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The holiday season was too busy for me to compile this sort of list, especially with a move to a new home thrown in, an event that always makes one ambivalent about book ownership anyhow. “Isn’t time to invest in a Kindle?” was the crack my younger economist friend made as we filled yet another box to the brim with the heavy pulpy matter—I guess those guys can live career-wise on journal articles, even if I’m sure the academic’s hoard will creep up on him eventually. I can’t claim that my list reflects comprehensive knowledge of the current book market, or even my own reading from 2012, which as per usual was more engaged with older books, but it seems unusual enough to be worth sharing. Not a few of these were published in 2011, or even 2010, and my categorization here reflects my judgment of quality more than my numerical ordering.

Really good books:

1) Ralph Hancock, Calvin and the Foundation of Modern Politics

2) Elizabeth Kantor, The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After

3) Richard Brookhiser, James Madison

4) Lucid Mind, Intrepid Spirit, Essays on the Thought of Chantal Delsol. Contributors include yours truly, Paul Seaton, Peter Lawler, Lauren Hall, and Delsol herself.

Non-top-flight books that I nonetheless was fascinated by:

5) Simon Reynolds, Retromania

6) Pankaj Mishra, From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia

7) Charles Portis, Escape Velocity: A Miscellany

8) Tocqueville, Letters from America , edited by Frederick Brown

9) Gary Bruce, The Firm: The Inside Story of the Stasi

One Pretty Bad Book that I still read 80% of:

10) Pete Townsend, Who I Am

Two Books that I’ve only read a quarter of, but which look to be great:

11) David Mayer, Liberty of Contract: Rediscovering a Lost Constitutional Right

12) Alan Gibson, Understanding the Founding, 2nd edition


I’ll comment on a few of these this time . . . more in another post.

1) Ralph Hancock, Calvin and the Foundation of Modern Politics

Yes, this is a reprint of a book first released in the early 90s. As Peter mentioned below, I have a new review of it in Perspectives. Not an easy read, but one that will school you mightily about Christian political thought, and about Ralph’s grand Strauss-rivaling theory of modernity. Read it alongside his even more impressive new book, the book which I guess is the real top-dog of this list: The Responsibility of Reason .

2) Elizabeth Kantor, The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After

I’ve said plenty about it here . Don’t let the pink-trimmings and bullet-points put you off. Its practical advice is so sound and so needed you will want to give to every even marginally bookish young person you know, and it will additionally inspire you to re-read half of the Austen corpus. Here’s a Weekly Standard intro .

3) Richard Brookhiser, James Madison

The usual Brookhiser virtue of a short biography. I talked about a few of its other virtues in my Founder’s Fight Club post. What I appreciate most is the way a sense of Madison’s fine-toothed political “deviousness” or prudence/calculation emerges, while the sense of his greatness, a truly beneficent greatness that each and every American owes much to, remains intact. A couple other less-than-fully-flattering aspects of the statesman, such as his life-long aversion to truly dealing with the slavery issue, do emerge, but never in a tendentious way. And Brookhiser largely praises his presidency and his conduct in the War of 1812, not a typical assessment.

4) Lucid Mind, Intrepid Spirit

All the essays here are great, but to toot my own horn a bit, my essay gives you my fullest published discussion of Democratic Inconstancy, a major theme for my work.

5) Simon Reynolds, Retromania

I dealt with it rather thoroughly in Songbook #s 48-52. Go to #52 for my concluding remarks and links to the rest. There I only gave it a B+ as a book of rock criticism, partly on the basis of its too-encyclopedic style, but in retrospect, my sense is the power of its basic ideas will make it something of a classic of the genre. And toot some more, my Songbook gave you the only thorough consideration and refutation of those ideas I know of.

More to come . . . meanwhile, any pomocon commenters or bloggers want to share their lists?

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