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Share Your Summer Reading Favorites

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Have a new book, or one not so new, that you’d like to recommend to PowerBlog readers for packing away to the beach and vacation spot? Add your picks to the comment box on this post.

Let’s begin with five books selected by Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg, who was a contributor to National Review Online’s symposium, “Got Summer Reading?”

By Samuel Gregg

For those who sense we’re presently reliving the 1930s (sigh), this is the book Paul Krugman and the other high priests of the economic left don’t want you to read. Anyone searching for an account of the New Deal that simply tells the truth about how and why it failed will benefit from reading Amity Shlaes’s The Forgotten Man (2008). Her well-written narrative of the Roosevelt administration’s failures and arbitrariness as it wrestled with the Great Depression not only reveals the New Dealers as truly out of their depth; it also indirectly raisesquestions about some disturbing trends in contemporary American political and economic life.

Another book that gets beneath superficial commentary on a subject that needs further discussion is David Satter’s It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway (2012). As we all know, the Left in America and Europe (in fact, everywhere) has never really acknowledged the full barbarity of Communism. Satter’s text, however, underscores just how much denial and downplaying of the sheer moral and physical destruction wrought by the Soviet experiment continue to poison contemporary Russian politics and culture.

On the subject of Russia, anyone who picks up Robert Massie’s latest biography, Catherine the Great (2011), will find it difficult to put down. It’s the fascinating story of how an obscure 18th-century German princess married off to a dolt who also happened to be the heir to the Romanov throne eventually overthrew the dolt to become Czarina of all-the-Russias and the most powerful woman in the world. Apart from analyzing her, ahem, “convoluted” love life, Massie’s portrait of Catherine provides insights into the complicated world of Russia and Europe in the decades before the French Revolution and the grim realities facing those who aspired to be enlightened absolutists.

History as morality-tale: That’s one of the central themes of one of the great works of Renaissance literature, Thomas More’s The History of King Richard III. This never-finished book (written between 1513 and 1518 and never published in More’s lifetime) has always been overshadowed by his other literary masterpiece, Utopia. It is, however, a sophisticated study of how tyranny normally emerges and consolidates itself: not simply through one person’s will to power, but rather through his successful manipulation of others’ moral and intellectual weaknesses. In our oh-so-democratic age, More’s warnings about how easily liberty and the rule of law can be subverted from within are more relevant than ever.

Lastly, for those seeking spiritual refreshment, I’d recommend Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life. First published in 1609, this relatively short text authored by one of the Counter-Reformation’s leading intellectual and spiritual leaders was an instant classic, attracting as much admiration from Protestants and Orthodox Christians as from Catholics. Its power (even more apparent in the original French) is derived from the fact that this book was one of the first works of spirituality written for Christians trying to cultivate the theological and cardinal virtues in the world rather than in the cloister.

John Couretas John Couretas is Director of Communications, responsible for print and online communications at the Acton Institute. He has more than 20 years of experience in news and publishing fields. He has worked as a staff writer on newspapers and magazines, covering business and government. John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Humanities from Michigan State University and a Master of Science Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University.


  • RegularFolks-Lori

    This is an interesting and provocative read. Ron Miller thoughtfully, and very personally, discusses his journey as a black conservative. He addresses the topics most folks are afraid to tackle. You must read: Sellout: Musings from Uncle Tom’s Porch.

  • Chris

    Currently working through Calvin’s Institutes…Also reading Wisdom and Wonder: Common Grace in Science & Art.

  • Rob

    Don’t Mess with Travis by Bob Smiley – fun, hilarious read about Texas seceding from the Union. Lots of well researched history with brutal political satire.

  • Roger McKinney

    I’ve picked up two volumes by Herbert Butterfield, the Cambridge historian, “Christianity and History” and “The Origins of Modern Science”.
    In Origins, he explains that the great scientists of the scientific revolution were devout Christians and Godly men. The writers who turned science against Christianity were not scientists at all, but writers who wanted to popularize science and who had already abandoned the faith.
    “Christianity and History” has some interesting themes, but one of the more interesting is about judgment in history. He uses the Hebrew prophets as an example of the best understanding of history and judgment. God often judges a nation by letting the people have their way. Socialism can be seen as the wrath of God.
    Also, he shows that God judges nations according to the light they have. To whom much is given much is required. That explains why God would use a nation of idolaters to punish Israel. Israel had all of the knowledge of God posssible at the time; Assyria, Syria and Babylon had very little of that knowledge.
    So when Jonah went to Nineveh, God could say of the people that they didn’t know their left from their right hands. In other words, they knew very little about God, whereas Israel knew a great deal.
    Would God use Muslims, who know very little about God, to judge the US, which has the opportunity to know everything about God but refuses?