I had two columns — or maybe one, two-part column — in the American Spectator on the subject of books to give people for Christmas. I present them here in reverse order, for reasons that will be obvious. — Quin

(Speaking of order…. please order, here.)


Consider the “Accidental Prophet.”

It will come as no surprise that if I am recommending books to give as Christmas presents, I enthusiastically recommend my own.

Please allow, then, a somewhat deep dive into my “Accidental Prophet” trilogy: 1) Mad Jones, Heretic. 2) Mad Jones, Hero. 3) Mad Jones, Agonistes. You won’t be disappointed.

First, what sorts of books are they? Short answer: Satirical fiction — on modern media, politics, and religion, all at once, and also on sexual mores and on the modern instant-celebrity culture. But, in addition to telling what I hope you will find to be a highly entertaining and at times quite humorous story, there are serious underlying themes, especially of faith and the nature of redemptions, small and large.

It might help to understand that I originally wrote Mad Jones as one book. My publishers at Liberty Island Media — Adam Bellow, David Bernstein, and David Swindle — cleverly figured how to break the one large tome into a more easily-digestible three-part series. I still think of it as a single work, however, so later in this column — after the quick plot synopses of each individual novel — I’ll discuss them thematically as one.

Here’s the scenario in Mad Jones, Heretic, which takes place in the turn-of-the-millennium setting of 1998-2001A grief-stricken young high-school history teacher named Madison Lee Jones rages at God by producing 59 religious theses and, echoing Martin Luther, affixes them to church doors in his native Mobile, Alabama and in New Orleans. He has no intention of anybody taking his theses seriously; he’s just venting. But the theses spread like wildfire on the then-nascent forums of what we now call “social media,” and young Mad becomes one of those overnight celebrities to which we now have become accustomed. A phantasmagoria of oddball followers — a mime who sometimes talks, an old lady with a pet iguana, and a bizarre world of Internet people with aliases including Doubting Thomas, M. Magdalene, and Affirmed — begin treating Mad like a modern-day prophet. And, of course, the media jumps in, sensationalizes everything, and (mostly) misses the point. Badgered by some friends into turning his insta-fame into a Billy-Graham-like “ministry,” Mad starts to get carried away by events, into the beginning of a wild, wild ride….

[The full column is here.]

Twenty-one books for someone you love.

It’s time to do my part to revive The American Spectator’s long and rich tradition of compiling excellent reading lists for Christmas.

This time I do it with a twist, though. Some of the books I’ll list here are ones I haven’t quite finished yet, and one or two I may not have even started. The thing is, I have a large stack of books on my desk written either by good friends or by friendly acquaintances, and I have about seven books going at once, so I tend to take a long time to finish reading any particular one.

For about six years I’ve had a rule that I don’t do formal book reviews of books by friends — it’s hard to be fully honest in such a situation — but I am thrilled to give some boosterish cyber-print space to any book I have enjoyed or am enjoying, while disclosing to the reader my biases in favor of my author friends. And if I’ve read one book by an author but haven’t had a chance to begin his/her newest one, I still feel comfortable recommending the new one if I thought the earlier one was good.

Finally, I now have my own trilogy of novels in publication, with which I’ll finish the list below; and I hope the wonderful Wlady will allow me a second column (that one unpaid, since it’s self-advertising) next week to more fully describe/explore them.

Okay, enough disclaimers. Each book below is written by someone I know, but I wouldn’t list it if I didn’t think it worth reading.

The Windmill Chaser: Triumphs and Less in American Politics, by Bob Livingston. This memoir by the longtime conservative congressman, almost Speaker of the House, and my former boss — with Foreword by Newt Gingrich, and recommended by Tucker Carlson and Steve Moore — is one of the most enjoyable, least formulaic reads you will ever find in this genre. ….

… And there are twenty more books listed here.


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