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Author: Matthew J. Franck (Matthew Franck)

About the Author
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The Bookshelf: Classic Hollywood’s Religious Uplift Project

The Hollywood “religious epic” movie genre of the postwar period was all about uplift, toleration, and offending exactly no one. Though entertaining at its best and an important part of the story of America’s rising pluralism, this genre proved finally to be too anodyne and unable to do justice to Scripture or the life of the early Church.

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The Bookshelf: The Joys of Used Bookstores

At used bookstores, I’ve discovered lesser-known titles from celebrated authors—Waugh, Koestler, and Cather. These works represent this most precious impulse of twentieth-century literature: that every life that comes within our reach has its claim on us, and is not to be wasted or sacrificed to any cause, program, or system on which we have the conceit to place a higher value.

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The Bookshelf: A Little Help from My Friends

Anyone who has spent his life in the academy, as I have, has reason to keep his mind open and his interests broad—namely, friends who write. My professional association over the last dozen years with the Witherspoon Institute and Princeton’s James Madison Program has introduced me to a dazzling array of brilliant and productive minds. No, I don’t want my writing friends to stop. They have given me much to ponder, and I look forward to what they will all write next.

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The Bookshelf: Reading in the Faith

My ignorance of many important things gnaws at me, as does the consciousness that the rest of my life is not time enough to learn what I want to know. Lately my thoughts have turned to authors with whom I have some acquaintance but want to know better—specifically those philosophers and theologians who have shaped and transmitted the Catholic faith through the ages.

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The Bookshelf: The Comfort Food of Series Fiction

When the hits keep on coming, it’s difficult for series writers to resist the market demand. Success builds the writer’s treadmill, and it can lack an “Off” switch. Perhaps “keep them coming back for more” should be replaced as the series writer’s motto by “make them wish there had been more.”

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The Bookshelf: The Undiscipline of Political Science

The ideas that the truth about the human condition is radically contingent on history (historicism) and that we can speak rationally only about facts and not at all about “values” or moral principles (positivism) lead inexorably to a failure of all conviction, and ultimately to nihilism. What results is fanaticism: the impulse to bend others to one’s will, despite—or precisely because of—the lack of any rational foundation for one’s preferences.

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The Bookshelf: Who Is in the American Canon?

Moving books home has turned my mind toward publishers that seem to be of high value because of the enduring importance of their books. One such is Liberty Fund, which specializes in classic conservative and libertarian texts in politics and economics. Another is the Library of America, which has a broad mission to publish (in its own words) “America’s greatest writing.”

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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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