2019 in Books

Prior years

Compared to other years, 2019 was a bit odd. My reading was dominated by two long series, Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin books, about which more below, and Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer books (which were good, but not truly excellent detective novels). Together, these accounted for more than 20% of all the books I read. As a consequence, there are less entries in the “Notable Books” section than normal.

At the same time, there were quite a few books that I found worthwhile, interesting, and would certainly recommend, but that didn’t quite meet the criteria that normally merits mention in this post. This is not an uncommon problem, I mentioned it last year and thought (mildly) hard about how to overcome it, but it seems especially notable this year. I don’t have a solution, so I’ll simply mention a few books that you might also want to check out:

  • Traditional Japanese Poetry ed. Carter – Very good, just barely missed the list. Too many poems that didn’t captivate me to make it.
  • Plutarch’s Lives, Livy’s History of Rome, Aeschylus’s Oresteia – All classics, all excellent, all likely worthy of inclusion on this list, but somehow did not lodge in my heart the way others did (the Oresteia came closest)
  • Gardens and The Dominion of the Dead by Robert Pogue Harrison – Excellent wide- ranging studies moving effortlessly through literature, philosophy, and history. When I think about how and what I want to write two authors always come to mind: Pogue Harrison and WG Sebald. I don’t know why I didn’t mark this as notable at the time, but I’ve come to trust my in-the-moment apprehension on these things.
  • The Office of Assertion by Scott Crider – Great book on the rhetoric of academic writing, accessible, loaded with detail and practical. Too much of a textbook for me to mark as notable, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever read on the subject.
  • Shop Class as Soulcraft and The World Beyond Your Head by Matthew Crawford – I agreed with essentially everything that Crawford wrote in these two philosophical/psychological examinations of the value of craftwork. A vital and timely imperative, presented in a compelling, accessible fashion. If you’re a craftsman of any sort or, even more so, if you’re not, you should read these.

Now, on to some stats. I read a total of 168 books in 2019. 29% of which were read on my Kindle (I believe this is a record high) and the rest of which I read in physical form.

Thanks to the Aubrey-Maturin books, historical fiction dominated the list with 25 entries (20 of which came from O’Brian’s series). Next, in what was a surprise to me, came philosophy, with 21 books. I truly don’t know when I read all that, but the fact that it dominated the list in a year when I had few true favorites might mean something. Next was detective novels (19), thanks to the Lew Archer books that accounted for 18 of them, followed by Sci-Fi (18) and academic books (17).

As you’ve probably been able to guess O’Brian easily takes the crown this year with 20 books, followed by Macdonald with 18. No one else is even close. EC Tubb, who will finally get his due in the notable section, reappears for what is certainly the last time with 4 books, and Alan Akers, who I thought might be a worth successor to Tubb but whose books were below my lax standards for pulp sci-fi (I found them an overwraught imitation of Edgar Rice Burroughs) had 5 entries. No one else had more than 2 books, another demonstration of how this was an unconventional year (compare last year, where no author had more than 10 books on the list and where Tubb and Akers would not have made the cut for mention in this section).

Notable Books
These are books that I found especially memorable and would recommend without (much) reservation. In another departure from previous years, there are, depending on how you count, only two (or 21) reread entries. Let’s do those first:

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton – I’ve always found Chesterton, despite what his detractors might think, to be a titanic intellect. The apparent glibness of his style is perhaps the greatest indication of that intellect, as there is terrific insight buried behind apparently simple word play and humorous contradiction. He puts it well himself, first on his use of humor:

My critics think that I am not serious but only funny, because they think that “funny” is the opposite of “serious.”  But “funny” is the opposite of “not funny” and of nothing else.  Whether a man chooses to tell the truth in long sentences or in short jokes is a problem analogous to whether he choose to tell the truth in French or in German.  The two qualities of funny and seriousness have nothing whatever to do with each other…If you say that two sheep added to two sheep make four sheep, your audience will accept it patiently–like sheep.  But if you say if  of two monkeys, or two kangaroos, or two sea-green griffins, people will refuse to believe that two and two make four.  They seem to believer that you must have made up the arithmetic, just as you have made up the illustration of the arithmetic.  They cannot believe that anything decorated with an incidental joke can be sensible.  Perhaps it explains why so many successful men are so dull-or why so many dull men are successful.

Then on the depth of his thought revealed in its apparent frivolousness:

A man who deals in harmonies, who only matches stars with angels, or lambs with spring flowers, he indeed may be frivolous, for he is taking one mood at a time, and perhaps forgetting each mood as it passes.  But a man who ventures to combine an angel and an octopus must have some serious view of the universe.  The more widely different the topics talked of, the more serious and universal must be the philosophy which talks of them.  The mark of the light and thoughtless writer is the harmony of his subject matter.  The mark of the thoughtful writer is his apparent diversity.

And he is a very thoughtful writer indeed.

Both of these quotes come from Simon Leys’s wonderful essay on Chesterton: “The Poet Who Dances with a Hundred Legs” (Leys has such marvelous titles). Leys explains that title:

Chesterton once said that he suspected Bernard Shaw of being the only man who had never written any poetry. We may well suspect that Chesterton never wrote anything else.
But what is poetry? I t is not merely a literary form made of rhythmic and rhyming lines–thought Chesterton also wrote (and wrote memorably) a lot of these.  Poetry is something much more essential.  Poetry is grasping reality, making an inventory of the visible world, giving names to all creatures, naming what is…Poetry is our vital link with the outside world–the lifeline on which our very survival depends–and therefore also, in some circumstances, it can become the safeguard of our mental sanity

Simon Leys, The Hall of Uselessness, 100

He later suggests that the essay might have been called, ” The Man Who Was in Love With Daylight.” And its this title that, I think, gets to the core of Orthodoxy and what makes Chesterton such a delight to read. His concern is with joy and wonder, this is what led him (and through him, in a large part, led me) to recognize the truth of Christianity. In his own words:

