Book Dump 2021

I dived into a lot of books in 2021, more than ever. But finished only a few. Here are my favorite and most recommended books from the year, followed up by a fairly complete and ridiculously long list of books I spent a substantial amount time with.

My favorite and most recommended books of 2021.

Pity the Beautiful by Dana Gioia. Poetry, modern. Excellent.
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. Fantasy, long. Worth it.
The Model Thinker by Scott E Page. Math and epistemology. Phenomenal.
An Aristotelian Realist Philosophy of Mathematics by James Franklin. Math and philosophy. Excellent.
Economy and Nature in the Fourteenth Century by Joel Kaye. Economics, medieval philosophy, history, and Latin. What could be better?
The Wars of the Roses by Gillingham. I checked out every book on The Wars of the Roses; this is one is clearly the best written, even if a little more out of date. When history is well written I fall in love again. Highly recommended.
The History of Chemistry by Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent and Isabelle Stengers. This is the best history of chemistry in print, and there is no coincidence that it is a translation from French.
Talmud: from Classics of Western Spirituality Series. The Classics of Western Spirituality is hit or miss frequently, but I am enjoying the the selections from the Talmud here.

Below are all the books from 2021 by category.


  1. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  2. The Napoleon of Nottinghill by G.K. Chesterton
  3. The Ship of Theseus by V. Straka
  4. Pity the Beautiful by Dana Gioia
  5. Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler
  6. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
  7. Cenodoxus by Jacob Bidermann
  8. The Golden Country by Shusako Endo
  9. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Philosophy and Social Science

  1. The Model Thinker by Scott E Page
  2. On Commerce, by David Hume
  3. The Use of Knowledge in Society, F. Hayek
  4. The Wealth of Nations Book I by Adam Smith
  5. Protagoras by Plato
  6. Charter schools and their Enemies by Thomas Sowell.
  7. Universal Economics by Armen Alchian (incomplete)
  8. An Aristotelian Realist Philosophy of Mathematics by James Franklin
  9. Saint Ignatius’ Idea of a Jesuit University by Ganss
  10. Economy and Nature in the 14th Century by Joel Kaye
  11. The Interests and the Passions: Political Arguments for Capitalism before its Triumph by A. O. Hirschman
  12. Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman
  13. Open Borders: the Science and Ethics of Immigration by Bryan Caplan and Zach Wienersmith
  14. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
  15. The Cult of Smart: How our Broken Education System Perpetuates Injustice by Frederick deBoeur
  16. The Case Against Education: Why the Education System is a Waste of Time and Money by Bryan Caplan
  17. Jesuit Education in Light of Modern Educational Problems by Shwikerath
  18. 10% Less Democracy, Why You Should Trust Elites a Little More and the Masses a Little Less By Garett Jones.


  1. Viking-age War Fleets: Ship-Building, Resource Management in Maritime Warfare in 11th century Denmark by Morten Raven
  2. Qumran in Context reassessing in the archaeological evidence by Yizhar Hirschfeld
  3. The Wars of the Roses by Gillingham
  4. Book Wars: the Digital Revolution in Publishing by John B. Thompson
  5. Battlegrounds by H. R. McMaster
  6. Keaton by Tom Dardis
  7. The Letters of Alcuin by Rolph Barrows 1909
  8. Kissinger: The Idealist by Niall Ferguson 


  1. The History of Chemistry by Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent and Isabelle Stengers
  2. Calculus for the Applied, Life, and Social Sciences
  3. Introduction to Chemistry by John D. Mays
  4. The Richness of Life the Selected Writings of Stephen J. Gould
  5. The Double Helix: a Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James D Watson.
  6. Biotechnology 101 by Brian Robert Shmaefsky
  7. Vectors and their Applications by Anthony Pettifrezzo
  8. The Molecular Biology of the Cell by various authors (sc. Not all)


  1. Jesuits: A Multibiography
  2. Decreation the End of all Things by Paul Griffiths
  3. The Life of Brother Jordan of Saxony by anonymous
  4. Super Boethius de Trinitate by Thomas Aquinas
  5. The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola
  6. A Rabbi Talks With Jesus by Jacob Neusner  (incomplete)
  7. Talmud Classics of Western Spirituality Series

On Alcuin of York

From York long before,
A green and poorer time,
Cold the minds of Europe
Frozen in the rime,
Cold the river of letters,
A trickle in a glaze.
Cold the long horizon,
First light gloamed in haze,
From York, he came humbly,
To serve the Frankish king,
The monk of texts and learning,
The needed Alcuin.

