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  • Book Reviews

    First post!!
    Nothing fancy here. What books are you reading and what score would you give them? I'm an avid reader and I always like to hear or talk about books.

    I'm currently reading Gates of Fire, by Steven Pressfield. I'm a huge fan of historical fiction, but this has got to be one of the best books I've ever read in the genre. It covers the Battle of Thermopylae, but it really sucks you in. The story is told through the eyes of a Perioikoi (foreign resident of Sparta) squire. The book really gives you an idea of what motivated the Spartans in their final heroic stand and is meticulously researched. That a book in which you know exactly what's going to happen can still be so compelling is testament to the author's skill. 5/5; would definitely recommend.

    Edit: Don't mind the link. I'm just having trouble removing it.
    Last edited by Abraham; 01-02-2019, 01:17 AM.

  • #2
    I've been slowly and sporadically working through Yukio Mishima's Sea of Fertility tetralogy when I'm too tired for heavy philosophizing. I feel like it would be rather crass to rate it, but so far it's good. I really enjoy some of the aesthetics in Eastern writing (e.g. the emphasis on impermanence).
    Last edited by John West; 01-03-2019, 11:08 PM.


    • #3
      Mishima is at the very top of my to-read list.

      I've been reading a lot of Stoicism and some Catholic thinkers here and there.


      • #4
        Talking of historical fiction, I just read Dumas's Twenty Years Later. It was nearly 700 pages, but, like The Three Mustketeers, easy reading and great fun. It's probably not the deepest book, but it gives an interesting overview of the first Fronde, though I doubt it's completely accurate. I liked the sojourn that the four heroes make to England, during the lead up to King Charles the Martyr's execution. I was pleased with Dumas's very royalist perspective. Some day I'll have to read the musketeer book, The Vicomte De Bragelonne, though I'm somewhat daunted by the fact that it is something like two thousand pages (and it frequently broken up into three or four books). I intend to read another historical fiction work soon (the next work of fiction/literature I read after King Solomon's Mine) The Man on the Donkey by H.F.M. Prescott. This is about the pilgrimage of grace, and was recommended by Peter Hitchens as one of the finest works of historical fiction written in the twentieth century. It's also very long.

        I'm also reading the best of Peter Simple 1965-1969, entitled More of Peter Simple. In my opinion, Peter Simple (Michael Wharton) was simply the finest satirist of the last decades of the twentieth century. His satire is full of a unique energy, fantasy, and surrealism. We are both devotees of Captain Ludd. Anyone who is traditionally-minded will probably love Wharton, and it's amazing how prescient he is (much of the modern world looks like Peter Simple characters come to life), though today he might struggle to create anything so absurd as the real world of politics and culture. Here's a sample column:


        • #6
          I recently finished Blood Meridian. I enjoyed it a great deal. McCarthy has a beautiful style.

          I have been reading The Concept of Mind also. I find it fairly grating and unsubtle. Though I have some sympathy with the view, Ryle's polemics detract from his argument.


          • #7
            Blood Meridian is face-melting. If I could take only one novel to a deserted island it's not a tough call. Harold Bloom called it the "greatest single book since Faulkner's As I Lay Dying." McCarthy has sentences that say more than the entire catalogue of most writers:

            It was a lone tree burning on the desert. A heraldic tree that the passing storm had left afire. The solitary pilgrim drawn up before it had traveled far to be here and he knelt in the hot sand and held his numbed hands out while all about in that circle attended companies of lesser auxiliaries routed forth into the inordinate day, small owls that crouched silently and stood from foot to foot and tarantulas and solpugas and vinegarroons and the vicious mygale spiders and beaded lizards with mouths black as a chowdog's, deadly to man, and the little desert basilisks that jet blood from their eyes and the small sandvipers like seemly gods, silent and the same, in Jeda, in Babylon. A constellation of ignited eyes that edged the ring of light all bound in a precarious truce before this torch whose brightness had set back the stars in their sockets.
            Blood Meridian is the dark star at the center of McCarthy's solar system. Outer Dark is a major satellite, one of the greatest stories ever told and that's no exaggeration.

            Killer interview.

            G-d bless Oprah for introducing him to a huge readership. The Road is Art:

            Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.
            He's been working on a huge book set in New Orleans. I heard it's about a man whose sister commits suicide. I look forward to it every day.
            Last edited by Bamidbar 22; 01-14-2019, 05:59 PM.


            • #8
              I'm looking forward to reading more from him. Someone had recommended BM to me a while ago, and I finally pulled it off the shelf after watching the Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men.


              • #9
                Peter Coffey's Epistemology. Found a public copy on It's great so far. It details the history of epistemology and its sudden divergence from metaphysics with Descartes and Kant.


                • #10
                  .Susan Wise Bauer's The Well-Trained Mind. Now that I have a son (and a second on the way), I'm starting to think about how I want his education to look. I'm definitely considering homeschooling, but even if that ultimately proves unfeasible, at the very least I intend to supplement his education in such a way as would train him in logic and rhetoric. The schools, even the parochial schools in my area, are entirely unsuited for such an education, and this is where Wise Bauer's book comes into the picture. It's a detailed account of what a classical trivium education would look like in a home-school setting, but it contains lots of practicable advice for those parents who choose (or are compelled) to send their kids to that great blight on the face of education - modern schools.
                  Fiction-wise, I'm rereading the Silmarillion. I'm just a huge Tolkien nerd, I know.


                  • #11
                    I've been reading a Spanish historical fiction called El Mozárabe, by Jesús Sánchez Adalid, which takes place in 10th century Al Andalus. It's a really fascinating look at the Caliphate of Córdoba, from the perspective of both the local Muslim and Christian communities. I grabbed it on a whim since Muslim Spain is one of the cultures that most intrigues me, but I'm very glad that I did.

                    Other than that, I've jumped into some of the modern Carmelite literature with José Vicente Rodríguez Rodríguez's Los cuatro nombres de Dios. I'm not really far enough to have much of a feel for it yet, though, and mysticism is always tricky.


                    • #12
                      When I wrote that it would be crass to rate Spring Snow, I meant because it's a classic. Not because I think it's crass to rate books in general.

                      I'm reviving this thread. It died before most people signed up.


                      • #13
                        Right now I am reading Laurence Bonjour's In Defense of Pure Reason. I am not that far in, but it is good up until the point where I've gotten.



                        • #14
                          I recently finished Merton's Seven Storey Mountain (biographies are my favorite genre, the older I get), and Fr. White's The Light of Christ. Merton is a fantastic writer, and I found his story very moving. White's book was very informative, and a great introduction to the broad strokes of Catholicism, especially for someone raised protestant.

                          I've just begun Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet. It's good so far, but I'm not too far in yet.


                          • #15
                            I've been reading Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. It's excellent, and I very much enjoy the erudite and obscure discussions the protagonists get involved in. I've also learnt a great deal of the fourteenth century church and its internincine conflicts, which provide the backdrop for the novel's central mystery. On the subject of Eco, his Baudolino is excellent, but unfortunately I'm apparently not smart enough to enjoy Foucault's Pendulum.
                            Last edited by Abraham; 04-25-2019, 09:10 PM.