Books of 2015

We suffer nowadays from a surfeit of literary anni­versaries. One blurs into the next until we begin to long for a moratorium. And yet even so, a few such occasions are welcome. The 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland yielded a splendid array of exhibitions, lectures, and books, . . . . Continue Reading »

2015: Our Year in Books

We asked some of our writers to contribute a paragraph about the most memorable books they read this year.Michael LewisThere is a special chagrin when we belatedly discover the greatness of some author we have been perversely avoiding for decades—in my case, Dostoevsky and Jane Austen. But there . . . . Continue Reading »

Books for Christmas

It’s been a good reading year and I highly recommend the following to the readers on your Christmas (not “holiday”) shopping list:God or Nothing, by Cardinal Robert Sarah (Ignatius Press): It was the book being discussed at Synod-2015 and with good reason, for this interview-style . . . . Continue Reading »

Living with a Mind

I was brought up in a culture that made no special place for the “intellectual” as a distinct human type, and which regarded learning in the same way as any other hobby: harmless and excusable, so long as you kept quiet about it. The person who studied the classics at home, who wrote poetry . . . . Continue Reading »

Spiritual Literature for Atheists

To say, as people do from time to time, that science is the only source of meaning available to human beings is to consign large swaths of everyday experience to insignificance. (And to offer an open goal to any quick-footed apologist for religion who may be passing.) The implication of the maximal . . . . Continue Reading »

Briefly Noted

Boswell’s Enlightenment by robert zaretsky harvard, 288 pages, $26.95 When James Boswell met Voltaire, he was not content to pass on after a few pleasantries. Sitting in the French philosophe’s chaletin Ferney, Boswell pressed him to declare whether he believed in immortality and eternal life. . . . . Continue Reading »

What We've Been Reading—7.31.15

I am in the first 50 page of Midcentury, a 1961 novel by John Dos Passos. Dos Passos (born 1896, died 1970) is largely forgotten today. He doesn't even appear much on syllabi in undergraduate American literature courses. There are two reasons for that. One is Dos Passos' politics. Like so many others, he started out as a writer on the left, in the 30s flirting with the Communist Party and joining Hemingway in Spain to help in the fight against the Fascists. The murderous conduct of Stalinists in Spain turned him off of communism, and further world events pushed him farther right during and after the war. The more he came to despise collectivism, even to the point of briefly supporting Joe McCarthy, the less the literary world favored him. The other reason Dos Passos has disappeared is literary. (Randy Boyogoda's essay in the current issue of First Things directly relates to this point.) His fiction comes out of an era in which the novel was a great carrier of history and ideas. Continue Reading »