This, therefore, is, in conclusion, my reason for accepting the religion and not merely the scattered and secular truths out of the religion. I do it because the thing has not merely told this truth or that truth, but has revealed itself as a truth-telling thing. All other philosophies say the things that plainly seem to be true; only this philosophy has again and again said the thing that does not seem to be true, but is true. Alone of all creeds it is convincing where it is not attractive; it turns out to be right, like my father in the garden. Theosophists for instance will preach an obviously attractive idea like re-incarnation; but if we wait for its logical results, they are spiritual superciliousness and the cruelty of caste. For if a man is a beggar by his own pre-natal sins, people will tend to despise the beggar. But Christianity preaches an obviously unattractive idea, such as original sin; but when we wait for its results, they are pathos and brotherhood, and a thunder of laughter and pity; for only with original sin we can at once pity the beggar and distrust the king. Men of science offer us health, an obvious benefit; it is only afterwards that we discover that by health, they mean bodily slavery and spiritual tedium. Orthodoxy makes us jump by the sudden brink of hell; it is only afterwards that we realise that jumping was an athletic exercise highly beneficial to our health. It is only afterwards that we realise that this danger is the root of all drama and romance. The strongest argument for the divine grace is simply its ungraciousness. The unpopular parts of Christianity turn out when examined to be the very props of the people. The outer ring of Christianity is a rigid guard of ethical abnegations and professional priests; but inside that inhuman guard you will find the old human life dancing like children, and drinking wine like men; for Christianity is the only frame for pagan freedom.

Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 155

Joy, wonder, and the deep gratitude we owe reality for its very existence, as in a short poem, from before Chesterton’s conversion (also quoted in Leys):

Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?

Anyway, you should read this book, it’s joyous on the most profound level.

The Aubrey-Maturin Books by Patrick O’Brian – While O’Brian’s chronicles of the adventures of the heroic, albeit sometimes bumbling, sea captain Jack Aubrey and his closest companion, the doctor and spy Stephen Maturin, cover 20 books (and a 21st unfinished novel that I refuse to read), they are, in a very real sense, one grand historical novel, perhaps the greatest historical novel ever written (I certainly haven’t encountered a better one). Marvelously detailed, at turns–and often all at once–poignant, gripping, hilarious, and profound, it’s almost impossible to turn away once you’ve entered into O’Brian’s world. The characters, locales, ships, battles all are beautifully drawn and enthralling. Truly, I would reread this series every year if I had the time. I found on this, my second read through, depths that I hadn’t even imagined were there previously and this, to me, is always the mark of a truly great book. O’Brian easily takes the coveted award for author of the year. I could not recommend the series more strongly.

Plus, he gets points for inspiring my favorite movie of all time.

On Power by Bertrand de Jouvenel – A deeply perceptive, and more than a little depressing, study of the character of power written at the height of World War II. Very different, though not necessarily opposed to, Romano Guardini’s similarly excellent study of the subject. Far too deep to cover even the basics here, but you’ll never look at politics the same again after reading it.

The Dumarest Series by EC Tubb – For years, Tubb’s Dumarest series has been a standby on my list of read books and, having finally finished the series and seen Dumarest arrive (though not necessarily safely) at his long-sought home, I’m sad to see it go. This is pulp sci-fi–of the planetary romance variety–of the highest order (not quite as excellent as Leigh Brackett or Burroughs, but very enjoyable nonetheless). The basic plot of virtually all of the 33 books in the series are the same: Earl Dumarest, wayward child of Earth, possessed with a desperate longing for home, preternatural speed, indomitable will, and a secret that the malevolent Cyclan (think evil Vulcans) will stop at nothing to attain arrives at a planet run by a degenerate aristocracy where he finds himself lusted after by beautiful women, combating deadly beasts, fighting at least one combat to the death in the arena, and embroiled in byzantine plots of revenge and domination. Always seeking for clues to the lost location of Earth, he triumphs over a multitude of dangers, thwarts the Cyclan agents who are ever on his tail and escapes, often seeing his hopes of finding home dashed cruelly at the last moment. Despite this repetitiveness, Tubb gives you enough variety to keep going and the stories certainly don’t drag. You can easily power through any of them in a few hours and they’re a welcome respite from academic works and denser literature.

Tubb has provided me with years of entertainment. I truly am sad to see the series end.

Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti – My affection for Rossetti should be obvious from the sheer number of her poems that I’ve posted here. I’m hard pressed to think of another poet who so deeply stirs the waters of my soul. Many of these entries have used the word “profound” or “deep”, and perhaps that’s a theme of this year, but, despite the repetition, it is nonetheless apt. Rossetti is a beautiful poet, to be read and savored.

It’s difficult for me to speak about the virtues of poetry. Their own words are their best argument. Ignore what I have to say and just read the poems I’ve linked above. They’ll tell you much more than I can about why she is great.

The Centurions by Jean Larteguy – A gripping novel about the nature of war and the men who fight it, which follows a group of French paratroopers from the disaster at Dien Bien Phu to the disaster of Algeria with a brief stop in a France to which they can no longer return. Most reviews speak about how relevant the novel is, it’s depiction of guerrilla warfare and the horrors required to fight it especially pertinent to the modern experience, but I’ve long thought that what makes a book great is not its relevance, but its timelessness. This is a book worth reading not because America finds herself embroiled in an endless succession of Algerias, but because there’s something at the heart of the novel that speaks to the timeless reality of empire and of men, the violence we beg them to commit and what that violence makes them become. Larteguy himself certainly saw this eternal resonance. We can see that from the title, evoking lonely centurions on the periphery of Rome as the walls begin to crumble.

The enjoyed the sequel The Praetorians far less, perhaps because it seemed to require a more in depth understanding of mid-20th century French history about which I know essentially nothing (save for reading a single book about the Algerian conflict in the aftermath of reading Larteguy).

With Fire and Sword by Henryk Sienkiewicz – A epic of the purest and most wonderful sort, following noble (and less-than-noble) Polish knights as they battle against a massive Cossack uprising. It’s exciting and bloody, filled with virtue and vice, terrifying but never one-dimensional villains and excellently drawn characters throughout. Most notable is the Falstaffian knight, Zagloba (he’s the less-than-noble one, though he still has a heart of gold), who has stuck with me more than any other character in a book I’ve read this year. I think that might by Sienkiewicz’s greatest strength, he makes you care about the characters. You want to be around them. You want to see what happens to them. Even the villains are captivating, you await their fates with bated breath. The book is massive, the sequels (which I promise I’ll get to someday) even more so, but for sheer adventure and fun, I’m hard pressed to think of a book since Frans Bengtsson’s The Long Ships that I’ve enjoyed more. A real delight.

Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac – Balzac is a strange author. On the surface there’s nothing I can point to in his works that I find especially amazing. Indeed, there are a number of times when his prose seems outright bad, where the plots feel rushed, where I lose my grip on his characters (I worried that this was an artifact of translation, but see that others have complained about it too). Nevertheless, his books are utterly captivating. Below the prose, somehow not contained within the words themselves but lying behind them, is a raw, vital energy. His books, and the people within them, are alive. Balzac poured his own life into his works, you might plausibly claim that doing so killed him–the exhaustion of marathon writing sessions fueled only by gallons of coffee, the spiritual depletion of leaving your life on the page. If so, what a sacrifice! What a titanic amount of life he had to give! That’s his achievement, this vitality, this energy. Pere Goriot is one of the most famous of his novels, a key part of his massive La Comédie humaine series of inter-woven works, and thus one of the greatest examples of Balzac’s excellence. You ought to experience it, if only once. It’s different than any other author I’ve ever encountered.

Gilgamesh – How do you praise a four thousand year-old incomplete Sumerian epic? I’ve already mentioned my feeling of inadequacy whenever I try to express why poetry is valuable. So, I’ll simply say that I found Gilgamesh far more accessible than I expected, but what truly drew me in was that this accessibility lightly masked an ever-present air of mystery, of the numinous lurking just behind the scenes. In this way, Gilgamesh reminded me of the Book of Genesis, quite possibly the single most mysterious (in a number of senses of the word) thing ever written. It felt like a poem that I could read over and over again, perpetually feeling like I was on the brink of a great revelation but never quite attaining it. That’s a special and wonderful feeling.

To evoke Chesterton and to paraphrase what I wrote last year, reading brings us many things, the most important of these is wonder and joy. Each of these books, in their own way, brought me wonder and joy, and I hope that they can bring you the same. Read more!

2018 in Books

Prior entries: 2015, 2016, 2017

An annual tradition. This year, I continuously told myself that I wouldn’t buy new books until I’d dramatically reduced my to-read list. I half-listened, getting the list to under a hundred for the first time in living memory. It (coupled with me figuring out how to check out books digitally from the Chicago Public Library) also resulted in me reading a lot more Kindle books than normal, fully 37% of the 162 books I read this year were on the Kindle. In all, I read considerably more than I’d expected. Not having the weight of a dissertation looming over me at every instant turned out to have a salutary effect, who would have guessed?

Here’s the fancy chart


Science Fiction absolutely dominated the genre count, with more than double the entries of any other genre. Action-packed, easy Sci-Fi tends to be my go-to when I’m in need of a brain break, and this year I apparently required a couple (plus discovered a few enjoyable new series). In second was Academic books. I read 20. Fiction, with 18, then Crime (I don’t know why I differentiated this from fiction more broadly, probably because I read a lot of Elmore Leonard) and Poetry, both 10, round out the top 5.


E.C. Tubb, who led the list in both 2016 and 2017 thanks to his Dumarest series, falls to 5th this year, as I get closer to the end of said series. I probably should have just powered through and finished the last few books, but I’m drawing them out in lieu of having a replacement. Elmore Leonard was, somewhat inexplicably (given that I often find him oddly unsatisfying), the author I read the most last year, with 10 books. He’s followed by Nick Cole and Jason Anspach, authors of a military sci-fi series I enjoyed, with 9, then Gene Wolfe (8), and Jack Campbell (6).

I realize that, of these authors, the only one who I’d consider a true favorite is Wolfe and that I only sort of liked the Campbell and Leonard books. This seems to be a deficiency in my reading habits, or maybe just a comment on the quality of breezy books that I can consume in a weekend.

Notable Books

On to the real meat of the post, books that I found especially memorable and would recommend to others. As always, a blend of newly encountered works and re-reads, though less of the latter than in past years.

Looking over my list this year, I realize I need to make some changes to how I record these books. Typically, I mark a book as notable in the immediate aftermath of finishing it. This method leads to some obvious problems, namely books whose quality is only apparent after a certain amount of digestion, the ones that I find coming to mind over and over months after I’ve finished them, and books that touched me in the moment but which I can barely remember when I find them in this list. There is also the category of books that I found particularly useful but did not touch me in the manner of those marked as notable. Good academic books, useful guides, etc. typically fall into this category. Finally, there are clusters of books that affected me deeply during the year, but contain no single book that I thought particularly excellent (for example, Lewis-Stempel’s Running Hare and Logsdon’s Contrary Farmer [among others] shaped how I thought this year, but neither book makes the final list). Perhaps this is just a call to write more about these books as they come, rather than endlessly promising myself I will write and failing to do so.


Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald – One of my all-time favorites, which also made the list in 2016. Here’s what I wrote then:

A wonderful, melancholy rumination on memory and loss.  Whenever I read it, I have a sense that there’s something momentous looming just behind the words, something that I just can’t grasp.  One day, I’ll be able to say more, but I’ll probably have to reread it another three times before that day comes.

Only two more reads to go. I’ll add that if I ever wrote seriously, I would like to write like Sebald. I’ve posted about him at least twice.

The Intellectual Life by A.G. Sertillanges – Another favorite, which made the list in 2016 and 2015. Again I’ll quote from past entries:

Years ago, I read a blog post about “Companion Books”, books that truly count, that nourish your inner being and shape you.  I’ve come to realize I have a number of these, perhaps too many, and Sertillanges’s masterpiece is one of them.  His portrait of the intellectual life is what I aspire to and yet fall short of far too often.

If I were to recommend a single book to anyone pursuing intellectual pursuits, it would be this one (given the course of my academic career, perhaps this is a mark against the book). Posts on Sertillanges.

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor – I taught this book in a class on faith during the Fall and realized with joy as I re-read it just how excellent it was. A grotesque (one is contractually obligated to use this word to describe O’Connor’s writing), comic, terrifying, and wonderful exploration of religious faith and grace in a world that all too often seems denuded of the same. Two years ago I posted my favorite quote, here.

Also, since we’re speaking of books I taught and which you ought to read, Augustine’s Confessions and the Iliad are two of the most wonderful things ever written. Read them.

