I read some good books this year. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I’ll share them with you, because many of you have enjoyed the recommendations in the past. Some I was working on last year and may have shared twice.
My top 3 of 2017 were:
3) “The Soul of the World” by Roger Scruton
2) “Deskbound: Standing up to a Seated World” by Kelly Starrett
1) “Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture” by Anthony Esolen - * Book of the Year
The reason I chose Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture as book of the year is that it hits on so many themes and topics I’ve been thinking about and writing about more the last few years. It’s almost like the author, Anthony Esolen, who is a professor of literature, was reading my mind. I really do think American culture has sunk about as low as it can go. Many of my readers are affluent so they are disconnected and insulated to a certain extent from it. There are always going to be good things in decline in a culture, and we need people to criticize and lament those things. But it’s also true that at certain times in history, entire civilizations fall apart, which is what is happening to our world and I credit Esolen for pointing this out.
As he says in the first couple pages, the first step in recovery is to tell the truth, which as we all know is never easy. Prophets are never popular in their time. We don’t seem to have the energy to endure either our vices, or their cures. The first step is to acknowledge this, and begin to rebuild. This will start with community, which is one reason one of the main themes I’ve written about this year more than anything is finding a home, a community in the world where good things can happen. Out of the Ashes covers just about everything, from music, to architecture, to sports, fitness, media, and education. He is also a brilliant writer and the book contains many genius literary quotes, verses, passages, and references. I highly recommend this book to inspire you out of a rut and into making positive changes, particularly if you are a leader.
Many of my friends and people I know have completely given up, and have resigned themselves to doom and gloom and the continuing decline of our land. I know where they're coming from, but I'm not ready to give up on America yet. I love my country and I plan on trying to do my small part to help.
These are the other books I read this year, with a short description. Books with an asterisk are ones I recommend for general reading, whereas some of the others may make your head spin:
The Soul of the World by Roger Scruton- This is a difficult read, which I convinced my book club to read, much to their chagrin. The reason I love Scruton so much, who has become my favorite writer, is that he is a philosopher of home. He writes primarily about making a home in the world and in my opinion alienation and a lack of home is the biggest health problem facing America. This fantastic book really dives into what the soul is, and Scruton relates it to the way we understand art and music and then relates it back to home. My life and the way I see things was forever changed for the better by this book.
Deskbound: Standing up to a Seated World by Kelley Starett- Sitting is not good for us. It’s bad for the spine, the neck, the digestive system, and it kills our posture. This book is a textbook full of great information on sitting.
Magna Carta by Dan Jones- Fun and interesting read about the history of the Magna Carta.
*Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink- The military mind, well-trained, is about getting the job done, and that is exactly what Navy Seal Jocko teaches. No excuses.
*Shakespeare by Bill Bryson- Fun read about the Bard.
TB12- Tom Brady’s exercise and fitness book. This is a good book. Some of the science and terminology is spotty but overall the philosophy is good- as we get older we need to focus on flexibility, or what Brady calls pliability more and more each year.
The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher- How to use principles of monasticism to build positive healthy communities.
Childhood’s End by Arthur Clarke- A dystopia about what happens when people children stop reading… sound familiar?
The Road to Serfdom by Fredreich Hayek- After Hayek proved that socialism doesn’t work, and won a Nobel Prize with this book, you would think people would give up on it, but it always comes back. Fantastic book.
Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman- Self- explanatory title. Free markets ensure free lives.
*The Suicide of the West by James Burnham- This is one of the most influential books I’ve ever read. Liberalism, is by default an ethos of suicide. It makes more sense why the suicide rate would be increasing after you read this book written in the 60s.
The Mountain of Silence: The Search for Orthodox Spirituality by Kyriacos C. Markides- Perfect book to expand your mind into a more all-encompassing view of a mystical eastern Christianity. The western mind does not like mystical, but this book explains how mysticism and experience are every bit as revealing as rationality. Of particular benefit is the information in this book on fasting, for controlling addictions.
A Free Peoples Suicide by Os Guiness - I read this last year, I believe but reviewed it this year because of Guiness’s “Triangle of freedom”- Faith, Freedom, & Virtue. Virtue leads to freedom, faith requires freedom. Virtue requires faith in something larger than yourself.
4 Hour Body by Tim Ferris- Tim Ferris is a bit of a huckster, but there are some jewels of information in here.
Confirmed to His Image by Ken Boa- Ken gave me this book after we became friends and it Is excellent. It’s a textbook of ideas on how to have a healthier spiritual life. Highly recommended.
That Distant Land by Wendell Berry- Berry is a southern agrarian and this is an excellent collection of short stories about Kentucky.
Philosophy- Simple and illustrated textbook about philosophy.
