…there is no end.

There also seems to be no end to the number of books and manuscripts I am sent for reading, review and promotion. Because of this blog I am supposedly an “influencer” so they send me the books. Being an author myself, I’m loathe to simply chuck these books away because each one represents an author’s hard work, a publisher’s hope and a genuine attempt to communicate. So I give each one some attention. I take a picture of the book and put it up on Twitter and Instagram. At least that way the book gets some exposure.

Then I have a simple test for whether I am going to read the book or not. First, if the cover interests me I will open the book. If the Table of Contents still interests me I will start reading the book. I will stop reading when, for whatever reason, I have lost interest. I’m afraid I rarely finish a book to the very end these days. This is not only because there are too many books which are, quite frankly, mediocre at best, but to be more charitable, many of them are going over material I have already read elsewhere–often in a more winning or memorable way. The only books I review are the ones I read through. The rest go into the Boox Grab Box.

You might be interested to know that my Donor Subscribers get a monthly email with an update from me and a list of the books in the Boox Grab Box. As a thank you for their support they can claim any of the books and I’ll mail it to them free of charge. It’s first come, first served and therefore a bit of monthly fun for fellow Catholic bibliophiles. I should add that some of the books in the Boox Grab Box are worthy, but just are not my area of interest. If I review a book it usually goes onto my book shelves as a keeper.

So here are two books I’ve read through and what I thought of them:

The Decadent Society – How We Became Victims of Our Own SuccessI’m planning to give this a more extensive review over at The Imaginative Conservative website, but let me record here that Douthat’s latest book came out just before the pandemic, but his analysis of American society resonates even more strongly as it reflects on our reaction to the pandemic. Douthat’s reference to “decadence” is not simply moral decadence, but instead a wider definition of a society’s rot. He talks about the “Four Horsemen” of Stagnation, Sterility, Sclerosis and Repetition which presage a society’s downfall. The second section analyzes the way the decay of a society may continue for a long time, gradually getting worse and the final section looks at what comes next. Douthat’s analysis is sharp, interesting and, as usual, an absorbing and well written treatise. Stay tuned to Imaginative Conservative for a more in depth review of Douthat’s book.

History’s Nine Most Insane Rulers – Scott Rank writes popular narrative history and he obviously has a knack for dreaming up catchy book titles. In his latest offering he goes into the gory and wacky biographies of insane tyrants, monarchs, emperors and dictators. Starting with Caligula and ending with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il he charts their rise and fall and analyzes their mental state. This book was an interesting read mostly for all the wrong reasons. It attracts attention like any tabloid or gossip column. We want to ogle these monsters and wonder at their insanity–sometimes with pity as with King George III of England but mostly with horror as with Idi Amin or Ivan the Terrible. The book is a delightful chamber of horrors, but becomes a bit yawn inducing when Rank feels it necessary to put his subjects on the couch and figure out what was really wrong with them. Those passages of the book became tedious. They probably gave weight to what would otherwise have simply been a rollicking account of the follies and horrors of absolute power corrupting absolutely, but for my money I would have enjoyed less psychoanalysis and more juicy horror stories.

Now to get down to that Boox Grab Box email. If you would like to get the monthly Boox Grab Box email sign up as a Donor Subscriber at the Premier level or above. Go here to learn more.