Tuesday, December 12, 2017

My top 10 books read in 2017

Not in any order. 

Politics -5, 
Islam- 3, 
History - 2, 
Fiction 2, 
Biography 1 
More than 10 as some are in multiple categories.

Most important book - The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam by Douglas Murray  (Author)

1. Who Are We: The Challenges to America's National Identity by Albert J Weatherhead III University Professor Samuel P Huntington(Author)

Huntington made his name with Clash of Civilisations. IMO this is better and more important. I wish he or someone would do this book for the UK where the crisis of identity is IMO more acute. America is a nation of settlers first of all. They precede the immigrants. They came to set a city on a hill, to escape the restrictive laws of Stuart England and they are the founders of the nation. They gave an Anglo-Protestant culture. Religion and Christianity remain to the fore. Grat importance is given to the Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries. Now there is deconstruction of this America. There is assimilation, ampersands and erosion of citizenship. Mexican immigration and Hispanisation are particular problems. America merges with the world. There is a new enemy the Islamists. Elites are out of step with the public. Diasporas affect the politics. Ethnicity fades though race is constant. The creed is changing. America has turned to religion ,a global phenomenon. A great book falloff facts and stimulation.

2. The Chibok Girls: The Boko Haram Kidnappings & Islamic Militancy in Nigeria by Helon Habila (Author)PL

The best book on the subject. The author hails from this part of Nigeria and understands it. I lived there in the seventies which he describes as the golden decade for Nigeria. It was post civil war. There were shortages but there was peace all over Nigeria as there had been under Pax Britannica.  The book starts with the difficult visit to Chibok, scene of the brutal kidnapping. One may be surprised to find this is a majority Christian town in a Muslim state, Borno. The horror of lawlessness is communicated as well as the general corruption of Nigerian life. The Chibouk scene is movingly elaborated. Very well told is the history of Islamism in the country which he dates from Maitatsine decades ago. But the tension predates this. It is the result of an older jihad. It is rare to read an explicit account of how the Middle Belt was a slave catching area for the Muslims taking those who would not convert if given that option. Today, the Muslim may despise those not of the faith, the Islamist despises all not of his brand of Islam and the Christian has the historic dislike of the former enslavers. Rarely is this atmosphere mentioned or confronted. This book is open, honest and moving. Weep for the Middle Belt. 

3.Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks who Plotted Hitler’s Defeat by Giles Milton  (Author)PL

If this was fiction it would be deemed unbelievable. The dirty was to beat Hitler. Forget Queensbury rules. No hold barred. kill or be kill. The to brass disapproved. Churchill sanctioned it, even political assassination. This book reads like Boys Own comics. Invention of new weapons including the anti-submarine Hedgehog of which I had never heard. A motley crew of inventors and deadly killers. Eccentric men terribly effective. Experts in guerrilla warfare and sabotage. Raids on newly invaded Norway, St Nazaire dry dock, the heavy water plant, stealing ships from a neutral port, Heydrich's assassination, the Peugeot factory, D day sabotage. An incredible story largely untold done by men whose heroism was never publicised.One of the most thrilling books I have ever read. Milton specialises in fine tales little known.

4.The Camp of the Saints by Jean Raspail  (Author)PL

This is the most shocking novel I have ever read. Written 44 years ago it is uncomfortably prescient. For its fulfilment look around and read Murray's The Strange Death of Europe. I had not recognised the title as biblical but it is from Revelation 20 where the hordes of God and Magog encompass the campus the saints on the last day. Here is the last day of Western Christian civilisation as France is invaded by a million starving Indians in a commandeered fleet of 100 ships from the Ganges, the precursor to Europe falling to invasion from the Third World. This is an apocalyptic satire mocking the attitudes both of the liberal West and the ruling class of developing nations. The invasion is both violent and obscenely sexual. It results in total anarchy and the collapse of civilised life. Sicking is too mild a term. At times it is rather verbose but the overall effect is one of horror. I am not surprised that no film has been made from this. It would be too terrible to view and the makers labelled scaremongering racists. But look and see how Europe is being invaded. See how the establishment in the West has lost pride in its own history and culture as well as its religion. Shudder and fear.

