Monday, December 12, 2005

The Final List: I Read More than I Thought

These should clean up the list of books I read in 2005 with capsule reviews:

“The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance” by Ron Chernow [Grove: 1990] which I was led to because I became a devotee of Chernow’s biographical talents when I read his “Alexander Hamilton” in 2004. He has the uncanny knack of bringing alive aristocrats (Hamilton, J. P. Morgan, Robert Moses) who have defied earlier definition. It’s a primer on finance in the 19th to 20th centuries. Vital read.

“Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America” by Newt Gingrich [Regnery: 2005]. Newt’s bid to keep alive available for the 2008 presidency. He’s the same back-bencher I knew when he was plotting the revolution—only he couldn’t master himself. Distinctive book in that here for the first time he embraces social conservatism with the startling but apt recommendation that if the presidency can’t—or won’t—change the courts, the House can do it by cutting the appropriations. Vital read.

“The Bushes” by Peter and Rochelle Schweitzer [Doubleday: 2004]. Good, objective review of the dynastic family written by a couple who plainly voted for George W. but knows his failings. Read.

“The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty” by Kitty Kelley [Doubleday: 2004]. Supposed tell-all book, a stereotypical hatchet-job by a cat who interviewed everybody—including Neil Bush’s ex-wife—who wanted to cut up the family. It would have been good if the documentation were not full of anonymous sources. I knew Kitty Kelley when she was an assistant press secretary to Eugene McCarthy: then a quiet mouse, now a tiger and vicious assassin. Skip.

“Where the Right Went Wrong” by Pat Buchanan [St. Martin’s Press: 2005]. Great read but as of a few years ago—very few, actually—I fell out of bed with the paleos. I got the neo-con religion late and believe Pat’s protectionism, anti-immigration and Fortress America concepts supply red meat but would be disastrous. He’s a magnificent polemicist, however, with a prose style very nearly the equal of H. L. Mencken. Vital read to read the prose laureate of the paleos. Remember, Pat has left the Republican party and ran the worst independent campaign possible to imagine in 2000. Vital read.

“Making Senses Out of Scripture: Reading the Bible As the First Christians Did” by Mark Shea [Basilica: 1999] is an intriguing book and yet “senses” is the right word: examining the Bible from four senses: literal, allegorical, moral and analogical. A thrilling book of insights by a humorist with a style at least as good as Peter Kreeft’s. Vital read.

“By What Authority? An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition” by Mark Shea [Our Sunday Visitor: 1996] by the Catholic apologist and tireless blogger who was referred to me by my friend Elias Crim. Vital read.

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