Thinking Hard About History, and About Being Human

These books offer two rewards: a lot of fascinating information, and an opportunity to think hard about history and being human. But they prompt some questions too.

A Spiritual Work, a Saint, a Jumpstart for Prayer

I’m not sure if it’s a sign of spiritual progress or regression, but these days on retreat, in between prayer periods, I allow myself to read.

Lights in the Firmament

The case for "youthful credulity" when reading; Don DeLillo's moral but discomforting vision; a new translation of Julian of Norwich's 'Revelations of Divine Love.'

Close to the Madding Crowd

A biographical novel for Thomas Hardy fans; a theory on how Christianity came to dominate Europe; short poems; and the fascinating (true) tale of a house in Germany.

'The Impossible Craft'

Donaldson's willingness to admit imperfections in his work and the mistakes he’s made in pursuit of his subjects makes him a winning guide to literary biography.

'After Roe'

Mary Ziegler's account of the "lost" history of Roe may surprise even the closest (and oldest) observers of the battles following the 1973 Supreme Court decision.

Bookmarks | Poetry, Poets & Sacredness

James Booth examines Philip Larkin’s life and work. Colm Tóibín writes on Elizabeth Bishop. James Wood looks at religious and secular modes of narration in novels.


As a result of a recent vogue for feeling culturally embattled, the word “Christian” now is seen less as identifying an ethic, and more as identifying a demographic.

Mary McGrory, Leding Lady

John Norris's new biography of Pulitzer prize-winning political journalist (and Commonweal Catholic) Mary McGrory is engaging, carefully researched, and sympathetic.

Great Is the Truth

An account of the sexual abuse scandal at the elite Horace Mann school, noteworthy for the contrast with common impressions of Catholic institutional environments.
Jacques Maritain

Christian Human Rights

In "Christian Human Rights," Samuel Moyn concedes that the modern human-rights movement is untethered from its Christian origins. Is this something to worry about?

The Year of Lear

You don’t need to be a thespian to appreciate James Shapiro's "Year of Lear"—a brilliant, meticulously researched history of social tensions that inspired the play.
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