The Silent Governess (Book Review)

The Silent Governess (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you like slow-burn, clean regency romances with Christian undertones

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

The Silent Governess (DNF 50%)

By Julie Klassen

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

When a young woman in regency-era England is forced to flee home, where will she turn?

This is the second Julie Klassen book that I’ve DNFed since the beginning of the year. I tried listening to Castaway in Cornwall on audio first, and then I got bored at the 35 percent mark. I decided to start this one, and I find that I’m forcing myself to go back to the audiobook…I have no desire to continue, so I’m going to just stop.

I don’t know if it’s the audio format or if it’s just not the right time for a regency romance. The books aren’t bad, but I think they’re lacking the conflict and emotion that I’m craving right now.

There are times when a relatively sedate and buttoned-up story is just the ticket. But, that’s falling flat for me at the moment.

Not giving up on you, Jules! I’ll be back.

Content warnings: Nothing graphic, but there was one scene when a man made unwanted advances toward the protagonist, and she got away.

3.3
The Black Cauldron (Book Review)

The Black Cauldron (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you want to read a high fantasy rescue story filled with dramatic dilemmas

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

The Black Cauldron

By Lloyd Alexander

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

Everyone’s favorite assistant pig-keeper is off on another adventure, but this one will test him to the core.

Dilemmas. That’s why this book is so good. The characters are faced with one impossible choice after another until the very last chapter. My boys and I really enjoyed this second installment in the Prydain Chronicles.

The evil Arwan is gaining power. To stop him, Gwydion gathers a crew of loyal Prydainians to sneak into his fortress and steal the black cauldron—the wicked pot he uses to create undead warriors for his army. Naturally, everything goes wrong, and Taran must learn what it means to make hard choices—all by himself.

This book was better than the first one, and I think it’s worth reading the first book in order to experience this sequel more richly.

This is HIGH fantasy in the same vein as Tolkien. It’s hard to miss the parallels between LOTR and these books. But, these books are much shorter and accessible to a younger audience. My 7- and 8-year-olds wouldn’t be able to read them solo, but they can understand them perfectly well when I read aloud (and clarify some of the high-brow vocab). The books are written in a lofty, grand tone.

Again, this book was great because of the series of difficult choices that the characters faced. I felt like the plot was tight and economical. Overall, YES.

Content warnings: Nothing overly concerning. Several characters die, and one must sacrifice him/herself in one scenario.

4.9
What the Moon Said (Book Review)

What the Moon Said (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you loved Sweet Home Alaska or any of the Little House books.

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

What the Moon Said

By Gayle Rosengren

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

How will 10-year-old Esther survive now that her family must move from the city to a farm due to the Great Depression?

What a sweet, heartfelt book! I read it in just over a day, and it’s perfect for kids who love pioneer or homesteading books.
It’s the Great Depression, and we see one year in the life of 10-year-old Esther. All she wants is to earn her mother’s love. Her Russian immigrant mom is exacting and superstitious. She scolds easily, worries constantly, and hugs not at all. What can Esther do to make Ma love her?

When Esther’s dad loses his job in Chicago, the family moves to a Wisconsin farm to try country life. How will Esther adjust?

This story has two strong journeys: the outer journey: Will the family make it on the farm? And the inner journey: Will Esther at long last receive her mother’s love? This makes it a simple yet layered growing-up tale.

It is a sweet story, with lots of emotion. I got teary-eyed a few times. I appreciate how the book doesn’t villainize the city or the country. I also love how there is a faith element. The family prays and goes to church. Ma and Pa also carry a lot of superstitions from the Old Country, and it’s interesting to see how that’s handled.

The reading level is low, so younger kids should be able to tackle it. The plot touches on many universal “kid dilemmas” that anyone can relate to, and it also opens a window to a distinct time in history and how people lived back then.

I got this book recommendation from this list of page-turners.

Content warnings: Nothing graphic or overly scary. However, one character has a medical emergency that requires hospitalization. One character chokes on food.

4.6
Once a Queen (Book Review)

Once a Queen (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you, as a kid, hoped with all your heart that doors to other worlds actually existed.

