Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Books I'm Not Recommending for Christmas

It’s my annual list of books I’m not recommending for Christmas. I’ve always felt particular about the books I buy and read; I assume most other people share that sentiment. So, I don’t tell people what they should buy; instead, I cite the books I enjoyed most this past year. 

My reading changed considerably this year, as I began to read and research the American Civil War. Some really fine books on the subject were published this year, and I read only a few. I also read several that were published years ago. 


Here’s the list of books I read in 2022 that I’m not recommending. (I stumbled across a few books I wouldn’t recommend under any circumstances; yes, they were that bad. But I never finished them, and they’re not included.)


Rembrandt is in the Wind: Learning to Love Art Through the Eyes of Faith by Russ Ramsey.




History of the Rain by Niall Ferguson.

Alexandria by Paul Kingsnorth.

Above the Rain by Victor Del Arbol (there must be something about rain that attracts me).

Brisbane by Eugene Vodolazkin.

The Lost Tales of Sir Galahad, by various authors and published by The Rabbit Room.




The Joseph Tree by Isabel Chenot.

Drinking Guinness with the Dead by Justin Hamm.

Tornado Drill by Dave Malone

Vinegar City by Colm Toibin.

As Folktaleteller by Paul Brookes.


Two [poetry anthologies I really liked were Poets of the Civil War, edited by J.D McClatchy, and 

Christian Poets in America Since 1940, edited by Micah Mattix and Sally Thomas.


Literary Criticism


In the House of Tom Bombadil by C.R. Wiley.

Dickens and the World in 1851: The Turning Point by Robert-Douglas-Fairhurst.




The Army of the Potomac Trilogy by Bruce Catton (Library of America).

Hearts Torn Asunder: Trauma in the Civil War’s Final Campaign in North Carolina by Ernest Dollar Jr.

Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee’s Army After Appomattox by Caroline Janney.

The Battle of the Wilderness May 5-6, 1864 by Gordon Rhea (published in 1994).

Hell Itself: The Battle of the Wilderness by Chris Mackowski.

The Last Road North: A Guide to the Gettysburg Campaign by Robert Orirson and Daniel Welch.


News Media


Bad News: How Woke Media is Undermining Democracy by Batya Ungar-Sargon.

Terms of Service by Chris Martin.




I read a lot of mystery stories. And I’m always happy to find a new mystery author and series. I read a number of mysteries by Roy Lewis. I loved his Eric Ward series and really liked his Inspector John Crow series. The series I’m reading now, featuring a local planning officer named Arnold Landon, may end up being my favorite. 


Five Decembers by James Kestrel (won the Edgard Award for best mystery and deserved it).

Death at Whitewater Church by Andrea Carter.

A Death in Jerusalem by Jonathan Dunsky.

A Fatal End by Faith Martin.

Murder on the Oxford Canal by Faith Martin.


Biography / Memoir


Making Darkness Light: The Lives and Times of John Milton by Joe Moshenka.

Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C.S. Lewis by Gina Dalfanzo.

Ghost of the Hardy Boys by Leslie McFarlane.

Savage Gods by Paul Kingsnorth.

Eliot After ‘The Waste Land’ by Robert Crawford.




Dream Small by Seth Lewis.

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman.


Top photograph by Henry Be via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Poets and Poems: Angela Alaimo O'Donnell and "Holy Land"

Most of us associate the term “Holy Land” as the area encompassing Israel, Gaza, and parts of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the Sinai Peninsula. It has a fairly fixed religious connotation, encompassing three of the world’s major faiths – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Poet Angela Alaimo O’Donnell has that connotation in mind as well, at least for the first 16 poems of her new collection Holy Land, inspired by an actual visit to the region. 

But for O’Donnell, “Holy Land” encompasses other regions, not only those that are geographic but also those of the imagination. The lands your ancestors came from, like Ireland, is one such holy land. Another is the land, or lands, where you spent your childhood; for O’Donnell, that includes Baltimore. 

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Monday, December 5, 2022

"Reconstruction in Mississippi" by James Wilford Garner

James Wilford Garner (1871-1938) was born and raised in Pike County, Mississippi, the same county where my paternal great-grandparents were born and raised (during the Reconstruction period, the state legislature split the county into two, with the southern half retaining the name and the north half being renamed Lincoln County). Garner graduated from the Mississippi Agricultural & Mechanical College in 1892 and went on to study at the University of Chicago and Columbia University.  

