly, raising the next generation. Carl has now produced that volume, and it sparkles on every page. Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution (Crossway, 2022) is the indispensable primer for every American who cares about a sound anthropology and healthy culture. I have long admired Carl’s popular essays and academic books. This book is the best of both, combining his deep learning with accessible writing.
In 1999, Alasdair MacIntyre published his book Dependent Rational Animals (Open Court, 2001). Things go wrong when we forget that each of those three words is key to a full and true understanding of human nature—for example, consider feminism.
Historically, many cultures denied or downplayed the full rationality of women. A defense of that innate reason and all it implied was the impetus behind many of the original advocates for the rights of women. Today, many of their putative heirs, the so-called “second-wave” feminists, deny, downplay, or distort the last word in MacIntyre’s title, “animal.” They resist women’s embodiment as female. Too much of contemporary feminism tries to force women to live, learn, love, and work as if they were men—as if female bodies were just defective instances of the normal male body.
So if the modifier “rational” was denied historically, the noun “animal” gets the same treatment today from mainstream feminists. That leaves the first word in the title: dependent. And most everyone in America seems embarrassed to acknowledge—and craft law and policy based on—our dependency. Dependency is crucial to our lives: it should shape our relations with mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, our extended families, our friends and neighbors, our cities, state, and nation. The American political ideal of independence, when detached from a firm anthropology, can lead to atomized, isolated individuals—what Harvard political theorist Michael Sandel refers to as the “unencumbered self.”
To my mind, Erika Bachiochi’s new book is a worthy embodiment of the philosophical anthropology and communitarian political theory that MacIntyre and Sandel have spent careers developing and defending. As the title suggests, in The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision (University of Notre Dame Press, 2021), Erika explores a forgotten pioneer (Mary Wollstonecraft) and a modern trailblazer (Mary Ann Glendon) to present an alternative approach to thinking about women, their rights, and all of our duties.
Erika’s book is simply fantastic, and it can be usefully read as a contribution to any number of timely contemporary debates. By that I mean she engages with debates about feminism and its various waves, lost histories, and possible alternatives; debates about family policy focused on child tax credits, paid family leave, and how public goods of family might best be supported by the public; debates about abortion, especially sex discrimination and constitutional law, with penetrating insights into how the asymmetrical nature of reproduction applies to privacy and equality; debates about rights, duties, and virtues, offering an alternative theory of rights from that of the state of nature and social contract thinkers, where rights exist to create space to fulfill duties and practice virtue; and finally, debates about liberalism and the relationship between liberty and common good, virtue, and freedom, all of which must be based on sound philosophical anthropology and a sound vision of human flourishing.
When Covid first struck, Dr. Aaron Kheriaty suited up and treated patients. He was the chair of the committee on ethics for his university hospital (and eventually, the entire university system) where he did important work in guiding physicians and administrators through the early COVID-related moral quandaries. Less than two years later, he was fired for declining vaccination. (His lawsuit still pends.)
Now a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Aaron leads our Bioethics and American Democracy Project. In his brilliant new book, Dr. Kheriaty brings together the expertise of a seasoned medical scientist, the wisdom of a true philosopher, and the acuity of a keen political observer. The New Abnormal: The Rise of the Biomedical Security State (Regnery, 2022) is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how we have gone so wrong, and what we need to do now to chart a more humane path forward.
Aaron goes deep here, far beyond the recent history of the COVID lockdowns, to bring up the roots of our looming “technocratic dystopia” in the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century and their techniques of control and debasement. Drawing on vital work by thinkers as diverse as C.S. Lewis and the Italian philosophers Augusto Del Noce and Giorgio Agamben, Dr. Kheriaty engages deeply with the legal excuses, medical malpractice, technological surveillance apparatus, and political cowardice that threaten to transform our society. It is a terrifying picture he paints, and it makes for a powerful exhortation to interrogate and resist these anti-human trends before it’s too late.
George Weigel is perhaps the most well-known and influential Vatican-watcher and public theologian in America. The author or editor of over 30 books, he is best known to many readers for his award-winning, best-selling biography of Pope Saint John Paul II, Witness to Hope (Harper Perennial, 1999). Now, on the 60th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, Weigel turns his attention to why the Council was needed, what’s gone well, what’s gone poorly, and where we go from here. In To Sanctify the World: The Vital Legacy of Vatican II (Basic Books, 2022), Weigel tells the story of the most important event in the life of the Catholic Church since the 16th century. He applies his deep familiarity with the inner workings of the Vatican and the fruit of decades of learning to explain why Pope John XXIII called the Council, the situation the Church found itself in at the precipice of our postmodern condition, and how the documents the council fathers left continue to show the way forward for a society based in freedom and the dignity of the human person, guided by a Church centered in Christ’s love, with the mission to spread the Gospel and the way of truth to all people. This legacy was hard fought, and George leaves his readers with a firm grasp of the drama and debates that animated the council for years during the 1960s. He shows how the principles that triumphed there, and later shaped the core of the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, are more relevant to a world that denies the truth about man, about society, and about his ultimate calling than ever.
Hillsdale College’s Van Andel Graduate School of Government in Washington, D.C.
America’s headlong decline from the most dynamic republic the world has ever seen, to the fanatically woke and increasingly oligarchic regime we live in, may be disheartening, but it is also fascinating. No one book has yet managed to explain in full what happened—though many have tried! Nevertheless, I found the following titles helpful in explaining parts of the story:
In Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (Vintage, 1993), Neil Postman explains how we went from being a society that uses technology to a society that technology rules, in which citizens are reduced to consumers and traditional institutions no longer have a firm footing (regrettably, he does not sufficiently explain why this happened).
Rochelle Gurstein’s The Repeal of Reticence: America’s Cultural and Legal Struggles over Free Speech, Obscenity, Sexual Liberation, and Modern Art (Hill and Wang, 1996) is a well-researched history of how mass-circulation newspapers, social reformers concerned with educating the public about sexual hygiene, and realist novels overcame the conservative forces of reticence and led to the triumph of vulgarity and obscenity.