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

Once a Queen

By Sarah Arthur

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

Secret Garden meets Narnia

After hearing Sarah MacKenzie from Read-Aloud Revival (I love her) interview the author, I was ready and rearin’ to love this book, and maybe my expectations were too high. I liked it but did not love it. Now, I do love the premise: There are portals to other worlds. They exist, just like in fairy tales. All we have to do is find them. That’s a common childhood fantasy, right? But the execution felt a tad off for me.

The protagonist is young Eva, an American who travels with her mom to visit her Grandmother in England for the first time ever. Soon, she realizes that her regal Grandmother was once a queen in fairyland.

Positives: Complex female relationships—whoooo-wheeee. Women. We can be weird. We don’t always treat each other right, and this book is packed with strong females who all seem to have fraught relationships with one another. This didn’t detract from the book at all and was one of the highlights for me.

Negatives: The writing wasn’t as immersive as I’d hoped. The pacing of the plot did drag a bit for me. I found myself wondering more than once, “Where is this going?” Eva was always finding clues and making little discoveries, but they all seemed a tad disjointed. I couldn’t see how the story was building to any sort of climax. The chapter-ending Ternival tales (fictional excerpts from a book of fairy tales) were a little hard to follow. It was a lot of new information to keep track of.

Thank you to NetGalley and WaterBrook for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Content warnings: I wouldn’t hesitate to let any teenager read this. There’s nothing graphically scary or violent, and there is a sweet romance but it’s very much a side note until the end, and even then, there’s just a hint.

3.5
The Luminous Life of Lucy Landry (Book Review)

The Luminous Life of Lucy Landry (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you’re craving a short middle-grade book that feels like L. M. Montgomery

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

The Luminous Life of Lucy Landry

By Anna Rose Johnson

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

An awkward orphan girl is adopted by a big family who lives on a tiny lighthouse island

What a delightful story. Like Anna Rose Johnson’s debut, this book has that classic, vintage feel. What’s more, Lucy Landry is Anne Shirley reincarnated. She’s dreamy and inattentive, but it’s obvious that her behavior is a coping mechanism, and so, even though she makes us cringe, we FEEL for her.

This is one of those stories where the young protagonist is plopped into a completely new life. Think Sara Crewe, Mary Lennox, and, of course, Anne. Lucy Landry has lived primarily alone with an elderly caretaker. When she’s adopted by a couple with six children who live on a tiny lighthouse island, she’s utterly unprepared for the chaos and conflict. I’m glad that the author didn’t shy away from this conflict. It was HARD for Lucy to fit in, and this constant tension made the story interesting.

I loved the mystery of the long-lost necklace that’s woven through the story. While this is a subplot and not the point of the book, it adds a layer of interest to liven up the main plot, which is Lucy’s transformation. Plus, finding the lost necklace gives Lucy a goal and deepens her connection to her past.

This book is short and easy to read. It’ll appeal to kids (and adults) who want a quick win.

Also, Lucy deals with some debilitating fear. Since so many kids struggle with fears, this is another touchpoint that will appeal to anxious kids without triggering them (I think).

And a huge WOO-HOO to the depiction of a homeschooling family. This is rare! (But spilling stuff all over our school supplies is, sadly, not. Haha.)

Thank you to NetGalley and Holiday House for a digital ARC of this novel.

Content warnings: Lucy is afraid of sailing on the water. The book shows her getting anxious about the prospect of (and the reality of) getting on a boat. She and one other character freeze up in panic, but it’s not depicted as a detailed panic attack. Mentioning this just in case it’s relevant for your youngster.

4.5
First Lie Wins (Book Review)

First Lie Wins (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you puzzle-y thrillers that are low on graphic content

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

First Lie Wins

By Ashley Elston

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

When a young spy needs to redeem herself in her boss’s eyes, she finds herself tested in twisty ways

I needed something different. I saw that this popular thriller was high on twists and low on sex and violence, so I gave it a try. I’m NOT much for thrillers, but about once a year, I’ll pick one up. I never seem to love them, so take my review with a grain of salt.

Here’s what appealed to me: I knew this was going to be a plot-driven book. I wasn’t expecting much in the way of character arc, and, turns out, there wasn’t much of one. The plot was interesting and did deliver some twists and turns that I enjoyed and didn’t see coming. It was fast-paced and short. A nice palate cleanser.

