Such is the image that comes to mind when I consider the state of my Kindle. Consider some of the books I have poked and nibbled at in the last 5 months without finishing:
- Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson. Jeff Guinn. After a dazzling account of his youth and prison years, the formation of his Family and their murders I have bogged down in the minutia of the murder investigations.
- En Route. J.K. Huysmans. A novel about seeking genuine faith amidst the cosmopolitanism of Paris at the turn of the century. I'd just gotten to the good part - Durtal's discovery of Trappist life - but then I put it down.
- Arguably, Essays by Christopher Hitchens. I am mesmerized by his scope and style, as I am by his YouTube appearances. Bluster and brilliance in equal measure.
- The Basic Works of Aristotle. I have a feeling I'll be "in the midst" of these works for the rest of my life.
- Complete Works. Plato. Ditto.
- New American Bible. Made a dash and this time got all the way up to Job, one of the more readable books, before losing steam.
- The Clementine Vulgate. My Latin is getting there.
- The Complete Works of Saint Augustine. Isidore of Seville famously said of Augustine's works: He is a liar who confesses to have read the whole.
- Consider the Lobster and other Essays. By David Foster Wallace. Journalistic pyrotechnics.
- Delphi Complete Works of Lord Byron. Stuck in the middle of Childe Harold. Need to get on that. Byron's ability to turn a phrase is peerless. Plus he swam the Hellespont. What's not to love?
- Die Welt von Gestern. Stefan Zweig. Another great work I've managed never to finish.
- The Federalist Papers. Sigh.
- Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and his Times. Robert Dallek. Just started this one, looks really interesting. I really enjoyed his work on Nixon and Kissinger, and I would like to backfill my understanding of the decades preceding my political awareness. My own impression is that somewhere around 1965 a whole lot of influential people simply let go of the controls. Is this impression founded? And if so, how to explain it?
- General Metaphysics. John Rickaby SJ. From the "manualist" days of the rebirth of Thomism.
- Hallucinations. Oliver Sacks. How can something so fascinating be so boring? That is, with Sacks I feel I have finally arrived at the end of a thread of questions and am about to finally receive the answers. And then I just stop. In this book he asks the very question I have found missing in all other discussion of hallucinations: even if we do manage to reduce hallucination to physical aberration, how do we account for the specific content of this particular patient's hallucinations? Do they perhaps have a meaning? At issue are our conceptions of health and normal functions, as well as possible independence of mind and brain.
- How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must). Ann Coulter. Dig through the grand narratives, straw man attacks and spotty humor and you find some interesting facts.
- In Stahlgewittern. Aus dem Tagebuch eines Stosstruppfuehrers. Ernst Juenger. Just need to dive in again.
- Introduction to the Devout Life. St. Francis de Sales. Not the sort of book you just dash through...
- Lumen Fidei. Pope Francis. Just need to lock myself away with it.
- Moral Philosophy: Ethics, Deontology and Natural Law. Joseph Rickaby again. Many are the appeals to natural law - but how hard it is to find an account of what exactly natural law is!
- Notes from the Underground. Dostoyevsky.
- Obama's America: Unmaking the American Dream. Dinesh D'Souza. Wherein he typecasts the president as an anticolonialist, and as such quite different than yesterday's liberal.
- Orthodoxy. G.K. Chesterton. Just can't get into his bloated style. But everybody who refers to it does so in a glowing way.
- Philosophy Before Socrates. McKirahan. A careful but tendentious approach.
- The Pivot of Civilization. Margaret Sanger. Vilified by Pro-Lifers to such an extent that I feel compelled to seek what merits there be. If anything were entirely evil it would cease to exist.
- The Pope's Last Crusade: How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI's Campaign to Stop Hitler. Peter Eisner. One of these days I have to stop postponing an evaluation of the "Hitler's Pope" debate.
- Reality: A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought. Man do I need to just finish this! And it's really not as monolithic as I expected.
- The Satyricon. Petronius. I recently took a Latin course where we translated a number of passages adapted and gathered in a book entitled The Millionaire's Dinner Party. Wonderfully decadent - I want to read the rest now.
- Septuagint: Greek and English. Certainly need the crutch there.
- Summa Theologica. Aquinas. How long can I put this off?
- They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons. Jacob Heilbrunn. Great stuff.
- Uncertainty. David Lindley. An ultimately tedious account of the history of Heisenberg's principle, oscillating between substance and anectdote. I don't see myself returning to finish it.
But even when I do manage to finish one book, I have the awful tendency to jump immediately into the next book without doubling back for a critical recap. The act of reading becomes scarcely distinguishable from channel surfing. How much I stand to gain from just a little effort!
Of my finished books I hope to put especially a few under such scrutiny:
- The Last Superstition. Edward Feser. Feser is one of the few Thomist philosophers out there able and willing to weigh in on the contemporary scene.
- Foucault: A Very Short Introduction. Gary Gutting. Need to get inside Foucault's head. Most retro-inclined philosophers roll their eyes, to their own detriment.
- Why I Turned Right: Leading Baby Boom Conservatives Chronicle their Political Journeys. Mary Eberstadt. For one thing, I want to try to pin down exactly what we mean by 'conservative'.
And if I ever finish them, I would hope to write on the Manson book as well as Huysmans in particular. A New Year's resolution?
Note for the record that the above mentioned children usually are quite good about eating and cleaning up afterwards.