He served the Holy Letters,
With service nobly done.
To man he passed the skills
Which he had hardly won.
For humble laid humanity
With texts so far between
That even learned people
Learned only needed things.
The Divine Word to preach,
The arts of Romans past,
The service of the king and realm,
The care for texts that last.

This Alcuin he flamed with care,
Laid on disciples’ souls
The burning embers of learning done,
Just as Isaiah ate the coals.

From Palace he received not rest,
Even at the Abbey Tours,
There the Monks with careless pens
Would lose a text’s right words.
Hardly could he read their hand,
Like Pagan women with a palm,
Upon the rack of writing he
Brought healing and a balm.

“Make distinct thy letters,
Between all words a space,
End each sentence with a dot.
Take care! It’s not a race.”

Upon his honored legacy
Mystery still does brood.
Did he foresee the value
Of this exactitude?
Did he see the longe duree
That as a morning lark,
He set the world upon the path
To form the question mark?

Verses on Shipping

There’s a law or regulation

Near every U.S. dockyard station

That containers, stacked up to nine

On global ocean shipping lines,

May on the lots where man can see

Be only stacked up two or three.

For the sight of such a shipping tower

Causes residents to fret and glower.

But as containers come gliding in,

Those that are out, can’t get in,

And those that are in, can’t get out

Of dockyards or harbors. No turnabout.

 Oh the increasing traffic jam,

Miles wide, you understand!

But at least we residents still have the might,

To keep containers out sight!

Dream of India

I had a dream that an Indian guy asked me for help navigating a futuristic city’s transportation system. Then he told me that the Indian languages near the border of China are the most interesting. I don’t know anything about Indian languages, so why did Prateek. I looked it up this morning to discover that northern Mishni is suspected to be a language isolate. He also had some choice words about the value of learning Mandarin.

The dream likely originates from a desire to visit India, a country I know little about, for two weeks.

In the Electron Sea pt 1/6.

Father Peter Sal S.J. and Father Pierre Aristide S.J. walked along a mildly cracked sidewalk. Tiny green shoots clawed their way between the fractured tectonic plates of the concrete firmament. Next to the sidewalk a large sign before a small high tech building plainly sported the wafting gold logo ‘Shahrazad’, the logo of the most profitable tech company in the physical world. The two fathers walked in, they both supposed, for the last time.

Shahrazad was the largest Artificial Universe, AU, for short. An AU was like a tech platform and like a country. Like a tech platform it was a service provider, which other people could use to create content, talk with each other, and build things. Shahrazad was also like a country, in that once one emigrated there, you were then bound by the laws, rules, and limitations of this particular Artificial Universe. Shahrazad was not designed by humans but a third generation Artificial General Intelligence. Humans designed the first generation. The first generation designed the second, and the second designed the third. Humans built the hardware though (well, more or less), own the company, and allow the continued existence of Shahrazad.

Shahrazad, the official literature says, offers a platform for a flourishing and totally fulfilled life. It’s goal is a benevolent universe free from the harms of normal life in the prime Universe of gravity, scarcity, and chaotic events. To get in one must allow a scan of their entire physical structure to be recorded and uploaded over the course of three days, the body is left behind limply stretched out on a table, but the mind is then freely existing in a new universe adjacent the normal world of decay. Other AUs had existed. They were small, sometimes very unfortunate affairs. But by the current year Shahrazad was the only AU whose name anyone could remember. They were practically synonymous. At the time these priests entered the scene, approximately 200 million people lived in the Shahrazad universe.