I could’ve done with MORE character, especially from the lead.

I won’t spoil the end, but…I had issues with the note it ended on. It didn’t have good resonance, even though it is discussable.

Content warnings: The book didn’t rely on graphic scenes for shock and awe. So, no graphic violence or sex. The main character is living with a man. Some deaths occur. There was the usual foul language that you’d expect, but it was moderate—not minimal but not everywhere. Of course, this is a worldly book, so it comes with, well, worldliness.

3
Do More Better (Book Review)

Do More Better (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you want a few good reasons WHY productivity matters in our walk with the Lord

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

Do More Better

By Tim Challies

Information
Inspiration
Writing Craft
Moral Value

How to be a productive Christian human.

This would make the perfect high school graduation gift for a Christian kid. This is a short, practical method to getting things done that comes from a Christian perspective. It wasn’t earth-shattering for me, but I can imagine it would be super helpful for my teenage nephews who are about to embark upon Real Life after high school.

This is my first interaction with Challies, so I don’t know him in any other context besides this book, but I liked what he had to say about centering life on loving God and serving others. We’re not getting more things done just so that we can amass wealth and accomplishments and fame. We’re trying to steward our lives in a way that will honor God because we love and revere Him, and we acknowledge that He is in charge of our plans and path.

I think this book would’ve felt more “new” if I hadn’t read Mystie Winkler’s planner book. She draws on several of his frameworks, including a weekly review. I liked the planner book a lot because it’s specifically for moms, and it felt more relevant to my situation right now.

I’m not a big app person. I do much better with paper and ink, but I can apply the general principles attached to the digital tools (Todoist, Google Calendar, and Evernote) to my paper planner.
I did enjoy the section on Serve and Surprise. I like the idea of surprising people by going over and above.

4.1
The Big Wave (Book Review)

The Big Wave (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you want a discussable short story for kids that’s set in Japan

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

The Big Wave

By Pearl S. Buck

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

How do you live between a tsunami and a volcano?

This book is really more of a short story. I can’t remember how this tiny paperback came to me—my LFL? Pearl S. Buck’s novel The Good Earth was a formative reading experience for me in my 20s, so anything with her name on it gets my attention. This story, however, was…hmm…

I’m not sure exactly what it’s trying to say. What was Buck, a Christian missionary, trying to capture here? I get the sense that she’s not necessarily portraying her own view as a Christian but perhaps giving a snapshot of an alternate cultural viewpoint…

The story takes place in a Japanese seaside village. The fishermen and their families have a deep fear of the ocean, even though it’s what sustains life for them. They know that, at any moment, a storm or tsunami can devasate them and take their lives. They build homes with no ocean-facing windows because they don’t want to…face the fear, I guess? Inland, there’s an active volcano that causes earthquakes. The people know that, between the ocean and the volcano, it’s just a matter of time before disaster strikes. This is true of life, no matter where you live or how safe you may feel.

The characters conclude that living in a dangerous place makes them brave and helps them better appreciate times of peace and happiness. I guess this is true in a general sense. We can see the light because of the darkness kinda thing. I just wish there was a clearer, firmer foundation to build on than what Buck offers here. The ending of the book sees one of the main characters literally building a house on sand. What are we supposed to make of that?

The best element of the story, for me, is when Jiya must decide whether to live with the poor farmers or the rich old gentleman. On the one hand, he can claim a life of safety, plenty, and opportunity. On the other, he can live humbly but also in the midst of uncertainty and possible privation. Most people don’t get to make this choice, but if they did, what would they choose?

Lots of potential for discussion here. But not a big favorite.

3.4
The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams (Book Review)

The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
only the most creative of children’s books will do

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams

By Daniel Nayeri

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

It started slow.

Reading this at night as a fabulous yet decidedly middle-aged mommy who is worn-out tired by the end of the day…I will admit that I found myself nodding off during the first half of this book.

But the second half is worth it!

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a kids’ book with such a grand payoff at the end. I almost don’t want to write anything more so that you can enter this book as blindly as I did.

