It’s been awhile since I’ve updated so I figured I’ll let my last remaining, loyal readers see what I’m up to in the next couple of posts:
I’m limiting my list of four books. I have a bad habit of getting excited about a subject, starting 2-3 books on the subject then leaving them 20-30% read before moving on. So I’m limiting myself to 4 books at any time: one classic fiction (there’s so much I haven’t read and it’s shameful), one theological, one for the podcasts (one in production, planning another) and lastly one for whatever whim I am on at the moment.
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
It has sat on my shelf for who knows how long and I’ve never read it in its entirety. At most I’ve read sections from The Grand Inquisitor. It’s not going to come as some literary hot take but the book is genuinely incredible. I’m roughly 200 pages in with a little over 500 pages left and I’m been visibly, emotionally moved a handful of times so far. May we all be like Father Zossima and Alyosha
- Historic Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism in the Church of England by Augustus Toplady
This has actually been a fairly boring read, in part due to the Google Books version I have being in a relatively archaic font/typeface. That being said I’ve already read 200 pages and so I may as well finish it. If someone could update it and abridge it, it would be, I think, a useful book for North American Anglicans today. As more former evangelicals, Baptists, Roman Catholics and others enter the Anglican Church looking for something, it is useful to remind them that Anglicanism is not simply a halfway house onto something else, that it is not a liturgical Choose-Your-Own-Adventure or “Catholic-lite.” Also the “via media” myth is so unshakeable in many Anglicans that it’s as if the English Reformation (with its heavily Calvinist influences from the Continent) never really occurred at all.
Lastly, “Augustus Toplady” may be one of the most unconquerably English names of all time, right up there with Athelstan Riley (another Church of England hymnist along with Toplady).
- Merlin: The Prophet and His History by Geoffrey Ashe
I’ve always loved Arthuriana. As a kid my mother bought me the Eyewitness Classic about King Arthur. Along with the artwork and story, what amazed 11 year old me was that there was a possibility that King Arthur (or rather “an Arthur”) existed. From there, I listened to the audiobook of Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Lantern Bearers and its sequel The Sword at Sunset. It’s probably the best use of the Arthurian tradition (a scattering of post-Roman contemporary history, Old Welsh poetry, medieval history, saints’ biographies & medieval romance) and setting it back in its original time, the 5th century. It sparked a lifelong love of Arthur and the wider Arthurian tradition.
To me what’s great about Arthur is its a story that so many today can relate to. The old order is crumbling down amidst chaos. Human error, stupidity, malignancy all conspire against us. Yet decline is not inevitable, restoration and rebirth are possible. We don’t have to go gentle. But then, in the midst of revival, human sin and passions threaten all we built. Even then all is not lost. Everything is going to be ok. The end of The Sword at Sunset puts it terrifically:
“What has happened to your harp Bedwyr? I have scarcely ever seen you without your harp in all these years…”
“It was torn apart in the fighting. No matter; there will be no more songs.” His head is slow low I cannot see his face
anymore…But he is wrong. Suddenly I know he is wrong. We have held the Pass long enough – something will
“There will be songs – more songs tomorrow, though it is not we who shall sing them.”
Geoffrey Ashe was probably the foremost historian of the era who held that Arthur did really exist and is not a figment of Welsh bards’ imaginations or Geoffrey of Monmouth’s forged “translation.” I’ve just finished his The Discovery of King Arthur in which he convincingly argues Arthur is based on the real life Riothamus, a Romano-British leader written about by late Roman historians/officials. Reading it last week put me back on my Arthurian kick so I’m reading his book on the history of Merlin as a literary figure. Ashe is a good writer and it’s too bad some of his history is ignored by modern revisionists today.
- Empire or Independence: A study in the failure of reconciliation, 1774-1783 by Weldon A. Brown
I don’t have a link but I do have a .pdf so feel free to reach out if you’d like me to email it to you. It’s getting close to the Fourth of July, so I always try to read a bit about the American Revolution right before (as well as the customary Laughon household tradition of rewatching HBO’s John Adams miniseries and Gettysburg). What often strikes me is how much Americans had no intentions of becoming independent and how independence was something thrust upon them in a completely unexpected way. Also I love alternative history so it’s been an interesting book as a starting point to imagine how Americans would’ve responded to an offer of Dominion status earlier in 1774 or even early 1775.