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Author: Matthew J. Franck (Matthew Franck)

About the Author
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The Bookshelf: Books That Stick

Some of the best perspective-altering reading experiences I’ve had in recent years have come from books that I read well outside the bounds of my own research. Nonetheless they made their way into my thinking and writing in various ways—they “stuck.” And books that “stick” in this way we are apt to recommend whenever an opportunity arises.

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The Bookshelf: Summer Experiments and Attempts

Summer—a time of lounging in a shaded hammock between two trees, or under a beach umbrella—is a great time for bite-sized nonfiction. With Public Discourse taking a publishing hiatus for the week following Independence Day, now is a perfect time to stretch out with some small provocation of thought.

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The Bookshelf: The Pleasures of the Table

One of the vital experiences of which the current pandemic robbed us for too long is the dinner party with friends. Reading about food, too, can be a pleasure in its own right, whether one tries out daring new recipes or not. My small kitchen library has a few notable classics that are as interesting for their authors’ voices as for their instruction in preparing dishes.

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Isolation Bookshelf: The Pleasures of Rereading

I have called books and authors “friends,” and that they are. Aristotle tells us the highest form of friendship is that which aims at another’s good as though it were one’s own, for in truth it is indistinguishable from one’s own. We reread our favorite books in gratitude, not only for the repeated pleasure of the experience but to know once again the good that our old friends have selflessly done us.

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Racism Is Real. But Is “Systemic Racism”? That Time I Was Published by Newsweek—For Two Hours

The opinion editor of Newsweek should be commended for striving to publish a diversity of views at the site, but its editor-in-chief committed journalistic malpractice by taking down an essay already published in order to reschedule it when it could be “balanced” by a view less challenging to the site’s readers.

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Isolation Bookshelf: Teachers and Influences on the American Project

In this strange season of the academic year, as classes begin with students and teachers scattered about and many gathering only “virtually” through their computer screens, my mind is cast back to a fall semester 44 years ago, when I arrived as a freshman at Virginia Wesleyan College (now University). It seems an age of...

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Isolation Bookshelf: Hail to the Chief

Can the American people and their representatives set aside their immediate interests and attachments and “think constitutionally” about the presidency, and about how we choose presidents? Some scholars hope so. But the passionate partisanship of the most attentive Americans, and the inattentiveness and apathy of the least partisan Americans, make this hope seem forlorn indeed.

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Isolation Cinema: Crazy Love

What is it that makes screwball comedies so much fun? With their manic scripts and their depiction of characters of both sexes who will say anything and do anything for love, they bring together men and women—whose senses of humor often differ sharply—to laugh at the same crazy antics, and to see what mad joy love can be. In the summer of COVID, as we stay home with our loved ones, the screwball may be just what the doctor ordered.

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Isolation Bookshelf: History Outside the Academy

For reasons that pass all understanding, modern academic disciplines are where English prose goes to die. Fortunately, profound and compelling historical writing has a history of its own that predates the modern research university by two and a half millennia, stretching back to Herodotus in the fifth century BC. Such a tradition is resistant to the chloroform of the modern academy, so long as gifted storytellers find publishers and readers.

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Isolation Bookshelf: Words Matter

Each of the books I mention here can help us to be conscious—to be “in the know,” which is what Austen meant by the word—thus using the gift of speech in ways that accord with our nature as “the reflexive animal,” as Lewis calls us, governed by “the inner lawgiver” (Lewis again) of our conscience. And these conjoined obligations—to our nature and to our speech—are why even pronouns are a field of battle that truth-tellers should not surrender.

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Isolation Bookshelf: Laugh Out Loud with P.G. Wodehouse

Wodehouse’s work, from virtually any period of his long career, is amazingly consistent. One learns after a while that when one begins a Wodehouse story, satisfaction is guaranteed. Like a fresh whisky and soda, his work promises an easing of the tensions of daily life, an invitation to merriment, and a quiet contentment that in the end all will be well.

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