With humor and verve, Ross Douthat chronicles the decline of mainstream orthodox Christianity since the ’60s in Bad Religion: How We Became Nation of Heretics(Free Press, 2012). Douthat is incisive about the widespread embrace of heresy on both the Left and the Right; an updated edition with a new chapter on the wokeification of churches would be welcome.
Finally, Scott Yenor’s The Recovery of Family Life: Exposing the Limits of Modern Ideologies (Baylor University Press, 2020) offers not just the best critique of feminism I have ever read, but also a rigorous analysis of how its principles are fundamentally, and not incidentally, hostile to the family. Yenor applies this argument also to the sexual revolution and modern liberalism, making for a precise diagnosis of American social dysfunction.
American Enterprise Institute
Walter Mead, whose weekly columns in the Wall Street Journal are must-reads, has already provided us with a magisterial history and analysis of American foreign policy in his 2001 book Special Providence. That’s the one where he described the various strains of American foreign policy as Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, Wilsonian, and Jacksonian—a typology that continues to illuminate both public opinion and elite discussion. His new book, The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People (Deckle Edge, 2022) seems upon first approach to focus more narrowly on American attitudes toward Israel. But the reader is soon caught up in a number of fascinating stories, as well as a bracing refutation of those who claim that American pro-Israel policy is the product of shrewdly distributed “Benjamins.”
Recently elevated to the House of Lords, Andrew Roberts has started off his biographical career with a lengthy and fascinating treatment of the Third Marquis of Salisbury, prime minister 1886-92 and 1895-1902. In recent years he has favored us with brilliant accounts of Winston Churchill, Napoleon, and George III. Now available in the U.S., in time for Christmas, is The Chief: The Life of Lord Northcliff (Simon & Schuster), a biography of Alfred Harmsworth, who at age 35 founded the Daily Mail in 1896 and soon became, with the acquisition of the Times in 1908, the owner of newspapers with 40% of national circulation in the U.K.
Lord Salisbury dismissed the Daily Mail as a paper for office boys, but that was just the point: Harmsworth saw that the newly educated British masses wanted something interesting to read, and he provided it—as the Daily Mail does to this day. As Lord Northcliffe he was as quirky a figure as any of the press lords in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, but much more consequential, as he used his papers to fight for British victory in World War I.
To close, I am tempted to recommend one of Niall Ferguson’s more recent books—the first volume of his authorized biography of Henry Kissinger perhaps, or the well-timed Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe. But let’s go back to his earlier work, his two-volume history of the Rothschilds from when he was a little-known academic and an Oxford contemporary of the likes of Andrew Sullivan and Boris Johnson. Aided by an assistant who translated the letters of the Rothschilds, père et fils—written in a sort of Yiddish in Hebrew script—Ferguson shows in The House of Rothschild (Viking Penguin, 1998-9) how the great banking family operated as the bond market of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The father and his sons were very close-knit, insisting on their children intermarrying with cousins, but the letters are full of kvetching that is far from good-natured. And of course their story intersects with the Zionists in Walter Mead’s Arc and the journalism of Andrew Roberts’s Northcliffe.
Senior Communications Director
Sherwood Anderson is a name one does not hear too often these days. His collection of short stories, Winesburg, Ohio (1919), is excellent. All of his writing is good. In Winesburg, Anderson captures the misunderstood, lonely people of our world well (he calls them “the grotesques”). Get to know them over the holidays!
Fletcher Jones Professor of Political Philosophy
Claremont Graduate University
At the center of our country’s current crisis is our ignorance or forgetfulness of the equal natural rights on which we are grounded; the excellence for which we should strive; the common sense on which we rely; and the limits we should place on government’s bureaucrats and experts. Several books, old and less old, can help to relieve our ignorance. John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government (1689) and Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) bear repeated study; they teach readers about natural rights and liberal virtue while also displaying intellectual excellence and common sense. Abraham Lincoln’s Speeches and Writings (1832-65) serve the same multiple functions. Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems (1940-84) remind us of the power and possibility of art. Plato’s Euthyphro (c. 380 B.C.) is a searching examination of piety and family; Scott Yenor’s The Recovery of Family Life (2020) analyzes the current situation. James Q. Wilson’s Bureaucracy (1991) remains the best contemporary guide to a subject whose roots become clear in Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1820), which has much to say and display about our other themes as well.
The Martyr Made Podcast
Part manifesto, part religious tract, Ernst Junger’s War as an Inner Experience (Arnach Books) is a thundering ode to the god of war. Junger, a famed German trench fighter, published it in 1922 after his classic World War 1 memoir, Storm of Steel. His consciousness had hardened into its final form before the total victory of liberal humanism on the European continent, and his books open a window into the mind of a human type that preceded our own.
In the 25th century imagined by Theodore Judson in Fitzpatrick’s War (Daw Books, Inc, 2004), North America is ruled over by the Yukon Confederacy, an aristocratic empire born out of a puritanical, Amish-like movement that survived the collapse of the United States in the mid-21st century. Lord Isaac Prophet Fitzpatrick, the ruler’s son and heir apparent, has designs on expanding Yukon dominion to every corner of the globe. Judson portrays the Yukons’ authoritarian Christian empire without rancor or prejudice—probably why he’s had difficulty finding a publisher for the sequel—and puts strong arguments against the corruption and decay of present-day America into the mouths of his Yukons. This futuristic war novel has quietly become a cult favorite among fans of right-wing science fiction.
Among the American prisoners of war released by the North Vietnamese in 1973 were pilots who had been shot down in early 1964, held in captivity for nearly a full decade. As Andreas Killen chronicles in 1973: Nervous Breakdown (Bloomsbury, 2006), the country these lost sons encountered on their return bore little resemblance to the one they’d left. The ’60s were over, and a generation which made a movement out of rejecting the lessons of their forebears was rounding into adulthood. Disoriented, demoralized, and paranoid, Americans picked through the rubble of the cultural revolution and began to reckon with how much irrecoverable damage had been done.
John J. DiIulio, Jr.
Frederic Fox Leadership Professor
University of Pennsylvania
Sixty-five Christmases ago, I began life in a Philadelphia neighborhood peopled mainly by Italian immigrants, Irish immigrants, and their respective descendants. Nobody went to college. Everybody worked. Some had union jobs with decent benefits. But most had what we called “black-and-blue collar” jobs with low wages and less-than-ideal-to-lousy working conditions.