Garner would become a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and University of Illinois, and he also did extensive teaching work in India. He co-authored a history of the United States with Henry Cabot Lodge, and he published a number of other works on government and political science.


The work he is best known for is his Ph.D. thesis, published in 1901 under the title of Reconstruction in Mississippi. It firmly established him as what was then called the Dunning School, named for Columbia professor William Archibald Dunning. The school of thought generally favored a conservative, more pro-Southern understanding of the post-Civil War Reconstruction period. 

To continue reading, please see my post today at Dancing Priest.

Sunday, December 4, 2022


After Daniel 8:18-27

He sees the vision,

he hears the explanation,

couched in almost

vague, disguised words,

but he understands 

the meaning. His mind

accepts what he hears

but his heart fails, 

his spirit overcome,

both by the revelation’s

substance and the revelation’s

form. His strength fails;

he sickens. After he

recovers, he does the only 

thing he knows to do;

he doesn’t sit and wait

for fulfillment, to wait

for the end, but to do

what he has been called

to do: go about his work,

go about his daily life.


Photograph by Yaroslav Devia via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - Dec. 3, 2022

The COVID pandemic had one completely unexpected effect. School classrooms switched to Zoom, and parents discovered the state of education in America. In some cases, t was good. In far too many cases, it wasn’t. Many parents learned their children didn’t know how to read. And the reason goes back to an educational theory from 60 years ago. APM Reports has the story on how teaching kids to read went so wrong. 

And while we’re on the topic of education, the idea of the university had undergone a profound shift in meaning and practice. Once places where ideas could be discussed, debated, and analyzed, universities appear to have become strict enforcers of a particular orthodoxy. John Ellis at City Journal discusses the decline of higher education and how it happened


I’ve always considered the two genealogies of Jesus in the New Testament, found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, to show Jesus’s messianic descent and the connections to King David through both the lines of Mary and Joseph. And they do demonstrate that. But as Jesse Johnson at The Cripplegate points out, they show something else, too – and it’s in the meanings of the listed names.


More Good Reads


Life and Culture


No, It Wasn’t the Vaccine – Tom Challies.


Disney’s ‘Strange World’ Embodies Strange New World – Brett McCracken at The Gospel Coalition.


The Withering of Persuasion – Ian Olson at Mere Orthodoxy.




Small and Afraid and Without Knowledge – Noah Karger at Mere Orthodoxy. 


The Truth is Not Mine – Seth Lewis.


Pressing Forward by Looking Back – W. Robert Godfrey at Tabletalk.


News Media


5 Rules of Ethical Journalism – Alison Hill at Writer’s Digest.




Read a New Translation of “The Caucasus” by Ukrainian Poet-Hero Taras Shevchenko – Literary Hub.


Puncturing Putin’s dangerous myths – Victor Sebestyen at The Spectator. 


British Stuff


Less than half of England and Wales population Christian, Census 2021 shows – Rachel Russell and Harry Farley at BBC News.


Piotr Frac, Stained Glass Artist – Spitalfields Life.


Writing and Literature


Fictional Saints and Sinners – Joseph Pearce at The Imaginative Conservative.




Paterson and Poetic Fidelity – Stephen Knepper at Front Porch Republic.


Yet Not I But Through Christ in Me – City Alight

Painting: The Magdalen Reading, oil on canvas (circa 1525) by Ambrosius Benson (1500-1550)

Friday, December 2, 2022


After Daniel 8:18-27

Asleep, then wakened,

he hears the voice explain

the dream, the vision.

The voice diagrams

the path of history, what

is to come, not in the moment

but in the decades and

centuries ahead: the rise

and fall of kings and

empires explained

without reassurance. 

The voice speaks of rams 

and goats, of horns

large and small, horns

broken, crowns and

kingdoms rising and

falling, nothing enduring

until the end.


Photograph by Emily Morter via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

"A Viking's Shadow" by H L Marsay

It’s the annual Viking celebration in York, and Detective Chief Inspector John Shadow is aggravated that the parades and exhibitions are preventing him from getting to his favorite restaurants. Middle-aged, unmarried, and very set in his ways, Shadow lives near city center on a houseboat on the River Ouse; his meals are typically at local restaurants. 

