Few works illustrate the power of fantastic stories for exploring deep, meaningful, yet hard-to-pin-down ideas better than the space trilogy by C.S. Lewis.
Not that the novels are easy to define. They’re usually described as science fiction, a label that works if you consider that the first two involve a human traveling to Earth’s nearest planetary neighbors and interacting with the creatures he encounters there.
History’s most notorious criminals compel a certain fascination, though we are well-advised not to become too enthralled.
St. Paul encouraged us to dwell on the true, just and lovely, a discipline no doubt meant to keep us from being enticed by the trappings of evil, the power it sometimes imbues (however briefly), or from forgetting that except for divine grace tyrants like Adolf Hitler might exist as the rule rather than the exception.
Then again, speaking the truth is always a defense against malevolence. And few have unveiled the utter depravity of Hitler’s regime in as meticulous detail as historian Richard J. Evans.
Old World charm? Nicht! It’s New Glarus, Wis., the Swiss Capital of America.
Has COVID-19 canceled your dream trip to Europe?
Great news! There are pockets of Europe dotted across the United States. Small towns for the most part, inhabited by descendants of the immigrants who founded them. They celebrate the usual American holidays, but also celebrate their heritage in a big way.
Their buildings mimic European architecture, their restaurants feature ethnic dishes, and most of them hold festivals honoring their heritage.
Anyone who has read P.G. Wodehouse, or watched any of the copious film and television adaptions of his works, knows that the British wit is not just hilarious—he’s delightfully frivolous.
Though his stories and novels do represent some of the best humor writing of a certain era, it’s a stretch to say that they aspire to literary aims such as critiquing society or forwarding any sort of political agenda. For the most part, Wodehouse wrote with one overarching goal in mind—to give his readers a good laugh.
You can imagine how much it dismayed me, then, to learn that for a time Wodehouse’s reputation was tainted by a very serious allegation. This master of upper-class English mirth was actually accused of turning traitor by collaborating with the Nazis during World War II.
It may have been the dust jacket design that threw me off. The title is set in ornate lettering and illuminated with a medieval-style vine-and-serpent motif, which led me to think this was a book about the ancient origins of the Bible and how it emerged in its present form.
Instead, The Book That Made Your World examines a much more familiar theme—how the Bible influenced and accommodated the rise of Western civilization. But what makes it different, and unusually potent, is that its thesis is propounded by an Easterner who sees this historical influence as a good thing.
When I picked up A Coffin for Dimitrios, I was expecting a light alternative to the nonfiction I had been plodding through.
Having seen the 1940s movie version, and being a fan of between-the-wars detective thrillers, I was all set for author Eric Ambler to sate my palate with an easily consumed tale of trench-coated protagonists tracking down international rogues and bringing them to justice.
Of all the things one could claim about America’s Founding Fathers, among the least controversial is to assert that their bold experiment in democracy also brought about expanded civil liberties—most notably for religious freedom.
But what inspired this achievement? More to the point, just what sort of personal faith did these men adhere to, and how did it affect them?
In the campaign to ratify the U.S. Constitution, one argument advanced by proponents of the document is that it would create a stronger federal government better equipped to defend the nascent republic from foreign belligerents.
The prescience of this thesis is borne out in Ian W. Toll’s book, Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Foundation of the U.S. Navy.