When I graduated from college in 1980, only about 18% of whites aged 25 or older had a bachelor’s degree. Neither my older sister nor my dozens of older cousins had one. But, today, about 38% of all whites age 25 or older have a B.A. or higher. That includes my own three adult kids, most of my cousins’ adult kids, and all but two of my six lifelong blue-collar best buddies’ dozen adult kids. Almost without exception, the young adult sheepskin-holders are doing well in every major department of life (good health, good marriages, good jobs, etc.). Not so, however, for the many white young adults I know who number among the 62% of all whites age 25 and older without a college degree.
I recently re-read and heartily recommend four books that, taken together, suggest economics and culture matter lots to the present-day plight of young adult whites without college degrees, but that personal agency backed by social support ultimately matters most.
First, I re-read Anne Case and Angus Deaton’s Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism (Princeton University Press, 2020). The co-authors are Princeton University economists. I once served with them on the faculty of Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs. The book documents the dramatic post-2000 increase in U.S. “deaths of despair,” mainly from suicide, drug overdose, and alcoholism. While the epidemic afflicted blacks, Hispanics, and whites without college degrees, until 2013, “the epidemic of deaths of despair was white.” In an article published earlier this year in the Annual Review of Economics, they updated their 2020 analysis. They stressed that post-1970, real wages “began to decline for workers without a BA” and there was “a long, slow decline…in job opportunities for less-educated men…and the white working class.”
That’s half the story. The other half can be found in Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (Random House, 2012). Full disclosure, as they say: I helped Murray, this non-libertarian’s favorite libertarian, to tee up certain parts of his book-related research in Philly. Published more than half a dozen years before Deaths of Despair, Coming Apart precisely nailed how “the labor market got worse for low-skill workers from 1960 to 2008.” Increasingly, young working-class white men found it “harder to get jobs.” High-paying “unionized jobs became scarce,” and “real wages for…blue-collar jobs” stagnated or fell.
But Murray also nailed the fact that, increasingly tough though it was, the blue-collar labor market did not implode in the 1970s or thereafter. For instance, into the late 2000s, hourly median wages for unskilled or semi-skilled jobs like carpenter’s helpers and building cleaners were sufficient to earn nearly $30,000 a year, and “help wanted” signs were not hard to spot. Moreover, previous generations of working-class whites, both men and women, had faced worse labor markets, lower real wages, and worse working conditions—yet they still worked.
Culturally, compared to their older relatives, young whites without college degrees became ever more inclined to flaunt than to follow traditional moral norms favoring marriage, child-rearing, law-abidingness, and religion. As Murray suggests, in the 1960s and 1970s, various federal and state public laws and programs subsidized unemployment. That happened just as changes in cultural and moral norms progressively de-stigmatized voluntary non-work while semi-legitimating involvement in drug dealing and other illicit money-making activities.
As a result, even many white working-class families that had escaped into the middle class regressed. That is essentially the story told by J.D. Vance in Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis. Published in 2016, Hillbilly Elegy recounts how Vance’s “dirt poor” grandparents moved from Appalachia to Ohio” and “raised a middle class family.” Still, his aunt, uncle, sister, and mother “struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America.”
But neither economic trends nor cultural tides wholly determine individual trajectories. Vance graduated from Yale Law School, “a conventional marker of success in achieving generational mobility.” This past November, he added another “conventional marker” by becoming the Republican U.S. senator-elect from Ohio. Late in the book, he reflects on how he managed to side-step or sprint past the plight of so many other “working-class boys like me.” His gifted grey matter mattered, but his defy-the-fates formula was hard work plus a character-defining refusal to persist in thinking and behaving as if manliness means “a willingness to fight” and schoolwork equals “feminine behavior.”
That formula for cheating deaths of despair has its loud echoes in the stories of the teenage girls whose lives are magnificently chronicled by Gigi Georges in Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America. Georges, who was a graduate student of mine at Princeton back in the mid-1990’s, is a political scientist, former managing director of the Glover Park group, and former aide to both President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Rodham. Published in 2021, Downeast is based on her four years of research in an economically depressed rural town in Maine’s far northeast corner, a place where decent jobs are scarce and opioid addiction and deaths of despair are commonplace.
Even on a second reading, Georges’s up-close and personal profiles of the book’s five real-life protagonists, Willow, Vivian, McKenna, Audrey, and Josie, are at once deeply informative and dramatic. The latter two girls, Audrey and Josie, headed to college after overcoming barriers to success that included their own respective self-doubts. All five girls wanted to protect and better themselves without, however, separating themselves from their families or leaving less resilient friends and neighbors behind. Variously leaning on supportive peers, teachers, coaches, and clergy, all five girls found an inner strength, a way forward, and “dignity in cracked hands and muddied shoes.”
The Claremont Institute
The Yom Kippur War, by Abraham Rabinovich (Schocken, 2004) is a masterpiece of military history and analysis. Not only will it deepen anyone’s understanding of the military and political dimensions of the Middle East, but it is as exciting and suspenseful as a novel—without ever sacrificing evidence, precision, or scholarly integrity.
Steven E. Koonin’s Unsettled (Ben Bella, 2021) provides an objective, scientific view and tour d’horizon of climate change, for the scientifically educated layman.
If properly utilized, The Practicing Stoic: A Philosophical User’s Manual by Ward Farnsworth (David R. Godine, 2018) will enable you to bear any burden without hardening your heart.
Finally, The Goin Trap: How Not to Be Fooled by Fake Book Recommendations, by Gigi Flammarion (Werbezerk & Foma, 1936—possibly out of print) was sent to me by the Nigerian prince who now possesses all of my savings.
Despite the best efforts of woke literary gatekeepers to suffocate formal poetry and religious poetry, it has been a banner few years for both. I feel blessed to have been included in Christian Poetry in America Since 1940: An Anthology (Paraclete Press, 2022), edited by Micah Mattix and Sally Thomas, alongside such poets as Christian Wiman, Dana Gioia, Tracy K. Smith, Timothy Murphy, and Marilyn Nelson. If you need even more religious inspiration, try Jane Greer’s Love Like A Conflagration (Lambing Press, 2020), a book that balances intense religious passion with superb technical control of language.
