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Books of the Week: Jonah Goldberg on The Intelligent American’s Guide to Europe

3:37 PM, Apr 8, 2011 • By ANDREW FERGUSON, EMILY SCHULTHEIS, JONAH GOLDBERG, MARK HEMINGWAY and MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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There are lots of people whose jobs I don’t envy – porta-pottie repairman, papal gag writer, manager of the Washington Nationals – and “Chesterton anthologist” is at the top of the list. Near the top, anyway. Chesterton was the greatest journalist who ever lived, and his stuff was so prodigious and of such high quality, and ranged so freely across so many literary forms, that no single book, even one as fat as G.K. Chesterton, could ever give a new reader a sense of the vastness of his talent. But Ian Ker has done it so we don’t have to, and more power to him. The selection in The Everyman Chesterton, a just published addition (as the title suggests) to the Everyman Library series, is as judicious as can be, all contained within a svelte 900 pages. He’s tossed in a few Father Browns and a half dozen poems with generous chunks of Everlasting Man, Orthodoxy, and Chesterton’s oddly neglected autobiography of St. Thomas Aquinas is bobbing around in there too, somewhere. My only complaint is that Ker has failed to answer the most interesting question raised by his book: Why the hell did it take so long for Everyman’s Library to get around to Chesterton?

—Andrew Ferguson

Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut

There's a case to be made that this is Vonnegut's best book and it was tragically ignored because it came so late in the witty curmudgeon's uneven career. Nonetheless, Vonnegut weighs in on genocide and the worth of modern art (or lack thereof) with great insight. And, as a bonus, there's an unexpected pro-life subtext.    

—Mark Hemingway

The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen

Elizabeth Bowen is without a doubt one of the most under-celebrated authors of the 20th Century. So far, my favorite book of hers is The Heat of the Day, a tense, thrilling story about a woman in WWII London during the bombing raids. Stella learns that her lover may be selling secrets to the Germans, and the man charged with revealing him becomes infatuated with Stella and demands her affection as payment for keeping quiet. Bowen’s has an eye for behavior and detail as sharp as Austen’s, and her descriptions are as consistently dense and beautiful as almost any work of poetry.

—Emily Schultheis

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

I’m notoriously bad at checking out books, television, and movies that friends recommend to me. My best friend once urged me to watch Gallipoli starring Mel Gibson. He said it’s one of the great war movies. Years passed before I checked Gallipoli out from Blockbuster, popped it in the VCR, and loved every second. The next day I told my friend what a great film I’d discovered. He was not amused.

For a while now Ross Douthat has been telling me to read George R.R. Martin’s fantasy septology A Song of Ice and Fire. As usual I was desultory in picking up the first book, Game of Thrones. Then I saw HBO was turning the book into a miniseries. I read Martin’s list of the best science fiction movies and decided we had similar tastes. Browsing through Hudson News at Penn Station the other day, I decided to give Game of Thrones a whirl.

The book is awesome: Lord of the Rings meets Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. I found myself addicted, even with the fantasy geography and funny names. And the best part? There are three more books in the series to read, with a fourth on the way. 

—Matthew Continetti

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