The celebration’s Viking king is found dead in the “king’s hall.” The man is a local businessman who promotes all things Viking, having found a treasure hoard on property he owned, a hard that made him rather rich. Then the body of the young woman is was in a relationship with is found in her psychic reading tent. As Shadow and his team come to learn, the man may have had his philanthropies and good deeds, but there were lots of reasons someone might have killed him. But the death of the young woman looks more like revenge on the dead man.


Suspects abound – the former wife of the dead man, a local Viking fan whom he cheated, and even his own children. Few people seemed to have loved or even liked the Viking king. 


H L Marsay

The Viking’s Shadow
 by British mystery writer H L Marsay is the second novel in the DCI John Shadow series. It’s a classic mystery story wrapped around the often prickly personality of Shadow. Marsay is also beginning to incorporate some of the back story for her detective as well as developing the personal stories of the people on his team.


Marsay is the author of six mystery novels in the DCI John Shadow series. A member of the Crime Writers Association, she lives with her family in the city of York in England.


As I read about Shadow’s various meals, I began to get suspicious that these restaurants may be actual places in York. A quick online search confirmed my suspicions. So not only does The Viking’s Shadow provide an interesting mystery, but it’s also something of a culinary guide to the city of York.




A Long Shadow by H.L. Marsay.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

"North Against South" by Ludwell Johnson

The first thing you should know about Ludwell Johnson’s North Against South: The American Iliad 1848-1877 is that it’s controversial. First published in 1978 under the title Division and Reunion, 1848-1877, the book argues that Reconstruction was an extension of the military warfare carried out by the North during the Civil War, that Jefferson Davis was a more able leader than Abraham Lincoln, and that Robert E. Lee was a better military leader than Ulysses S. Grant. 

That’s just for starters. Johnson (1927-2017) also says that the writing of Civil War history after World War II has been filtered through the lens of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. It’s not that this vast multitude of history works are wrong and should be rejected, but more that readers and students need to understand the lens through which the Civil War has been seen and understood.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Dancing Priest.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Poets and Poems: Andrea Potos and "Her Joy Becomes"

You reach an age when you discover that, no matter how hard you’ve tried not to, you’ve become more like your parents than you thought possible. And you wonder how that happens. 

Poet Andrea Potos, in her new collection Her Joy Becomes, writes about her own mother – aging, becoming ill, not there any longer. The loss leaves a gap, until she catches herself doing the things her mother did, or is surprised by that familiar facial expression, or a memory surfaces. And she realizes that her mother hasn’t really left her after all. 

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Monday, November 28, 2022

"Nothing But the Truth" by Simon Michael

For more than a decade, the Kray Twins ruled London’s underworld. From the late 1950s to the late 1960s, identical twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray ran what they called “The firm,” involved in just about every criminal activity there was – drugs, prostitution, gambling, protection rackets, and more. The Krays are the subject of numerous books and five films. including “Legend” in 2015, starring Tom Hardy as both the twins. 

The Krays also have a somewhat starring role in the Charles Holborne legal thrillers by British author Simon Michael. And in the recently published eighth book in the series, Nothing But the Truth, the Krays finally meet justice – with a little help from Holborne.


Scotland Yard has had enough of the Krays – and Detective Superintendent Leonard Read has a highly secretive operation underway to nab them. It’s based away from Yard headquarters – the Krays have a lot of the police force on the payroll. When they’re arrested for involvement in a murder, they turn to defense attorney Charles Holborne. Like the Krays, he’s East End born and raised. His birth name is actually Horowitz; he changed it in an effort to escape his Jewish and East End roots. But those roots have a habit of ensnarling his feet. The simple fact is that the Krays have a file on Holborne – enough to get him disbarred and sent to prison.


Simon Michael

A Kray cousin is set up to take the fall for the murder rap, and it’s Holborne’s assignment to get him to plead guilty or defend him in such a way that he’s convicted. But there are some things Holborne simply cannot do, even if it means disobeying the Krays. What follows is one of the best literary sleights-of-hand that I’ve read in a very long time. 


Michael studied law at Kings College, London University and was called to the Bar in 1978. He worked primarily in the field of criminal law until the late 1990s, when he focused his practice on clinical negligence. He began writing in the 1980s and resumed it when he retired from legal practice.


Nothing But the Truth has the feel of a final volume in the Charles Holborne series, as it’s difficult to imagine Holborne without the Krays breathing down his neck at every turn. But if Simon can write a story with such a delightfully unexpected turn as this one, I’m confident he can figure out how to keep Holborne moving ahead.