A pleasant surprise is that rhymed and metered narrative poetry is making a comeback. The heroic couplets of Jason Guriel’s Forgotten Work (Biblioasis, 2020) present complex and nuanced visions—lightened by wit—of a dystopian future similar in some respects to Aaron Poochigian’s 2017 verse novel Mr. Either/Or (Etruscan Press, 2017). These poets will be releasing sequels shortly, so we have two books to read and two to anticipate eagerly.
Two of the most distinguished formal poets of our era, Rachel Hadas and Don Paterson, have recently launched worthwhile books. Hadas’ Pandemic Almanac (Ragged Sky Press, 2022) examines our changed world with a clear eye, and Paterson’s The Arctic (Faber & Faber, 2022) is also steeped in painful current events.
Standout books of poetry worth giving to someone you love include Boris Dralyuk’s elegiac My Hollywood (Paul Dry Books, 2022), James Pollock’s Durable Goods (Vehicule Press, 2022), and Alexis Sears’s Out of Order (Autumn House Press, 2022). If you are interested in Great Books, reading Dante along with Andrew Frisardi’s book on Dante, Love’s Scribe (Angelico Press, 2020), is a great place to start—and perhaps also check out the free Great Books programs of catherineproject.org.
The American Mind
My theme this year was finding out that I am not alone—there are many others who also survived feminism by the skin of their teeth. One essential guide out of our present darkness is The Case Against the Sexual Revolution (Polity, 2022) by Louise Perry. Come for the evisceration of “female liberation”; stay for the no-nonsense solutions for fixing what ails us. Don’t be fooled by her English Rose persona: Perry’s razor-sharp prose cuts leftist lies down like a machete through a thicket as she methodically proves her case that women have been fooled by feminism. With clear prose and blistering facts, she shows us how the sexual revolution ignored our innate biological imperative and why “acting like men” is a dead end. If you survived the sexual revolution, or are hoping your daughters will, this is a must-read. A stern warning, and a hopeful how-to, from a brilliant and brave author.
Have you been seeing the terms “reactionary feminism” or “meat lego gnosticism” online? If you have, you can thank my other favorite British writer, Mary Harrington. A contributor to publications like Unherd and First Things, Mary has now blessed us with Feminism Against Progress, a complete treatise forthcoming in March that explains her current reactionary ethos and, deliciously, how she arrived there. A survivor of a progressive gender studies indoctrination—er, education—at Oxford, Harrington is now leading women out of the corner in which they find themselves trapped, throwing truth grenades as she goes. Human body parts are not “meat legos” you can remove or replace to fit your fantasy life. Transgender women are not, in fact, women. And feminism, while helpful and necessary to liberate women from some early patriarchal overreach, has now completely jumped the shark. We all need a “freedom haircut,” Harrington declares, and I heartily agree. In a woebegone country that recently lost its queen, I hereby nominate Mary, Scourge of the Woke, Valkyrie of the West, for the British throne.
After a long day on Twitter trying to save Western Civilization from itself, I love to unwind with a good movie. Unfortunately, they seem to have gone extinct all of a sudden. Director Quentin Tarantino knows this. In Cinema Speculation (Harper, 2022), Tarantino recounts his life through the lens of the 1970s movies that turned him into the man he became. Be warned: the language is wild and gritty and profane. But I loved it for the trove of details I’d never heard before and the glimpses into what is now a lost world, buried forever under the Pacific Ocean: the theatergoing experience in Southern California.
Normally I avoid books that have even the slightest whiff of the Old West or of alternative histories, but for Harry Crocker I made a one-time exception. In the great Wes Anderson movie The Royal Tenenbaums, Owen Wilson plays a famous western novelist who describes his latest blockbuster thusly: “Well, everyone knows Custer died at Little Big Horn. What this lively romp presupposes is…maybe he didn’t.” I don’t know if that’s what inspired this series, but it too presupposes a world where George Armstrong Custer has survived and gone on to fantastical exploits and lively romps. Armstrong and the Mexican Mystery (Regnery, 2022) is the third and final outing of his Armstrong series and concludes with Custer/Armstrong on a dangerous mission to find and destroy the lost world of Atlantis. A witty, spirited high adventure that will satisfy your yearning for the lost art of the swashbuckler.
And for kids: “This is the story of the great war that Rikki-tikki-tavi fought single-handed, through the bathrooms of the big bungalow in Segowlee cantonment.” From the moment I first heard Orson Welles narrate those opening lines to Kipling’s Rikki Tikki Tavi in the iconic Chuck Jones animated short from 1974, I was captivated. The cartoon is a treasure, but I also suggest you add the story—which is in the copy of The Jungle Book you already have somewhere on your bookshelves—to your bedtime repertoire. Rikki Tikki, the valiant mongoose who defends his human family from two vicious cobras, is the hero we can emulate as we face down the various snakes and demons lurking about our own children.
John B. Kienker
Claremont Review of Books
It wouldn’t be a Claremont reading list if I didn’t recommend a few good books on Abraham Lincoln. In His Greatest Speeches: How Lincoln Moved the Nation, Diana Schaub carefully considers the Lyceum Address, Gettysburg Address, and Second Inaugural. Her treatments are full of insight and arresting detail. The speeches themselves are included in full, too, to be studied and savored. I combined that this year with Rick Brookhiser’s Founders’ Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln and Lucas Morel’s Lincoln and the American Founding, two of many books I’m only now getting around to after having packed them away at my house to keep them out of the reach of little, untrustworthy hands. Both books take up the relationship between Lincoln’s political thought and that of the Founding Fathers—Brookhiser’s is a mix of biography and character study; Morel’s is a series of essays on assorted themes.
Another book hidden away upon release that I finally read this year is my CRB colleague Bill Voegeli’s The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion, which, as the title suggests, combines Bill’s clear-eyed analysis of the premises behind government programs with his sly wit. (And if the title alone didn’t make you want to add it to your Amazon cart, chapter 4 is called “How Liberal Compassion Leads to Bullshit.”) While I’m at it, let me embrace the commercialization of the holiday and go full shill, mentioning that CRB editor Charles Kesler’s Crisis of the Two Constitutions: The Rise, Decline, and Recovery of American Greatness and contributing editor Chris Caldwell’s The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties are also essential reading. And I’ll spare our associate editor Spencer Klavan the embarrassment of announcing elsewhere in this post that he has a book due out next year, How to Save the West: Ancient Wisdom for 5 Modern Crises, which I look forward to.
