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!

Evan’s Recent Reads, Edition One

1. “Supreme Commander: MacArthur’s Triumph in Japan” by Seymour Morris Jr. I enjoyed this 300-page account of how Douglas MacArthur handled the responsibility of helping a devastated post-WWII Japan back on its feet. He essentially held absolute power though did not abuse it in the slightest. MacArthur’s political impact is obvious, but Morris also highlights MacArthur’s humanitarian impact.

2. “Frederick the Great: King of Prussia” by Timothy Blanning. Frederick was the poster boy of “enlightened absolutism” and quite a complex man as well. This biography is approximately 500 pages long and I skimmed a few parts of it, but what I did read I found valuable.

3. “Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream — And Why It Matters” by Helen Smith, PhD. Great book. Much of what she wrote would not be out of place on a site like Return of Kings. She explains why so many young men are opting out of a system that’s against them. Men are suffering economic hurt and emotional rejection, which affects not just men but also women and society itself.

4. “The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life” by Michael Puett. Recommended by Ryan Holiday on his book recommendations newsletter (which you ought to subscribe to). I loved the first half but found myself skimming much of the second. Still got some good nuggets of wisdom out of it, though.

5. “George, Nicholas, and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I” by Miranda Carter. Just began this one last night. Carter analyzes a voluminous amount of letters and diaries from these monarchs and their families, and she illustrates a not-so-harmonious relationship amongst these related dynasties.

6. “Candide” by Voltaire. I cannot endorse Voltaire’s thought (I am Catholic after all). However there’s no denying that Voltaire was a brilliant writer and one of the Enlightenment’s greatest minds. This snarky, witty satire is a criticism of both Leibnizian thought and theodicy in general. And it’s also a fascinating adventure story of sorts.