Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Stop me before I blog again

Once I get going on books, it is hard to stop. A reader noted that the books I posted were very fiction heavy. Though this wasn't deliberate, I'm fine with that. Good novelists can tell you a great deal more about the human condition than many writers of "non-fiction" and they usually reach a wider audience. But I do have a few more non-fiction works to recommend (plus a couple more novels).

John Marshall: Definer of a Nation by Jean Edward Smith. Best. Political. Biography. Ever. Marshall is the least known but arguably most important figure of the early republic. Want to understand how the constitution and the republic survived some serious internal threats in the early years? Read this book. (And tell all those annoying Jefferson hagiographers to stuff it.) [By the way, Smith's Biography of US Grant is also very, very good.]

This People's Navy by Kenneth Hagan. A provocative history of the US Navy by a former professor at Annapolis. Takes a very different interpretive approach from many others.

Faithful Dissent by Rev. Charles Curran. Whether you are at the Emily Stimpson or Mike Hardy end of the theological spectrum, you need to read this book. You may disagree with it totally, or you may find yourself nodding in agreement. But it is an essential work for anyone struggling with the formation of conscience. HOWEVER, you must approach it critically: if you are predisposed to agree with Curran, make sure you read some critiques of it first. If you are in the opposite camp, make sure you read a defense of it, because forming your conscience does not mean seeking out scholars who agree with your biases.

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev. A good book for those of you who (like me) tend to think the baby boomers screwed up an otherwise excellent world. Post-modernism was invented a long, long time ago.

The Ugly American by Eugene Burdick and William J. Lederer. There's an easy way to tell whether a person has ever read this book. If he uses the phrase "Ugly American" to mean a loud, obnoxious, stereotypical American tourist and tut tuts at cultural imperialism, he hasn't read it. The "Ugly American" is just about the only sympathetic character in the whole book. Terrific story, and brilliant analysis of what went wrong in the fight against communism in Asia. Also a great model for what to do in the Middle East, once Saddam is converted to a smoking hole in the ground, and Arabia is handed back to the Hashemite dynasty.


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