My Summer Book List

By Esther O'Reilly Published on August 6, 2018

So many books, so little time! I may not have read all I planned to this summer (who does?), but I certainly checked some good ‘uns off my list! Without further ado, here’s a peek inside my book bag.

Intellectual Webbing

The Intellectual Dark Web has taken the summer by storm, and some of my summer reading along with it. First up, the man who by now needs no introduction, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, provided me with one of the strangest and most fascinating reads of my year in 12 Rules for Life.

So good and so multi-faceted, I had to read it twice! Not to be mistaken for a theology book, nevertheless it is thought-provoking and wise, at times hilarious and at other times deeply moving. I also began reading Maps of Meaning in a quixotic mood, but let’s just say that one has been tabled for now.

Next up, someone who came onto my radar in Peterson’s wake but has been doing excellent work far longer than Peterson has been in the public eye, the prodigiously gifted Douglas Murray. Murray is a journalist and historian par excellence. I like to think of him as Charles Krauthammer’s younger, snarkier British doppelganger.

His 2017 hot pick The Strange Death of Europe is one of the most insightful treatments of the European immigration crisis you will find anywhere. A disturbing read. A must-read. No less well-written, see also Bloody Sunday, a gripping investigation of the Bloody Sunday massacre, and the vigorously argued Neo-Conservatism: Why We Need It.

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And finally, this summer marked the year when I finally caved and took a look to see what all the fuss was about “New Atheist” Sam Harris. Suffice it to say, I love Kindle. I love how Kindle allows you to buy all of Sam Harris’s books, read each of them in a couple days, and return them for a full refund.

For my longer reflections on the work of all three of these IDW-ers, and the two nights when they came together on stage for a dialogue about life, the universe, and everything, see my thoughts here, now approvingly tweeted out by both Peterson and Murray. Still waiting on Sam Harris.

Blind Spots

Would you believe it, I’d never read C. S. Lewis’s Abolition of Man or Surprised By Joy … until now? I know, it’s embarrassing. Fortunately I have now been there and fixed that, on both counts. I am gratified to see that Abolition of Man in particular has been attracting some fresh readers with Jordan Peterson’s rise, even inspiring its own discussion thread in JP Reddit.

Here’s to the creation of many more Men with Chests! Also, don’t look now, but the good doctor’s spiritual trajectory sure seems to bear an awful lot of resemblances to the trajectory traced in Surprised by Joy. Lewis even talks about “Logos” and everything. Logos, man! Logos!

As if those blind spots weren’t embarrassing enough, I also checked Flowers for Algernon and The Brothers Karamazov off my “Seriously, how have I not read these yet?” list. Longer reflections on both are currently gestating as I write. Suffice it to say, they are classics for a reason. But the rest of you already knew that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go chip away some more at The Gulag Archipelago.

And More!

Speaking of Charles Krauthammer, his passing prompted me to treat myself to his best-of collection Things That Matter. And what a collection it is. Essential reading, not only for anyone who appreciates great conservative writing, but for anyone who appreciates great writing, period.

Speaking of great conservative writing, I am currently in the middle of A Conflict of Visions, by the incomparable Thomas Sowell. I am finding it similar but complementary to his work The Vision of the Anointed, which was a formative influence in my high school years.

Also, speaking of Sam Harris and the rest of the New Atheists, this summer I was prompted to go back to David Berlinski’s irreverent, viciously funny 2008 take-down of “atheism and its scientific pretensions” in The Devil’s Delusion. Though not named, it was hat-tipped by Douglas Murray in the Peterson/Harris debates, in a discussion of whether the horrors of the 20th century really were experiments in atheism. Berlinski argues compellingly that they were. I put this among other books in a list of recommended reading as a follow-up to my report on the debates.

So there you have it! A snapshot of my summer book bag! What’s in yours?

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  • Ken Abbott

    Struggling through Fenimore Cooper’s “The Last of the Mohicans.” I just can’t get into his verbose style. On other fronts, I’ve been reading some Lewis as you have (“The Abolition of Man,” “The Screwtape Letters,” “The Weight of Glory,” “Is Theology Poetry?,” and am now into “On Stories”), a biography of Lewis, some recent works on basic Christian apologetics, Bede’s “Ecclesiastical History of the Anglo-Saxons,” and some books on the craft of writing. Oh, and a short history of Ireland in preparation for a trip there in the autumn.

    • @EstherOReilly

      Last of the Mohicans is a rare example of Movie > Book (specifically, the version with Daniel Day-Lewis from the 90s–fantastic).

  • Tim Pan

    I am reading : Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy Oct 13, 2015
    by Francis Fukuyama

    It is an important read, by a great thinker and writer.

  • Grayson Zaragoza

    What are some of your sources for book recommendations?

    • @EstherOReilly

      Hmmmm. Well, I kind of live in a library so I’m my own source! I wish I could be more helpful!

      • Grayson Zaragoza

        That’s alright! I love reading and I prefer to get my issue-based information from books by trusted authors than the news. I’ll just start with the list you’ve posted! Thanks!

  • Oscar Progresso

    No Mark Helprin? Serious question. The last of a breed. A virtuoso. He’s a hero to me; a virtual mentor, if you will. CSL, too. A genuine giant of the Faith. I credit Aslan with personalizing my faith. Nothing short of a numinous experience. More than a “supposal” for me.

    TBK by Dostoevsky. Arguably the greatest “Christian” novel ever. Have you read “Laurus” by Eugene Vodolazkin? I can not recommend it more highly. It’s classic literature of the highest order, an anomaly for our sad time (although, one never knows; it presents time as a slippery notion), in spite of being published within the last 10 years. Take up and read.

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