Let me close with something more in keeping with the true spirit of “Christ’s Mass.” This year I read for the third time one of my favorites, Brant Pitre’s Jesus and the Last Supper. I was delighted again by Pitre’s expert untangling of the seeming contradiction between John’s Gospel and the Synoptics over when the Last Supper actually took place, as well as with his discussion of Jesus as a new Moses who inaugurates a new Passover and provides a new manna to sustain us on the way to the heavenly Promised Land. (Those who aren’t ready for the 500-page lift can find some of the same topics covered in his much slimmer, more popular Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist.) Lawrence Feingold’s magisterial The Eucharist: Mystery of Presence, Sacrifice, and Communion, which I read this year for the second time, covers some of the same topics but expands to include reflections and controversies down through the ages.
The last year has supplied plenty of analogues to the 1970s: record inflation, rising crime, cultural malaise, and an unpopular Democrat in the White House. It prompted me to revisit Judith Stein’s Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies (Yale University Press, 2011). A classic economic history, Pivotal Decade provides an authoritative and accessible analysis of the political and geoeconomic forces that broke the bipartisan Keynesian consensus and laid the groundwork for the neoliberal revolution of subsequent decades. No other book has better explained how the structure and goals of American political economy were transformed in just a few years, over three different administrations. Conservatives wishing to rehash the ’80s Reaganite playbook would do well to engage with Stein—lest they misappraise the current moment or repeat the same mistakes.
Those wishing to better understand the bizarre economic moment in which we find ourselves should check out Christopher Leonard’s The Lords of Easy Money: How the Federal Reserve Broke the American Economy (Simon & Schuster, 2022). The book explores nearly four decades of American monetary policy—from the Volcker Shock through the COVID recession—and carefully identifies how the Fed’s gradual embrace of quantitative easing distorted financial markets, shaped corporate behavior, and imperiled the U.S. economy. Leonard is a journalist who translates financialese into the vernacular and weaves personal biographies into sharp macroeconomic analysis. It’s an accessible book that challenges both the Left’s and the Right’s preferred narratives about the Federal Reserve.
Finally, for a page-turner to read by the holiday fire, few novels have been as fun to read and timely to think about as Christopher Beha’s The Index of Self-Destructive Acts (Tin House, 2020)—a story about politics, baseball, money, sex, and grace. The novel follows a Nate Silver-esque “data journalist” as he moves to New York City in 2009 and becomes entangled with a prominent Catholic family headed by a Pulitzer-winning columnist, who gets fired for an off-color Obama joke. The cancellation kicks off a series of scandals and crises that ruins nearly everyone involved. It’s Brideshead Revisited meets Bonfire of the Vanities, all set in the volatility of the Great Recession and the War on Terror. At a time when everything seems on the verge of collapse, Beha reminds readers that everything is always ending, but nothing simply ends outright.
The Claremont Review of Books
I like to joke—though it’s not really a joke—that God prepares my reading lists. When I say this to people who read, I usually get a little sigh of recognition. Apparently, I’m not the only one.
It’s the timing, mostly: books that I’ve stumbled across, or heard about, or even just taken a while to get to, have a way of falling into my life right when they make the most sense. Without meaning to, I find myself picking up books that flesh out a problem I’m wrestling with or a speculation I’m entertaining.
When this happens it’s like picking up a conversation right where your inner monologue left off: the voice in your head works the issue out as far as it can, then just when it’s about to fall silent, the voice on the page answers back. Together, the two of you talk things over. Cometh the hour, cometh the book.
This sort of thing happens so regularly that I’m tempted to wax mystical about books themselves. There is so much providence involved in them. There has to be, because so many forces are arrayed against them. It is usually much easier for them not to exist. There are always so many other pressing concerns, so many small and large distractions that the writer should probably be dealing with rather than writing. And then come the fires in the libraries, the destruction of the monasteries, the censors and the conquerors and even just the consolidators, saving space.
A paperback translation of Aeschylus’ Persians might come in the short term from Amazon; in the long term it comes through centuries of ruin unscathed, trailing the dust of fallen citadels and bearing the marks of aching scribal hands. It has triumphed so fantastically over so many fearful cataclysms that maybe it is a comparatively small wonder you should pick it up just exactly when you need it. Safe to say, that wouldn’t be the most improbable thing to happen to that book in its lifetime. It wouldn’t even rank among the top 100.
Here are three books I read this year that were not only rich in themselves, but also amazing as feats of transmission: the fact that they are here is a Christmas miracle. The History of William Marshal is the story of chivalry’s greatest knight, a man largely unknown to Americans but something of a cult hero in his native England. William lived under five monarchs and served four of them, beginning with Henry II and rising to become the de facto man in charge under the boy-king Henry III. His biography, commissioned by his son to preserve the glory of his name, leaves something to be desired in the way of objectivity. But if you can resist cheering at the Battle of Lincoln, when a 70-year-old William leads English forces to victory against the French and their rebellious Barons, I’ll eat my helm.
The myths of ancient Mesopotamia, preserved mostly on clay tablets and cylinders in the great strongholds of the Near East, were recovered throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries via astonishing feats of ingenuity and courage. The more of them we decipher, the more sharply the cosmos comes into focus as it would have looked to an astral worshipper of those many foreign gods against whom the Bible warns. Those interested to heed such warnings about powers like Baal and Asherah would be well advised to find out who they were—especially since, as recent events have made quite clear, they did not simply vanish when we forgot about them. Readable modern translations from the Akkadian include Stephanie Dalley’s Myths from Mesopotamia and Stephen Mitchell’s Epic of Gilgamesh. Extra credit for googling “Ugaritic Baal Cycle” and seeing how deep the rabbit hole goes.
