Evan’s Recent Reads: Edition Eight

1. “A Concise History of the Catholic Church” by Thomas Bokenkotter. This concise history is over 500 pages long—that alone tells you how complex the Catholic Church is. Reads like a textbook, which isn’t bad considering the topic. Recommended for newbies as well as those looking to brush up on their Church history.

2. “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. Didn’t take me long to start and finish this book. Essentialism is not a collection of productivity hacks, it’s a way of life, a way of doing everything differently. It’s about working smart, prioritizing the important things in life, and seizing control of how you spend your time.

3. “Take Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters” by Laura Thompson. Intriguing subject matter and entertaining account, but the story meandered and felt long-winded. I was able to finish though. Three stars.

4. “1924: The Year That Made Hitler” by Peter Ross Range. Of all the books about Hitler, most focus on Hitler the leader, not Hitler the man. Range’s work focuses on the latter. Hitler considered suicide after his failed putsch, and most thought the NSDAP was dead. But prison was the best thing that could’ve happened to Hitler, for it allowed him to write Mein Kampf and reassess his approach to obtaining power.

5. “The Art of Praying” by Romano Guardini. Great work for those seeking guidance on establishing better prayer habits and reinvigorating one’s relationship with God. Guardini got verbose at times though, so I could only give it four-and-a-half stars, not the full five.

6. “First Person” by Vladimir Putin. It’s a series of interviews not just with Putin, but also with his wife, his daughters, one of his former schoolteachers, and others. Some parts were interesting, some parts dry. It added to my understanding of Putin but not too much. That’s why Steven Lee Myers’ “The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin” is now on my to-read list.

Evan’s Recent Reads, Edition Seven

1. “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. Last time I read this classic was over two years ago. I really liked it then but love it now. Fun fact: Lewis was actually not a trained theologian.

2. “The Prose Edda” by Snorri Sturluson. If you want to learn about Norse mythology, this is what you read. Medieval Scandinavian literature has never resonated with me as much as other literature, however. That’s probably a deficiency in me.

3. “Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son” by George Horace Lorimer. Don’t be deceived: these are actually fictional letters. While I didn’t care for a few of the 20 letters, several still contained great nuggets of wisdom on education, business, and relationships.

4. “What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars” by Jim Paul. I read this book in two sittings a couple of nights ago. An entertaining memoir coupled with valuable lessons that the reader can apply to life in general, not just trading and business. Chances are I’ll buy my own copy so I can re-read it several times.

5. “The End of the Modern World” by Romano Guardini. In this work, Guardini combines historical, social, philosophical, and theological analysis to communicate the dangers of the “Mass Man.” Lots packed into a book that doesn’t exceed 220 pages.

Evan’s Recent Reads, Edition Six

1. “On Writing” by Stephen King. A must-read for all writers. King’s insights are primarily directed at fiction writers but benefit non-fiction writers as well. General tips for all writers: read and write at least four to six hours every day, don’t consciously improve your vocabulary, and don’t overuse adverbs. General tips for fiction writers: spend as little time plotting as possible, don’t worry about intentionally creating symbolism, and aim for honesty when writing dialogue. If you want more tips, go read the damn book.

2. “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday. A lesson in using adversity to your advantage. Holiday, per usual, draws from Stoic thought and illustrates his points with tales of great historical figures. My favorite of Holiday’s books.

3. “Don’t Know Much About Mythology” by Kenneth C. Davis. Cracked this one open last night. I feel somewhat ashamed by my lack of mythological knowledge, so this book’s a good place to start. Davis writes in an engaging, entertaining style, which a mythological newbie like me appreciates.

4. “The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?” by Seth Godin. Today’s economy rewards creativity and emotional labor—in other words, art. Godin challenges the reader to see himself as an artist, his work as art. Although I enjoy Godin’s pithy writing style as well as his insights, the book didn’t need to be 240 pages long.

5. “Selected Speeches and Writings of Theodore Roosevelt” by Gordon Hutner. Bought this book during a recent episode of travel. TR was the most prolific writer the Oval Office has ever seen, publishing books and articles on everything under the sun. I’ve read a lot about TR, but aside from his autobiography, I had never read much by TR until now.

Evan’s Recent Reads, Edition Five

1. “SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police” by Vox Day. Vox is an impressive guy. He created InfoGalactic, operates two blogs, designs video games, and writes science fiction novels and other books. SJWAL is polemical in nature. Think of it as a handy guide in knowing who SJWs are, what SJWs do, and how you can defend yourself against their thought policing.

2. “Goethe: Life as a Work of Art” by RĂ¼diger Safranski. Finished this one last night. Although Safranski published the book in German four years ago, the English translation by David Dollenmayer was released a few short weeks ago. Goethe wore numerous hats throughout his life: lawyer, statesman, author, poet, scientist, artist. He wasn’t just a dilettante, though; he was an artistic and poetic genius. And he didn’t just dabble in science, he made great contributions to botany and the theory of color. As Michael Dirda wrote in his review of the book, “Neophytes will certainly be bored, yet Goethe aficionados will learn a lot.” I would suggest reading Goethe’s Wikipedia page as well as some of his work before diving into this biography.

3. “Do I Make Myself Clear? Why Writing Well Matters” by Harold Evans. Fair book. Evans did get political at times, and I felt the work didn’t need to be 350+ pages long. In any case, I did get some valuable writing tips out of it. Three out of five stars.

