This week, we feature a vivid history of the world just before the Great War and an insightful commentary from a North Korean defector on the United States today.
‘1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War’
By Charles Emmerson
No one today has a direct, adult memory of 1913, yet it was a pivotal year. Much of today’s world was in place. Telephones, radio, airplanes, and automobiles already existed. It was the last year of a century of relative peace, as 1914 opened a century of worldwide conflict. “1913” conducts a world tour of that time. Each chapter examines the geography, history, and culture of a featured city, along with its role in the greater world of the time. This is a fascinating and revealing book.
PublicAffairs, 2013, 544 pages
‘La Duchesse: The Life of Marie de Vignerot―Cardinal Richelieu’s Forgotten Heiress Who Shaped the Fate of France’
By Bronwen McShea
It’s 1620 in the Loire Valley in France. At 16, Marie de Vignerot marries a young nobleman only to be widowed by the time she’s 18. She has aspirations of becoming a Carmelite nun. But her uncle, Cardinal Richelieu, who’s both powerful and influential, has other aspirations for his favorite niece. Intelligent and accomplished, Marie will become a major player. Meticulously researched, this is a compelling story of a remarkable woman who rises to take center stage in France’s Golden Age.
Pegasus Books, 2023, 480 pages
‘Recovering Politics, Civilization, and the Soul: Essays on Pierre Manent and Roger Scruton’
By Daniel J. Mahoney
The recovery of politics, civilization, and the soul is no small feat. Mahoney has written 11 essays on how two modern conservative philosophers―the French philosopher Pierre Manent and the British philosopher Roger Scruton―worked to accomplish this feat. It’s hard to say whether they succeeded but even more difficult to say they failed. Mahoney discusses what Scruton and Manent brought to the philosophical discussion that helped stem the ideological tide of soulless postmodern materialism.
St. Augustine’s Press, 2022, 160 pages
‘While Time Remains: A North Korean Defector’s Search for Freedom in America’
By Yeonmi Park
“In Order to Live” was Yeonmi Park’s recounting of her childhood of privation and mind control in North Korea, her perilous escape, and her journey to the United States. In this follow-up memoir, she addresses the political indoctrination she has discovered in the United States, especially in college and among the elites. Park loves her adopted country, but fearing for its liberty, she warns about the censorship and ideologies that are now commonplace. It’s a splendid call to guard our freedoms while time remains.
Threshold Editions, 2023, 224 pages
‘Twelve Great Books: Going Deeper Into Classical Literature’
By Joseph Pearce
This collection of essays on classical literature includes reflections on St. Augustine’s “Confessions,” Shakespeare’s plays, “Frankenstein,” and six other novels by authors such as G.K. Chesterton, Oscar Wilde, and Evelyn Waugh. Pearce brings a wide knowledge of literature to these selections, evidenced in the many books he’s written on J.R.R. Tolkien, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Catholic literary figures, and poets. The book is preceded by a survey of the great books of Western civilization.
Ignatius Press, 2022, 255 pages
‘Me With You’
By Kristy Dempsey and Christopher Denise
Adorable illustrations and cheerful rhymes celebrate the special bond between a girl and her grandfather. From tea parties to playing on swings to sick days and grumpy days—this book fosters gratitude for the unique relationship between a child and grandparent. It tugs at the heartstrings and is perfect for trips to a grandparent’s home.
Philomel Books reissue edition, 2013, 30 pages