This year, the friends, benefactors, and contributors at VoegelinView and the Eric Voegelin Society offer some reading recommendations for the upcoming year. It’s our Christmas present to readers.
Barry Cooper, University of Calgary
Matthew Hollis, The Wasteland: A Biography of a Poem. (Faber, 2022). Because it’s about “The Wasteland,” Eliot, and Pound. Very well written and filled with stuff you didn’t know.
Lee Trepanier, Samford University
One Faith No Longer. George Yancey and Ashelee Quosigk (NYU Press, 2021)
There is a new schism growing in Christianity, according to Yancey and Quosigk. Conservative Christians adhere to traditional values and tenets of the faith, while Progressive Christians believe society needs to be transformed to be one that favors social justice. While the claim that Christians disagree with themselves is not new, the quantitative evidence furnished confirms that it is so.
Schools for Statesmen. Andrew H. Browning (Kansas, 2022).
This is a magnificent work of scholarship. Browning has reconstructed the education of the 55 Framers of the Constitutional Convention, which ranged from private tutorials to college to self-education. What we discover is that those who went to the new colleges with the curriculum of the Scottish Enlightenment were the ones who devised compromises and advocated for checks-and-balances to make the Constitution a reality.
Paul Copperman, Institute of Reading Development
In Search of the Triune God by Eugene Webb (who wrote the best intellectual bio of Voegelin I’ve read). It is a wonderfully informative read that explores the different perspectives of the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity.
David Deavel, University of St. Thomas
To adapt Adam Smith’s phrase, there is a lot of collapse in a civilization. This year was thus another time of looking back at how the slide has happened and what can make up for it. Glen Scrivener’s The Air We Breathe (The Good Book Company) shows the ways in which the bits we like in “western” civilization are derived not merely from classical civilization but from Christianity itself in its theological specificity. With the rejection of Christianity has come a rejection of the natural. One key text on is Lewis’s Abolition of Man, which gained new meaning this year from Michael Ward’s After Humanity (Word on Fire Academic), a guidebook that gives important background, analysis, and well-researched commentary on this classic.
Heavily influenced by Lewis is Phil Rolnick, whose The Long Battle for the Human Soul (Baylor) is the first of his planned After Christendom trilogy. Rolnick tells the story of the several centuries long withdrawal from Christianity, especially its transcendence, in the name of immanence—and the accompanying chaos brought on by being too earthly-minded to do any earthly good. Future volumes will explore further the substitutions for living Christian and human tradition and a theological agenda going forward.
The battle for the family is a large part of the battle for the soul and has been raging for ever—especially the last two centuries. Dale Ahlquist’s The State of the Family (Ignatius) is a collection of Chesterton’s writings on all aspects of family, male, female, and sex that clarify the issue and show GKC a prophet.
What to do? Jessica Hooten Wilson’s The Scandal of Holiness (Brazos) suggests that we should and models how to study fictional saints and would-be saints. Philosopher Siobhan Nash-Marshall’s debut novel, George (Crossroad) gives a study of the making of a modern St. George of the Lockdowns. And Randy Boyagoda’s first two volumes of a predicted trilogy, Original Prin and Dante’s Indiana (Biblioasis) gives us a modern-day comic Augustine-and-Dante in the making in their nebbishy (but getting stronger) Sri Lankan-Canadian protagonist, Princely Umbiligoda.
Assumed in these stories is that the question of what to do includes another: to whom shall we go? In that regard I recommend Brant Pitre’s The Case for Jesus (Image) for a historical, literary, and theological defense of the Gospels and the Christian doctrine about the Reason for the Season. And to think more deeply about the prayer Jesus taught us, I recommend Sr. Claire Waddelove’s practical and straightforward guide, The Our Father (Gracewing).
David Walsh, Catholic University of America
I welcome the opportunity to single out one or two books that have made a particular impression over the year. Top of my list is the new book by Dan Mahoney, The Statesman as Thinker: Portraits of Greatness, Courage, and Moderation (Encounter 2022). It struck me that statesmanship has been the métier in which Mahoney has excelled over the years, beginning with his first study of Raymond Aron. It is what Bishop Barron might refer to as a “middle brow” approach within the subject. Yet it turns out to be an indispensable niche both in the practice and reflection on politics. Even the title captures it instantly. The statesman is one who must think about political reality in relation to the enduring order beyond it. In six memorable portraits from Burke to Tocqueville, Lincoln, Churchill, De Gaulle, and Havel, Mahoney is a deft guide to the “honorable ambition” that marks true greatness of soul in public life. It struck me that this is the ideal way to introduce political science to our students. If I were redesigning such a course Mahoney’s overview would be a perfect companion to the impressively comprehensive anthology by Fornieri, Deutsch, and Sutton on American Statesmanship: Principles and Practice of Leadership (Notre Dame, 2021). By shifting to the lens of statesmanship our horizons are enlarged and we are freed from the preoccupations of the moment.
Plato, Meno. The Meno is one of the seminal though underappreciated classic dialogues of Plato. If you’ve already read The Republic, Symposium, and Laws, it’s time to turn to the Meno.
Greek Myths and Christian Mystery by Hugo Rahner
This was the perfect book to fan the flame that had been already coaxed by Voegelin when I was an undergrad at college (along with Mircea Eliade’s “Sacred and Profane” and Henri Frankfort’s “The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man” etc.). Rahner’s book plumbs the profound syncretism of symbols involved in the nascent Christian civilization growing out of Greece and Rome.
John von Heyking, University of Lethbridge
James Runcie, The Great Passion. A story of grief and joy set amidst the composition of Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion, whose central message and music imbue the characters and the drama.
Amor Towles, Gentleman in Moscow. One of the finest character studies of the nobility, whose main character combines the finest of aesthetic taste with endurance, courage, and cunning.
Ramachandra Guha, Gandhi Before India and Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914—1948 (two volume biography)
You cannot understand Martin Luther King, Jr., or Liu Xiaobo without first understanding Gandhi. Guha’s huge two volume not only covers everything, but he’s the first biographer to plumb the archives of Gandhi’s close friends that show him not as a heroic and solitary figure, but one who practiced friendship at the highest level and one that also served his statecraft. The result is a biography that shows Gandhi practicing a rich micro-politics of friendship that informs his philosophy of non-violence.
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