Shadow and Claw, Sword and Citadel, and the Urth of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe – I’ve long cited these books, and Gene Wolfe more generally, as the best that science fiction has to offer, and this summer I re-read the whole of his 10 book Solar Cycle. If anything, this read has convinced me that I’ve underplayed just how excellent these books actually are. The story of a torturer who becomes a king and, more importantly, the savior and destroyer of the world, it is endlessly profound and contains some of the greatest world-building in literature. The whole (loosely-connected) cycle is worth reading. I’ve come to like the Long Sun portion less and gained much greater appreciation for the three Short Sun books this time around. Though none of these were my favorite book of the year (see below), I do think that Gene Wolfe takes home the coveted Author of the Year award (title previously held by Patrick Fermor, Solzhenitsyn, and Jane Austen).

New Books

John Muir: Spirtual Writings – I had no idea that John Muir was such a deeply religious thinker, and I found this selection of his writings that directly touched on the subject invigorating, a spur to future reading (as yet, sadly, not completed). I’m guessing that, upon doing that reading, I will recommend reading those actual books, rather than this collection, but in the interim, it will do. I’ve also posted some selections here.

The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway – A few years ago, I got it into my head that I really enjoyed short stories, and this conviction led me to purchase the complete short stories of 4 authors that I particularly enjoyed at the time: Flanney O’Connor, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, and Hemingway. These purchases were quickly followed by the realization that I’m not that into short stories, particularly in collections of 80 or so. Thus, to date, I’ve only finished the O’Connor and Hemingway.

That said, Hemingway is one of the greatest short story writers in history, and this collection contains any number of truly excellent pieces, well worth your time and better, I think, than any of his novels.

Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi – A book that I didn’t find especially excellent at the time, but which has stuck with me. It chronicles Teffi’s escape from the ever rising Bolshevik tide alongside a cast of creative types, all struggling, often comically, their mode of living amidst the chaos. I think what I most appreciated was her tone. She’s a very good writer and conveys a indelible impression of her experiences.

Religio Medici & Urne Buriall by Thomas Browne – Two curious little books, that I wrote about at greater length in February. Originally recommended to me by Sebald, Browne writes on memory and history, nature and God, all subjects close to my heart. As I mention in the linked post, I hope to read his entire corpus and perhaps undertake a project on the man sometime in the vague future.

The Count of Monte Christo by Alexandre Dumas – A classic of rip-roaring revenge and adventure, I’m not sure what I can say beyond the fact that there’s a reason why it’s been designated as such.

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold – A landmark work of environmental literature describing Leopold’s life and work on a farm in Wisconsin. I wrote about it’s strengths and weaknesses in an earlier post. If you’re interested in the environment at all, it really behooves you to read this, Muir, and so on, the founders. Modern writings in the field are often mere shadows of these originals.

The Art of Living Well by Dietrich von Hildebrand – One of the best treatises on virtue I’ve ever read and a concise introduction to a legitimate claimant to the title of greatest theologian of the 20th century. A good companion book to Josef Pieper’s writings, which I have written about quite a bit and recommended a number of times. Like many on this list, I’ve written on/quoted the book already .

Memoirs from Beyond the Grave by François-René de Chateaubriand – My favorite book of 2018, the memoirs of the French writer, politician, diplomat, and historian who is probably most famous today for having a cut of steak named after him (also, for being one of the founders of Romanticism). This volume covers the years up to 1800, thus we see
Chateaubriand’s childhood, the turmoils of revolution, and his trip to America. It’s really excellent. He’s a beautiful writer and a fascinating individual, completely engrossing. A shame that the remaining thirty books of his memoirs are far more difficult to find. If my praise doesn’t convince you, perhaps some selections from his writings will?

Emma and Mansfield Park by Jane Austen –  Rounding out the catalog of my favorite author of last year (who is now firmly established among my all time favorites), I read these two early in the year. Emma is, after Pride and Prejudice, my favorite of Austen’s books, a true delight. I’ll quote my praise from last year:

Austen is wonderful, hilarious, and brilliant.  Her books fly by, the characters are marvelous, and I cannot stress enough how fantastically humorous, while at the same time profound (Austen is a terrific moral philosopher) they are…. I cannot rave enough about how much I loved these books.

Also, I’ll plug Jane Austen’s Philosophy of the Virtues by Sarah Emsley, which very nicely distills the fantastic moral reasoning of Austen’s novels. A great companion to a serious read-through.

The Oxford Book of English Verse – In my never-ending quest to appreciate poetry at greater length, I picked up this collection (on the indirect recommendation of Patrick Fermor) and waded through it in scraps of time for much of 2017 and 2018. The majority of the poems that I’ve been posting on Mondays for the past few months have come from this book, and it strikes my fairly uncultured eye as an excellent compilation and introduction to the world of poetry.

A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr – I struggle to write about this book. What makes it special is not the plot, which is slight, or the characters I barely remember, but an impression it creates, an evocation of times and love lost, of fragile happiness fading into memory, that marked me deeply in a way I didn’t expect at all in the immediate wake of finishing the novel. It’s a beautiful little book. I need to read it again very soon.

In Parenthesis by David Jones – I’ve written before of my distaste for modern poetry, yet T.S. Eliot made my list in 2017 and this shattering work chronicling Jones’s experiences in World War I makes this list this year. Bizarre and jarring, his words convey the visceral feel the violence and fragmentation of war.

Roman Lives by Plutarch – I always feel a little silly recommending books that have been widely considered classics for centuries, but this was my first exposure to Plutarch and it immediately inspired me to pick up the complete set of parallel lives. If you’re interested at all in biography, history, literature, or just being barely educated by the standards of previous generations, you should read some Plutarch.

The Captive Mind by Czesław Miłosz – A chilling and perceptive exploration of the effects of totalitarianism on the artistic and intellectual mind. I found it deeply insightful (not to mention relevant) and wrote a number of posts drawing out Milosz’s ideas. In these, I barely scratched the surface, so it’s worth picking up the book if they piqued your interest at all.

The Little World of Don Camillo by Giovannino Guareschi – I think I expressed why I enjoyed this collection so much well in a previous post:

Giovannino Guareschi’s Don Camillo stories are delightful little tales set in the “little world” of an Italian town in the Po valley in the years immediately after World War II.  What makes them wonderful is their pure humanity, the sheer warmth of the oft-contentious between Don Camillo, his eternal rival, the communist mayor Peppone, and the surprisingly loquacious crucifix which hangs in Don Camillo’s church.  I very much recommend the stories.

