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Five Faves: Luke Carey

“History is the queen of the humanities. It teaches wisdom and humility, and it tells us how things change through time.” 

― Gordon S. Wood

Ten years ago I made an ill advised financial decision to get a BA in History. A BA in history is a step above a BA in philosophy. You're both working at Starbucks, only one of you is a manager. But man, the books! Here are a few history books along with one Jesus book worth your time. They’re all a good read, even if you decided to prudently major in a financially beneficial career that allows you to support great apostolate such as LayEvangelist, LLC. 

 

1. The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon S. Wood. 

I stumbled onto this book in 2001. The title itself rocked my world. Most millennials grew up hearing the Revolutionary war called ‘The War of Independence.” This book slaps that in face and kicks it the gut while down.  Why am I still telling you to read other books?  Gordon Wood is a beast. An absolute beast. He's the greatest historian ever. It's game over from here.

The idea of labor, of hard work, leading to increased productivity was so novel, so radical, in the overall span of Western history that most ordinary people, most of those who labored, could scarcely believe what was happening to them. Labor had been so long thought to be the natural and inevitable consequence of necessity and poverty that most people still associated it with slavery and servitude. Therefore any possibility of oppression, any threat to the colonists’ hard earned prosperity, any hint of reducing them to the poverty of other nations, was especially frightening; for it seemed likely to slide them back into the traditional status of servants or slaves, into the older world where labor was merely a painful necessity and not a source of prosperity.

 

2. The Idea of America by Gordon S. Wood

Can we just build a shrine to this guy already? The Idea of America is Wood’s ‘magnum opus.’ Eleven essays from over fifty years of writings. Buy this book. 

We seem to be very much an all-or-nothing people. It is very difficult for us to maintain a realpolitik attitude toward the world. We have to be either saving the world or shunning it.

 

3. John Adams by David McCullough

Historians hate McCullough because people read his books. People love him because he writes history books that are impossible to put down. McCullough shows how a pantheon of a politician could be vain, humble, brilliant, stupid, devoted, prudent and irrational, all in the span of one letter. 

Adams was both a devout Christian and an independent thinker, and he saw no conflict in that.


4. Losing the War by Lee Sandlin

Sandlin is a brilliant writer with a flair for history. You will never find a better essay on WWII than Losing the War. It’s a travesty every sophomore in American hasn’t read it.  

And it was out of a fey despair that French composer Olivier Messiaen, while in a POW camp, wrote a work that may best define the war’s particular horror. He scored it for the only instruments available — two violins, a clarinet, and a battered upright piano — and it received its world premiere before an audience of prisoners (the most attentive and respectful audience Messiaen said he’d ever had). It isn’t a composition filled with nostalgia for what the war had destroyed or hope for what might survive; it gravely moves from bizarre turbulence to an agonized stillness, a prayer for relief from life and the cruelty of hope. Quatour pour la fin du temps, he called it, ‘Quartet for the End of Time.’


5. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

Remember when we all got obsessed with Wild at Heart in 2003? That was fun and all Republicanish. Here’s a book for everyone else. Yes, I know, Miller can be annoying. But if you’re a twenty-or-thirty something Christian and you haven’t read it, it's time to correct that. 

There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. (They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz.) And as I lay there, it occurred to me that God is up there somewhere. Of course, I had always known He was, but this time I felt it, I realized it, the way a person realizes they are hungry or thirsty. The knowledge of God seeped out of my brain and into my heart. I imagined Him looking down on this earth, half angry because His beloved mankind had cheated on Him, had committed adultery, and yet hopelessly in love with her, drunk with love for her.