American soldiers near Algiers in April 1944. via

Here’s a small homage to a category G. K. Chesterton and George Orwell popularized: the good bad book—basically, hokey but appealing. I propose classing certain other books as good good. They are both viscerally enjoyable and deeply serious, like an old-fashioned Sunday dinner with a roast and succotash and homemade wild blackberry pie and theological discussion, preliminary to a long, fierce, wily game of kick-the-can.

Alas, there don’t seem to be many books from recent decades that qualify, but I’ve made a few discoveries in recent years. One that my husband, Tom,...


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