Books

There are thousands of important books relevant to the Orthospherean project, that could all with equal justice be listed here. But that would be Too Much. We will start with books that have been particularly important in the intellectual development of Orthosphere contributors, qua Traditionalists, and that might therefore be particularly useful to those who wish to learn more about Traditionalist thought.

Books by Orthosphereans:

Books by modern thinkers we respect:

  • Christopher Alexander: the high priest of architecture’s rediscovery of its traditional and vernacular forms, methods, and meanings. He found that to understand beauty in buildings he had to undertake a metaphysic of order in nature.
    • A Pattern Language.  Alexander and his graduate students set out to discover what it is, exactly, that makes a place feel humane and comfortable. This book sets forth their findings, in respect to human arrangements of all scales – from the province to the chair. E.g.: a deck or porch less than six feet wide will never be used. Not just a guide to buildings that work, it specifies the built environment that is proper to man. Once you read this book, you will know exactly why you feel wonderful in some buildings and horrible in others.
    • The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe. A four-volume excursus ranging from the practice of building to the Transcendentals: Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.
  • Mark Anderson: Pure: Modernity, Philosophy & the One. A relentless, elegant, precise analysis of modernity as a disease of the intellect. Anderson works his way back to the traditional way of seeing by taking up the stance of Classical, pre-Cartesian philosophy – and the pre-philosophical sophia perennis of Homer’s day and before - as against the Sophists and the Nietzscheans. Philosophy as a Way of Purification of the Soul. Reading this book, it becomes quite clear why Christianity subsumed Platonism.
  • Gregory Boyd: God at War. The theology of the scrum in which we find ourselves here on Earth as a portion of a wider war, whose principal combatants are angelic; with applications to theodicy.
  • William Cavanaugh:  The Myth of Religious Violence.  Why it’s historically and conceptually stupid to say that the secular state saved us from irrational violence.
  • GK Chesterton: Incredibly prolific and brilliant British apologist; the use of English as a rapier.
  • Fustel de Coulanges:  The Ancient City.  How religion and filial piety shaped the ancient world. Available as a free etext.
  • Mircea Eliade:  The Sacred and the Profane.  The great work on religion’s symbolic and social aspects.
  • Edward Feser: One of the clearest traditionalist philosophers, and a palmary apologist for Classical (pre-Cartesian) philosophy.
  • David Bentley Hart: An eminent Orthodox theologian, Hart writes like an angel.
  • Dietrich von Hildebrand: Von Hildebrand was the main advocate of the value response school of ethics and a tireless defender of reverence, chastity, and ritual in the Christian life.
  • CS Lewis: Perhaps the greatest Christian apologist of the 20th Century, and a great writer; possibly a saint. See also the other books Lewis wrote, all of which are valuable.
    • The Abolition of Man. What the New Order wants to make of us. Available online.
    • Mere Christianity. The doctrines all Orthosphereans hold in common. One of the most important books in the Traditionalist canon.
    • That Hideous Strength. The third book of his science fiction trilogy, set in Britain just after WWII. A chilling description of the absurd, banal, evil apotheosis of modern secular humanism. Published in 1945, the book is eerily prescient.
  • Rudolph Otto: The Idea of the Holy. A fin de siècle pioneer of comparative religion, Otto picked out the essential elements of the Holy as felt. Hair-raising for those who have experienced it. Makes “the Fear of the Lord” wholly intelligible.
  • Henri Pirenne: Mohammed & Charlemagne. How Islam crippled the flourishing late classical civilization in Western Europe by destroying Mediterranean trade; how the Germans, Franks and Goths managed to preserve some of it. Published posthumously in 1937, the book’s thesis was instantly swamped by PC. Yet it seems the most logical explanation of the abrupt end of classical civilization, circa 640.
  • Emmet Scott: Mohammed & Charlemagne Revisited. Scott reviews the archeological and documentary evidence that has accumulated since Pirenne’s day, and concludes that the Muslim invasions destroyed classical civilization in the East as well as in the West. An even more devastating critique of Islam’s cultural effects than Pirenne could have made. Fascinating facts on almost every page. History is not what you thought.
  • Rodney Stark: The Victory of Reason. Christianity’s role in the foundation of the West, and the decisive differences between Christian cultures and their antecedents and competitors. A refutation of Gibbon, and of almost everything you learned in school about the Christian role in the history of Europe. Dark Ages? Not on account of the Church.
  • JRR Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings. Perhaps the most important books written in the 20th Century. A great read, and the greatest Christian allegory.

Here are some other helpful books that are available for free in electronic form:

13 thoughts on “Books

  1. Thank you for doing this, Kristor—Feser’s “The Last Superstition” and Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” played an important role in my own conversion, and further reflection on them is one of the main reasons why I’m now considering becoming a Roman Catholic. I hadn’t heard of “The Victory of Reason,” but thanks to Amazon, a copy of it is now resting on my Kindle.

  2. I recommend the addition to this reading list of Gregory Boyd’s God at War and Frederic Baue’s The Spiritual Society. These are clarifying books.

  3. Any suggestions for better familiarizing oneself with the “grammar” of Western civilization? I picked up “Mohammed and Charlemagne” after hearing Kristor praise it, but quickly found myself crippled at understanding much, as Pirenne assumes I would already be quite familiar with, for instance, the barbarian Genseric or the differences between the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths. I decided to put the book down until such time as my “prerequisites” were better covered.

