This year, I've read a lot of good books worth recommending. I've mentioned a couple on this list over the course of the year. They are worth a 2nd (or 3rd) mention.
Anyhow, here are the books that I suggest are worth your taking a look at:
Dinesh D'Souza has been busy this year with 2 books coming out. The 1st, The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibilty for 9/11 (Doubleday ISBN-13: 978-0385510127, paperback: Broadway ISBN-13: 978-0767915618, 12 Feb 2008) created a lot of controversy. In it he places some of the blame for the 9/11 attacks on the American liberal left & their cultural agenda. He makes some very interesting points about how what the left's agenda is & how it IS a slap in the face of radical, & moderate Islam.
Some on the right have rejected his thesis. They see D'Souza's claims as justifying the attacks. He isn't. The radicals hate us & would have attacked even if the West. But what his book proves is that we HAVE given them addition ammo to justify the attacks & enable the radicals to gain creedance with moderates & make it impossible to work with us.
As for those of the left, they say he is calling us to give up our freedoms. I'm sorry, he isn't talking about us exercising freedom. The garbage the left promotes as freedom is licence, NOT freedom. & there is no God given right to that. Part of the book is a call for us to return to true freedom, as our Founding Fathers intended us to have. This freedom is based on Natural Law & responsibility to act & live morally.
His 2nd book, What's So Great About Christianity (Regnery, ISBN-13: 978-1596985179) is his response to all those attacks against Christianity that have recent appeared in book stores. I am still in the process of finishing the book, but I have been very impressed with what I have read so far. D'Souza takes on the critics using their own arguements, showing the holes & falicies in their arguements. He does so using classic philosophical methods to make his points & tear down the atheistic arguements against God & Christianity. & while he uses philosophy, you don't need to be an expert in philosophy to understand what he is saying.
I see only 1 weakness in the book, & that is given the fact that he is covering so many different arguements he can only give a basic overview of his arguements. Each chapter could be a book f its own. He has debated many of these topics & is able to go into greater detail during those debates.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure to meet Mr. D'Souza after a lecture he gave here at Loras. After the talk he was meeting with people & autographing his books. Right before I got to talk to him someone attacked 1 of his statements in his talk. I was very impressed with how he was able to respond, defend his position & do so in a way that was respectful of the person while still proving him wrong. He was the total opposite of the person attacking him.
I am a big fan of good mystery novels. Over the years have become a fan of Lilian Jackson Braun & her feline detectives Koko & Yum Yum, aided by their owner(?) Jim Qwilleran. Her latest addition to the series is The Cat Who had 60 Whiskers (Paperback: Jove ISBN-13: 978-0515143959). Some of the novels in the series have been disappointing. This 1 started off with a way too long intro reviewing the history of the main characters. This time, 1 of the murders involves a bee sting. Beyond that, I won't go into much detail. While there were things about the novel I liked, something was missing. & some of the changes in the lives of a couple of the main characters (human) just made no sense at all. This is not a book to start out the series with. It is for die-hard fans.
On the other hand, Diane Mott Davidson's latest novle about her mystery solving caterer Goldie, was much more satisfying. Sweet Revenge (William Morrow ISBN-13: 978-0060527334) takes place at Christmas. & as usual murder is on the meadow. This time, it is clearly motivated by revenge. But why? & what does supposedly dead Sandee Brisbane have to do with it? As usual, the story mixes murder mystery with good food & some interesting (& anything but lo-cal) recipes. & it has a couple of tasty surprizes before it reaches the end.
These 2 series take place in smaller towns. This raises an interesting question, after all these years why is anyone still alive in either 1. These towns have higher murder rates than New York City. Still, the same was true of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple & Hercule Poirot. They seemed to attract murder wherever they went.
For fans of The Addams Family, Linda H. Davis has written a bio of their creator. Chas Addams : a cartoonist's life (Random House ISBN-13: 978-0679463252) reveals the man behind the cartoons. & it isn't always a pretty picture. But, the person who comes out worst (deservedly so) is his 2nd wife, Estelle B. Barb (Barbara Barb). Like his 1st wife, she bore a resemblance to his character Morticia. She was also evil scheming & manipulative, a lawyer who lived down to the bad reputation the often have. She tricked him into giving her partial right to his Family. As a result the TV series came close to never existing. The book has some intersting insites into the man. & if you are an Addams fan, it is well worth reading.
Fr. C. John McCloskey is the former director of the Catholic Information Center. A memeber of Opus Dei, he is well known as a convert maker. People whom he has helped lead into the Catholic Church include Senator Sam Brownback, publisher Alfred Regnery, Dr. Bernard Nathanson & journalist Robert Novak. He cowrote Good News, Bad News Evangelization, Conversion, and The Crisis of Faith (Ignatius Press ISBN 1586171259) with Russell Shaw. This book is a practical guide to evangelization.
Judie Brown's Saving Those Damned Catholics has already been looked at by me in greater detail. There is nothing more I can add but to repeat what I said before. Read it.
Fr. Benedict Groeschel takes a look at some old friends that have been forgotten by most, declared meaningless or unimportant for today by others. The Virtue Driven Life (Our Sunday Visitor ISBN-13: 978-1592762651) looks at the Cardinal & Theological Virtues. Each chapter looks at a virtue & how they are they are to function in a person's life. This is a much needed book. Our society needs to rediscover these virtues. & Christians must have these virtues if we are to make the difference God wants us to make. Fr. Groeschel has given us an excellent tool to understand & live out these virtues.
