The Library Basement
Reading under ground

Tag Ross Douthat

Readings for April 2013

I guess there is no stereotypical "spring reading."

Bad Religion by Ross Douthat

Ross Douthat has the interesting job of being the "conservative columnist" for the New York Times. I had read his work a few times when linked from elsewhere and been generically impressed. His book Bad Religion had been making a splash in my circles, so I borrowed it from the library. (Actually my wife borrowed it from the library, and I borrowed it from her, before she could read it.)

As far as cultural criticism goes, Douthat is stellar. His assessments ring true without the I-told-you-so arrogance which so often permeates this genre. Also, he is probably the best-read in religious studies of anyone I have encountered outside of people with formal seminary training. He really knows his stuff, and makes a convincing case.

Unfortunately the core problem with Douthat's high-brow commentary is that it has almost no chance at having an effect on the culture at large and bringing about the return to orthodoxy which he advocates. His audience is small, and not many will be swayed who are in positions of real influence. Still, I recommend this book, because it is a great examination of the short history of Christianity in the US, and our paths forward.

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

John Scalzi has quite the knack for writing science fiction. His plots are good, but his characters are better. The Ghost Brigades is second in what is now a five-book series which began with Old Man's War. I enjoyed the quick read. As it happens, Scalzi was signing at a local bookstore recently, so my copy of this book is now autographed.

Farside by Ben Bova

In addition to being on a science fiction kick, I decided to try a new author: Ben Bova. He's probably one of the more prolific sci-fi authors whom I had never read. Farside is something of an astronomical thriller set on the moon. The premise is great, and it is pretty interesting from a hard sci-fi perspective. In spite of the good setup, I feel like the plot was easily predicted, and the characters were a bit flat. I may try Bova again someday, but not for a while.


  • Tin House 55 - Phil Klay's story "After Action Report" is a wrenching depiction of the complexities of life in the war zone. This was a very good issue overall, with a warfare theme.
  • SciAm December 2012 - David Tong does a good job illustrating how we are yet unsure whether the universe is digital or analog at its most fundamental level.