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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The 10 Books Thing

I wanted to do this here, so I could be vomit-inducing earnest if I wanted to. I'm like that. Anyway, I'm going to do an odd thing: I'm excluding the Sacred Scriptures, and even spiritual books for the most part; we all know the great saints and Doctors will help us grow in God, if we are Christians. It doesn't tell you anything that I liked the Summa Theologicae, does it? And you wouldn't pick up a book like that without a reason, if you were not Christian or seeking. So, let's not waste time with things we know we should read, or that we know we wouldn't.

Congress: The Electoral Connection, David R. Mayhew. This book will transform you from a chronic complainer about the US political system, to a person with solutions. It will actually make you realistic and optimistic at the same time. The data is old, but it's shocking in its relevance.

Shoeless Joe, by W.P. Kinsella. I did expect to like this book; it was adapted into the film, "Field Of Dreams," after all. I did not expect to cry almost uncontrollably at the end. And not because of one or the other moments, but the deep understanding of what it's like to love baseball, down pretty close to the core of yourself. It's scary that way, too, because the author understands religiosity as well, almost as if asking, "What if the gospel was baseball?"

Tuesdays With Morrie, by Mitch Albom. I'm trying not to be spiritual with this list, but there's a reason I'm me, and not someone else. If you are glib about sending people to Hell, this book will mess you up. If you practice religion because you enjoy telling others they are wrong, this book will mess you up. There is something human, and therefore good, about seeking God. You will like Morrie and Mitch, and you'll root for them. Of course, the truth is that God seeks us, but too many think those two things are mutually exclusive, and in that, they are mistaken. I digress. Great book.

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. You could say this book is about racism, and the influence of culture, but its true theme is empathy. Most of the characters have opportunities to make hasty and incorrect judgments about others, and seeing all of it through the eyes of a young girl helps us to talk about it, and to forgive ourselves if it's us.

Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey, by David Horowitz. This might be my favorite book on this list. If I could hand you one book to explain my political view of the world, this is that book. It's not a program; it's just a memoir, but I could identify with it so strongly that I still talk about this book 10 years later.

Anthem, by Ayn Rand. Her philosophy is wanting, to say the least. Still, if you want to read her at her most sympathetic, this is it. I'm a contrarian; the only thing more sickening than Christians and others falling over themselves to turn Rand into the enemy is the subsequent rush to embrace collectivism to prove their superior morality.

The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton. This is a story about government overreach, the excesses of the "national security" state, and cover-ups. It is also about how the "herd" mentality can silence the truth when it's unpopular, even among scientists.

The Awakening, by Kate Chopin. This is, ironically, some kind of feminist classic. If you read it, though, you won't find a better refutation of feminism in a work of fiction, even if the author would not intend it. To wit: It's hard to say you've been liberated if you're dead.

War, by Sebastian Junger. This is a gritty, brutal punch in the face to our noble patriotic notions of American military interventions. We don't always send our best and brightest, and they rarely come back that way, either. Like any reasonable person, you'll root for the Americans you meet. But to what end? And the author just leaves it to hang in the air.

Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account Of The Death Penalty In The United States, by Sister Helen Prejean. Sr. Helen may well be a dissenting hippie, for all I know. Yet this book is gripping. If you have always favored capital punishment, this book will shake you. If you have been ambivalent, you will be hardened in opposition. Bet on it.

There you go. If you read these 10 books, it's like meeting me. What a horrifying thought!

P.S. For the love of kittens and sunshine and Skittles, Dr. Bryan Cross of Mount Mercy University, please read Torture and Eucharist, by William Cavanaugh! I'd pay a large sum to know your thoughts on that work! Actually, I wouldn't mind Dr. Alan Noble's thoughts, either.

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