Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Book blogger tag

I don’t know if this exercise originated in Canada, but one of our Canadian friends, Tom Cerber, passed along a request to answer five questions about my reading habits.

Here goes.

How many books do I own?

I dunno. My wife says too many. I say not enough. If I had to guess, somewhat north of a thousand.

What’s the last book I bought?

I just opened a lovely package today, containing a bunch of religion and higher ed books recommended in this essay. The two near the top of my reading pile are Nick Wolterstorff’s Educating for Life and his Educating for Shalom. He’s one of the smartest Calvinists I know and while I don’t always agree with him, I learn from arguing with him. And David Mills has graciously permitted me to work our some of my disagreements in a future issue of Touchstone (where my review of Naomi Schaefer Riley’s God on the Quad will appear next month).

What’s the last book I read?

The answer to that question comes in several categories. I just now read a couple of chapters of Brian Jacques’s Mossflower to my son. Then there’s my summer school-related reading: if it’s Tuesday, it must be St. Thomas Aquinas’ Treatise on Law and Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. I’m also currently sitting in on a faculty seminar on human rights rhetoric. Today we discussed Mary Ann Glendon’s A World Made New; tomorrow, it’s on to Carol Anderson’s Eyes Off the Prize. If I had any spare time at the moment, I’d be working my way through Daniel Dombrowski’s Rawls and Religion, which attempts to show how JR isn’t hostile to revealed religion. On the agenda for later in the summer are some books on religion and liberalism, like Marci Hamilton’s God vs. the Gavel, Greg Forster’s John Locke’s Politics of Moral Consensus, and George di Giovanni’s Freedom and Religion in Kant and His Immediate Successors.

What are the five books that mean the most to me?

Plato, The Republic

Leo Strauss, The City and Man

St. Augustine, The City of God Against the Pagans

Rousseau, Emile

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

I am very indebted to my Auseinandersetzung with Kant for my current outlook on the world, but I’ve basically been led away from him as a result. While I wouldn’t recommend that anyone retrace my path, I do think that the three Critiques-- especially the "transcendental dialectic" in C1, the discussion of the highest good in C2, and the critique of teleological reason in C3--are worth pondering, as are Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, The Conflict of the Faculties and all the little essays on history and politics.

The five bloggers I tagged are Peter Schramm, David Mills, Ken Masugi, Win Myers, and Mike DeBow. Others I might have tagged are Gideon Strauss, any of the other Ashbrook folks, especially the redoubtable but all too reticent Dave Foster, and any of the contributors to Get Religion.

Discussions - 6 Comments

Dear Joe, Like most eggheads, I go first to a person’s library when I visit his office or home. Thanks for sharing your recent and most influential reading. It’s almost equivalent to revealing one’s soul. Care to dilate on the meaning for you of the big 5? (By the way, I’m packing my books and papers these days and just rediscovered your article on Rousseau and Kant on cosmopolitan education. Still worth reading after [....] years.)

If you have only a little over a thousand books, then you--and not your wife--is correct: you don’t have enough books. Get busy. C.S. Lewis wrote that book-buying should have a priority in every household’s budget.

Mr. Knippenberg: I will act as though tagged ... as soon as my current Blogger problem magically resolves itself.

From Kant to Masugi-- what a fall!

Well, I share with Joseph Knippenberg the Republic and Thucydides in the top five. The others: Leo Strauss, Persecution and the Art of Writing; Goethe, Wilhelm Meister (Lehrejahre); Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil. If I weren’t to cut it off at five, Tocqueville, Democracy in America and Montesquieu, Esprit des lois would be a close sixth and seventh. Heck, maybe they tie with Beyond Good and Evil for fifth place.



Mr. Knippenberg - my blogging problems having been resolved, I responded to your demi-tag on Saturday, July 02, 2005, in a blog entry entitled "The books that mean the most to me, and other bookish remarks."

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