My review of The Brief by Simon Michael.


My review of An Honest Man by Simon Michael


My review of The Lighterman by Simon Michael.


My review of Corrupted by Simon Michael.


My review of The Waxwork Corpse by Simon Michael.


My review of Force of Evil by Simon Michel.


My review of The Final Shot by Simon Michael.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Daniel's dream

After Daniel 7:9-14

The vision of the one

in white, the beasts,

the son of man, the vision

arriving in a dream,

a dream or nightmare

ending well but still

terrifying., a singular

vision used to explain

what was to come, 

what is still to come,

a revelation renewed

six hundred years

later, an arc of prophecy,

an alpha and omega

bridging then and now.

And all in a dream.


Photograph by Daniel Olah via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - Nov. 26, 2022

Tuesday was the 59th anniversary of the death of President Kennedy, and the 59th anniversary of the death overshadowed by Kennedy’s – that of C.S. Lewis. Poet Malcolm Guite wrote a sonnet in honor of Lewis. 

“Christian Nationalism” seems to have become a thing, especially for the news media, which has been sending reporters scurrying all over the country to uncover those pockets of what we’re supposed to dread. At Front Porch Republic, Matt Carpenter has a little fun with the term and uses it as something like clickbait. Like he says, who would click on a story headlined “Who is Stephen Leacock?


You read Steve Knapper’s story at Evangelical (another term of dread) Magazine, and you’re left more than a bit stunned. If you want to know what deep-seated faith in God is, then read “Trusting God Through Terminal Illness.”


More Good Reads




And It Was Good – Kelly Lindquist at The Lamp Magazine.


In Search of Social Justice – Greg Doles at Chasing Light.


How Many New Testament Manuscripts Do We Have from the Second Century? – Michael Kruger at Canon Fodder. 




Sam Bankman-Fried and the scam of woke capitalism – Jennifer Sey at The Spectator.


Debunking the grievance industry in our schools – Casey Chalk at The Spectator.


British Stuff


The Antiquarian Bookshops of Old London – Spitalfields Life.




The Manifestation – Richard Jones at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


What Kind of Angel: On Percy Shelley – Bryan Van Dyke at The Millions.


Inviting Some Friends to a Birthday Dinner – Jeremiah Johnson at Society for Classical Poets.


'Transition of the Leaves" and 'Life Abundant in the Garden of Ms. Ziegler' – C.F. Shushok at South Writ Large.




Russia: The Burden of History – Michel Mandelbaum at American Purpose.


Writing and Literature


How Virginia Woolf Shunned—and Then Embraced—T.S. Eliot – Lyndall Gordon at Literary Hub.


Will the Real Shakespeare Please Stand Up? – Joseph Pearce at The Imaginative Conservative. 


The Armed Man “A Mass for Peace” XII. Benedictus – Gabriel V

Painting: Man Reading, oil on canvas (1870) by Edouard Brandon (1831-1897).

Friday, November 25, 2022

And the vision

After Daniel 7:9-14

It begins as a dream,

a vision, a declaration

of what is to come,

in the three parts.


First, the throne, where

one in white and fire

takes his seat,

surrounded by servants

by the thousands.


Second, the beast killed,

destroyed, to be burned

by fire. The rest are 

rendered powerless but

not destroyed.


Third, a son of man

is presented to the one

in white; he is given

dominion that cannot

be destroyed.


Photograph by Drew Beamer via Unsplash Used with permission.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Why We Celebrate Thanksgiving

We celebrate Thanksgiving Day because of Henry VIII, the Gunpowder Plot, the 1619 landing of 38 English colonists in Virginia (without slaves), the Pilgrims, the end of the American Revolution, the beginning of the American Republic, the Civil War, and the need to stimulate the economy in the late 1930s. And it might have been called Evacuation Day.  

Thanksgiving as we know it today in the United States evolved over a period of some 400 years. The idea of thanksgiving observances goes back to the Protestant Reformation in England under Henry VIII, consolidating a rather large number of thanksgiving holidays during the Roman Catholic period. Special days of Thanksgiving would be called for military victories and for deliverance from such events as the Gunpowder Plot of 1606.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Dancing Priest.

Top photograph: Union soldiers celebrate the first national Thanksgiving Day in 1863.