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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book Time

Here is what is on my reading shelf these days:

The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama, by David Remnick (new paperback edition).

Definitely the deepest, most comprehensive book on Obama done so far. Remnick is a master weaver of a narrative and the book is a pleasure to read. I have a quoted it a couple times on blogs and am sure to do so as I work my way through the whole book. Besides being comprehensive, the book is also noteworthy for the way it places Obama’s career within the broad stream of civil rights history. Gwen Ifill, the PBS commentator and author, has a spot-on review of some of the book’s major points.

George Kennan: A Study of Character, by John Lukacs. You can’t beat this---my favorite historian not named Noll writing about one of my favorite Americans. Lukacs has taken to writing short essayish books in recent years. I appreciated his Five Days in London: May 1940 and June, 1941: Hitler and Stalin, which both came in under 200 pages. Lukacs on Kennan is interesting because he knew him personally and holds him in high moral esteem.

Mother Teresa: The Private Writings of the ‘Saint of Calcutta’, edited with commentary by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C.

I have wanted to read this book ever since this moving review essay of it by Carol Zaleski in First Things seven years ago. If you are not familiar with the book, here is the basic idea: Mother Teresa struggled mightily and had moments, if not years, of the “dark night of the soul.” This book for the first time uses personal reflections from Mother Teresa to weave a fuller picture of her life. As Zaleski said in her essay,

When we consider her life and the ongoing life of her community, the Church seems young again, and everything seems possible. If these days are in any sense a dark night for the Church, then Mother Teresa shows the way forward: faith that we are undergoing a purification rather than a free-fall, and fidelity, in small things as well as big, to the vows that bind in order to set free.

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