4. “The Vision of the Soul: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in the Western Tradition” by James Matthew Wilson. Wilson is a professor at Villanova University. I presumed he was Catholic because of the themes and thinkers he discusses. Recommended reading if you’re into philosophy and/or theology.

5. “Be Like a Fox: Machiavelli in His World” by Erica Benner. Started this one a couple of days ago. Haven’t made too much progress on it due to a busy schedule and other books on my nightstand. Machiavelli is perhaps the most misunderstood thinker in the West, and Benner seeks to correct people’s perceptions of him and his political philosophy.

6. Theodore Roosevelt’s Autobiography. I have read it before and am reading it again. People who know me know how much I love Teddy Roosevelt.

Evan’s Recent Reads, Edition Four

1. “Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault” by Pierre Hadot. For centuries philosophy was a way of life, characterized by what Hadot calls “spiritual exercises.” Since much of modern philosophy is inextricably linked to academia and deconstructionism, these ancient and medieval spiritual exercises remind us of philosophy’s roots, namely the love of wisdom and cultivation of virtue.

2. “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday. Ego is not just an enemy, but THE enemy. It’s the enemy “of what you want and of what you have: Of mastering a craft. Of real creative insight. Of working well with others. Of building loyalty and support. Of longevity. Of repeating and retaining your success.” You’d do well to read this book, especially if you’re a hard-working, ambitious person.

3. “Why the Allies Won” by Richard Overy. I’m not into specific combat/battle details, so I glossed over some of the book. But Overy is a must-read for WWII history buffs. This won’t be the last book of his that I read.

4. “Eternal Life: What You Need to Know About Death, Judgment, and Life Everlasting” by Romano Guardini. One of my theology professors has been reading lots of Guardini lately and recommended him to me. Guardini’s writing is simple yet profound—and therefore spiritually enriching. I also have his “Meditations on the Christ” on my to-read list.

5. “The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson” by Kevin J. Hayes. This one I just started. Combines Jefferson’s biography with the teachers and books which impacted his political philosophy and overall worldview. I love exploring the intellectual influences behind great historical figures. Hayes also just published a similar book on George Washington.

Evan’s Recent Reads, Edition Three

Three of these books are for my Christology class:

1. “The Priority of Christ: Toward a Postliberal Catholicism” by Robert Barron. Disclaimer: It’s quite dense and academic, and therefore better suited for those with a strong philosophical and theological background.

2. “The Christological Controversy” by Richard A. Norris. This is a collection of writings by various Church Fathers on the development of orthodox Christology. The Church Fathers are certainly not the easiest thinkers to read.

3. “Early Christian Doctrines” by J.ND. Kelly. A fantastic outline of the development of Christian thought. Explores religious and philosophical influences prior to Christ and summarizes Church teaching from the Apostolic Era to the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. Very valuable book.

Now onto the recent pleasure reads:

4. “Ride the Tiger” by Julius Evola. This is one of the Baron’s major works. To ride the tiger is to 1) recognize the futility of actively resisting modern organizations and institutions that can’t possibly allow man to fully “realize himself” and 2) seek spiritual meaning in the principles of Tradition.

5. “Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It” by Gary Taubes. I wrote in edition two of Evan’s Recent Reads that I had read Taubes’s “The Case Against Sugar.” I liked it and felt his other, earlier books were worth exploring. “Why We Get Fat” implicates carbs—namely refined carbs, starch, sucrose, and high fructose corn syrup. An astounding statistic he provides as well: an extra twenty calories a day, without extra physical activity, can lead to fifty extra pounds of fat in twenty years. So when you start to feel even slightly full, stop eating.

6. “Kaiser Wilhelm II: Germany’s Last Emperor” by John Van der Kiste. I read 100 pages, thumbed through the rest, and set it down. Plenty of great information, but I found it a dry read. It’s written like a textbook, which is fine for histories of nations, though not for biographies.

7. “Collected Short Stories: Volume 3” by Louis L’Amour. I’m not one of those people who can read only non-fiction and serious literature. L’Amour is an amazing (and voluminous!) storyteller. He’s worth your time.

Evan’s Recent Reads, Edition Two

1. “The History of Japan” by Louis Perez. The author is a Professor of Asian History at Illinois State University and uses this as his textbook. It reads like a textbook yet was engaging at the same time. I recommend it to those who’ve never read a book on Japanese history.

2. “The Case Against Sugar” by Gary Taubes. He makes a pretty damning case against sugar (i.e., table sugar and high fructose corn syrup). Reads more like a history book than a nutritional book, which is good for a layman like me. How little sugar is still too much? Taubes says it’s impossible to know, mostly because the symptoms of metabolic syndrome don’t appear until much later in life. So should you then cut sugar entirely out of your diet? Taubes doesn’t answer “yes” or “no;” he lets you make that decision yourself.

3. “Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterton, and the Wickedest Town in the American West” by Tom Clavin. An entertaining book that my father recommended to me. I’ve been fascinated by the Wild West since high school, so any book on the subject—whether it’s a historical account or a Western novel—is fair game for inclusion in my library.

4. “The Wisdom of Life” by Arthur Schopenhauer. Although an atheist and notorious pessimist, there is no philosopher I enjoy reading more than Schopenhauer. His writing style embodies clear thinking and is a treat to read on its own. This little book concerns “the art of ordering our lives so as to obtain the greatest amount of pleasure and success.” I highlighted it often and, like any of Schopenhauer’s works, I’ll be returning to it some time in the near future.

5. “The Merchant of Venice” by William Shakespeare. Can’t ever go wrong with The Bard!