Avid Readers, Occasional Bloggers

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100 books in 2020, Big Books in 2021

My big picture reading goal in 2020 was to finally crack the 100 books in a year mark which I have been approaching for a few years. I was able to accomplish that and so look for a different approach in The Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty-One.

Side note: I always feel a little guilty about counting graphic novels, novellas and other forms of very short books in my books I have read count. But this is in tension with my desire to read 100 books and to track every book I have read. And to be fair, I listened to a number of audio courses which are equal to quite large books given the number of hours involved. So I will call it even.

I will admit to sometimes being put off by very large books for two reasons. 1) hard to get to 100 if you are reading large tomes 2) I struggle to stay engaged and get a lot out of large books because I don’t always have the large blocks of time required to read such books well. I started thinking about this even as I was on track to read 100 books in 2020.

But as a way to challenge myself and read some books that I have had on my TBR pile for some time and have had recommended to me multiple times, I decided to declare 2021 the year of big books.

I also want to attempt to focus on some key interest areas in my reading: classics, books on conservatism, books on writing and books on faith and/or theology.

Stop Being Content with J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis

Gerald Russello: It’s Time for Conservatives to Stop Being Content with J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis

The central mode of contemporary progressive politics & the reciprocation of the The Right?

Kevin Williamson has some bracing and provocative analysis/commentary in his weekly newsletter, The Tuesday, this week:

Defining the limits of respectability is, in fact, the central mode of contemporary progressive politics. Contemporary American progressives do not engage with conservative ideas or nonconforming political opinion — they simply attempt to define those as infra dig and outside of the boundaries of that which polite intellectual society is obliged to consider.

The Right has reciprocated, in its way. And that is a big part of what the Trump phenomenon is all about: so-called nationalists who despise the commanding heights of American culture, politics, and business, along with the institutions associated with them. Hence the bumptious anti-“elitism” of contemporary conservatives whose creed is “American Greatness” but who sneer at the parts of the country where most of the people and the money are, who sing hymns of national glory while abominating the East Coast, the West Coast, the major cities, the Ivy League, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, the major cultural institutions (and, indeed, high culture itself as effete and elitist), the political parties, trade associations, broad swathes of the economy (“financialization”), newspapers — even the churches, as conservative American Christians (from Catholic to Evangelical) embrace a new antinomianism based not in religion but in the politics of cultural resentment.

Williamson goes on to point out how all of this has little connection to the “Real America” we hear so much about these days but alas:

There is much that is in need of reform in American life. But reform is not very much in fashion among populists, who are ensorcelled by the much more exciting prospect of revolution — and destruction.

This gets a bit at why I feel so politically and ideologically homeless these days.  Not quite comfortable in the “establishment” wing of the GOP having serious questions about foreign policy, and the overall direction of Bush era GOP for lack of a better term, but also not comfortable with the Trump world and the at least adjacent anti-elite/populists.

If you haven’t already, I recommend you subscribe to The Tuesday.  Interesting commentary and always some fund language stuff too.

President Trump at the Conservative Political Action Conference

Jonah Goldberg on Post-Liberal Conservatism

Where the post-liberals have a point is that humans are happiest in communities, families and institutions of faith. The solution to the culture wars is to allow more freedom for these “little platoons” of civil society from which people draw a sense of meaning and belonging. If Sacramento wants Drag Queen Story Hour, so be it. If some other community holds a socially conservative version of the same, that’s fine too.

What America needs is less talk of national unity — from the left or the right — and more freedom to let people live the way they want to live, not just as individuals, but as members of local communities. We don’t need to move past liberalism, we need to return to it.

Jonah Goldberg

If you must choose …

“I suggest that if you must choose, it is better to be poor and free than to be snug and a slave. I suggest that if you must choose, it is better to live in peril, but with justice, than to live on a summit of material power, but unjustly. I suggest that if you must choose, it is better to stand up as a suffering man than to lie down as a satisfied animal.”

Barry Goldwater (in a speech written by Russell Kirk), via Russell Kirk: American Conservative by Bradley J. Birzer

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