Now, I will say that the first line of this book is a knockout, but after that, I was a little disoriented and unsure where it was all going. It took me a few chapters to get my bearings and figure out which characters were important. This book isn’t nearly as disjointed as Everything Sad Is Untrue, Nayeri’s debut. It’s much more cohesive with a linear plot and all that. It just took me a bit to sink in.

The plot picks up greatly after we learn that Samir, who is not the protagonist, is being pursued by several colorful bounty hunters. What could be a tense chase is rendered by Nayeri into a thumping frolic along the Silk Road.

I’m a sucker for a solid theme, and this book has one. Friendship and family—what are they, and is life worth living if you have none? What are friendship and family worth, and what would you trade them for? The worldview is not overtly Christian, but there is good moral soil here.

HOWEVER, this book does not shy away from the truth that people are complex. For example, Samir is kind and loyal, but he’s the folkloric version of a used car salesman, exaggerating and outright lying on the regular. Most characters are a mix of good and bad, which makes them interesting, but some young readers will need guidance here.

Content warnings: Samir is almost assassinated six times, but these encounters are not overly gruesome or graphic. As long as your kids are mature enough to understand what a bounty hunter is, then they’ll be fine. Some parents will want to know that a mix of faiths are shown here, and none with great reverence. Samir often lies that he belongs to a certain religion so he can butter up a customer. I find this good material for age-appropriate discussion with kids.

4.5
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (Book Review)

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you’re intrigued by an angsty, chaotic version of To Kill a Mockingbird

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

By Carson McCullers

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

The allure of a gorgeous title…

This book has been on my radar for a while simply due to the title. That title. I didn’t realize the phrase comes from a poem by William Sharp (Fiona MacLeod): “Deep in the heart of Summer, sweet is life to me still, But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.” That’s something right there.

This book is something, too. But, in many ways, it’s a mess. This is one of those beautifully written, literary books that gives you a lot to think about, that stirs your emotions—but that also feels like a bucket of odds and ends that the author shakes, and it’s noisy and interesting, but we’re not sure exactly what it all means.

The book is not what I’d call entertaining. Not in the same way that To Kill a Mockingbird is entertaining, apart from everything else it brings to the table.

I’m perplexed by the paradox of this book. On the one hand, there are strong themes that you don’t have to be an English major to sniff out. But there’s a striking lack of coherence. Again, like a bucket filled with objects that clearly symbolize certain things, but they’re just crashing around in the bucket, and what does it mean at the end of the day?

As the title suggests, this book explores the theme of loneliness. John Singer is a deaf mute living in an ordinary mill town in Georgia. He’s the hub of the story. He attracts the other four main characters to him. These people pay separate but regular visits to Singer because they like to talk with him—or TO him. They believe he understands them. They’re lonely and desperate to offload their thoughts, feelings, dreams, and convictions on another human being and be understood. But, we know, through the narrator, that Singer doesn’t actually understand them. They just think he does. And they rely on him to listen. They imagine him to be who they want him to be.

Each of the four supporting characters represents different parts of American society. Mick represents the poor whites (she’s also young and coming of age). Dr. Copeland represents the “Negro race” as he puts it. Biff represents the establishment—capitalist, white working man. Blount represents the communist malcontent. The book is described as a parable because each of these characters is representative of larger ideas and societal problems.

Mick stands out as, by far, the most sympathetic and sweet, followed closely by Biff, who is thoughtful, fair, and observant. I love when Mick describes her “inside room.” It’s the inner space where she can dream and be creative. She dreams of learning music and composing songs, and she even tries her hand at writing some songs. But she doesn’t share this dream with anyone. It’s her own “inside” secret that she cherishes. The second-to-last chapter when she describes how, after a long day’s work at the mercantile, she cannot manage to get into the inside room anymore—that’s heartbreaking.

Portia’s good-faith attempts to make peace with her father are exquisitely written. Blount and Copeland’s rage-fest where they’re agreeing but disagreeing—it was perfectly rendered. There’s so much here, but it felt very meandering, like you’re not sure exactly where the story is.

I did not love this book. It was a slog. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot that will stay with me.

