How to Save the West (Book Review)

Written by Michelle Watson

March 25, 2024

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

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.


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