5.World Turned Upside Down by Melanie Phillips  (Author)PL

The author is an agnostic Jew, more influenced by her Jewishness than her agnosticism. First one small factual error. James Edward Leslie Newbigin (8 December 1909 – 30 January 1998) was a British theologian, missiologist, missionary and author. Though originally ordained within the Church of Scotland, Newbigin spent much of his career serving as a missionary in India and became affiliated with the Church of South India and the United Reformed Church, becoming one of the Church of South India's first bishops. He was not an Anglican.  There is also an error in the foreword. The origins of the title precede the 17th century.  It is from the Acts of the Apostles in the first century. That apart I commend the basic flow of her thesis that the West had in abandoning its Judaeo-Christian heritage has lost its basis for rationality. We are given over to cults and conspiracies like those around Diana and Obama. Environmental Armageddon is a myth. The Iraq war was demonised.as is Israel. We have the triumphalism of an unscientific scientism with its reductionist materialism. There is an Islamophilia and anti-semitism. The enlightenment has unravelled into irrationality.Western civilisation is despised. Where I part company with her is over some of her understanding of Christian reaction to Israel. Some of us are not Zionists but in no way anti-Semitic. Some of us believe in replacement theology because we believe the Bible teaches that the church has inherited all the promises to Israel. The return to the land was promised to a covenant keeping nation. The Jews have rejected the new covenant in Jesus Christ and have no God given right to the land. here are no holy places. The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. A plague on all who see Jerusalem as holy. The new Jerusalem is the Christian hope and it will descend from heaven at the return of Christ. But I still give it five stars for her expose of the irrationality of the dying Western culture is spot on. After I wrote this review I found to my surprise that I had reviewed this on Amazon seven years ago!

6. Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe PL
This is the funniest book I have read in a very long time, a humorous classic. The plot has more twists than a mountain road. A Cambridgecollege steeped in tradition faces the challenge of a new Master who wants all manner of modernising change. He has an even more liberal wife. The college fellows and the porter are dead against change. But change is to come in the most unexpected of ways, an explosion to two gross of gas filled condoms stuffed up a chimney demolishes an ancient college tower. Funds must be raised, property sold.The porter is sacked but on live television denounces the corrupt ways of the college. A porterhouse blue is a stroke often fatal. I will not spoil  the ending. I will look for more Sharpe to enjoy.

7. The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam by Douglas Murray  (Author)

This is a very important book. The author is no Christian but his analysis of the state of Europe today vis a vis immigration is devastating. For he looks beneath the surface of tensions over immigration and sees a collapsing culture which no longer has pride in its history. He shows the bankruptcy of multiculturalism which it seems even its political promoters now admit has failed. He shows the open borders policy of the EU, especially Germany and Sweden has altered these countries. He relates the horrors of Mediterranean sea crossings to Lampedusa and Lesbos. He shows how the African migrants are in the main economic ones, not usually refugees except from say Eritrea. Migrants from Turkey to Greece are not only Syrians but many other groups. Everyone want s ticket to Europe even at the cost of thousands of Euros to smugglers and the risk to life on the sea crossings. Get into Italy or Greece and you have arrived is the migrants motto. Only Eritreans do not want to stay in Italy. Europe welcomes one and all. Gulf Arab states welcome no-one. Europe will be changed out of all recognition and people seem not to care. They have not seen the trick the politicians have played on them. They do not care because that have lost pride in their historic culture. Everyone in the world wants their own culture but Europe seems not to have pride or to care about what is being lost. Murray shows how the art and literature of Europe proclaim the death of the culture.

 All this is reminiscent of the Christian Francis Schaeffer in the sixties and seventies with his pessimism about western culture and its loss of moorings. He has a most perceptive analysis of why the churches lost confidence, higher criticism of the biblical text and the impact of Darwinism. Murray does not believe in Christian truth but he sees it gave European culture  its roots. How long can one survive divorced from the tree that nourished your branches? Murray is great on diagnosis but admits to weakness on prescription. For a hopeful future I refer you to David Robertson's three piece review on his blog the Web Flea. I have blogged quotes form Murray to give a flavour of this excellent if disturbing book. Read this most significant of books today.