3.9
Timmi Tobbson: Legend of the Star Runner (Book Review)

Timmi Tobbson: Legend of the Star Runner (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you’ve got a clue-loving kid who can’t resist an interactive mystery

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

Legend of the Star Runner (Timmi Tobbson)

By J.I. Wagner
Translated by Tracy Phua
Illustrated by Cindy Foehlich

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

At the end of each short chapter, there’s a clue to solve that moves you a step closer to uncovering a mystery.

That made me curious enough to give this book a try with my 7- and 8-year-olds. They have short attention spans, so we read one to two chapters per day, and we had fun solving the little clues. Some were easy and satisfying, but others were tough enough to flex our mental muscles.

The story is written from the POV of Timmi Tobbson, average kid. He has two friends, Lilli and Marvin. One summer day, they realize they need to help save Lilli’s grandpa’s house from getting repo’ed. This leads them on a wild goose chase through many crazy locations in their historic town.

The fun thing about the clues is that you must look closely at the illustrations that appear at the end of each chapter, and those pictures give you clues to help you answer the accompanying “clue question.”

The concept of this book is just wonderful. The clues and illustrations are very well done. The writing and story elements were not quite as strong. We do have the second and third books in the series, so my boys will see how the series unfolds if they choose to read these independently. I won’t be continuing the series as a read-aloud.

3.3
The Breeder Cycle (Book Series Review)

The Breeder Cycle (Book Series Review)

You’ll love it if
you wish you could reread The Hunger Games for the first time

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

The Breeder Cycle (Breeder, Criminal, Clone)

By K. B. Hoyle

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

Here’s a YA dystopia that isn’t bleak

Wow. I inhaled this trilogy, and I’m very picky when it comes to my teen dystopias. This series has a lot in common with The Hunger Games, but it’s much less depressing. In fact, it is incredibly life-affirming. But it’s most definitely for teens—no younger.

So, we’ve got a strong female lead, who lives in a futuristic society that’s tried to rid the world of inequality by making people the same—as “same” as they can get them. All aspects of life are controlled by the powers that be. Our young, female protagonist works as a Breeder. Her job is to birth babies for the new world. You already recognize a slew of elements from other popular YA books, right?

Well, something happens to our main character, Pria. She begins to feel discontented with her “perfect” life. She begins to ask questions—gasp! This puts her in danger, and she must face the truth about her society and the role she plays within it.

The strength of this series is the plot and pacing. It’s tight and effortless to read. There is a satisfying character-driven B plot.

Honestly, if you’ve got a thing for YA dystopia, this series is a really great choice!

4
The Road (Book Review)

The Road (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you’ve got the nerve for an intimate and lyrical dystopia

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

The Road

By Cormac McCarthy

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

Where do you go when the world ends?

The most astonishing thing about this reading experience is that I consumed this novel almost entirely at night, in the dark, right before bed. For someone who scares easily, I’m mighty proud of myself.

A man and his boy (never named) are trying to survive after a cataclysmic civilization-ending event (never explained), and they spend the novel dodging bad guys (cannibals) and figuring out how to not starve or sicken to death.

This book asks the question: Can we still be good even when everything around us is bad? Having just finished reading a lot of fairy tales, this question is not unfamiliar. Fairy tales ask this question over and over. Under what circumstances, under what pressure, do we compromise our integrity, stretch the bounds of morality, allow anger to rage, and succumb to despair?

The boy repeatedly asks his father, “We’re still the good guys, right?” Since they’re barely clinging to the bottom rung of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (basic survival) and there’s nothing higher to live for or aspire to…it’s important to the boy that they’re “good guys.” This is all the boy can hope for in life beyond simply existing. Which begs the question: Are people born with an innate sense of right and wrong? I believe so.

The Road is a journey with no destination. There’s no safe harbor for the characters to aim for. Every time they stumble upon a good place, they can’t stay long. Someone might find them. There’s always this sense of impending tragedy. Every time the man left the boy somewhere, I had to quickly skim ahead just to make sure he was okay.

The book also asks “What’s the point of continuing to live?” These characters live in a world that’s bad beyond anything that I’ve ever experienced. Why not just give up and find a peaceful place to starve or freeze to death? I’m glad that this book takes a life-affirming approach, for all its bleakness.