    Not sure where to start however, and wishing now my eyes hadn’t glazed over so frequently in my college course on Western Civ. I suppose getting a hold again of a college textbook on the general subject would be a good place to start and may work at least as an omnibus from which I could disembark to study particulars more in depth as desired. It is difficult, however, to encounter a textbook these days, it seems, that isn’t obsessed with how “gender” fits into the whole picture (of course…that’s what everyone is dying to know, right?). Perhaps someone has a few ideas to point me in the right direction?

    • That’s a good question. Most of the college textbooks you will read are full of such intelligence as that Rome fell due to Christianity. I.e., leftist lies. You might well start with general surveys written, not as college textbooks, but for the general population, such as the Oxford Histories of Greece and the Hellenistic World and of the Roman World.

      For the early history of Christianity vis-a-vis the rest of the world, it is hard to beat Rodney Stark.

      It will also benefit you to read a book on the barbarians. I’ve read a number of books on them, but none really stand out. The barbarians are barely covered in most general surveys of late classical history or early Medieval history, yet a familiarity with their history and culture is extremely helpful. The West may be understood as Romanized barbarism. Bearing in mind, of course, that the barbarians were not at all in their own rights uncivilized; they just weren’t at first Romans, or Roman subjects.

      A background in the barbarians and late classical culture will help you as you approach such figures as the Carolingians.

      There’s a lot to know about these things, and I know almost none of it. Fortunately, they are lots of fun to read about.

  4. Buckyinky, I sympathize! Yes, let’s stay away from the specialist university press tomes that have been written to make the world safe for progressivism.

    Let me recommend a few inexpensive books that have helped me — even if I haven’t read every word in each instance.

    I’m not embarrassed to begin with Our Young Folks’ Josephus as an easy to read presentation of Jewish history up to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, an event of great significance for Christian history.

    Henry Chadwick’s Penguin History of the Church Vol. 1 was a nice readable book about the ancient Church, and of course Eusebius’s History of the Church is always readable. I use the old Penguin Classics edition translated by G. A. Williamson.

    Vita Patrum — The Life of the Fathers — by St. Gregory of Tours as translated by Seraphim Rose takes the story forward.

    I haven’t read Huizinga’s Waning of the Middle Ages, but it seems to be well regarded. (Would any Orthosperical readers of this book care to comment on whether it is a good choice?)

    The Victorian Anglican John Mason Neale wrote a History of the Eastern Church that was well regarded in its day. I intend to give his novel about the Fall of Constantinople, Theodora Phranza, a try before long. It was published in the Everyman’s Library many years ago, and may I ask if we have any fans of the old Everyman’s Library out there? This was sort of the equivalent of the Penguin Classics (which have become more politically correct in recent years) when C. S. Lewis was a young man.

    We have arrived at the Reformation period, and polemics really kicks in. For the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Aidan Nichols’ The Panther and the Hind seemed good to yours truly, a Lutheran. Luther the Reformer by Kittelson is well thought of in my circles.

    • Here too I will warmly recommend Roy Schoeman’s Salvation Is from the Jews: The Role of Judaism in Salvation History from Abraham to the Second Coming (Ignatius Press 2003).

      The book’s discussion of the miraculous scarlet thread that would turn white as a sign of God’s acceptance of the Temple sacrifice, and the Talmud-attested cessation of this miracle forty years before the Temple was destroyed in AD 70, is fascinating. This is a special, an extraordinary book.

      Schoeman doesn’t, as far as I remember, discuss Josephus’s account, in The Jewish War, of how, just before the destruction of the Temple, the priests went into its Inner Court at Pentecost, and were aware of sudden movement, a loud crash, and a concerted cry, “Let us go hence” (VI, 301, page 361 of the 1981 Penguin Classics edition translated by Williamson). The Young Folks’ Josephus includes this incident on page 432: “a voice as of a multitude, saying, ‘We are departing hence.’” Of course our Lord predicted the destruction of the Temple.

      One may interpret Josephus’s account of the cry variously — as a false legend, or as an omen referring to the scattering of Jewish people, or as signifying something else. At any rate, my impression is that a household Josephus was a book found in many English-speaking homes till the 20th century.

      Josephus brings together the Hebrew and the Classical histories so foundational for the West.

  5. Has anyone read Creasy’s The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World (1851 & reprints)? Keith Windschuttle wrote of it, in a 1999 issue of The New Criterion:

    One of the most popular books of Victorian Britain was Sir Edward Creasy’s The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World, originally published in 1851. The copy I have is from the illustrated third edition published by Macmillan in 1905, by which time the book had been in print continuously for fifty-four years and reprinted no less than forty-five times. There was an edition published in London as late as 1960, and Da Capo Press reprinted it here in 1994 (404 pages, $16.95). Creasy wrote the work after his return from serving as Chief Justice of Ceylon. Although he would now be dismissed as a “gentlemanly amateur,” the scholarship he brought to the work was respectable enough and better than that of many academics writing today.

    If anyone thinks this would be a good Orthospherical resource, let’s hear about that.

  6. Have ordered Boyd’s book. Reviews certainly would not seem to indicate he is a traditionalist as his open theism is certainly outside the lines of current Christian thought. But maybe if one views Augustine as one who drove the train off the track…Boyd is simply getting things back to the traditionalist state. Comments on his book being selected as an Orthosphere resource appreciated. dennis

  7. I just want to say thank you for pointing me to Anderson’s Pure: Modernity, Philosophy & the One. I once had hoped that Platonism would be a center around which the Orthodox members of the great religions could meet and join forces to organize and present an united front of opposition to the present reign of antichrist.

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