God the Poet (Wooster, OH: Weaver Book, 2014)
I enjoyed portions of this book, and learned from it, but I think I was let down because it didn’t really live up to the title. The title is stupendous, and promises the moon, which rhymes with June. Nevertheless, the book did what I like books like this to do, which is to get me kind of churned up.
All Art Is Propaganda (New York: Mariner Press, 2008)
This was really a provocative and helpful read. Orwell is such a clear writer, and independent thinker, that you find yourself fruitfully mulling over issues you have never really thought about before. This is a collection of essays and reviews, and is well worth every minute spent on it. Fantastic.
I recently included a “bucket book” in my line-up of books I am reading. These are books I really ought to have read by this time in my life, but which, alas, I have not. This book, The Life of Samuel Johnson, was the first in this roster that I have completed. Having done so, it continues to strike me as a really good idea.
Boswell mentions near the end of the book that those who took the time to read “may be considered as well acquainted with him.” I think this is quite true, and gaining the acquaintance was genuinely rewarding. It was also a pleasure to run across so many of Johnson’s bon mots in their original setting. Despite being such a massive book, or perhaps because of it, this was a truly rewarding read.
Mozart: A Life (New York: Viking, 2013)
This was a quick and enjoyable read. Mozart was a phenomenal genius, and this short book — short just like Mozart’s life — gives a marvelous sense of that genius. For those who don’t know much about Mozart’s life, and don’t know whether or not he was a founding member of the Dave Clark Five, this is the book for you. If you know enough about Mozart to think that joke wasn’t funny, this is also a book for you.
C.S. Lewis & Mere Christianity (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2014)
I liked this one, filing it under biography. But it is actually a biography of a book, of Mere Christianity. McCusker tells the backdrop story of the Second World War, and the BBC broadcasts that eventually became Mere Christianity. Not scintillating, but good info here.
Psmith in the City (Woodstock: Overlook Press, 2003)
Standard Wodehouse fare, and very good. This was different, however, in that it contained no Wodehouse female of any description — no aunts and no battleaxes and no pippins.
The Pickwick Papers (London: Penguin, 1836)
Okay, so I have a confession to make. I have never really read any Dickens. Some of my family were big into him, but I never got around to it. I may have read A Christmas Carol some time, but don’t think that counts. At any rate, one of my projects consists of always reading some Chesterton, and as it happened, I am now reading Chesterton’s collection of pieces on Dickens. So Chesterton convinced me that I needed to read some Dickens, and so I chose Pickwick. I enjoyed it as I went, and by the end found it curiously satisfying.
Samuel Adams: A Life (New York: Free Press, 2008)
I really enjoyed this one. I had never taken a close look at the contribution Sam Adams made to our liberties, and this fine biography shows that the contribution was extensive.
Here are a couple of favorite moments. One adversary said, after Adams’ death, that his politics were derived from “two maxims, rulers should have little, the people much” (p. 259).
In another apt application, Stoll refers to Adams’ religious tranquility, and notes the odd juxtaposition — a tranquil revolution. He then applies Perry Miller’s wonderful assessment of the Puritan character — of which Adams was a prime specimen — a characteristic “most difficult to evoke,” that being the “peculiar balance of zeal and enthusiasm with control and wariness” (p. 265).
If you are like many, and need some gaps filled in with regard to your knowledge of Samuel Adams, this would be the place to start. Did you know that the redcoats likely went to Lexington and Concord because they were looking for Sam Adams and John Hancock, who were on the lam?