Best of 2012 (The First Half)


 I thought now would be a good time to give a brief synopsis of the best things I have read so far this year. Without further adieu:
Fiction:
The Legend of Bagger Vance, by Steven Pressfield.
“In the Depression year of 1931, on the golf links at Krewe Island off Savannah’s windswept shore, two legends of the game, Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, meet for a mesmerizing thirty-six-hole showdown. Another golfer will also compete—a troubled local war hero, once a champion, who comes with his mentor and caddie, the mysterious Bagger Vance. Sage and charismatic, it is Vance who will ultimately guide the match, for he holds the secret of the Authentic Swing. And he alone can show his protege the way back to glory.”-From Good Reads
This was, by far, my favorite fiction read of the year so far. A tad preachy, as it is mostly a retelling of the Bhagavad Gita, but a really good read, and I don’t even golf.



Nonfiction:
The Unsettling of America, by Wendell Berry
“Since its publication by Sierra Club Books in 1977, The Unsettling of America has been recognized as a classic of American letters. In it, Wendell Berry argues that good farming is a cultural development and spiritual discipline. Today’s agribusiness, however, takes farming out of its cultural context and away from families. As a result, we as a nation are more estranged from the land—from the intimate knowledge, love, and care of it.” - From Amazon
At first glance this looks like a dry book about the farming industry, but it is so much more. In fact I read quite a bit of Berry this year and could have listed any one of them here. Reading about the disconnect between politicians, businesses and citizens did more to open my eyes politically than years of following the cable news circus. 
Berry is an accomplished writer having been a recipient of The National Humanities Medal, and the Jefferson Lecturer for 2012. His writing is at heart a conversation about a kind of existence, the good life, which includes sustainable agriculture, responsible use of technology, connection to place, the pleasures of good food, local economics and the interconnectedness of life.

Short Form Nonfiction: *Tie
*Recreating Beowulf’s “Pregnant Moment of Poise”: Pagan Doom and the Christian Eucatastrophe Made Incarnate in the Dark Age Setting of The Lord of the Rings(link)

“In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien recreates the “pregnant moment of poise” that inspired him in his study of Beowulf. Tolkien believed that this moment was a brief period of “fusion” which occurred in the Dark Ages as paganism was in decline and Christianity on the rise, when the dueling notions of Doom and salvation briefly coexisted in the hearts and minds of the Anglo-Saxon people. Derived from a careful study of Tolkien’s fiction, lectures, letters, and the writings of his contemporaries, instructors, and friends, in combination with many Dark Age texts, the works of various Tolkien critics, historians, and specialists in the fields of Christian and Norse apocalypse, this thesis will consider the ways that Tolkien’s study of Beowulf inspired him in the creation of The Lord of the Rings.” - From Medievalists.net

While the text is somewhat dense I really enjoy this type of reading on occasion and the website, http://www.medievalists.net/, does a great job finding these pieces from all over academia. This particular work is a Master’s thesis.
*The Autonomous Man in an Other-Directed World (link)
“First published in 1950 as a sociological analysis of American life, The Lonely Crowd became a surprising bestseller; its authors, David Riesman and his collaborators, had expected it to be of interest only to fellow academics, and yet the book touched a nerve in the American public, resonating with a concern many felt about the changing character of the country.
In the book, Riesman sets forth three types of “social character,” three mechanisms by which people conform to the society in which they live: tradition-directed, inner-directed, and other-directed.’” - From The Art of Manliness
This site regularly puts out amazingly insightful pieces and I could have chosen a few others to fill this space as well. This particular one I feel is representative of their best.
So, that is what I have really enjoyed so far this year. How about you?