Reading brings us many things, one of the most important of these is joy. Each of these books, in their own way, brought me joy and I hope that they can bring you the same. Read more!

2017 in Books

Prior entries: 2015, 2016

Over the past few years, I’ve lowered the total of books I hoped to read, in an effort to better savor my reading and also because there’s a glut of very long books on my To-Read shelf.  Thus, I aimed to read 125 books in 2017 and surpassed that goal, reading 130.  The majority were, as is usual, physical books, though 20% of the total were read on my Kindle.  The full list, with fancy charts and whatnot, can be found here.


My genre classifications are never exact, yet they give some sense of what I spent the bulk of my time reading.  Leading the pack this year was generic Fiction, with 22 books.  This was followed by Historical Fiction (15) and Poetry (12).  The fuzziness of my categories is apparent from the fourth and fifth places on the genre list, Academic (11) and History (10) respectively.  I truly have no idea where I drew the line between the two (similarly, between fiction and historical fiction).


E.C. Tubb, the author I read most in 2016, once again topped the list with 9 books this year.  In a close second came Bernard Cornwell with 8.  In both cases, these authors offered quick diversionary reads that I could power through in a weekend during breaks from academic work.  Jane Austen, about whom more later, was third with 4 books, followed by  a four-way tie between George MacDonald Fraser (3), Ernst Junger (3), Dante (3), and J.G. Farrell (3).

Notable Books

These are books that I thought were especially excellent and that I would recommend to others.  Many of them were rereads and a number I have written about before.


The Leopard by Giuseppe Di Lampedusa – One of my favorites.  Previously mentioned in 2015.

Mani  by Patrick Fermor – Probably my favorite of Fermor’s books.  He was my favorite author of 2015, and I talked him at greater length in that entry.

Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise by Dante – My love of Dante has been discussed at length.  He also made both previous instantiations of this list. In 2017, I picked up the Esolen translation, which I thoroughly enjoyed, though the Mandelbaum remains my favorite.  

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene – I am a huge fan of unconventional portraits of sainthood (see also Waugh’s Helena), and Graham Greene’s writings were an instrumental part of my conversion many years ago.  Like many of the characters that populate the books on this list, the Whiskey Priest is someone who has never left me since first I encountered him miserably cowering in the depths of Mexico.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky – My favorite book by one of my favorite authors.  Raskolnikov, the sweltering streets of St. Petersburg, poor Lizaveta, and the haunting grace of Sofya have taken up permanent inhabitance in my mind.

Beowulf – Much like in the case of the Odyssey below, I’m not certain what I can say about Beowulf that is not trivial, a true classic.  Incidentally, if you get a chance, you should seek out the Seamus Heaney audio version.  His voice is everything you could possibly want.

Troubles by J.G. Farrell – My discovery of Farrell’s Empire Trilogy many years ago inaugurated a profound change in both the way I read and what I read, and his books have always had a place on my list of favorites.  Thus, I felt I owed him a re-read and was pleased to find that this second time around only confirmed their excellence.  Troubles is, to my eyes, the best of the trilogy, though I would strongly encourage anyone to read all three.

Drama of the Divine Economy by Paul Blowers – An excellent study of the place of creation in the development of Late Antique theology, has played a major role in the development of my own thought on the matter and on shaping the course of my research in general.

The Journey of the Mind to God by Bonaventure – One of the most profound and dense works of theology I’ve ever encountered.  Truly beautiful.

Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger – One of the greatest books about war ever written, perhaps my favorite outside the Iliad.  Striking in its unique tone, Junger truly loved war, reveled and thrived in it.  The final chapters are one of the most gripping descriptions of battle I have ever encountered.

New Books

The Odyssey by Homer – I’m ashamed to say that I’d never finished the Odyssey prior.  It’s, of course, one of the greatest pieces of literature in human history, and you really ought to read it in order to consider yourself literate at all.

Out of the Ashes by Anthony Esolen – All too often, traditional thought becomes mired in diagnosis, a jeremiad bemoaning the state of the world and a desperate search for what went wrong.  Esolen, whose translation of the Divine Comedy I mention above, offers much needed practical advice for what should be done.  Unlike the other entries on this list, I would not recommend Esolen for anyone not convinced of his basic critique of liberal modernity at the outset.  Indeed, I debated including it for that reason.

Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot – My appraisal of modern poetry has never been particularly high (see also, modern art, modern architecture).  So, I was shocked to find how much I enjoyed Eliot.  Haunting and beautiful.

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens – An utterly joyous, delightful book.  One of the most singularly enjoyable books I’ve read in ages and were it not for a later entry on this list an easy choice for my favorite new book of the year.  Truly wonderful, very funny, read it.

Submission by Michel Houellebecq – A truly disturbing book that speaks to the core of the profound sickness at the heart of the modern world.  Another book that I debated leaving off the list, but I could not in the end ignore it.  Maybe the most accurate and therefore horrible portraits of acedia (the characteristic sin of our world, that I always tell myself I will write about and then fail) I have read.

Before Church and State by Andrew Jones – Fascinating study of the world of Louis IX’s (i.e. St. Louis’s) France.  A marvelous work of scholarship, but also a compelling portrait of an alternative to the modern, liberal order, one fundamentally directed toward peace and salvation.  A true must-read for both those interested in the Middle Ages and critics of the contemporary order.  I hope to write more extensively on it soon.

The Aran Islands  by John Milton Synge – Read in preparation for my trip to Ireland.  A fascinating account of life on the edges of the Atlantic.  Beautiful and it will make you want to explore the islands for yourself (regrettably, my visit to them was only a few hours), though the world Synge depicts is assuredly lost to time.

Science, Politics, and Gnosticism by Eric Voegelin – One of the most insightful works on politics I have ever read (though I don’t claim to be particularly well-versed in the subject).  Voegelin’s contention that modern through is essentially a form of (somewhat oddly defined) gnosticism is both compelling and illuminating.  He’s a formidable intellect.  I have so many notes that I’ve taken on this book that I’ve quailed at typing them up more times than I can count, and his New Science of Politics is sitting near the top of my current To-Read pile.

