Guest Picks

Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Leisure: The Basis of Culture

One of the most important philosophy titles published in the twentieth century, Josef Pieper's Leisure, the Basis of Culture is more significant, even more crucial, today than it was when it first appeared more than fifty years ago. This edition also includes his work The Philosophical Act. Leisure is an attitude of the mind and a condition of the soul that fosters a capacity to perceive the reality of the world. Pieper shows that the Greeks and medieval Europeans, understood the great value and importance of leisure. He also points out that religion can be born only in leisure -- a leisure that allows time for the contemplation of the nature of God. Leisure has been, and always will be, the first foundation of any culture. Pieper maintains that our bourgeois world of total labor has vanquished leisure, and issues a startling warning: Unless we regain the art of silence and insight, the ability for non-activity, unless we substitute true leisure for our hectic amusements, we will destroy our culture -- and ourselves.

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The Power of Money: Coinage and Politics in the Athenian Empire

The Power of Money: Coinage and Politics in the Athenian Empire

Was Athens an imperialistic state, deserving all the reputation for exploitation that adjective can imply, or was the Athenian alliance, even at its most unequal, still characterized by a convergence of interests?

The Power of Money explores monetary and metrological policy at Athens as a way of discerning the character of Athenian hegemony in midfifth-century Greece. It begins with the Athenian Coinage Decree, which, after decades of scholarly attention, still presents unresolved questions for Greek historians about content, intent, date, and effect. Was the Decree an act of commercial imperialism or simply the codification of what was already current practice?

Figueira interprets the Decree as one in a series concerned with financial matters affecting the Athenian city-state and emerging from the way the collection of tribute functioned in the alliance that we call the Athenian empire. He contends that the Decree served primarily to legislate the status quo ante.

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The King at the Edge of the World: A Novel

The King at the Edge of the World: A Novel

Queen Elizabeth’s spymasters recruit an unlikely agent—the only Muslim in England—for an impossible mission in a mesmerizing novel from “one of the best writers in America” (The Washington Post)

“Evokes flashes of Hilary Mantel, John le Carré and Graham Greene, but the wry, tricky plot that drives it is pure Arthur Phillips.”—The Wall Street Journal

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW AND THE WASHINGTON POST

The year is 1601. Queen Elizabeth I is dying, childless. Her nervous kingdom has no heir. It is a capital crime even to think that Elizabeth will ever die. Potential successors secretly maneuver to be in position when the inevitable occurs. The leading candidate is King James VI of Scotland, but there is a problem.

The queen’s spymasters—hardened veterans of a long war on terror and religious extremism—fear that James is not what he appears. He has every reason to claim to be a Protestant, but if he secretly shares his family’s Catholicism, then forty years of religious war will have been for nothing, and a bloodbath will ensue. With time running out, London confronts a seemingly impossible question: What does James truly believe?

It falls to Geoffrey Belloc, a secret warrior from the hottest days of England’s religious battles, to devise a test to discover the true nature of King James’s soul. Belloc enlists Mahmoud Ezzedine, a Muslim physician left behind by the last diplomatic visit from the Ottoman Empire, as his undercover agent. The perfect man for the job, Ezzedine is the ultimate outsider, stranded on this cold, wet, and primitive island. He will do almost anything to return home to his wife and son.

Arthur Phillips returns with a unique and thrilling novel that will leave readers questioning the nature of truth at every turn.

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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

An essential volume for generations of writers young and old, Bird by Bird is a modern classic. This twenty-fifth anniversary edition will continue to spark creative minds for years to come.

For a quarter century, more than a million readers—scribes and scribblers of all ages and abilities—have been inspired by Anne Lamott’s hilarious, big-hearted, homespun advice. Advice that begins with the simple words of wisdom passed down from Anne’s father—also a writer—in the iconic passage that gives the book its title:

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’”

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100 Poems

100 Poems

In 100 Poems, readers will enjoy the most loved and celebrated poems, and will discover new favorites, from "The Cure at Troy" to "Death of a Naturalist." It is a singular and welcoming anthology, reaching far and wide, for now and for years to come.