But only an act of the true and living God could possibly preserve a book like Thomas Traherne’s Centuries of Meditations. C.S. Lewis called it “almost the most beautiful book in English,” and it isn’t easy to argue with him. “Did you not from all Eternity want some one to give you a Being?” asks Traherne. “Be present with your want of a Deity, and you shall be present with the Deity.” Deep cries out to deep on every page: the joy of Traherne is that we want so much, only God could possibly satisfy us. As Michael Martin explains in his beautiful introduction, the Centuries were almost totally unknown until a scholar named Bertram Dobell finally published them in 1908—over 200 years after they were written. And I cannot help wondering whether, when Dobell picked up those secret pages like a man finding treasure in a field, he felt that strange suspicion that someone had a hand in saving this book for this moment, when the time was just right.
Heather Mac Donald
Thomas W. Smith Fellow
The Manhattan Institute
What book should colleges require their incoming freshmen to read? If the goal were combatting young Americans’ historical ignorance, the book to replace current frontrunners by race hustlers Ibram Kendi, Robin di Angelo, and Michelle Alexander would have to be Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago.
But let’s say you enjoyed blowing up ant colonies and gopher holes as a child and now aspire to something more dramatic. In that case, your choice would have to be Flashman (Herbert Jenkins, 1969) by the Scotsman George MacDonald Fraser. The resulting explosions of censorious young crania would be visible from outer space. Today’s college students, especially the neurasthenic females, might never recover from Fraser’s exuberant shredding of progressive taboos. The sane world would offer thanks.
Flashman is the first in a series of historical novels set during the zenith of Britain’s imperial power. Be grateful for its release date (not all that long ago, really), since it could not be published today. The title character is one of literature’s greatest bounders—a hypocrite, cynic, coward, poseur, social-climber, and yes, a sexist, racist, and abuser of transport animals. He also possesses a disarmingly charming narrative voice, as unblinkered toward his own moral failings as toward those of his compatriots and enemies. Flashman takes place during Britain’s First Anglo-Afghan war, as our anti-hero strives to see as little action as possible, while bedding as many British and native women as opportunity allows. He ends up, however, through no military or diplomatic competence on his part (except a gift for languages), as a go-between in that war. He crosses wits with wily Afghan chieftains, is captured and tortured, and does his own share of disemboweling and decapitating. (For a female reader, the battle scenes admittedly grow wearisome.) He casually throws the N-word around to refer to the Indian and Afghan natives. He treats women as sex objects. He is also ruthlessly critical of the pompous occupying forces and their incompetent retreat from Kabul in 1842. (Some things never change.)
The ending is breathtakingly corrosive of traditional heroic virtues. One wonders what is left standing afterwards. Fortunately, Flashman still is. In later installments, he unwittingly involves himself in every major 19th-century foreign crisis—from the Crimean War to the American Civil War—and even ends up on Little Big Horn. In the third book, Flash for Freedom!, Flashman is a slave trader. On second thought, maybe that is the book to assign incoming college freshmen.
(I listened to Flashman on Audible. The narrator, David Case, is superb—notwithstanding a Some Like It Hot falsetto for the female characters.)
Reading older literature, even written as recently as the 1950s, makes me melancholy. Earlier authors possessed powers of observation regarding the natural world that are unthinkable among today’s phone-attached youth. Gerald Durrell was by contrast obsessed with nature from the earliest age, above all with all things arthropod (i.e., bugs). When he was 10, his family—an all-suffering widowed mother and three older siblings—fled Britain’s gloom for the light-drenched brilliance of Corfu. My Family and Other Animals (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1956) is Durrell’s condensed chronicle of their five years in an unspoiled paradise blazing with color and surrounded by an even more flamboyantly chromatic underwater Eden.
Durrell spends his days exploring the countryside, unlocking the secrets of insect mating practices (revolting to a reader not possessed of Durrell’s zoologic zeal), and bringing home as many animals as he can capture—tortoises, water snakes, scorpions, a baby owl, baby magpies, a baby pigeon, and toads, who all seem possessed of strong personalities.
Durrell’s language is as gorgeous as the idyllic world he inhabits: “The island dozed below us…grey-green olives; black cypresses, multicolored rocks of the sea-coast; the sea smooth and opalescent, kingfisher blue, jade green, with here and there a pleat or two in its sleek surface where it curved round a rocky, olive tangled promontory.” One particularly magical scene features porpoises leaping at night through phosphorescent water and fireflies.
Gerald’s better-known brother Lawrence, who comes off as a prig here, would go on to write The Alexandria Quartet. Corfu has undoubtedly modernized and improved its inhabitants’ standard of living since the 1930s, but one can’t help but rue the cost.
For all that the 1619 Project distorts the present (and mangles the founding), conservative accounts of America’s racial history often strike me as a whitewash of the past. They jump too quickly from the sacrifices of the Civil War to the triumphs of the Civil Rights era, leaving out the shocking details of America’s centuries-long project of humiliating and subjugating blacks. That history is now behind us, contrary to America’s self-destructive elites and the proponents of white privilege theory. Black, not white, privilege is the order of the day. But I struggle with how best to process that earlier history.
The Strange Career of Jim Crow (Oxford University Press, 1955), by the Southern historian C. Vann Woodward, is a corrective for the Manichean simplicities of conservative triumphalism. The antebellum North was as eager to disenfranchise and marginalize blacks as the South; race animosity was stronger in the free states than in the slave states, as Alexis de Tocqueville observed long before Woodward.
The central thesis of Strange Career, however, concerns Southern postbellum segregation. The psychotic separatist measures that spread like wildfire throughout the South starting in the late 19th century were a relative innovation in race relations, Woodward argues. Before the Civil War and during its immediate aftermath, blacks and whites mingled more freely than they would be allowed to do under Jim Crow. The South, therefore, could draw on its own past to try to overcome the law-based hysteria that now gripped it.
Such distinctions between the pre-Jim Crow and full-blown Jim Crow regimes are historically of great interest and importance. But on a gut level, they seem relatively insignificant. Whites’ gratuitous nastiness towards blacks was bad enough, even before obsessive-compulsive laws banned the storage of white and black school textbooks in the same box, forbad interracial checkers games, and outlawed use of the term “brother” among members of fraternal lodges if used to address someone of a different race.
