It’s that time again. Another year is wending its way to a close and we’re all preoccupied with preparations for Christmas. This being so, I thought I’d offer my personal selection of books, published in 2019, which I feel would make good gifts for those imaginative conservatives in our lives.
I’ll begin with From Fire by Water: My Journey to the Catholic Faith by Sohrab Ahmari (Ignatius Press), which charts the spiritual journey of the author from a soft agnosticized Islamic childhood in his native Iran, via his teenage years as an immigrant in the United States besotted with the ideas of Marx and Nietzsche, to a mature acceptance of Catholic Christianity. This is one of the most engaging and cogent conversion stories that I’ve ever read and is well worth a place under the tree.
Deal W. Hudson’s How to Keep from Losing Your Mind: Educating Yourself Classically to Survive Cultural Indoctrination (TAN Books) is a boon and a blessing in these dark and darkening days. The author, whose weekly radio show, “Church and Culture,” is a beacon of beauty which brightens Sunday mornings at the Pearce household, is a seasoned warrior of the culture wars and well qualified to wax learned on the Great Books and the goodness, truth, and beauty they offer. It is indeed singularly apt that the book should be dedicated “to the memory of Dr. Mortimer J. Adler” because it honours the noble tradition that the incomparable and indomitable Dr. Adler championed.
It’s always good to receive something by or about C.S. Lewis for Christmas and my choice this year would be The Restoration of Man: C.S. Lewis and the Continuing Case Against Scientism by Michael D. Aeschliman (Discovery Institute). Dr. Aeschliman is a writer whom I’ve admired for many years and his latest offering employs the wisdom of Lewis to get to grips with what might be seen as the war between those who see science as a good and those who see it as a god.
A book that I can’t recommend highly enough is The Day is Now Far Spent by Robert Cardinal Sarah (Ignatius Press). For those who don’t know, Cardinal Sarah is an African prelate who has the courage and conviction to speak the truth in the face of the errors and heresies of the age. At a time when many bishops in Europe have surrendered to the poisonous spirit of the age and its culture of death, Cardinal Sarah reminds us of the priceless heritage of Christian culture that Europe has squandered.
Any new volume by Flannery O’Connor demands our attention and commands our respect, which is why Good Things Out of Nazareth: The Uncollected Letters of Flannery O’Connor and Friends (Convergent Books) is an indispensable addition to any imaginative conservative’s Christmas list. Edited by Benjamin B. Alexander, this volume reveals aspects of Flannery O’Connor which are fascinating in themselves, as well as snippets of correspondence with other Southern writers, such as Walker Percy and Allen Tate.
Moving from the Deep South to the Dark North, I would recommend a new edition of The Winding Road, a two-part novel by Sigrid Undset, who many will know as the author of Kristin Lavransdatter, the three-part novel which is indubitably one of the finest works of literature of the last century. The Winding Road is published by Cluny Media, a dynamic tradition-oriented publisher, and is available as two separate stand-alone volumes: The Wild Orchid and The Burning Bush, the first and second parts, respectively, of the duology.
Moving from literature to music, I would find room under the tree for The Sound of Beauty: A Classical Composer on Music in the Spiritual Life by Michael Kurek (Ignatius Press). I would give this as a gift to the music-lover in the family, along with a copy of Kurek’s latest CD of tone poems, The Sea Knows, which made number one in the Billboard contemporary classical music charts upon its release.
Having found room under the tree for those who love fiction and non-fiction, it would be good to ensure that the poetry lover in the family is not neglected. Two new volumes of verse would be particularly appropriate: Twenty Poems to Pray by Gary M. Bouchard (Liturgical Press) and Reaching Forever by Philip C. Kolin (Cascade Books). The first of these two volumes offers prayerful meditations on a range of well-known poems by Shakespeare, Hopkins, Southwell, Tennyson, Donne, Herbert, and Frost, amongst others. The second is a collection of original verse by one of the finest of contemporary poets.
The final three books are the first three titles in the “What Every Catholic Should Know” series, published jointly by the Augustine Institute and Ignatius Press. I am happy to confess, happily and unabashedly, that I have helped to launch this series in my capacity as Director of Book Publishing at the Augustine Institute, and I make no excuse for advocating and promoting a series which I think is very important, irrespective of my own vested interest in its success. The three titles in question are my own book, Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know, and two titles by my colleagues at the Augustine Institute, both of whom are professors of theology in the Augustine Institute’s graduate program: Salvation: What Every Catholic Should Know by Michael Barber, and God: What Every Catholic Should Know by Elizabeth Klein.
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The featured image is “Job Lot Cheap” (1878) by William Michael Harnett (1848-1892), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.