Seamus Heaney had the idea to make a personal selection of poems from across the entire arc of his writing life, a collection small yet comprehensive enough to serve as an introduction for all comers. He never managed to do this himself, but now, finally, the project has been returned to, resulting in an intimate gathering of poems chosen and introduced by the Heaney family. No other selection of Heaney’s poems exists that has such a broad range, drawing from the first to the last of his prizewinning collections.

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The Bees

The Bees

Here Carol Ann Duffy uses her full poetic range: there are drinking songs, love poems, poems of political anger; there are elegies, too, for beloved friends, and—most movingly—the poet’s own mother. Woven and weaving through the book is its presiding spirit: the bee. Sometimes the bee is Duffy’s subject, sometimes it strays into the poem, or hovers at its edge. In the end, Duffy’s point is clear: the bee symbolizes what we have left of grace in the world, and what is most precious and necessary for us to protect. The Bees, at once intimate and public, is a work of great power from one of our most cherished poets.

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The Kingdom of Man: Genesis and Failure of the Modern Project

The Kingdom of Man: Genesis and Failure of the Modern Project

Was humanity created, or do humans create themselves? In this eagerly awaited English translation of Le Règne de l’homme, the last volume of Rémi Brague's trilogy on the philosophical development of anthropology in the West, Brague argues that with the dawn of the Enlightenment, Western societies rejected the transcendence of the past and looked instead to the progress fostered by the early modern present and the future. As scientific advances drained the cosmos of literal mystery, humanity increasingly devalued the theophilosophical mystery of being in favor of omniscience over one’s own existence. Brague narrates the intellectual disappearance of the natural order, replaced by a universal chaos upon which only humanity can impose order; he cites the vivid histories of the nation-state, economic evolution into capitalism, and technology as the tools of this new dominion, taken up voluntarily by humans for their own end rather than accepted from the deity for a divine purpose.

Brague’s tour de force begins with the ancient and medieval confidence in humanity as the superior creation of Nature or of God, epitomized in the biblical wish of the Creator for humans to exert stewardship over the earth. He sees the Enlightenment as a transition period, taking as a given that humankind should be masters of the world but rejecting the imposition of that duty by a deity. Before the Enlightenment, who the creator was and whom the creator dominated were clear. With the advance of modernity and banishment of the Creator, who was to be dominated? Today, Brague argues, “our humanism . . . is an anti-antihumanism, rather than a direct affirmation of the goodness of the human.” He ends with a sobering question: does humankind still have the will to survive in an era of intellectual self-destruction? The Kingdom of Man will appeal to all readers interested in the history of ideas, but will be especially important to political philosophers, historical anthropologists, and theologians.

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The Wisdom of the World: The Human Experience of the Universe in Western Thought

The Wisdom of the World: The Human Experience of the Universe in Western Thought

When the ancient Greeks looked up into the heavens, they saw not just sun and moon, stars and planets, but a complete, coherent universe, a model of the Good that could serve as a guide to a better life. How this view of the world came to be, and how we lost it (or turned away from it) on the way to becoming modern, make for a fascinating story, told in a highly accessible manner by Rémi Brague in this wide-ranging cultural history.

Before the Greeks, people thought human action was required to maintain the order of the universe and so conducted rituals and sacrifices to renew and restore it. But beginning with the Hellenic Age, the universe came to be seen as existing quite apart from human action and possessing, therefore, a kind of wisdom that humanity did not. Wearing his remarkable erudition lightly, Brague traces the many ways this universal wisdom has been interpreted over the centuries, from the time of ancient Egypt to the modern era. Socratic and Muslim philosophers, Christian theologians and Jewish Kabbalists all believed that questions about the workings of the world and the meaning of life were closely intertwined and that an understanding of cosmology was crucial to making sense of human ethics. Exploring the fate of this concept in the modern day, Brague shows how modernity stripped the universe of its sacred and philosophical wisdom, transforming it into an ethically indifferent entity that no longer serves as a model for human morality.

Encyclopedic and yet intimate, The Wisdom of the World offers the best sort of history: broad, learned, and completely compelling. Brague opens a window onto systems of thought radically different from our own.

