Last month’s midterm elections made it painfully clear that many pro-life advocates and politicians are at sea in the post-Roe v. Wade environment. Shawn Carney and Steve Karlen’s What to Say When: The Complete New Guide to Discussing Abortion (Kolbe & Anthony Publishing) is a good primer for all those working to rebuild a culture of life in the United States.
David Hoffman’s Give Me Liberty: The True Story of Oswaldo Payá and His Daring Quest for a Free Cuba (Simon & Schuster) is the gripping tale of a man of Christian conscience who would not be cowed by Castroite thugs — and was almost certainly murdered by them as a result. This powerful biography strengthens the case that Mr. Payá should be considered a contemporary martyr.
The Brooklyn Dodgers’ immortal Number 42 was a man of no less courage than Oswaldo Payá. In True: The Four Seasons of Jackie Robinson (St. Martin’s Press), Kostya Kennedy is especially effective in helping us imagine life in Montreal in 1946 (Robinson’s Triple-A stop before the big leagues) and baseball-mad Brooklyn in 1949. The author lapses into wokery by questioning Robinson’s criticism of Paul Robeson before a congressional committee. Notwithstanding that nod to political correctness, Kennedy paints a moving portrait of one of the great American heroes: a man committed to racial equality in a colorblind society. Would that 42 were with us today.
And while we’re on the subject of God’s sport, let me recommend The Grandest Stage: A History of the World Series, by Tyler Kepner (Doubleday). I enjoyed this richly-detailed catalogue of baseball gems so much that I temporarily forgot my grievances over the 1969, 1971 and 1979 Series, all of which broke my heart.
In this season of renewed nuclear nervousness, Serhii Plokhy’s Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis (Norton) is a sobering account of a very close-run thing. Drawing on previously unexplored Soviet archives, the Harvard historian demythologizes the canonical Kennedy account of those 13 days while vindicating (many of) President Kennedy’s instincts in managing the crisis; rehabilitates two figures who usually get short shrift in accounts of the drama of October 1962 (U.S. secretary of state Dean Rusk and the old Armenian Bolshevik, Anastas Mikoyan); and paints a devastating portrait of Fidel Castro’s anti-American mania.
It was an honor to provide the foreword to A Grain of Wheat (Cluny Media), a collection of sermons by Father Leonard R. Klein, the Lutheran convert to Catholicism who brought a deep knowledge of the Bible and a keen, theological intelligence to the preacher’s art. An apt gift for priests and deacons.
Bishop Robert Barron is one of the U.S. Church’s most skilled catechists and brings to life the familiar words we recite every Sunday in Light from Light: A Theological Reflection on the Nicene Creed (Word on Fire Academic).
Those of your friends willing to try a deep dive into the best of contemporary theology will benefit from The Incarnate Lord: A Thomistic Study in Christology (CUA Press) by Father Thomas Joseph White, the American Dominican who currently serves as the rector of Rome’s Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, known as the Angelicum. (Whether the angels are as skillful banjo players as Father White, I shall leave an open question.)
Robert R. Reilly has done the contemporary political debate a tremendous service with America on Trial: A Defense of the Founding (Ignatius Press). This learned but eminently readable study of the deep roots of the American democratic experiment in Jerusalem and Athens — biblical religion and Greek rationality — is the best possible gift for friends and relatives who somehow imagine that the Obergefell decision, which imposed so-called same-sex marriage on the entire country, was gestated in the womb of the Declaration of Independence. Give it, too, to those on your list who are graduating from high school next spring, likely without any serious exposure to the ideas that made the American Founding possible.
Jim Towey’s To Love and Be Loved: A Personal Memoir of Mother Teresa (Simon & Schuster) is the loveliest book I’ve read in recent months, rich in reflection on contemporary sanctity and including one of the Five Funniest Catholic Stories Ever.
And finally, if I may, I’ll recommend my new book, To Sanctify the World: The Vital Legacy of Vatican II (Basic Books). Among other things, my analysis of the Council’s fundamental achievement, its Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, demonstrates why what’s afoot these days along the German “Synodal Path” is a betrayal, not an expression, of the letter and spirit of Vatican II.
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