The second half of Strange History reads like a thriller. It chronicles the quickening pace of the 20th-century civil rights battles, when the federal judiciary reversed its political positions during Reconstruction and became a leading force for legal equality, when presidents took conflicting stands on the authority of the federal government to force social change, and another constitutional crisis loomed. We have Southern intransigence to thank in part for the destructive growth in Washington’s power during the last century and for the anointing of federal judges as unelected legislators.
Subsequent editions of Strange Career update the narrative through the 1960s and 1970s race riots and through the growth of militant black nationalism. Woodward notes, but only in passing, the cultural breakdown among urban blacks. It is that breakdown, not “systemic racism,” that continues to make any hope of attaining racial equality thoroughly quixotic. It is long past time for whites to stop blaming their current selves for the lack of proportional racial representation in mainstream institutions. The intellectual tools with which the Left bashes the West in the name of equality and tolerance are exclusively the province of Western thinkers. The outlawing of slavery was a Western innovation.
And yet, when one thinks of those howling faces at school and college doors in the 1950s and of those centuries of humiliation and violence, phrases like the following from conservative thought leaders seem too pat:
“Consider the 1950s, a time of [the] wide embrace of…public civility;”
“American culture has always been at once strongly libertarian, individualist and pluralist, yet also strongly communitarian, moralist and religious. Our spirit of rugged individualism has been conjoined with, and often a source of, our spirit of common destiny and moral obligation and our talent for association and community.”
Much, if not most, American history has nothing to do with race. But finding the fairest and most honest way to incorporate our racial past in our self-accounts remains an incomplete project.
Daniel J. Mahoney
There is no better time to return to the Gospels as a source of grace and truth than during the Christmas season. This holiday, now largely celebrated as a secular amusement, would not exist without the Word becoming flesh in the sublime image made so memorable by St. John’s Gospel. With the publication of the Word on Fire Bible, under the direction of Bishop Robert Barron, that foundational book becomes truly alive again. Beautifully printed, eminently readable, accompanied by majestic art as well as illuminating commentary from the full range of Church Fathers, Thomas Aquinas, St. John Cardinal Newman, Fulton Sheen, G.K. Chesterton, Bishop Barron, and a host of other luminaries. The book is a gift that transforms the reader’s experience of reading Scripture. Start with The Gospels and then turn to the second volume dedicated to Acts, Letters and Revelation. These are profoundly serious volumes that are not weighed down by reductive and scientistic approaches to “form criticism.”
We must also never forget that Christians, like all human persons, are political animals. One can hardly do better in exploring that theme than spending time with the rich selection of writings to be found in Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI’s, Faith and Politics, part of his “Selected Writings” that are to appear in the coming years from the indispensable Ignatius Press. The pope emeritus shines light on every subject he investigates: the exchange between Pilate and Jesus on the nature of truth, Augustine’s confrontation with Rome’s political theology, the Church faced with totalitarianism in its various forms, Newman and Socrates as guides to conscience (not its subjectivistic substitute or subversion), and the ethical foundations of free political life. Ratzinger/Benedict XVI never confuses the “truth about man” (which is the specialty of the Christian religion) with a mere “humanitarian moral message” or an activist ideological project to build an illusory paradise on earth. On that subject, see the luminous essays by Pierre Manent collected by Paul Seaton (and introduced by yours truly) entitled The Religion of Humanity. Published by St. Augustine’s Press and available before the end of 2022, this volume rescues caritas from free-floating compassion and prudent Christian judgment from utopian sentimentality. Manent demonstrates that Christians are morally obliged to think prudently—which is also to say, politically—and not to confuse their faith with the religion of humanity, a very different religion, indeed.
James Franklin’s The Worth of Persons: The Foundation of Ethics (Encounter Books, 2022) is the best book of moral philosophy I have read in a very long time. Franklin’s lucid and elegant book takes aim at evolutionary dogmatism and the abstractions beloved by academic philosophers. As the Australian philosopher argues, the “explosion of a lifeless galaxy” is a “firework” while the death of a human person “possessed” with “apprehensions, personal unity, hopes, loves, and individuality” is a tragedy, an event of true moral significance. In the most gracious prose, Franklin makes mincemeat of scientistic materialism and the fear of metaphysics (of the most common-sense variety) that has corrupted the contemporary philosophical and scientific enterprises. He is, in his own words, indebted to the “realist Kant who defends human dignity and absolute inner worth” and to some crucial themes in Thomas Aquinas, “especially in taking seriously the Aristotelian notion of perfection or excellence.” A superb book that is at once an admirable and compelling defense of “the worth of persons.”
Having published my own book on statesmanship this year (The Statesman as Thinker: Portraits of Greatness, Courage, and Moderation, Encounter Books), I am sensitive to what others have to say about the subject. At the ripe age of 99, Henry Kissinger doesn’t disappoint. In Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy, published by Penguin Press, the renowned diplomat and writer explores the role of the “statesman” and “prophet” in the statecraft of Konrad Adenauer, whose “strategy of humility” resurrected a free and decent German polity; “the strategy of will” (in the best sense of the term) that underlay de Gaulle’s defense of the liberty, honor, and independence of France; the seasoned statecraft, centered around national honor and global equilibrium, that guided the diplomacy and foreign policy of Richard Nixon until he was done in by Watergate; and the “strategy of conviction” that guided Margaret Thatcher’s political and economic renewal of Britain and her stalwart opposition to Communist totalitarianism. The book also includes memorable chapters on what guided Anwar Sadat’s willingness to make peace with Israel, and the sage statecraft that allowed Lee Kuan Yew (“Harry Lee”) to build a humane and prosperous Chinese state in Singapore, one firmly allied with the West. This is Kissinger’s final testament, and a precious one.
Also on the statesmanship front, a second updated and revised edition of Allen C. Guelzo’s Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President has just been released by Eerdmans (the book was originally published in 1999). This is the best book written on Lincoln’s enigmatic religious convictions, one that deftly explores how Lincoln’s secularized Calvinism (centered around the doctrine of “fatalism”) coexisted with a defense of human freedom and human dignity. And over time, fate would take on the more recognizable form of Divine Will and Divine Providence, as Lincoln became far less estranged from biblical wisdom. In an artful and always interesting preface to the second edition, Guelzo discusses his own turn to Lincoln scholarship and the relationship of Redeemer President to the contributions of the field as a whole. A book to be read or reread for instruction and insight.
