At the end of 2021, I reviewed every book I had read that year, giving it a rating and then saying a little about it. For 2022’s books, I am doing something different. I set a goal of reading 27 books in 2022, and I ended up reading 33. Because I read so many books over the course of the year, I simply do not feel up to the task of reviewing each one. I also do not have every book I read with me physically at present. Therefore, I have decided to simply make a list of the top books I read in 2022.
My criteria for a book being on this list is that it must be a book I thoroughly enjoyed while reading, it must have given me new insights, and it must be a book that has influenced my thought and intellectual development. It must also be a book that has really stuck with me even after time has passed. It must also be a book that I first read in 2022. With those criteria, I have come up with the following list. This list is in order of which is my absolute favorite and then going down to next favorite, and next favorite, and so on. Here they are.
Ride the Tiger by Julius Evola
The decision to place this book at the top was not easy. What ultimately sets it above the rest on this list is how it touches on such a wide variety of topics, and how it refines other ideas found within some of the other works (even those which come after it). This book does everything, and it does it succinctly. It is only 227 pages, not counting the notes. Evola provides probably the best critical analysis of Nietzsche of any author, he expertly navigates the problems of modernity, and he explains well the mindset and the lifestyle that the Aristocrats of the Soul must have in this world after Tradition.
Evola defines the World of Tradition as “a civilization or a society…ruled by principles that transcend what is merely human and individual, and when all its sectors are formed and ordered from above, and directed to what is above.” Meanwhile, “Everything that has come to predominate in the modern world is the exact antithesis of any traditional type of civilization.” Unfortunately, this means that it is “increasingly unlikely that anyone, starting from the values of Tradition (even assuming that one could still identify and adopt them), could take actions or reactions of a certain efficacy that would provoke any real change in the current state of affairs.”
Evola is not bullish when it comes to the success of Reactionary and Traditionalist movements in the modern world. There is a sort of pessimism that runs throughout Ride the Tiger. Evola does not believe that we will see any sort of revival of the World of Tradition anytime soon, or that we can effectively fight against the Modern World. However, this is not to say that the Modern World has necessarily won. In the Far East there is the idea that if one can succeed in riding a tiger, “not only does one avoid having it leap on one, but if one can keep one’s seat and not fall off, one may eventually get the better of it.” The tiger will eventually tire, and the rider can then leap off and slay it. This is where “riding the tiger” comes in where we are concerned. “When a cycle of civilization is reaching its end, it is difficult to achieve anything by resisting it and by directly opposing the forces in motion. The current is too strong; one would be overwhelmed. The essential thing is not to let oneself be impressed by the omnipotence and apparent triumph of the forces of the epoch.”
Evola also discusses European Nihilism and the idea that “God is dead” and what that really means. One of my favorite lines early on is in Chapter 4. Evola says, “Man, at a given moment, wanted to ‘be free.’ He was allowed to be so, and he was allowed to throw off the chains that did not bind him so much as sustain him. Thereupon he was allowed to suffer all the consequences of his liberation.” Today we suffer the consequences of liberation from God, Tradition, and values. Consider the Sexual Revolution and how it promised to liberate us from the archaic sexual values of old. It gave women the pill (an abomination), abortion (murder), and “freedom” from their husbands and from marriage. It gave homosexuals and sexual deviants the “freedom” to go public and now, not just “toleration” from society, but “acceptance” and even promotion. Woe to he who does not signal his undying love for the ever-changing Pride Flag. By uprooting our morality and by discarding all that is sacred and transcendent, we have lost all direction. This is where Nihilism comes from: the dissolution of morals.
Our material wealth has not done us any better. “There exists, therefore, no correlation, except possible a negative one, between the meaning of life and conditions of economic well-being.” We have been told more than a few times that if people were just more comfortable, if they just didn’t have to struggle so much in life, that they would direct their attention towards fulfilling their higher, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional needs. Instead, we are trapped in an endless cycle of scrolling social media, watching porn, consuming products, and, for some, drugs and sexual promiscuity. “‘We have invented happiness, say the last men with a wink,’ having ‘abandoned the lands where life is hard.'” Theodore Kaczynski touches even more profoundly on this issue in Industrial Society and Its Future.
