Thursday, August 18, 2005

Book Recommendations

I'm rather depressed by the news from Israel at the moment, and I'm losing what little respect I had for the Bush administration as it pursues an alternatively altruistic or pragmatic (so-called "realistic" -- NY Times Registration required) foreign policy.

So instead of bemoaning the present world situation, I will offer some book recommendations of books I am reading or have read in the recent past.

Readers of this blog are aware that I'm presently reading and enjoying two books. Carl Sandburg's Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Bernstein's The Capitalist Manifesto. Lincoln starts off slow but builds momentum as the story enters the 1850s and the issue of slavery becomes more prominent. Bernstein tells the story of the capitalism as it should be told, from the proper philosophical perspective (Objectivism) and with numerous interesting historical facts to buttress the case for capitalism.

Like millions of other fans I have recently finished J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I enjoyed it very much. Contrary to some reviews this book is not darker in spirit than the previous books in the series. The darkest of the Potter books remains Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

The Aristotle Adventure by Burgess Laughlin traces the journey of the works of Aristotle from the initial writings through the various cultures that studied and preserved it until they came fully back to the forefront during the days of Thomas Aquinas. Adventure is written for the layman and as the name implies is a lot of fun to read. In some respects it is similar to Aristotle's Children by Richard Rubenstein, who covers some of the same ground though Rubenstein's focus is on more on how Aristotle was rediscovered than on what exactly happened during the time his works were lost. Laughlin's book is very well organized and one learns about all the difficulties in preserving a set of writings over centuries, the many heroic individuals who studied, translated, preserved, copied and commented on Aristotle and thus helped pass it to future generations and a little about all the cultures that are involved, including Greek and Latin Pagan, Christian, and Moslem. It really is told as an exciting adventure because it is argued that with Aristotle's ideas goes the fate of civilization (with which I would agree).

Finally, earlier this year I read Richard Tarnas Passion of the Western Mind. The book does an excellent job of surveying Western ideas from the ancient Greeks to the present. I particularly liked the sections on Christianity and the details of Kant's Copernican revolution, in which Kant claimed that rather than attempting to have our ideas conform to reality, we should have reality conform to our ideas. On caveat though: As a result of Tarnas's sympathy for Freudian notions, the book contains an epilogue that is so absurd as to almost negate the value of the entire book. I recommend getting the book from a library and ignoring the epilogue.


Anonymous said...

If this is the book I think it is, 2nd Renaissance Books (aka: AR Bookstore) trashed the book in a review and declined to carry it. This might have been 8-10 years ago.

My memory isn't what it used to be (okay, it never was anything to write home about), but I'm sure this was the one.

Gideon said...

I mentioned several books -- which one do you mean?