No One Sees God, by Michael Novak
Novak is one of the more insightful theologian/philosophers and in this release he is at his most provocative. He draws from his lifelong study of philosophy and his personal struggles with religious faith and belief in exploring the age old debate between faith and reason. He does so by demonstrating the ways in which both atheist and believer experience the “dark night” of the void, where God seems nowhere to be found. The most interesting parts of the book are his challenges and responses to the currently most popular atheists, Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and especially Christopher Hitchens. Not a light read, but worth the effort.
The Return of History and the End of Dreams, by Robert Kagan
This is a follow up to Kagan’s widely acclaimed Of Paradise and Power. In it, he explores the new realities following the expected peaceful international order that was to have followed the end of the Cold War and poses the important questions facing the liberal democracies by the growing threat of the eastern autocracies, China and Russia, and the international competition and possible regional conflicts posed by those countries in addition to Europe, Japan, India, and Iran. A very concise and insightful overview and a touch of reality for the incoming Obama administration.
Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life, by Anthony T. Kronman
If you were a fan of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, or didn’t read it but wondered what all the fuss was about, or if you simply have wondered what has happened to the core academic curriculum of the American university and its impact on the past couple of generations of American youth, this is the book with the answers. Over the years, I have grown in my belief in the basic premise of this book: that the questions of what living is for and of what one should care about and why are the most important questions a person can ask. It is one of the great tragedies of higher education in this country that these questions have been relegated to the backwaters of the academy and, in fact, have in most cases been expelled from the classrooms of our most prestigious campuses. Kronman explores why this happened on our watch and calls for a restoration of the pursuit of the quest for life’s meaning to its proper place in higher education.
On a personal note, I had the opportunity to meet the author when he spoke to the supporters of the Program in Western Civilization and American Institutions at The University of Texas at Austin, on whose board of visitors I serve. I am pleased to say that this program has received national notoriety as a breakthrough at a major university with the potential to help reverse the unfortunate situation he describes.