4.8
Friday’s Child (Book Review)

Friday’s Child (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
Regency romances are your happy place, and you like the “fake relationship” trope

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

Friday’s Child

By Georgette Heyer

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

It’s a marriage of convenience, but…

…could it turn into true love?

This is my second Georgette Heyer novel, and I went into it blind. I enjoyed this old-timey Regency romance for the most part, although there was a saggy bit in the beginning-middle, which I pushed through, and I’m glad I did. This book illustrates the age-old truth: you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.

The first few chapters race along because the setup is superfun: A rich, young, and hunky lord decides (on a whim) to marry a childhood friend of his. She’s young, like 16, and he’s not much older, like early 20s. They don’t love each other, but they’re chums. They’re marrying for convenience. The Viscount Sherry gets his full inheritance bestowed upon him when he marries, and our sweet young heroine (aptly named Hero) agrees to be his wife to avoid the woeful fate of becoming a governess.

After they get married, Hero proves that she has no idea how to be a proper lady, but Sherry can’t be bothered to teach her. They are both so young, and they just wanna have fu-un. Sherry is a bit of a wild boy, flirting and gaming. Hero is a fun-loving, ready-for-anything teenager.

The beginning-middle of the book shows Sherry having to clean up after Hero’s many social fumbles—taking the grownup role for the first time in his life. Hero realizes how much she loves Sherry, but Sherry is oblivious to this. Hero wonders if he regrets marrying her, and she never asks him, so she’s left to stress over it.

The book title probably comes from the traditional poem “Monday’s Child.” According to the poem, Friday’s child is “loving and giving,” and that is exactly what Hero is. She is not an Amazon or a Matriarch or any power-archetype. She’s entirely at Sherry’s mercy, yet, through her love and goodness, she saves him.

Sherry is not—ahem—politically correct, shall we say. This whole book, in fact, is delightfully incorrect in so many ways. Sherry is flawed. He doesn’t appreciate Hero and treats her like a possession. His nickname for her is “Kitten”—barf! Even after his transformation, he’s not exactly fighting for her right to be prime minister or anything like that. But he does teach her to drive, so there’s that.

3.6
How to Save the West (Book Review)

How to Save the West (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you’re concerned about the world coming untethered from everything solid and true

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

How to Save the West: Ancient Wisdom for 5 Modern Crises

By Spencer Klavan

Information
Inspiration
Writing Craft
Moral Value

Is Western civilization coming to an end?

And, if so, can we save it? Classicist Spenser Klavan, host of the Young Heretics podcast and co-writer of The New Jerusalem Substack, says that the West is facing five major crises. But, it has faced them before. So, let’s look to the wisdom of the past and see what we can learn from that.

Here are the five crises:
1. The crisis of reality. In a world of AI and VR, what is real life?
2. The crisis of the body. Is it okay to manipulate or deny our fleshly shells?
3. The crisis of meaning. Why look for anything deeper than the here and now?
4. The crisis of religion. If we refuse to worship God, what do we worship instead?
5. The crisis of regimes. Is democracy done?

He draws heavily on Plato, Aristotle, the Bible, and other thinkers of the past to help bring sanity to these five areas that seem to be devolving into chaos—or so riddled by controversy and conflicting viewpoints that stability and harmony seem impossible.

I’m not one to over-listen to the news or political talking heads. Nor do I have an active Twitter/X account to provide a nonstop stream of news to my phone. I’m not an expert in politics and culture, and it’s been many moons since I’ve read the ancient and classical philosophers (let alone modern ones). Having divulged that grain of salt, Klavan makes a lot of sense to me. This is no surprise given that the author’s worldview overlaps heavily with mine.

So, even though I’m probably biased beyond measure, I found this book incredibly readable and edifying. It’s edifying because Klavan’s moral soil is rich. Even though he doesn’t lean into scripture (he explains why) it’s clear that his arguments align.

The book is organized logically according to the five crises. Klavan explains each one and then offers wisdom from the past to help point us toward truth.

It’s readable because the language is beautiful and clear. Klavan takes dense material and makes it understandable (but not exactly easy).

I highly recommend listening to the audiobook. Klavan’s got a rad bass going on.

5