Anyone who has read this weblog over the last few years has sensed my hopelessness and despair about the fallen world and in particular the American republic and Western civilization. I have told Rod Dreher many times privately that we irreligious also need our “Benedict option” in a “darkening world.” But while the Roman Empire fell due to the exogenous shocks of barbarian invasions, as well as internal decay, I feel the exogenous shock of coronavirus just exposed our societal ills, and we’re committing suicide all by ourselves.
My wife is reading The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. When I first heard the author, Nicholas Carr, talk about his book in 2010 on a podcast I was walking up Cedar street in Berkeley. I remember this moment so well because I laughed loudly. I scoffed. I almost dropped my iPod shuffle. Those were the days.
Unfortunately, though Carr’s book is dated, and some of the research seems tenuous, I am beginning to accept more and more of his conclusions. A few years ago I expressed some alarm at the rise of YouTube commentators. They are fine as far as it goes, but they are extremely popular and often informationally vapid.
Today, we have TikTok, where some of my younger friends admit to me that they spend hours and hours watching sequences of videos such as this.
But despair isn’t the point of this post. I’m almost done with The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth Century. The question then is, what do I read next? But then I thought, why just me? I haven’t done anything like a “book club” in many years. But why not? There isn’t a reason I have to march alone through the TikTok world.
So here’s the plan: I will pick a book, and read one chapter a week, and write a blog post about it. And those of you who also want to read the book can comment (if you have a blog or something you can post and I will link to that post; but who has blogs now?).
Here are some options, and I’ll let readers in the comments help choose:
I’m open to selections outside of this list…but I would prefer something on this list unless you have an awesome idea. These are books I already own and are in my “stack” of to-reads. Also, obviously remember that books written by academics are going to be much more dense than those written by journalists and commentators, which will be “quick reads.”