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Talking God

Gary Gutting (Norton)

In 2014, the philosopher Gary Gutting conducted interviews via email with a dozen fellow philosophers for The Stone, a blog published by The New York Times. They are collected in this book, bracketed by a preface and a self-interview (in which “G.G.” is in dialogue with “g.g.”) and adding Gutting’s “further thoughts” at the end of each exchange. The range of the interviewees—leading off with Alvin Plantinga—is wide, and the conversations are lively. This would make an excellent choice for an adventurous book group or a Sunday school class (perhaps guest-taught by a local professor of philosophy).

The Mistletoe Murder

P. D. James (Knopf)

Posthumous books from favorite authors are very much a mixed bag (especially when they’ve been “completed” by another hand), but this handsome little volume from P. D. James (with a preface by Val McDermid) is a delight. It gathers four short stories that could be read as homages to the Golden Age of detective fiction, which it is fashionable to deprecate. But as James noted elsewhere, all crime fiction (all fiction across the board, in fact) is highly stylized, “escapist,” whether the predominant flavor is “cosy” or “hard-boiled.” If you didn’t find a copy of this book in your Christmas stocking, why not give one to yourself?

Jonathan Swift

John Stubbs (Norton)

The author of Gulliver’s Travels has not been neglected by biographers—Yale University Press published a fine volume by Leo Damrosch as recently as 2013—but Swift’s life and times were complex enough (and distant enough from our own day and its reigning assumptions) to ...

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