Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun

The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne My rating: 4 of 5 stars The Marble Faun (1860) is Hawthorne's last completed and longest romance—his term for the type of non-realist, symbolic, and psychological fiction he preferred to write. Composed during and after his and his family's travels in Europe following his political patronage appointment as American consul … Continue reading Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun

Dante, Paradiso

Paradiso by Dante Alighieri My rating: 4 of 5 stars Here is what you've heard about the Divine Comedy: the Inferno, with its poignantly vivid tortures and its cacophony of wicked voices, is the most entertaining canticle, beloved of various and sundry; the Purgatorio, with its wistful focus on the lives and ambitions of poets and its … Continue reading Dante, Paradiso

Dante, Purgatorio

Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri My rating: 4 of 5 stars Allen Mandelbaum begins his introduction to his wonderful translation thusly:   For the Virgil of Dante's Purgatorio, "love is the seed in you of every virtue/and of all acts deserving punishment" (XVII, 104-105). To find one same source for all good and all evil is … Continue reading Dante, Purgatorio

Toni Morrison, Paradise

Paradise by Toni Morrison My rating: 5 of 5 stars Paradise was not well received upon its publication in 1997—influential critics like Michiko Kakutani, James Wood, and Zoë Heller disparaged it, and even Oprah's audience, instructed to read it for the talk show host's book club, demurred, prompting Oprah to call Morrison to offer the … Continue reading Toni Morrison, Paradise

Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels

The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels My rating: 4 of 5 stars In this 1979 classic of popular non-fiction, religious scholar Elaine Pagels explains to a broad audience the theological significance of the trove of early Christian writings discovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945. Not only that, but she also places these documents in their … Continue reading Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels

Dante, Inferno

Inferno by Dante Alighieri My rating: 5 of 5 stars You know the story: a man in the middle of life is lost in a shadowy forest of ignorance and error, his path to wisdom blocked by impassable beasts. Then he is saved by the shade of the great poet, Virgil, sent to rescue the … Continue reading Dante, Inferno

Richard E. Kim, The Martyred

The Martyred by Richard E. Kim My rating: 4 of 5 stars Richard E. Kim's The Martyred was published to great sales and acclaim in 1964. It dominated the bestseller list, earned comparisons to Camus and Dostoevsky, and boasted blurbs from Pearl S. Buck and Philip Roth. Kim was born in what is now North … Continue reading Richard E. Kim, The Martyred

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson My rating: 3 of 5 stars I found Marilynne Robinson's second novel, Gilead (2004), to be literally stunning. That is, every time I picked it up to read a few pages I would become dazed with boredom or would even fall asleep, knocked out by the novel's descriptive vagueness and tonal … Continue reading Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

C. G. Jung, Answer to Job

Answer to Job by C.G. Jung My rating: 3 of 5 stars The back cover advertises Answer to Job as "one of Jung's most controversial works." He wrote it toward the end of his life, in the early 1950s, and according to the introduction to the 2010 edition by Sonu Shamdasani, he composed it in … Continue reading C. G. Jung, Answer to Job

Gillian Rose, Mourning Becomes the Law

Mourning Becomes the Law: Philosophy and Representation by Gillian Rose My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is a posthumous 1996 essay collection by the British philosopher, who died of ovarian cancer in 1995 and is perhaps best known less for her philosophical corpus than for her stunning memoir, Love's Work: A Reckoning with Life … Continue reading Gillian Rose, Mourning Becomes the Law