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Category: Book Reviews

Book Review: The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States
(Jeffrey Lewis)

For some time now, I have been telling my children, none of whom have ever lived through any event that significantly harmed America, that sooner or later, history will return.  The older ones roll their eyes; the younger ones have no idea what I mean.  This book shows what I mean, through a fictionalized look at a 2020 nuclear attack by North Korea on South Korea, Japan, and the United States.

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Book Review: From Plato To NATO: The Idea of the West and Its Opponents
(David Gress)

This is a ferociously erudite book.  The author, David Gress, offers an analysis and synthesis of essentially all thought on the idea of the West, from the Greeks to the postmodernists, in a book that seems to contain more than its actual six hundred pages of small print.  The amount of thought he presents is astounding.  My habit is to write down interesting-sounding books to which an author refers, then buy them.  I probably bought thirty books, maybe more, as a result of reading From Plato to NATO.  Every portion of this book was interesting—but still, paradoxically, it left me unable to write the type of review I typically write.

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Book Review: Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter
(Scott Adams)

Would you like to read a book about Scott Adams?  Then this is your book, especially if you want to hear Scott Adams talk about how awesome he is.  Would you like to read a book about persuasion techniques?  This book may shed a little light, maybe two pages’ worth.  Would you like to read a book about how Donald Trump got elected, which is what this book is supposed to be?  You are mostly out of luck—unless you want to be told that Donald Trump got elected primarily because of Scott Adams, in which case you are again at the right place.

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Book Review: The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic (Mike Duncan)

How the Roman Republic ended is well known, even in these undereducated days, but all the attention focus goes to Julius Caesar.  True, he was the pivot of the actual end of the Republic, but what came before and after was more important.  What came after, during the long reign of Augustus, may not be as thrilling as story, but it dictated much of the later history of the West (and of the Roman East, now temporarily in thralldom).  This book covers the other side of the transition, what came before—a period that nowadays is nearly forgotten, but is perhaps more critically important in what it can teach us today.

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Book Review: The Common Law
(Oliver Wendell Holmes)

[Admin’s Note: This is a guest post by Jared, who has a tendency to drift between British and American spellings, but who has recently been trying to standardise (ha ha) on the former.]

One of the most interesting topics to me, a total neophyte in the field of law, is the comparison between civil law (i.e., law decreed by a sovereign), and common law (i.e., law constructed by judges in the Anglo-American tradition).  The topic is deep and weighty, and one in which it’s hard to cleanly resolve a question along the lines of which might be “better.” Everything is subtlety and nuance, comparison of principles and implementation, and a noting of the successes and failures of each in history.

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Book Review: Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism (George Hawley)

This is an excellent book, doubly excellent in that the writer, George Hawley, has written a book both even-handed and superbly accurate in detail about a difficult and controversial topic.  I am personally deeply familiar with nearly all the facts covered in this book, and Hawley has not fallen into any significant error.  Moreover, his analysis is generally excellent, so as a package, this book is a valuable contribution to understanding what I call the Great Fragmentation—the splintering, and reforming, of what until recently was a relatively monolithic instantiation of mainstream American conservatism.  Finally, this book implicitly poses a fascinating question—should the Right adopt a new principle, in imitation of the Left, that there are no enemies on the right?

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Book Review: The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality
(Kyriacos C. Markides)

In these days of changing ways, so-called liberated days, it is not only political beliefs that are getting a fresh look from a lot of people, but beliefs about all aspects of human life.  These include the beliefs of traditional Christians in America, whose options for Christ-centered communal worship within an organized framework narrow every day.  The Roman church is both corrupt and led by that man of perdition, Jorge Bergoglio; the degradation of ecclesiastical Protestantism is complete; evangelicals offer only Moralistic Therapeutic Deism or obeisance to Trumpian caesaropapism.  This leaves as the last institution standing the Orthodox Church, which shows no signs of trimming its sails to modernism and for whom Saint John Chrysostom might as well as have died yesterday.  Hence the recent surge in popularity of this 2001 book, a modern exposition of Orthodox spirituality, written by a man with a foot in both the West and the East.

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Book Review: Twelve Who Ruled: The Year of Terror in the French Revolution
(R. R. Palmer)

Among the many gaping holes in American historical knowledge is any grasp of the French Revolution (and that includes my own knowledge).  As an abstract matter, this is unfortunate, but nothing notable, given that the historical knowledge of modern Americans is essentially one large gap.  As a concrete matter, though, it is a real problem, because in our own troubled times, the French Revolution offers critical, universal lessons, which we forget to our peril.  Nowhere is this more true than with respect to the Terror, the rule of the twelve-man Committee of Public Safety, from 1793-94, the subject of this classic 1941 work.

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Book Review: The Pastel City
(M. John Harrison)

As can be seen from a casual glance at my book reviews, while I read little fiction, I am keenly interested in science fiction.  Sadly, almost all contemporary science fiction is mere social justice agitprop.  But there is some quite good relatively modern science fiction, and in particular, I am fond of (no surprise, I suppose) what is commonly called the “Dying Earth” genre, after the name used by Jack Vance in the 1950s.  This book, The Pastel City, published in 1971, fits squarely into this genre, but is distinguished by the gem-like quality of its writing, elevating it above the average pulp of late twentieth-century science fiction.

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Book Review: The Fiery Angel: Art, Culture, Sex, Politics, and the Struggle for the Soul of the West (Michael Walsh)

Billed as a continuation, this book is really the chiral image of Michael Walsh’s earlier book, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace.  That book was an attempt, with limited success, to outline and discuss the poisonous Frankfurt School of political philosophy, Critical Theory, through the prism of art.  This book, on the other hand, aims to discuss art, with Critical Theory as the subtext.  It is a largely successful attempt to outline and discuss the unparalleled genius of Western art, in its historical context and with its historical implications, and thereby to “restore Western culture to its proper place.”  That restoration is necessary for our culture to cauterize the venomous bite of the Frankfurt School, whose view of art as politics, and of Western culture as worthless and evil, must be rejected if the West is to regain its path.

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