Now, there is a ton more I would love to talk about, but I cannot do that here. Instead, I will have to treat Evola more thoroughly in another essay. But I do want to end with what he says about the “Aristocrats of the Soul,” those who are of the World of Tradition. He says that these people must “act without regard to the fruits, without being affected by the chances of success or failure, victory or defeat, winning or losing, any more than by pleasure or pain, or by the approval or disapproval of others. This form has also been called ‘action without desire’…One can also speak here of ‘doing what needs to be done’ impersonally.” He also says, “this man will possess a vision of reality stripped of the human and moral element, free from the projections of subjectivity and from conceptual, finalistic, and theistic superstructures.”
And one final thing about this type, “He can then consider a particular ‘contemplation of death’ as a positive factor, as a challenge, and as a measure of his inner strength. He can also follow the well-known ancient maxim of considering every day as the last of his individual existence: at the prospect, not only should he maintain his calm, but he should not even change anything in his thinking or acting. Here an example could be the kamikaze suicide pilots who had vowed to die; the prospect of being called at any moment to execute a mission with no return did not exclude them from ordinary occupations, training, and recreation, and was not at all weighed down by a dismal sense of tragedy, even when lasting for months.”
I hope to give Ride the Tiger a more complete treatment in a full essay.
Sun and Steel by Yukio Mishima
This book has left a great impression on me. First, I just want to praise Mishima’s prose. It is beautiful, artistic, and unique. This book is not merely a confession, as he says, or a manifesto. This is a piece of art. It is an aesthetic work, a painting in words. This book is as much about being beautiful in and of itself as it is about elucidating a worldview. His use of imagery allows the reader to picture scenes with total clarity. The last chapter about his flight on the F-104 is a great example of this. Just read this small excerpt:
“I was one with the F104 that I had seen before in the sky; I had transformed my being into this thing that I had seen before my eyes. To men on earth, who until a moment ago had numbered me amongst them, I had become a receding existence; I dwelt at a point that was now no more than a fleeting memory for them.
Nothing could be more natural than to imagine that the notion of glory derived from the sun’s rays that poured so mercilessly through the glass bubble of the cockpit, from this utterly naked light. Glory was surely a name given to just such a light—inorganic, superhuman, naked, full of perilous cosmic rays.
Thirty thousand feet; thirty-five thousand feet.
A sea of clouds spread out far below, devoid of any conspicuous irregularities, like a garden of pure white moss. The F104 headed far out to sea to avoid sending shock waves to earth, racing south as it approached the speed of sound.”
Like I said, Mishima’s prose is just beautiful, and it left a lasting impression on me.
As for the actual ideas and values he presents, I have found myself now relating to them in many ways. When he speaks of the masculine will to join the suicide squad, or the appeal of the military and of combat, I cannot help but agree. I have felt this my whole life. I have dreams of fighting and of glorious death, in a very real sense. When he speaks of his experience under the sun and how he feels when he works out, I can relate. The serenity and pure existence of being tired and momentarily having no thoughts, just taking in the beauty of nature and of pure physical existence, is a rare but impactful experience. Like Mishima, I was once a bookish and shy child, prone to sit at a desk and let my nerves run amok. But now, just as Mishima did, I see how society has made masculinity and glory obsolete, how it praises ugliness and derides bravery and honor. I see how society has made muscle impractical and obsolete. Nevertheless, I work out and I increase in strength, for strength’s sake, and as a sort of revolt against modernity. In fact, it is this book which really pushed me to begin lifting weights and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Here are some of my favorite quotes:
“The cynicism that regards all hero worship as comical is always shadowed by a sense of physical inferiority. Invariably, it is the man who believes himself to be physically lacking in heroic attributes who speaks mockingly of the hero…”
“The goal of my life was to acquire all the various attributes of the warrior.”
