The Didact's Best Books of 2016
It is worth mentioning that many of the best books that I read this year- in either category- were published by Castalia House. The top 3 fiction books that I read, for instance, were all published by them, as were a whole host of my top-rated titles for the year. This is not a coincidence. Castalia House was explicitly established to promote the very best works in sci-fi, fantasy, and non-fiction that are to be found anywhere, and they are succeeding admirably in their goal. They are a critical ally in our war to reclaim our culture, and as the reclamation moves forward and gathers force, they will be at the forefront of restoring greatness to literature.
As with last year, once the clock turns on Jan 1, 2017, my 2016 book list and all of the requisite links and ratings will be moved to a standalone post so that they can be browsed at leisure.
The Didact's Top 5 Non-Fiction Books of 2016
4. Fistfights with Muslims in Europe: One Man's Journey Through Modernity by Julian Langness
I've written at length already about Julian's book here as part of a wider philosophical point about Europe's slow and terrible demographic death spiral into oblivion. The book itself is quite short, but it honestly is one of the best works that I have read all year. Simple, forthright, and unsparing in both its criticisms of Europe's decadent civilisation and the Muslim invaders who threaten to destroy it, the book is written almost from two perspectives. It is a firsthand account of a young man's journey through the twilight of the civilisation of his ancestors- but it is also a philosophical treatise that binds together many ideas that all of us are familiar into a coherent thought process. It is also surprisingly well-balanced; Julian's grudging admiration for his Muslim antagonists is rooted in his recognition that they at least are willing and able to live and fight for something, whereas the effete Europeans whom they live among seem to have simply given up.
5. 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff and the Annex Security Team
The Didact's Top 5 Fiction Books of 2016
2. Loki's Child by Fenris Wulf
If I had to describe this book in just one sentence, it would be: "madder than a bag of snakes". I am honestly not exactly sure how to describe it, given that it bends genres, blends ideas, and gleefully flips off just about every rule of "conventional" fiction writing with complete abandon. Basically it's the story of a supposedly untalented band being given a record deal with a star producer, but it quickly turns into a combination of a scathing satire of the music industry, a serious philosophical commentary on the state of modern audio recording, a work of dark fantasy, and a dystopian political novel. What is remarkable is that, despite all of its batshit insanity and almost contemptuous disregard for convention, it is deliriously funny and exceptionally well written. This is a novel that has to be read through in order for any reader to accept that its existence is even possible, because according to everything any halfway decent writer is ever taught in school, this book simply should not exist.
3. The Missionaries by Owen Stanley
Up until I read Loki's Child, I didn't think that I could possibly find a book that would be more savagely funny, and take more sadistic delight, in tearing apart the pretensions of Man than this book. This is quite simply one of the funniest books I have ever read. Its no-holds-barred take on the pretensions of foreigners who come in to "civilise" those who patently cannot be civilised is acerbic in the extreme, but the hysterical humour and bone-dry wit of the writing help disguise the extraordinarily pointed nature of the barbs that the author directs toward well-intentioned but completely clueless attempts by foreign aid organisations to bring the basics of Western civilisation to darkened lands. Well worth reading if only just for the comedy factor, this book also makes a number of serious points rooted in the author's personal experiences which make the book a right treat to read.
4. Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein
I'm currently reading through Heinlein's twelve "Juveniles" now, as part of an active effort to better understand the sheer virtuosity and skill of the Grandmaster of science fiction at the peak of his powers. Of the nine juvenile novels that I have read so far, this one, the seventh, is my favourite. There is nothing really "juvenile" about Heinlein's writing in these books, for they are primarily about boys in their teens on the cusp of manhood, of unusual and even exceptional intelligence and resourcefulness, being confronted with trials that force them to become men. In this one, we see a boy grow into a man through luck, preparation, dedication, skill, and sheer hard work, who eventually is forced into a position in which his actions will save or doom the lives of his companions. An exceptional book even by Heinlein's astonishing standards, this book may well be the best "early" work of his outside of Starship Troopers.
5. Conan the Barbarian: The Complete Collection by Robert E. Howard
The character of Conan the Barbarian is one of the most memorable individual fantasy characters ever written, and once you read through Robert E. Howard's short stories, novellas, and novel in this collection, you will quickly understand why. The savage nobility of the Cimmerian protagonist of Howard's tales is unapologetically masculine- strong, brave, masterful, and honourable. His "barbarism" is used repeatedly to contrast the behaviour of supposedly "civilised" men with his own, and plays well to the theme that Howard repeatedly expounded that civilisation inevitably results in decadence and weakness. If you are in any way a fan of the Conan character, this is essential and superb reading. Howard's prose style in particular deserves special praise; while he was liberal with words, there is an economy to his writing that is somehow not dense to read at all, and the words simply flow from the page in easy succession while still conveying a wealth of ideas.
Honourable Mention: A State of Disobedience by Tom Kratman
This is not an easy book to read. Written back in 2003 as a warning to America and the world about what the United States would likely become under a President Hillary Rodham Clinton- dear Lord, I feel shivers of horror just writing those words- the point of this book is to illustrate the author's fears about what would happen to the Republic if someone as venal, mendacious, corrupt, and downright evil as the Rottenmuncher were ever to come to power. LTC Kratman himself will readily admit that this is not his best book, and I agree with him- it isn't. But it is still a very good read nonetheless, and contains a number of portentous prophecies that came perilously close to coming true in 2016. Thank Almighty God that we dodged that particular bullet.
CLASSIC Book of 2016: The Screwtape Letters by Clive Staples Lewis
As I have come closer to a fuller understanding of God, and inch, perhaps inevitably, ever closer to finally converting to the true Faith myself, I resolved earlier this year to read through the works of a man whose intellectual journey was at least somewhat similar to mine. C. S. Lewis started out in a nominally religious family, became an atheist as a teenager, and converted to Christianity after striving for years to understand it. He essentially reasoned and examined himself into a conclusion that everything he could see pointed out to be true. From those experiences, he wrote two seminal works: Mere Christianity, which I have yet to read, and this book. Written from the perspective of a demon, a servant of Satan, attempting to advise his wayward nephew as to the best way to convert an unsuspecting target into the service of the Dark One, this book is literally like reading the Enemy's playbook. All of the temptations which seduce a man to evil are shown here- as are their antidotes. Written in good humour, this is nonetheless one of the best apologetics for Christianity ever written because it presents the faith in a way that is at once easy to understand and deeply profound. Without question one of the best books ever written, it is instructive at a number of levels, particularly to people like me who can see and understand the truth of God, but just aren't fully convinced yet as to whether Christians have the best view of that truth.