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The Law of God: The Philosophical History of an Idea

The Law of God: The Philosophical History of an Idea

The law of God: these words conjure an image of Moses breaking the tablets at Mount Sinai, but the history of the alliance between law and divinity is so much longer, and its scope so much broader, than a single Judeo-Christian scene can possibly suggest. In his stunningly ambitious new history, Rémi Brague goes back three thousand years to trace this idea of divine law in the West from prehistoric religions to modern times—giving new depth to today’s discussions about the role of God in worldly affairs.
Brague masterfully describes the differing conceptions of divine law in Judaic, Islamic, and Christian traditions and illuminates these ideas with a wide range of philosophical, political, and religious sources. In conclusion, he addresses the recent break in the alliance between law and divinity—when modern societies, far from connecting the two, started to think of law simply as the rule human community gives itself. Exploring what this disconnection means for the contemporary world, Brague—powerfully expanding on the project he began with The Wisdom of the World—re-engages readers in a millennia-long intellectual tradition, ultimately arriving at a better comprehension of our own modernity.
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Last Call for Liberty: How America’s Genius for Freedom Has Become Its Greatest Threat

Last Call for Liberty: How America’s Genius for Freedom Has Become Its Greatest Threat

The hour is critical. The American republic is suffering its gravest crisis since the Civil War. Conflicts, hostility, and incivility now threaten to tear the country apart. Competing visions have led to a dangerous moment of cultural self-destruction. This is no longer politics as usual, but an era of political warfare where our enemies are not foreign adversaries, but our fellow citizens.

Yet the roots of the crisis are deeper than many realize. Os Guinness argues that we face a fundamental crisis of freedom, as America's genius for freedom has become her Achilles' heel. Our society's conflicts are rooted in two rival views of freedom, one embodied in "1776" and the ideals of the American Revolution, and the other in "1789" and the ideals of the French Revolution. Once again America has become a house divided, and Americans must make up their minds as to which freedom to follow. Will the constitutional republic be restored or replaced?

This grand treatment of history, civics, and ethics in the Jewish and Christian traditions represents Guinness's definitive exploration of the prospects for human freedom today. He calls for a national conversation on the nature of freedom, and poses key questions for concerned citizens to consider as we face a critical chapter in the American story. He offers readers a checklist by which they can assess the character and consequences of the freedoms they are choosing.

In the tradition of Alexis de Tocqueville, Guinness provides a visitor's careful observation of the American experiment. Discover here a stirring vision for faithful citizenship and renewed responsibility for not only the nation but also the watching world.

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Laurus

Laurus

Fifteenth-century Russia

It is a time of plague and pestilence, and a young healer, skilled in the art of herbs and remedies, finds himself overcome with grief and guilt when he fails to save the one he holds closest to his heart. Leaving behind his village, his possessions and his name, he sets out on a quest for redemption, penniless and alone. But this is no ordinary journey: wandering across plague-ridden Europe, offering his healing powers to all in need, he travels through ages and countries, encountering a rich tapestry of wayfarers along the way. Accosted by highwaymen, lynched in Yugoslavia and washed overboard at sea, he eventually reaches Jerusalem, only to find his greatest challenge is yet to come.

Winner of two of the biggest literary prizes in Russia, Laurus is a remarkably rich novel about the eternal themes of love, loss, self-sacrifice and faith, from one of the country’s most experimental and critically acclaimed novelists.

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Kristin Lavransdatter

Kristin Lavransdatter

In her great historical epic Kristin Lavransdatter, set in fourteenth-century Norway, Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset tells the life story of one passionate and headstrong woman. Painting a richly detailed backdrop, Undset immerses readers in the day-to-day life, social conventions, and political and religious undercurrents of the period. Now in one volume, Tiina Nunnally’s award-winning definitive translation brings this remarkable work to life with clarity and lyrical beauty.
As a young girl, Kristin is deeply devoted to her father, a kind and courageous man. But when as a student in a convent school she meets the charming and impetuous Erlend Nikulaussøn, she defies her parents in pursuit of her own desires. Her saga continues through her marriage to Erlend, their tumultuous life together raising seven sons as Erlend seeks to strengthen his political influence, and finally their estrangement as the world around them tumbles into uncertainty.
With its captivating heroine and emotional potency, Kristin Lavransdatter is the masterwork of Norway’s most beloved author—one of the twentieth century’s most prodigious and engaged literary minds—and, in Nunnally’s exquisite translation, a story that continues to enthrall.

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