Raymond Arroyo's latest, MOTHER ANGELICA'S LITTLE BOOK of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality (Doubleday ISBN-13: 978-0385519854) is an excellent followup to his biography of Mother Angelica. This book is a collection of her thoughts & sayings on various subjects. It is loaded with her spiritual wisdom & insights. This is not a book to be simply read & put on the shelf. It is divided into subjects & is an excellent resource to be drawn upon in times where you need spiritual insight into the subject. & esp when you want Mother Angelica's inimitable style of doing so. The only thing is, I wish it had more in it. Yes, it covers a wide range of topics, but I know there is a lot more Mother has to offer that was left out. I'd like to see a complete collection of her writings. Maybe a future project?
Most people are familiar with the Knights of Columbus. But until recently, very few people besides KC members knew anything about it's founder, Fr. Michael McGivney. Douglas Brinkley and Julie M. Fenster have taken care of that problem in Parish Priest : Father Michael McGivney and the American Catholicism (Hardcover, William Morrow ISBN-10: 0060776846; Paperback, Haper Perennial ISBN-13: 978-0060776855). The biography looks at Fr. McGivney's all too short life. It does an excellent job at looking at his childhood, what influences made him into the man (& future saint) he would become. It looks at the anti-Catholicism of his time & the hardships facing Catholic families (poverty, starvation, etc) that were prelevant then. Some of his insights in dealing with the problems came from his own life's experiences & struggles. You come to understand the heart of the man & his desire to serve Christ & serve God's people as a priest. You also come to understand why he started the KCs. This book shows why he should become the 1st American born priest to be canonized by the Catholic Church.
Laura Ingraham has done it again. She not only looks at the problems we face & accurately diagnoses the problem, she provides us with the prescription to find the cure. In Power to the People (Regnery ISBN-10: 159698516X) she looks at the current sorry state of American culture as well as takes on the cultural elites of the left & right. She not only looks at the problems, she gives practical solutions to deal with them. & the overlying practical solution is simple, fight back. This book isn't so much a list of things to do. Rather it is a call to arms. If each of us does our part, then we can take back America, return it to its Judeo-Christian foundation on which the Declaration of Independence & Constitution were built & restore it to what it was ment to be. This is a book the elites won't want you to read. It is a must read in my mind. She takes the old 60s rallying cry of the Left, Power to the people!, that really ment power to the elites & gives it the meaning & challence the phrase was ment to have.
Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday ISBN-13: 978-0385520379), with commentary & editing by Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk MC, has been a very controversial book. It takes the private writings of Mother Teresa & lets us see the struggles she went through in trying to obey the call from God to be a witness to Christ. Many people were upset that these writings were made public. Others were shocked by the revelation of her years of struggle with feeling unloved by God.
& the media once again showed how it just doesn't get it when it comes to true faith in Jesus. Some of the reviews have totally missed the message of her life. Sadly 1 of the worst was by a Dominican nun who made the book sound like Mother Teresa was a proto-feminist struggling against the oppresive male dominated power structure of the Catholic Church. What that so-called nun calls "speaking truth to power" was anything but. Mother Teresa was not fighting the male heirarchy, she was fully submissive to it. The aggresiveness shown by Mother was born of her strong desire to obey the call by Christ to bring souls to Him to satisfy His thirst for their salvation.
This book is not an easy book to read. It is uncomfortable while also being comforting. Uncomfortable in that it challenges the reader to a more radical living of the Gospel. Comforting in that if a great saint like Mother Teresa can struggle with doubts & spiritual darkness & go on, then so can the rest of us. & it shows how & why Catholic social action should exist, not as an end in itself as so much of the social Gospel crowd have perveted into. Feeding the poor, clothing the naked, etc are a part of the Christian's call to evangelize & bring all people to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Mother did so on the best foundation possible, the Eucharist. Throughout her deepest & darkest night of the soul, she never abandoned her deep devotion to the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. & that is why she included daily Eucharistic adoration as a key part of every Missionary of Charity's day.
This is a book that is a must read for anyone who wants to be inspired to grow in his or her faith. As I said, it is also a very challenging book. But a challenge well worth it.
Papa Benedetto's Jesus of Nazareth (Doubleday ISBN-13: 978-0385523417) is 1 of several books under his by-line that came out this year. Others include a collection of some of his addresses at his Wed audiences. This book is part 1 of his 2 part meditation on the life of Christ. It is also a strong answer to those who try & claim Jesus didn't say everything the Bible says He did, or do the miracles either.
He starts of in the Introduction by showing how exclusive use of the historical -critical method has led to an understanding of Jesus that is anything but historical. Historical-critical can help us understand the times that were those of Jesus, but alone, it cannot help us to truly know or understand who Jesus is. Jesus is to be understood in the context of the whole of Scripture, Old as well as New Testament. What he then goes on to do is present some rich meditations on the life & teachings of Jesus. & I do mean rich. This is NOT a book to be read in a single sitting. Instead it is 1 to be read slowly, savoring & meditating on the thoughts & insights Papa Benedetto presents. He starts with the Baptism of Jesus by John & works up to the Transfiguration. I can't wait for book 2 & hope he is able to include the infancy naratives.
Meanwhile, I've already begun my 2008 list. I just got Ann Coulter's If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans & hope to soon get Justice Clarence Thomas' My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir to read. & I see a new Cat Who novel is on its way out. 2008 holds a lot of promise for good reading, esp as an alternative to all the political rhetoric. (Thank God we get a break here in Iowa after next Thursday!)