McCullough's John Adams joins his Truman on the Dean's List, the first time that two entries by one author have appeared on the same List. Harry Truman, succeeding Franklin Roosevelt as president and John Adams, following George Washington, have often been perceived as having merely supporting roles. But just as Truman's reputation has grown with the passing years, after two centuries John Adams' place in the pantheon of America's founding generation is being upgraded both by McCullough's work and by Joseph Ellis' Founding Brothers. Reading McCullough's two biographies makes one grateful that our country produced good and decent leaders at critical moments in our history.
The sexual misconduct of priests and bishops is an occasion to examine the place of God and Roman Catholicism in one's life. Three Boston College authors have assisted me in this examination. Thomas Groome provides in What Makes Us Catholic a clear explanation of the Catholic understanding of reality, and how the sacramental view of the world so central to Catholicism follows from the Father's gift to us of Jesus who has permanently pitched his tent among us.
Only a few have had the opportunity to engage the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius for 30 days. And of this small number only one, as far as I know, has detailed his personal experience, hour by hour: Paul Mariani in his Thirty Days. He does so with a surprising and engaging frankness. You may never have the occasion to follow in Mariani's footsteps but Thirty Days will give you a glimpse into how transformative that experience can be.
Those of us who have enjoyed Ben Birnbaum's essays in the Boston College Magazine will not be surprised that his "How to Pray: Reverence, Stories and the Rebbe's Dream" is one of The Best American Essays 2001, edited by Kathleen Norris. If Groome sketches the essentials of the Catholic phenomenon and Mariani shares with us his own experience of prayer, Birnbaum's essay details the wellsprings of prayer in such a moving manner that reading it becomes itself a profoundly personal prayer.
Adam Gopnik's From Paris to the Moon is an introduction to a family (his), a city (Paris) and the mores of a country (France) under lovingly critical tutelage. The essays in this book compare/contrast Paris, France with New York, New York so convincingly that one puts the book down feeling sheepishly guilty that hitherto one has not recognized how quaintly lovable French people really are.
James Agee, A Death in the Family
Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim
George Bernanos, Diary of a Country Priest
Robert Bolt, A Man For All Seasons
Albert Camus, The Fall
Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Adam Gopnik, Paris to the Moon
Graham Greene, The End of the Affair
Thomas Groome, What Makes Us Catholic
Seamus Heaney, Beowulf
Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life Sebastian Junger, The Perfect Storm
Paul Mariani, Thirty Days
David McCullough, John Adams
David McCullough, Truman
Charles Morris, American Catholic: The Saints and Sinners Who Built America's Most Powerful Church
Ben Birnbaum, "How to Pray: Reverence, Stories, and the Rebbe's Dream," in The Best American Essays, Kathleen Norris (ed.)
Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son
John O'Malley, SJ, The First Jesuits
Jaroslav Pelikan, Jesus Through the Centuries
Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels
Dava Sobel, Galileo's Daughter
Wallace Stegner, Collected Short Stories
Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavransdatter
Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men
Garry Wills, Saint Augustine
Simon Winchester, River at the Center of the World
All books featured in the Dean's List are available through the Boston College Libraries.
Fr. Neenan is vice president and special assistant to the president. He has published his "Dean's List" of recommended books since 1982.
Return to September 20 menu
to Chronicle home page