The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys – In an odd circumstance for this list, I remember very little about this little book aside from an emotion it engendered.  Not a sadness exactly, but a sense of indescribable small completeness, reminiscent of John Williams’s marvelous Stoner.  Leys wrote my favorite book of last year, The Hall of Uselessness.  

The Crisis of Western Education by Christopher Dawson – Engaging study of the history of education and the problems afflicting its modern form.  Sadly, Dawson was far too optimistic about the potential for Catholic education to preserve true learning in the time immediately following when the book was written (indeed, that period witnessed an almost wholesale collapse of the ideal he espouses).  Nevertheless, that is no reason for despair, and his ideas remain vital and worthwhile.

Pride and Prejudice (along with Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility, [Emma which barely missed being included in the 2017 list, will be on my list next year]) by Jane Austen – For years I put off reading Jane Austen because I had placed her in the same category as many 19th century authors, wonderful but long and involved, works that you needed to get yourself into the proper mindset to read and which occasionally become a slog, even though you enjoy them.  I could not have been more wrong. Austen is wonderful, hilarious, and brilliant.  Her books fly by, the characters are marvelous, and I cannot stress enough how fantastically humorous, while at the same time profound (Austen is a terrific moral philosopher) they are.  Unquestionably the winner of my AUTHOR OF THE YEAR award. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book of 2017 in a landslide, immediately entering on to my list of my favorite books of all time (and it is quite close to the top of that list).  I cannot rave enough about how much I loved these books.

Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky – The last of Dostoevsky’s major works that I had yet to read, typically excellent.  I might even place it second in my list of personal favorites, though that’s pending a re-read of Karamazov.  Like all of Dostoevsky’s great novels it remains disturbingly relevant (the chapter describing the meeting of the revolutionaries was amazing on this account) and yet rooted in a Russian time and place that it’s fascinating to explore with him.  And like all of his novels, the characters are magnificent.

As always, I finish this post exhausted.  I write with the hope that it will inspire you to pick up at least one of these books, all of them are great, all worth your time.  Reading exposes us to so many magical worlds, explore them!

2016 in Books

Overall, I feel that 2016 was an average year, reading-wise.  In part, this stemmed from a lack of ambition on my part.  In 2015, I really strove to improve my knowledge of poetry and had the grand scale project of reading the complete works of Shakespeare, both of which were immensely enjoyable.  This year, there was a lot more rereading, no grand ambitions, and I tried to generally be better about not spending all of my money on books.  So, a lot of the books I flagged as especially notable in 2016 were re-reads, which Lindsay assures me is super boring.

Nevertheless, breaking things down (the complete list can be found here):

I read 158 total books in 2016, the majority (71%) of which I read were actual physical books.  I did get a new Kindle for Christmas, and consequently read 48 books on that.  The Kindle is great for travel, but I really prefer hardcopies and don’t know that that will ever change.


The most popular genre, by far, was Science Fiction, with 26 books.  After that came Academic works at 16.  Surprisingly low considering that I spent much of the Fall reading and rereading sources in order to revise my dissertation, but I realize that this involved a lot more reading of individual chapters, reading articles, hunting for specific passages in indexes, etc.  In terms of sheer bulk, academic works undoubtedly made up the majority.  Contributing also to the low number is that I’m inconsistent about classifying primary sources, something I’m trying to be better about this year.  Travel literature came in third with 12 books, again surprising me.  Frankly, I’d forgotten a lot of them by the end of the year.  After this was General Fiction at 11 and Poetry at 7 books.


In terms of authors, the most popular by far was E.C. Tubb with 10 entries.  That’s misleading, however, as I actually read 16 of his books (meaning also that the number for science fiction is too low).  Six were collected in an omnibus edition that I only counted as a single book.  Tubb, a relatively obscure figure, is the author of the Dumarest books, a rip roaring series of planetary romances recounting the adventures of Earl Dumarest on his never-ending quest to find his lost home, Earth.  These books were excellent quick diversions whenever I had a spare day or so and wanted to read something light and exciting.  Although formulaic, they maintained a certain quality throughout, and I think they’re unjustly forgotten.  Worth a look.

After Tubb, Jack Vance was the second most read author.  I read 8 of his books and have already sung his praises. Then a large drop-off after Vance, Patrick Fermor, my favorite author of last year, made the list again with four books, primarily because I reread his wonderful trilogy in preparation for Linz and my honeymoon in Central Europe.

Notable Books

These are books I thought were especially excellent and that I would recommend to others.  As I mentioned above, many of these were rereads.


Space Viking  by H. Beam Piper – A brisk and yet surprisingly deep sci-fi romp.  The story of a quest for revenge that fosters the birth of an empire.  Far more interesting than many other ostensible classics of the genre and, above all, fun.

Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart by Josef Pieper – I’ve written about Pieper a number of times, and specifically about this book back in January.  An excellent, very brief primer on virtue.

The Divine Comedy by Dante – A legitimate candidate for my favorite book of all time.  I’ve reread at least part of it every year for the last four years and am doing so again as I write.  Almost unbearably beautiful.  I hope one day to be able to teach Dante in full, as discussing him with students is a truly fantastic experience.

The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald – A wonderful, melancholy rumination on memory and loss.  Whenever I read it, I have a sense that there’s something momentous looming just behind the words, something that I just can’t grasp.  One day, I’ll be able to say more, but I’ll probably have to reread it another three times before that day comes.

The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey – The best book on teaching and coaching that I’ve ever read, deeply insightful and a must read for anyone engaged in pedagogy.  Ideally, this would the basis of my own teaching/coaching, but I worry that my attempts have largely been a failure.  I wrote a little about Inner Game in conjunction with Pieper’s writings on virtue here.

In Defense of Sanity by G.K. Chesterton  – Simon Leys, who will make an appearance later on this list, described Chesterton as “a poet who dances with a hundred legs,” and I doubt I can say anything that better captures the spirit of the man.  Perhaps my favorite author of all time and likely the greatest mind of the 20th century.  This book is a “best of” collection of his essays, every one brimming with insight, wonder, and joy.

The Intellectual Life by A.G. Sertillanges – Years ago, I read a blog post about “Companion Books”, books that truly count, that nourish your inner being and shape you.  I’ve come to realize I have a number of these, perhaps too many, and Sertillanges’s masterpiece is one of them.  His portrait of the intellectual life is what I aspire to and yet fall short of far too often.