Center for American Greatness
I’d like to recommend two commentaries which couldn’t differ more in format—yet both can deepen our souls and enrich our patriotism.
The first work is in four volumes of almost 3,000 pages, published between 1996 and 2021, on the Gospel According to Matthew (a text which itself might run about 50 pages, including extensive footnotes). Each volume, rich with artwork, is titled Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word: Meditations on the Gospel According to St. Matthew (Ignatius Press). The author is Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, who began the project as a professor of literature and theology at the University of San Francisco, with wife and family, and ended it as Father Simeon, of the Trappist order. Born of a Cuban father and a Greek mother, the author writes prose that dances and guides us ever deeper into the text. His knowledge of biblical languages is constantly on display, but what captivates readers is his engagement with the text, from whose second chapter I excerpt a few lines:
What is grotesque about [Herod] is that he accepts unquestioningly the authenticity of the star seen by the Magi, but he is so consumed with self-protecting ambition that he cannot stop everything in his life long enough to marvel at the portent in which he nevertheless believes. He would try to snuff out the sun itself if that would allow him to go on existing as before—the undisturbed master of his fortunes….
Did the Magi not see the star again just outside Herod’s palace? What kept Herod from seeing it himself?… Herod was a prisoner in the airless sky of his own mind, where no stars can shine because the skull is too hard, impermeable to the light, the true Platonic cave. When the Magi saw the star, they were indeed looking at the light of their own faith objectified in the airborne brightness, suspended in the night of the world. To find something that is given, one must first be looking for it. To understand an answer, one must first have asked the question, otherwise the explanation will sound like a foreign tongue, or like empty silence.
The second commentary, Freedom Voyages by Tim Seibel (independently published in 2022), is the first in a series that uses regional road trips to display “what’s out there in the country.” Its ironic appearance as a road atlas masks greater aspirations. Seibel, who studied political philosophy at the University of Dallas and Claremont Graduate School, shows us through word and pictures the beauty and goodness of small-town America—hereafter no longer “flyover country.” The liberating automobile, no Kirkian “mechanical Jacobin,” enables a gaze upon the works and leisure of freedom—its landscapes, churches, civic buildings, small-town patriotism, and hearty meals from local restaurants.
This first book of 130+ pages, featuring counties in north-central North Dakota, promises a dozen or more volumes on America’s heart and soul in its backroads, ranging from the small towns of the Midwest to those of northern California and Texas.
The American Mind
The term “Christian nationalism” is frequently used by academics and sociologists, politicians and the media to disparage any attempt by Christians on the Right to organize politically. In The Case for Christian Nationalism (Canon Press, 2022), Stephen Wolfe has decided to claim the term on behalf of a positive project. Wolfe presents a series of rigorous and well-developed arguments that Christians must assert themselves and wield civil power for their earthly and heavenly goods. He builds his case on 16th- and 17th-century Reformed theology, which itself rests on the foundations of the church catholic stretching back two millennia. Wolfe argues that the false gods of unprincipled pluralism, civic libertarianism, so-called “third-way” politics, and anabaptism are woefully out of step with the Reformed political tradition.
Also in the vein of Reformed ressourcement is scholar Michael Lynch’s John Davenant’s Hypothetical Universalism: A Defense of Catholic and Reformed Orthodoxy (Oxford University Press, 2021), published as part of the marvelous Oxford Studies in Historical Theology series. Bishop Davenant (1572-1641) was a minister and theologian in the Church of England and a delegate to the Synod of Dort, which produced one of the most important Reformed confessions of the 17th century. Through a careful translation of Davenant’s De Morte Christi, Lynch convincingly argues that Davenant’s promotion of hypothetical universalism—that “Christ died sufficiently for all, effectually for the elect,” in the formula of medieval theologian Peter Lombard—was wholly within the bounds of classical Reformed orthodoxy. Lynch thereby helps break us free from simplistic notions of the Reformation that are still prominent in many circles today.
Finally, to complete this highlight tour of contemporary contributions to the Reformed tradition, there is Mark Jones’s Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest? (P & R Publishing). A pastor in the Presbyterian Church of America, Jones fears that antinomian thinking—which is more than lawlessness—is widespread among Christians. He teaches the proper way Christians should view the relationship of the Law to the believer’s sanctification, the controversial subject of the place of good works in salvation, and the often-neglected topic of eternal rewards. Importantly, Jones proves that Reformed Christians can say without jettisoning sola fide that good works are the means to salvation. Though published in 2013, this little book remains one of the very best works of Reformed theology written in the last decade.
Sally C. Pipes
President and Chief Executive Officer
Pacific Research Institute
Perhaps unexpectedly, my favorite book in 2022 was not a work of policy analysis but Her Majesty: A Photographic History 1926-2022. Published by Taschen, this coffee table book is a definitive history containing amazing photos of Queen Elizabeth’s public and private life. She was the world’s most famous monarch and loved by people the world over. Having served as Britain’s monarch for 70 years, she surpassed the long reign of Queen Victoria, passing away quietly at age 96 in her favorite place: Balmoral Castle in Scotland. In these times of high inflation, a long pandemic, and political upheaval, this book is a breath of fresh air.
Presidential Leadership Initiative
The Bipartisan Policy Center
Norman Lebrecht’s Genius and Anxiety (Oneworld, 2019) looked at the impact that Jews had on the making of the modern world from 1847 to 1947. Lebrecht’s lyrical prose showed the impact of newly liberated Jews on art, science, music, entertainment, literature, and politics during a fraught period in which antisemitism was rising, and the state of Israel was incubating.
Another book with scope that gives insight into the development of the modern world was Louis Menand’s The Free World (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2021), about the early Cold War era. It picks up where Lebrecht leaves off, so reading the two together can give a strong sense of key intellectual and political developments over the last century and a half.
I also highly recommend Ron Chernow’s Grant (Penguin, 2017). Grant was one of the three best generals ever to become president, along with Washington and Eisenhower. Among these three, Grant was the best general, even if he wasn’t the best president. Yet as Chernow’s highly readable volume shows, his presidency was underrated and definitely worth reconsideration.