The Catholic Church, committed to a consistent life ethic, the value and necessity of the human body, and preserving the body’s life until a natural death, had ample reason within its tradition to condemn the new technology; furthermore, fear of the possible powers humans could gain over one another in playing with the brain caused concern worldwide across religions and ethical systems. For twenty years no practicing Catholic had stepped into an AU, but through the still existing internet there were rumors of a small Catholic community formed within the Shahrazad AU who requested a priest to be sent in.

After six additional years of training the two Peters, Peter and Pierre were ready to begin a ministry without their original bodies and enter the Artificial Universe. Why had the Church agreed to this seemingly clear break from Catholic anthropology? For one, it was disputed whether a digital body is a body. People inside Shahrazad, unlike in previous AUs, professed that they did in fact have bodies that were in some hard-to-understand way continuous with their old bodies. Most theologians strongly disagreed with this self-assessment of the digital reprobates, but still there was no official condemnation of Shahrazad. A second reason was that the alleged Catholic community inside Shahrazad had produced some of the most amazing rpgs, games, music, literature, and philosophy. They fueled a small religious revival in the outer world with their creations, inspiring the young towards virtue and the old to reform. Their requests for ministers, though perhaps odd (why didn’t they think of themselves as religiously self-sufficient? Isn’t it surprising they wanted priests? There can’t be digital sacraments, can there?), could not be ignored.

One series created by this community concerned a powerful stateswoman, known for her sincere work for the common good, and her mentor, a well-seasoned people person, with clear vision on how respect and honor allow for cooperation and justice between governments. He had stopped several small wars and brought swift salvation to millions locked in impending humanitarian crises. He seemed a saint – always benevolent, helpful, fatherly. But, when he died, and his protege found his diary, she learned he was something quite different, a monster, not in deed, but in thought, in his mindset. Shocked by the revelation that her mentor’s inner thoughts were all ego, love of being a savior, and an insatiable pride locked in a prison of self-love, she was thrown into a crisis of faith, seeing that all the good done could be done for strange, barbaric, blasphemous motives. Questioning her own motives too, she quit government and joined a convent to pray and work in the most humble jobs she could. In turn, her former colleagues and enemies decided she resigned with the intention of embarrassing the government. Visiting her in the convent they were persuaded, not that she was seeking spiritual regeneration, but that she intended to sell state secrets. Taken from the convent under arrest, she was tried and condemned to Suspended Life, a type of digital suspended animation which at that time had replaced the death penalty. Her last words in the series were, “I go in humility to a new convent. I will pray for you all there.”

The series was such a successful drama that it inspired religious and irreligious people alike to search out and care for their motives and intentions. It’s authors were a certain Elias Elias and Takayama Ukon from the AU; they had made it for the outside world, for only the outside world watches series like that.

As they approached the glass cube building, Peter said, “I hope we don’t get bored in there.”

“If we do,” said Pierre, “then you’ll just have to teach me how to play Go.”

“I think even Go can get boring after a few thousand years.”

“But the AU is a type of jail. When you Go to Jail, you do not pass Go. Thus Go lasts forever since one can never get past it,” laughed Pierre.

“On the contrary, Go gets one to Saint Joseph, i.e. carpentry. ‘Go to Joseph’ is the saying. And carpentry offers infinite delights.”

“Not even a smiling Buddha would smile at that one.”

“Yeah, my puns today are touch and Go.”

“Go to Hades… and preach to the souls there.”

“We are about to, I believe,” Peter sad flatly.

“There are hearts of gold in the AU,” Pierre reminded him as they passed through the doors.

“If we didn’t believe it, we wouldn’t be here.”

At that moment, a burst of polyphonic song filled the atrium, Psalm 148 in Latin. The brothers had gathered to bid farewell to two of their number. Peter and Pierre made the rounds said their goodbyes, and went with the company receptionist into the uploading rooms to begin the process.