The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson – Perhaps, you’re growing tired of me saying that a book is one of my all-time favorites and heaping effusive praise on an author.  If so, my apologies, because this is one of my all-time favorite books.  Indeed, it’s probably the fiction book that I most often recommend to others.  Most of all, and this seems to be a theme that I hadn’t noticed until this moment with the books I enjoyed most last year, there’s a sense of fun here, a joy in the adventures of Red Orm that I find incredibly endearing, and I think you will too.

The Transylvanian Trilogy by Miklos Banffy – A series of books that I always intend to write more about but stumble when confronted with the enormity of speaking intelligently about Banffy’s trilogy.  The collapse of the old order in and immediately after the First World War fascinates me, and this book is a particularly gripping account of the Austro-Hungarian side of that collapse, written by a man who experienced it first hand.  Aristocrats while away their lives at glittering parties, as around them the world collapses.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville – Another book that I eternally hope to write about, even more so than Banffy’s trilogy.  Most of the books that are considered to be great classics are considered to be so because they are truly excellent, and Melville’s magnum opus is no exception.  Don’t be put off by the occasionally meandering survey of whaling implements, this is a magnificent book.

The History and Topography of Ireland by Gerald of Wales – One of my favorite medieval works and, like almost all of my favorite works from that era, it’s a survey of the bizarre and wonderful.  In this case, Gerald details the surprising things found in that distant and barbarous land of Ireland in the wake of the Norman Conquest of that Island.  I’ve written about Gerald here and here and will be presenting some more developed thoughts on the subject at Kalamazoo this year.  Also, I’ll be visiting Ireland in June and am very excited to see some magic wells and self-castrating beavers.

New Books

The Peregrine by J.A. Baker – A weird, obsessive, and beautiful book documenting one man’s obsession and seeming identification with the falcon.

The Glory of their Times by Lawrence Ritter – Again, the appeal of this oral history on the early years of baseball is joy, the joy of playing, of camaraderie, and of youth.  Fascinating stories that wash over you, transporting you to the simple and sun-dappled world of the ballpark.  My enduring impression is of the sounds of the game, the purity of the crack of a hit, the thud of a ball into the outfielder’s glove (I always treasure this, whether it’s the squeak of shoes on a basketball court or the click of pool balls on the table.  There’s something magical about these simple sounds).

In the First CircleWarning to the West, and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn –Solzhenitsyn is the winner of my coveted Author of the Year award, and I’ll have more to say about him in future posts (I promise, with the worry that it will be a promise unfulfilled).  He’s an author that I’ve put off reading for far too long, particularly given my affection for Russian novelists.  His fiction brings home the grinding, stupid banality of the Soviet Regime in all its horror, and his collection of speeches in Warning to the West shed a harsh light on the moral failures of the “free” world.  Those cancerous failures have only gotten more serious in subsequent decades as the liberal order agonizingly rots from the inside out.

The Hall of Uselessness by Simon Leys  – Although Solzhenitsyn was the author whom I discovered this year that I most enjoyed, The Hall of Uselessness was my favorite book.  More than anything, the essays collected in this wonderfully-named volume make clear that Leys was a man who genuinely loved books, loved literature; its characters, its twists, and its turns.  That love shines forth from every page, and if you too love books, you should read this one.

He Leadth Me by Walter Ciszek – A gripping portrait of sainthood amidst the horrors of the Soviet gulag.  Ciszek was a young Jesuit who sought to evangelize the communist world, was snapped up by the Soviets in their invasion of Poland, and spent decades ministering in prison camps.  Deeply moving and almost impossibly heroic.

Saving the Appearances by Owen Barfield – A profound meditation on the consequences of recent scientific discoveries on our metaphysical picture of the world, particularly our understanding of the past.  Staggering in their implications, Barfield’s conclusions are such that I’m only barely able to grasp their import.  This is what real philosophy, or at least real speculative metaphysics, ought to look like.  As with many of these books, I hope one day to write in more detail about it, but, unlike with many of the others, with Barfield I barely know where to start.  Not easy reading, but strongly recommended none the less.

Phew, that’s it.  I truly hope that at least some of these books seem interesting to you, dear reader.  Every one is absolutely worth your time.  Read more.

2015 in Books

Every year I read a lot of books and spend far too much time playing around with spreadsheets tracking them all.  I then promise myself that I’ll use that tracking data to write a lengthy summary of my reading, only to break that promise as soon as humanely possible.  This year, I shockingly didn’t break my promise, but I did wait a full month before writing this post.

Thus, my year in books. This will be my longest post on the blog by far.

Stat Sheet

So, 171 books total, the vast majority of which were read in actual book form, rather than Kindle or e-books.


Unsurprisingly, the authors who I read the most were those who wrote series.  Bernard Cornwell tops the list at seven books, although I’d frankly come to dislike his writing by the end of the year.  His Saxon and Arthur tales just weren’t on par with the Sharpe series that I devoured last year, largely because I found the voice of the (very similar) protagonists in both series grating.  Jack Vance was next with six books.  Vance is good stuff and unique.  I’ll talk about him more when we get to my list of “notable” books.  Neal Asher, another relatively pulpy series writer whose Cormac series I burned through in December had five books on the list.  It’s enjoyable enough sci-fi, if that’s your bag.  Tied with him was Patrick Fermor, who I’ll also get to later.  He’s excellent, as are the two writers that round out the top five (er, six), Evelyn Waugh and Josef Pieper.  Pieper I recently posted about, and Waugh has written some of the best fiction of the last century.  Both are well worth seeking out.


Assigning a book to a genre was a relatively unscientific process, so the numbers aren’t anything near perfect.  Scholarly books (18) topped the list, although I certainly read fewer than I should have, followed by Poetry (17), Historical Fiction (16), General Fiction (16), and Sci-Fi (15).

Notable Books

These were the books that I thought were especially excellent, which I’m likely to reread (some going immediately into the pile for the upcoming year), and which I’d recommend to others

The Complete Shakespeare – My big project for the year.  Turns out that Shakespeare is excellent and should be read by just about everyone.  I thoroughly enjoyed the entire read through. My power ranking of the plays, based on nothing but personal enjoyment:


  1. 1 Henry IV
  2. Henry V
  3. Richard III


  1. Macbeth
  2. Julius Caesar
  3. King Lear


  1. Merry Wives of Windsor
  2. Much Ado About Nothing

The astute reader might be able to guess my favorite character from this list (hint).

