Unfinished Books from the past (which was worse) and the future (which may be better)


Hyoo. Library books! You just don't own them. And other people want to read them.

Let's start with the past.

Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World by Tom Holland (not this one)

This was recommended to me by a friend of mine and the time I've spent in this book has been time well spent. Essentially, it explains how the truly terrible world of the past became the world of science and enlightenment today. The secret? Christianity.

This isn't a great secret or anything but it feels like it has been largely forgotten and certainly most of us don't think about the process of Christianity making our reality with the kind of detail, insight, and splendid writing Holland does over 500-page book.

Anyway, I do want to finish reading it. I'll have to get it again before we start the New Testament again. The number of fascinating details and stellar insights per page is unbeatable. And I'm only on page 84, learning thing about Galatea I never did know.

The ancient world, in short, suuuuuucked. (But this we knew already.)

Anyway, get yourself a copy and we can read together late 2028.

And now for the future.

Limitarianism: The Case Against Extreme Wealth by Ingrid Robeyns


Robeyns is the leading thinking re Limitarianism and this is her new book for the popular audience (but you don't have to go popular). The short version of Limitarianism is that there are limits to how rich individuals should be. Most folks find this pretty commonsensical and large percentages of the wealthy do work to divest themselves of their overabundance. But our system continues to create wealthy people. And not just billionaires but lots of lots of decamillionaires whom she also targets.

The argument is self-evident but self-evidence is insufficient to convince people who do not want to believe the sun is out when the sun is out. And so there's plenty of research and thought and argument and persuasion and cetera herein. It's good stuff. And the library bought it on my recommendation. But now other people want to read it. So I'm returning it.

I may return to it because I would like to have its arguments fully in my brain and available to me, but I also feel like the info in Poverty, by America might be more immediately useful so maybe I'll finally crack that first. We'll see.

Regardless, as someone born into this world created by Christian thought—with our beliefs in the value of the individual, the responsibilities we have to one another, and rational thinking—I fully endorse Limitarianism and commend it to you all.


Jacob says be nice and read comics


035) Jacob: A Brief Theological Introduction by Deidre Nicole Green, finished March 24

A couple of Deidre's most important observations about Jacob that I hadn't seen as thoroughly as she explain them in this book:

• salvation is social
• we should learn from those we look down upon
• or, in other words, despising those we despise prevents us from receiving the revelations God would give us through them
• "...life is full of ambiguity, and...human existence, even for the faithful, is [often] characterized by the uncertainty and sorrow of Holy Saturday rather than the reassurance and rejoicing of Easter Sunday"
• "failure to take at face value the overarching theme of equality and justice in scripture in order to justify selfish whims is destructive not only to one's individual soul but also to an entire society"
• "while men can take away women's sexual agency, no one can take away another person's chastity because it is determined by consent"
• salvation is consensual; Christ will never force you

Anyway, terrific book.

a month

036) Starter Villain by John Scalzi, finished March 27

I've read one Scalzi book before and quite enjoyed it. This too was pure potato chips, but what potato ships! A guy inherits his uncle's supervillain business and is thrown right into a mess of villainy. There are superintelligent cats and powerful lasers (inadvertently paid for by the USDA) and more more more.

One thing I found interesting is that our first-person protag is a lot like the pov protags from comedic invisible-man novels like The Invisible Saint and Memoirs of an Invisible Man. A hapless but likable fellow put into impossible circumstances that come weighted with a lot of moral uncertainty. The first thid of the book felt like it was making more or less the same comedic beats. I'm happy to say that the protag develops into more of a Saint than a Memoirs sort of fellow. In other words, you won't mind spending 262 pages with him.

By no means Great Literature, but a certain entry into Fun Literature. Maybe I'll check out Kaiju Preservation Society next.


037) Mister Invincible: Local Hero by Pascal Jousselin, finished March 30

I love this book so much! I love the way it plays with the comics form to reimagine the superhero genre.

Here's an example:

Best recommendation I've ever gotten from a first-grader and his younger brothers!

Mostly the translation is terrific, but there are a couple moments that are confused, particularly when Mister Invincible visits America and half the characters are supposed to be speaking English.

But that's a minor complains about an utter joy.

two or three nonsequential days

038) The Toon Treasury of Classic Children's Comics, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, finished March 30

When this book was released a decade and a half ago, I deeply wanted to read it. But it was a little trickier to find than anticipated and I eventually forgot. Until recently when I heard a replay of the editors' interview promoting it and when on the hunt again (it's the most recent episode—and may always be so, alas). It's still hard to find, but I managed.

And it was worth the journey. Lovingly reproduced in all their dotty glory, it's a mix of pagelong gag strips and longer stories and packed full of favorite artists known from comics and elsewhere like P. D. Eastman, Jack Cole, Harvey Kurtzman, Carl Banks and more more more.

I'm not just disappointed this huge (expensive) book wasn't a giant bestseller. Because that disappointment gets to why we haven't see another dozen volumes by now. Alas, alas, alas.

a few weeks

039) Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh, finished April 1

Look. I'm just going to be spoiling things left and right, mkay?


I saw this book recently at my local used-book store (and I don't think I made the connection to a book I'd recently read). I decided not to buy it (but don't feel bad; I spent $20 bucks there that trip and $20 more the next day) but to get it at the library.

It played a few games I found irritating. I'm kinda over the DC CHARACTER BUT THEY'RE A KID phenomenon, and Harley does come off as too quirky for this attempt at adjacent-to-realism, but she's still a charming character and she works.

What also works is making Joker a high-school student. I mean—of course someone who spews that nonsense is going to be a self-important high-school boy. Of course.

And I like that by the end, Joker isn't Harley's love interest but her arch-rival. That shows promise.

And while I hate Jokers with known backstories, the great thing about a catalogue like DC's is you can do anything with it. It's sorta like working in the public domain except the suits can shut you down whenever they feel like it. But they're bright enough to usually know that flexibility of mythos is a big part of what makes this stuff work.

I like the characters. The drag queens are real. Ivy is real. The Joker design is terrific. Harley is almost unpleasantly cute. It's fun! And it sets things up for a new version of Gotham and Batman, etc. As far as I can tell, no sequel has appeared in the last five years (alas).

My only real complaint is that this Harley has no education. But I guess no reason to give notes if there's no chance for more. C'est la DC.

saturday and monday

040) The Super Hero's Journey by Patrick McDonnell, finished April 5

What a strange book this is. Original pages and panels from 1960s Marvel comics shuffled with McDonnell's idiosyncratic art. It's a cool experiment. I didn't really love it, but I'm glad it exists. And I'd love to see more experiments along the same lines.

two days