In this superbly written overview of the Western philosophical tradition, William Barrett traces the roots of 20th century existentialism back through Hegel, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard all the way to the Greek and Hebrew traditions that formed the foundations of Western European civilization. Writing in 1958, Barrett begins by describing Europe’s spiritual and intellectual crisis after two world wars. If twenty centuries of religious faith and scientific progress led only to slaughter and destruction, then what was the good of science or religion?
The Coddling of the American Mind examines the political left’s intolerance of challenging and uncomfortable ideas, especially as it appears among the young on college campuses throughout the US. The authors examine a number of incidents in which university students have staged violent protests, shamed and ostracized fellow students, disinvited speakers, and tried to force the firing of professors whose ideas challenge their worldview. Lukianoff and Haidt call this “safetyism,” and define it as the belief that students must be protected at all times from risk and discomfort.
Ben Fox from Shepherd.com recently asked me to write about five of my favorite books in any genre. You can check out my list of the best books from the golden age of American crime and noir and perhaps discover something new. Hundreds of authors have contributed similar lists to Shepherd, which has become a discovery engine for excellent works that may have flown under the radar. When I shared my list with a fellow author, he said with surprise that he had never heard of any of the titles on my list.
I recently had the pleasure of reading Charles Farrell’s Low(life): A Memoir of Jazz, Fight-Fixing and the Mob. If you’re into true crime, boxing, jazz, or just good writing from a sharp-minded observer who has led an interesting life, check it out. Follow the link below to read my full review on Medium. Book Review of “(Low)Life: A Memoir of Jazz, Fight-Fixing and the Mob"
Alan C. Logan’s The Greatest Hoax on Earth is a journalistic examination of the life of Frank Abagnale, the infamous con man immortalized in Steven Spielberg’s 2002 file Catch Me if You Can. That film, based on Abagnale’s autobiography of the same name, portrays a smooth charmer living a life of glamour and adventure. The young Abegnale cons his way onto free flights around the world with beautiful women in tow.
Dr. Eger gives a powerful and harrowing account of her youth, of being taken from her home in Hungary, herded into the cattle cars, separated from her parents at Auschwitz. She and her sister survived more than a year in the death camp, and for months more on the death marches that followed before an American GI lifted her from a pile of corpses. Hope and remembrance of the good in life sustained her through unspeakable horrors.
Bruce Thornton is a classics professor at Cal State Fresno and a fellow at the Hoover Institution. Decline and Fall is both a lament and a criticism of Europe’s weakening culture and declining moral stature. Liberals and progressives (among whom I count myself) will hate this book (though I don’t) because Thornton unabashedly advocates traditional European values such as individualism and freedom of speech, along with Christian values, including spiritual devotion to a higher power and clear and firm moral boundaries.
One of the downsides of indie publishing is that there are so many titles out there, it’s hard for the good ones to get attention. This is one of the good ones. D. J. “Jock” MacDonald ran the police station in the mining town of Kilembe, Uganda in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and was responsible for keeping order in a broad swath of the country’s rural Western Province. Dead End at Buffalo Corner recounts actual events in a novel-like third-person narrative.
Phew! This one was a long slog. Putnam provides exhaustive data in his examination of the decline of “social capital” in late 20th-century American society. The author defines social capital as the network of informal social bonds within a society. These bonds tie individuals and communities together, providing social, economic, and emotional support for all. The social networks of church, clubs, interest groups and sports leagues embody an ethos of trust and open-ended reciprocity: you watch my kids this afternoon, and I’ll watch yours some day in the future.
Charles Brandt, an attorney from Delaware, spent years interviewing Mafia hit man Frank Sheeran. Sheeran was one of the prime suspects in the disappearance of Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa, but because of all of the suspects refusal to talk, neither the local police nor the FBI could ever gather enough evidence for a conviction. After decades of investigation, the FBI closed the case and left it unsolved. Brandt, who had extensive experience in criminal law and who helped win Sheeran’s release from prison on medical grounds, thought he could draw a confession from the elderly Sheeran who had begun to reconsider his life as he approached death.
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