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February 27, 2011

Sunday Book Thread

A few new books this week.

First up is Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s classic novel A Canticle For Leibowitz. (I had to replace my old paperback copy, which finally fell apart from having been read so many times.) This book is usually classed as "science fiction" or "post-apocalyptic fiction", but it defies easy categorization. It's easily one of the best novels of the 20th century, in my view. (A good companion volume to this book is Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose.)

I like hardboiled detective fiction, especially from the old Hammet/Chandler era. (Though my appreciation of Dash's work suffered when I found out he was a goddamned Commie.) Not many writers still work in this genre in the present day, and the best of these is James Ellroy of L. A. Confidential fame. But this is not his best book, in my view: his best is The Big Nowhere. If you like your dames sultry and lippy, your crimes bloody, and your cops unafraid of a brutality beef, than Ellroy is your man.

Augustine's City of God is one of those essential books that comprise one of the foundation stones of the Western world. It is at once a book of theology, history, and politics (Augustine of Hippo originally intended it as a defense of Christianity against those who thought the Christians had brought down the Roman Empire). The book ended up being more about the eternal conflict between good and evil, between the desires of a man's body versus that of his spirit, and the difficulty of living a good life on a fallen earth. I'm always shocked at how few high schools or colleges assign this book any more (or if they do, they relegate it to "Religious Studies" courses when it should more properly be in the Western Civ curriculum). It's not exactly an easy read, but it's very worthwhile.

What's everyone else reading?


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posted by Monty at 09:21 AM

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