1. Daphne Hampson, Kierkegaard: Exposition and Technique. Dense but carefully argued and consistently insightful, perhaps the best introduction to its subject matter. It is especially strong on how Kierkegaard’s Lutheranism informed his critique of Hegel, his supernaturalism, and his strong opposition to complacency.
Kierkegaard also was an influence on my Stubborn Attachments, as Hampson writes: “Given that faith is to look beyond ourselves to Christ, the ‘future’ is for Lutheranism a critical category. In the thought of the 20th-century Lutheran theologian Rudolf Bultmann ‘future’ and ‘God’ become concomitant. The relation to this future, to God, takes one outside oneself, whereas to rest on my laurels (my past) is of the essence of sin. As we shall see, for Kierkegaard, relating to the idea of eternal life is existentially life-transforming. It follows that in this tradition there is little continuity of person, for one and again I must break myself open (in my self-satisfaction) as I consent to dependence on God.”
2. Johnny Rogan, Byrds: Requiem for the Timeless: Volume 2: The Lives of Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, Kevin Kelley, Gram Parsons, Clarence White and Skip Battin. Full of amazing and loving detail, this volume covers the less famous of the Byrds, and why their careers did not go further; whether in business or the arts, we spend too much time studying the winners. Here are my earlier remarks on Rogan’s earlier editions as an extended essay on management theory and career advice.
3. Michael D. Barr, The Ruling Elite of Singapore: Networks of Power and Influence. From 2013, but all the more relevant today. Barr’s coverage is insufficiently appreciative of good results, but nonetheless offers an invaluable “how things really work” guide to Singaporean government, most of all on where accountability lies and where it does not. There is guesswork involved, but this book offers plenty of details and analysis you won’t get elsewhere.
4. Henry A. Kissinger, A World Restored: Europe After Napoleon: The Politics of Conservatism in a Revolutionary Age. Published in 1964, before Kissinger became Kissinger, although he is a war criminal this volume shows the quality of his thought: “…an equilibrium based on considerations of power is the most difficult of all to establish, particularly in a revolutionary period following a long peace. Lulled by the memory of stability, states tend to seek security in activity and to mistake impotence for lack of provocation.” The person who recommended this volume to me told me it would explain why the internal and external requirements for foreign policy on the Continent are much more in accord than they are for either England or America. It does no such thing, so I still would like to read on that question.
Jack Schneider, Beyond Test Scores: A Better Way to Measure School Quality. Under a true value added measure, the schools in Somerville, Massachusetts turn out to be quite good, even though their raw test scores are not impressive.
David Osborne, Reinventing America’s Schools: Creating a 21st Education System, covers how charter schools are transforming the American educational landscape.