“The principle of the sword, it seemed, lay in its allying death not with pessimism and impotence but with an abounding energy, the flower of physical perfection, and the will to fight.”
“Only through the group, I realized—through sharing the suffering of the group—could the body reach that height of existence that the individual alone could never attain.”
“The groups of muscles that have become virtually unnecessary in modern life, though still a vital element of a man’s body, are obviously pointless from a practical point of view, and bulging muscles are as unnecessary as a classical education is to the majority of practical men. Muscles have gradually become something akin to classical Greek. To revive the dead language, the discipline of the steel was required; to change the silence of death into the eloquence of life, the aid of steel was essential.”Yukio Mishima, Sun and Steel
This book is an aesthetic experience. I cannot recommend it enough, though I only recommend it to other like-minded men (it is, frankly, a book that is not meant to be read by women and they will find little to relate to in it). If you would like to learn more about it, I highly recommend this video from the YouTube channel. I also must recommend that you watch this interview of Mishima in which he expounds many of the same ideas found in Sun and Steel.
The Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger
I have already written a detailed review of this book here.
No Apologies: Why Civilization Depends on the Strength of Men, Anthony Esolen
This book took me by surprise. I was browsing Amazon one day and came across this book in my recommended items. I looked at it, and it had an alluring thesis. It was affordable enough for me to take a chance on it, so I ordered it. When I got around to reading it, maybe a week or two later, I was immediately impressed. Esolen’s argument is simple: The world needs men. It needs strong men. It needs men of courage and virtue. The opening pages pull no punches. “Look around you. Every road you see was laid by men. Every house, church, every school, every factory, every public building was raised by the hands of men. You eat with a stainless-steel fork; the iron was mined and the carbon was quarried by men. You type a message on your computer; the plastic it is made of came from petroleum dredged out of the earth, often out of earth beneath hundreds of feet of sea water, by men…The whole of your civilization rests upon the shoulders of men who have done work that most people will not do—and that the physically weaker sex could not have done.”
This is raw, and it is powerful. Again, I quote Esolen, “Men fight, or their people die. And men grow strong by resistance.” He also says, “Men and women are made for one another. I believe it, because it is in front of my nose, and I will not let any ideology compel me to pretend that I do not see what is right there to see. But if that is so, then we cannot corrupt one sex without corrupting the other. Male and female stand and fall together. If men fall into a bad way, women will be soon to follow, and vice versa.”
Esolen draws on a multitude of sources to illustrate his points; everything from the Scriptures to Paradise Lost to Dante to Greek poetry. He talks about the place of men in society, in the family, and in religion. He encourages men to lead, to be strong, to be a good example, to build friendships and bonds, to steer society and the family towards God and virtue, and to love what is Good and Beautiful. He does not shy away from the masculine attributes of physicality, political ambition, orderliness, courage, bravery, and conquest. Instead, he urges men to be themselves, to be men and to not apologize for this. He rejects the feminist attacks on men and the idea that men must simply become more like women. He also attacks the idea of women being more like men. In no way does he disparage women, and he says many wonderful things about what is best about women and what virtues they hold that men often do not. But he, unlike many in our culture now, believes in the idea of manhood. True manhood. Traditional manhood. He argues that the only way society can function, the only way families thrive, the only way the Church achieve its calling, is for men to take initiative and use their powers, virtues, and abilities to work for the Good of all.
I was very much encouraged by this book, and it has shaped my understanding of what it means to be a man myself. Could not recommend it enough.
The Concept of the Political by Carl Schmitt
I have already written a detailed essay on this book here.
Thank you for reading this article. I hope that if you have not already read these books, you will consider them for your lineup this year. I can assure you that these are all highly interesting books which offer valuable insights on a variety of topics.
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