Last week I provided half the list of the books that I found most interesting throughout my reading during 2021. This week I provide the other half of the list. Perhaps I should mention that these books are listed in alphabetical order by the surname of the author. The location of a book within the list tells you nothing about how interesting I found it in relation to the others. Here is the second half of the list:

Kelton, Stephanie. The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy. New York: PublicAffairs, 2020.

Writing in defense of Modern Monetary Theory, Stephanie Kelton explains that the federal government has a monopoly on issuing currency. Consequently, the government cannot possibly run out of money. The only constraint on government spending is practical: too much spending might possibly provoke inflation. Otherwise, the government simply creates more currency to cover its debts. For Kelton (and her follower, AOC), this insight opens the door to fully funding a radically Leftist social agenda.

Kirk, Russell. The Conservative Mind from Burke to Eliot. 7th ed. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2001.

One of the three works that form the foundation of American Conservatism, The Conservative Mind repays multiple readings. I was first introduced to this book by a professor while I was in seminary. It represents the historical argument for conservative thought. More than any other author, Kirk has defined conservatism for postwar America. He is one of those authors who deserves his own shelf in your library. My rule here is simple: you should read everything he wrote.

L’Amour, Louis. Utah Blaine: A Novel. 16th ed. New York: Bantam, 1984.

We all do some reading just for fun, though what constitutes fun will vary from person to person. For me, western adventures are fun, and L’Amour writes some of the best. When he describes a place I’ve seen, I know that he has seen it, too. Importantly, L’Amour also understood that true masculinity is not toxic. He was gripped by notions of chivalry, and these define his protagonists. His westerns (and his other books) aren’t just fun: they have the power to shape character.

Leavy, Jane. Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy. New York: Harper, 2010.

I’ve never been a great sports fan, though I do have exciting memories of the 1968 Tigers. Even so, during my childhood everybody knew the name of Sandy Koufax, pitcher for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. Jane Leavy has written an objective and thoroughly enjoyable biography, dealing with the man as well as the sports legend.

MacDonald, George. Phantastes: A Faerie Romance. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981 repr.

One reads some fiction for enjoyment and other fiction because of its literary importance. I read MacDonald for both reasons. He was one of C. S. Lewis’s favorite authors, and that says something. MacDonald was one of the pioneers of what is now called “High Fantasy,” and he excels virtually any present-day author in placing his imaginative world within a strongly moral universe. This is one of those books that I re-read every ten years or so.

McGirr, Lisa. The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State. New York: W. W. Norton, 2015.

What would it look like if someone committed to Critical Race Theory were to write a history on a random subject such as, say, Prohibition? The answer is McGirr’s volume, in which Prohibition is interpreted as an ideologically motivated attempt to oppress non-Whites and keep them from power. While the book does contain some actual historical research, it is interesting primarily because it shows how completely a CRT filter can color the answer to any question.

O’Rourke, P. J. On the Wealth of Nations. New York: Grove Press, 2008.

P. J. O’Rourke made his reputation as a humorist writing for Rolling Stone magazine. Here, however, he employs his considerable literary talent to offer a clear exposition of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. Of course, Smith’s original treatise deserves to be read in its own right. For those who have struggled with Smith, O’Rourke has written an explanation that is accessible, lucid, funny, urbane, and short.

Schweitzer, Albert. The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede. Tr. by W. Montgomery. 3rd ed. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1954.

Few works survive a century in print, but Schweitzer published this discussion at a critical moment. It became a defining book that ended the First Quest of the Historical Jesus. Ordinary church members do not need to read this book. Few pastors do. But the issues it raises are still being mooted within the worlds of theology, Jesus Studies, and Early Christianity. They even show up in popular journalism. It is worth understanding the arguments, which Schweitzer summarized better than anyone.

Singer, Peter. Hegel: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford, 2001.

Even though Singer is one of the most obnoxious philosophers alive today, he has the gift of explaining convoluted ideas in simple language. That is precisely what he has done with the thought of G. W. F. Hegel. I have found the “Very Short Introduction” series to be uneven in quality. This is one of the better discussions. To be fair, no pastor really needs to know anything about Hegel to do his job. On the other hand, if he is ever, EVER going to babble about the “Hegelian Dialectic,” he might better have actually first read somebody who understands Hegel.

Solzhenitzyn, Aleksandr. The Gulag Archipelago. 50th Anniversary Edition. Foreword by Jordan Peterson. New York: Vintage Classics, 2018.

I’m embarrassed to admit that this was my first reading of Gulag. Now that I have read it, what can I say? Solzhenitzyn is the man who, together with Karol Wojtyla, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan, brought down the Evil Empire. Furthermore, this book is a prophylaxis against the cultural Marxism that is coming to dominate American academics, journalism, and politics. Jordan Peterson’s lengthy introduction to the 50th Anniversary Edition makes exactly this point, and it is worth reading in its own right.

In retrospect, this has been a year during which I’ve read a bunch of Critical Theory in its various manifestations: race, gender, post-colonial, etc. Maybe this stuff seems interesting because it’s astonishing, or maybe because it has only recently begun exerting influence over the political and cultural life of the nation. Reading CT is like watching Attack of the Killer Tomatoes: it’s so bad it’s good. At any rate, I have found it interesting, which is what this list is about.

Once again, let me issue my caveat: just because I found something interesting does not mean that you will. More importantly, just because I found something interesting does not mean that it is good. Oncologists are interested in cancers, but they do their best to extirpate them. Part of my work is to deal with cancerous ideas. Sometimes I find them interesting, but that doesn’t mean that I want you to come down with the disease.


This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.


The Day Is Past and Gone

John Leland (1754–1841)

The day is past and gone,
The evening shades appear;
O may we all remember well
The night of death is near.

We lay our garments by,
Upon our beds to rest;
So death will soon disrobe us all
Of what we here possess.

Lord, keep us safe this night,
Secure from all our fears;
May angels guard us while we sleep,
Till morning light appears.

And when we early rise,
To view th’ unweari’d sun,
May we set out to win the prize,
And after glory run.

That when our days are past,
And we from time remove,
O may we in thy bosom rest,
The bosom of thy love.