8. The Abolition of Britain: From Winston Churchill to Princess Diana by Peter Hitchens 

Published nine years ago so I would love to see a revised edition. Hitchens is a favourite, a man close to my generation and Christian heart. We can remember a different and in many ways a better more loved Britain. He starts by contrasting what someone present to observe Churchill's funeral as I was by the Aldwych in 1964, what they would have seen around our isle and how much had changed by the time of Diana's death. Even more had changed by the time I was outside St Paul's to see Thatchers cortege pass and the change has since then hasty downhill at pace. He surveys next how history is taught differently, English too. The church has lost her gospel. Hell is abolished. Television is all pervasive and influential. Marriage is devalued, the state becomes all powerful. Pornography and obscenity have been promoted, purity, chastity and fidelity dismissed. The contraceptive pill has altered sexual morality. Homosexuality has gone from peversion to promotion. The one topic he wisely does not include in the change is race and immigration for the change id about culture not ethnicity. Hitchens is a pessimist. He has cause to be. Fortunately we did not adopt a foreign currency, the euro and Brexit does give a little hope. But the root of the problem is seen to be no political butt moral . The politicians have merely given a legal medium that cultures these changes. The root cause is a rejection of Christian principle, the Christian gospel. Hitchens sees this but he is not  a preacher of the gospel, he is a journalist and author not an evangelist.  The only cure is the gospel, tackling the problem from inside out as well as going from bottom up.

9. Bosie: Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas by Douglas Murray 

A remarkable piece of writing from a 19year old undergraduate. It is the sort of story which if fiction one would say it is too far fetched. Until I read this I only knew of Bosie in relation to Wilde and his downfall. Now I read he was one of our finest sonnet poets, reckoned by some to be on a level with the Bard himself. He was also it seems part of a line of men with mental health problems, a man whose life was changed by Christian conversion and a one man benefit show for the legal profession for he was a vexatious and persistent litigant.
Before I write more compliments I have one factual criticism. The Piedmontese were not Catholic martyrs but proto-protestants killed by a catholic army and commemorated by Milton.
One fascinating observation is that neither Wilde not Bosie were exclusively homosexual. Wilde it is said took it up as he could not afford more children with his wife. But then it would seem he preferred it to female prostitutes.When the panthers you feast with are rent boys it hardly sounds like love. Lust yes. As to Bosie I would have liked to know more of his youth before Oxford. He seems to have developed his sexual taste for boys while at school and continued thereafter with older males also, then women. His conversion to Rome gives him an aversion to sexual sin, though not as is observed the grace of forgiveness. He learns more of true conversion after he himself suffers imprisonment having tried one libel too far.
Bosie’s is a tragic life. He loses everyone’s affection save that of his mother. He had an aristocratic arrogance even claiming a better pedigree than the Prince of Wales . He had amazing courage of foolhardiness embarking on so many legal actions that might have had an outcome like Wilde’s folly suing Bosies father. He was a more fortunate fool than Wilde in that respect. It was not his homosexual acts that landed him in jail. But he also had an amazing cheek. Libel Churchill then ask him for a pension indeed. He also managed on at lest one occasion to better  a top QC, like Mashall Hall, under cross examination, Litigation was one of his sports.

 My view is that he was a gifted, sad, foolish man whose religion was in the need in conflict with his sexual desires. Same sex relations were he concluded sinful, but they still seem to have been desirable. He loved, loathed and then defended Wilde. And do we have to thank Boise for Wilde’s wit in The Importance of Being Earnest - a truly great comedy?

10. Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now byAyaan Hirsi Ali

Ayan Hirsi Ali gets better with each volume.  She shows an in depth understanding Islam, Christianity and its Reformation and the West. She exposes the lie of Islam as the religion of peace which our politicians and liberal elites have been paroting for years. They are frightened to confront the true nature of Islam. AHA is not. She helpfully divides the Muslim world into three parts. The majority she calls the Meccan Muslims are peaceful, maybe traditional or modern,  some pious, some not.  OTOH the Medinan Muslims are the Islamists, the violent minority who want the jihad of ISIS and the suicide bomber. She shows this strand has always been there ever since Mohammed wrote his warlike verses form Medina. Her hope is in the last group, the smallest one, people like her who want to see a reformed Islam. She has five pillars for he reformed Islam, reform Mohammed's and the Quran's infallible status, move to invest in life now not in the next life, reform Shari'a, reform the empowering of individuals and families to enforce their views of right and wrong, reform the imperative of jihad. She has the practical suggestion for doing this, the same tactic that worked against the Soviets, subversive literature. However, my view is the subversive literature needed is not merely about Western freedoms. That could be counter productive. What is needed is Christian literature which exposes the false claims of Mohammed and promotes the gospel Of Jesus. This battle is no mere ideology but a spiritual battle.Islam isomer of an evil empire than the Soviet's. Secular ideology or military might will not defeat it, only a true spiritual power. AHA is surprisingly optimistic. On her atheism I cannot be optimistic, but long term, the battle is the Lord's. Finally, I would nominate AHA for the Nobel Peace Price. She is far more worthy than Obama and has contributed more than brave Mulala.

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