A Secular Age by Charles Taylor- I listened to this book by audiobook in 2017 and 2018 because it’s considered THE definitive source on how the world went from being explicitly religious to secular. It’s a very interesting book, difficult, but rewarding. One of the biggest things I learned was how disincarnate physical matter has become, or how disenchanted the modern world is. Whereas religious people of all tribes and eras have been in close contact with the cosmos and the enchantedness of natural physical things, our secular age is not.
How Not to be Secular by James KA Smith- This is a basically a simpler version, or a manual of Taylor’s book, about how to re-enchant the world. This book makes A Secular Age come alive and makes it more user-friendly for those who want to go deeper spiritually than what the age offers.
Zero to One by Peter Theil- Fantastic business book, particularly if you are in the Tech field.
The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating by David Buss- I don’t think another book I’ve ever read describes better the reasons why people make the decisions they make, particularly in an age where people are encouraged to seek instant gratification. The question is, what causes them to transcend their urges. This is a great book, but needs a follow up read to the follow up question.
Social Justice Warriors Always Lie by Vox Day- Great little book describing the psychological manipulations people try to play on others in our era of identity politics. SJWs are synonymous with “Crybullies”. They don’t want a serious debate, they just want to attack.
The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield- I’ve read this about 5 times, and try to re-read it every so often because it’s such a great book.
*The Soul's Upward Yearning: Clues to Our Transcendent Nature from Experience and Reason by Robert Spitzer- For anyone who likes philosophy, it’s hard to beat Robert Spitzer’s books. He’s a lawyer, a priest, and an astrophysicist. This is a science textbook which reads like a great work of philosophy.
*Anglo Saxon Community in Lord of the Rings by Deborah Higgens- This was fascinating to learn about, because there were roughly 10 motifs by which the old Anglo Saxon writers used to build community, things like speeches, toasts, dancing, fires, etc.
*Letters to Malcom: On Prayer By CS Lewis- Lewis is one of the few writers I’ve ever read who I can say was without a doubt a genius because of his philosophical insights. This book explains prayer in a way I never thought about, particularly regarding time, or to be exact how prayer exists outside of time.
Augustine to Frued By Ken Boa- This was Dr. Boa’s dissertation at Oxford, which he converted into a book. It’s a little dry, but gives a great overview of many of the most important thinkers. I am still finishing this one slowly but I have really enjoyed it so far.
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Tom Woods- Having grown up with a lot of anti-Catholic prejudice, like most Americans, I was unaware of how wrong I was about the Roman Catholic Church. Most all the foundations of our society were built by them and most of the criticisms are perhaps warranted but exaggerated.
The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews Under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain by Dario Fernandez- Morera- Political correctness and Marxist ideology tells us that the Catholic church was awful and that Muslims can basically do no wrong, but this author points out what life was really like in Medieval Spain under Muslim rule. Hint- not very good, unless you converted to Islam.
*The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker- I highly recommend this book, and it is basically the classic example of how to manage time and priorities.
Fast Metabolism Diet- Someone gave me this book, and I learned a lot about hidden health costs of certain foods. The recommended plan itself is way too complicated but the book is an excellent resource.
The New Evolution Diet- Excellent read about the “paleo” way of eating by the economist and researcher who popularized the method. A little dogmatic, but still an excellent introduction to fasting and regulating blood sugar.
The Roger Scruton Reader- very few writers could I say changed my life, maybe only one, and it’s Roger Scruton. This series of essays covers everything from architecture, to music, to politics, wine, and culture. Roger Scruton is a renowned philosopher, and one of his main themes is a love of home and place, and I think that’s why his work resonates so much with me. This is a wisdom-packed little book of essays.
The Moviegoer- By Walker Percy, this novel won an award for book of the year when it came out. I really enjoyed it and it appealed to my personality, though I could see how some might find it slow.
Boys in the Boat- by Daniel James Brown, it’s the inspirational true story of the 1936 US Olympic rowing team. Great parallels with Movement & Meaning because rowing gave these boys the structure they needed in their lives.
The Divided Mind- Dr. John Sarno, discussing the psychosomatic causes of pain. Low on hard evidence, but some good insight into the hidden causes of pain
Navy Seals Training Manual- Good cross-training workouts.
The Story of England- Concise history of England with beautiful artwork and photographs.
Preventative Medicine: The Rational Male- I wish I had had Rollo Tamasi’s books when I was younger, because I don’t think anyone out there has correctly diagnosed the challenges that men in America face better than him. I recommend all my younger male readers to read his books. You may not agree with everything he says, but they may save your life.
I love to read, and hope you share with me some books you’ve enjoyed this year!
Read Next: How to Live Longer