2022 has been an excellent year for ThinkingWest. We’ve grown our Youtube channel, multiplied our view counts, and increased our social media presence. These metrics are helpful because it shows the great support we’ve received from those that have made it all possible: our ThinkingWest readers. However it’s easy to get caught up in metrics and lose sight of what it’s all about. So let’s return to the reason we’re here: learning about the great books.
We’ve decided to highlight our top 5 books that we’ve read in 2022. This list includes both fiction and nonfiction, old and new, and is in no particular order. Let’s take a look.
Confessions by St. Augustine
Written in the late fourth century, Confessions by Augustine of Hippo is considered one of the first autobiographies. In this revealing work, Augustine offers a vivid reflection on his wandering youth and eventual conversion to Christianity. The work provides glimpses into Augustine’s inner-most thoughts during this process which prove to be highly relatable for modern readers. The bishop describes the ancient cities and people of the Roman Empire which could easily be mistaken for modern equivalents, proving that mankind hasn’t changed much in nearly two millennia. Though somewhat tedious in later chapters as Augustine describes metaphysics, the work proves itself to be one of the greatest Christian texts with its personal writing style and gripping tale of a wayward son.
Lincoln by David Herbert Donald
Lincoln by Harvard historian David Herbert Donald details the life and times of one of America’s greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln. Donald’s 500+ page biography depicts a real Lincoln, void of all the cartooning of abbreviated histories and of modern political spin. Upon first encounter, this biography reduces the stature of Lincoln, portraying a conflicted man with vacillating political aims. However, upon more thorough understanding of the book, one’s opinion of Lincoln can only rise as the reader comes to better understand the crushing burden which Lincoln bore throughout the most tumultuous period in American history. Lincoln emerges from Donald’s scholarly work a figure that earns the reader’s sympathy as a man who suffered enormous political and personal tragedy while forging a new era for the United States.
Politics by Aristotle
Aristotle’s Politics is one of the cornerstones of political philosophy to this day. Written as a follow-up to his Ethics, Aristotle takes the reader through a journey of applying his ethical principles to the world of public administration. In Politics, Aristotle explores different political communities, explains the causes of rebellions, states the end of political activity as for the common good, and identifies the ideal city as comprised of virtuous citizens. Though some of Aristotle’s political views (e.g. regarding women and slavery common to that era) are ignored today, the vast remainder of his political genius continues to find relevance to today.
1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric Cline
A fascinating read with surprising relevance to today’s global society, 1177 BC The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric Cline discusses the simultaneous decline of multiple Late Bronze Age civilizations. The picture of a vast interconnected mediterranean trade network made up of cultures like the Egyptians, Mycenaeans, Hittites, and Babylonians is painted showing how each society was dependent on the others. As catastrophic natural disasters and foreign invaders disrupted this network, each civilization’s vulnerability compounded resulting in a general decline of the region. The book draws parallels to today’s global trade network and sparks reflection on the fragility of our 21st century civilization. 1177 BC is a thoughtfully crafted work of history that forces the reader to view the world in a new light.
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
The quintessential knight’s tale, Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott set the standard for medieval fiction and popularized the genre. As John Henry Newman put it, “ Scott “had first turned men’s minds in the direction of the Middle Ages.” Published in 1819, the novel forms the basis of modern culture’s depictions of the virtuous Richard the Lionheart, the evil King John, and the yeoman Robin Hood. The novel’s artful prose and dialogue, though somewhat antiquated, adorn an entertaining adventure that features a jousting tournament, a damsel in distress, and a witch trial. The work also explores weighty topics like the dynamics between the competing Norman and Saxon factions and the struggles between Christians and Jews at the time. Ivanhoe is a timeless classic that earns a spot as one of our most enjoyable reads this year.
So what were your top reads of 2022? This time of year is an excellent time to reflect on authors and genres you’ve enjoyed so that next year you can make the most of your reading.