A Time of Gifts, Between the Woods and Water, and Mani by Patrick Fermor – The first two of these chronicle Fermor’s journey on foot from the hook of Holland to Constantinople and are the most wonderful bits of travel literature I’ve ever encountered.  The third is a similarly excellent account of the southern Peloponnese. Fermor is a wonderfully engaging character (another recommendation goes to Ill Met By Moonlight, the gripping account of one of Fermor’s escapades in World War II written by a close friend) whose personality shines through the page, and his prose makes you fall in love with the land he explores and the people who populate it.  Lurking behind it all is an air of tragedy, stemming from our knowledge that these places, the time, and the people were on the verge of being consumed by the great destruction of the Second World War and the communist occupation which followed.  The book instilled a profound desire to visit every place he mentioned and an even stronger wanderlust which afflicts me to this day.  My strongest recommendation.  I consider these to be my favorite books of the year and award Fermor the soon to be extremely prestigious AUTHOR OF THE YEAR award.

The Art of Loving God by St. Francis de Sales – An eminently readable, practical, and moving work of devotion.  If you’re the type of person to have a spiritual library, Francis de Sales should be in it.

Inferno by Dante – Duh.  Although it should be noted that this is my least favorite book of the Comedia.  I wrote about it here, and I’ll be reading this again for class in a few weeks, something I’m looking forward to very much.

The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa – I mentioned Banffy’s Transylvanian Trilogy in my last post, and this book, while very different from Banffy’s work touches on many of the same themes.  I apparently have a thing for decadent, decaying aristocracies on the verge of destruction.  It’s a beautifully written book, which wonderfully conveys a mood, sweltering and heavy with meaning.  Very strongly recommended.

Georgics by Virgil – Dryden called this “the best poem by the best poet.”  Works for me.  I quoted some passages here and here.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius – Practical philosophical meditations written by perhaps the closest thing to an actual philosopher king we’ve ever seen.  Stoicism isn’t perfect, far from it, there’s  a gaping hole at the center, but you could do much worse than taking the maxims here to heart.  Brandon at Siris has written some very good posts on the Meditations starting here, and continuing with Book II, Books III-IV, V-VII, VIII-X, and XI-XII.

Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper – My previous post outlined why I’m a fan of Pieper, this is perhaps his most famous work.  You’ll never think about the weekend the same way again.

Poems of a Mountain Home – Saigyo – This was the favorite bit of poetry I read all year, and I’ve been meaning to post about it for months.  Prior to reading it I had no real experience with non-western poetry, aside from a brief foray into a few Indian poems in undergrad.  Saigyo captures something beautiful in his poems, making the sparseness of the form the engine which make it so evocative.  I never feel qualified to really talk about poetry, so I’ll just not that these have stuck with me, lodged deep in the gut.

Sundrun’s Garden, The Green Pearl, and Madouc by Jack Vance – Vance is probably my favorite sci-fi author.  He has a mysterious quality that others lack, an odd sort of creativity that just makes his works different than everyone else.  These books are a fantasy trilogy, and they display all the wonderful inventiveness that characterizes the best of Vance.  There was one major downside to this series though, far too much sexual violence, not vividly described, but lurking so much that the read became actively unpleasant at times.  It’s a testament to Vance’s skill that he was able to maintain my interest despite this, and a mark against him that he felt the need to include it in the first place.

Helena by Evelyn Waugh – Waugh, it should be clear by now, is one of my favorite authors and this book is a delightfully weird retelling of the life of St. Helena, mother of Constantine, as if she were a member of the British upper class.  It’s a fascinating book, an extremely unconventional portrait of sainthood, which I’ve enjoyed more and more each time I’ve read it.

Selected Stories of Anton Chekov – I don’t feel like I have much to add here.  It’s a short story collection of one of the most famously excellent short story writers in history.  Deeply affecting stories, despite the fact that you know where they’re all going thanks to his constant, inferior, modern imitators.

The Intellectual Life by A.G. Sertillanges – An admirable book, one which I’ve attempted (and likely failed) to take as a model of what my academic vocation should be.  I re-read it every few years to remind myself of where I’m going wrong and how I might set myself right again.

If Not, Winter  by Sappho – Mentioned here. I read this, or at least read the first half, in a tent during a terrible storm which I had narrowly escaped.  It left an enduring image in the memory, akin to reading the suicide forest passage of the Inferno in front of a crackling fire, which is inescapably linked with the poems in my mind.  Whether it was that moment or the poems themselves, I really enjoyed these fragments.

Song of Roland – More poetry!  Stabbing! Charlemagne! Blowing on a horn! What more could you want?

The Alexandreis by Walter of Chatillon – Written about here and here.  Another medieval poem, one which has been unfairly (to my eyes) neglected by subsequent generations.  It’s a fun epic, with some very interesting content, especially in later books, that I only scratched the surface of in the linked posts.  I might actually make this the focus of some research down the line, when I finally escape the clutches of my dissertation.

On the Incarnation by Athanasius – Back when I played Kingdom of Loathing, my favorite and most used familiar was named Athanasius.  This is to illustrate that I’ve always had a soft-spot in my heart for the combative bishop of Alexandria, and this is his greatest work.  The Boethius post I promised awhile ago and which I promise I’ll finish one day will have some further reflections on this text, which I found to have some truly great depth on this my 3rd or 4th re-read.

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis – Prior to re-reading the trilogy, I considered Perelandra to by my favorite of Lewis’s series.  On this read, I was shocked by how little I enjoyed that work and how much I found to enjoy in this one.  Like all the best of Lewis’s fiction (i.e. Til We Have Faces) combines tremendous depth with an outwardly simple style that makes it a joy to read, re-read, and reflect upon.

Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household – A book that can best be described as “visceral”, it’s a roaring story of a man’s descent into animality as he flees merciless assassins into the cultivated wilderness of Britain.  It’s the type of book that punches you in the gut in a good way, an excellent adventure novel.

That was far longer than I expected.  Apologies for any typos which may have crept in, and I hope it’s at least given you some ideas of books you might also enjoy.  Read more.