Review of Another Sort of Learning, by James V. Schall

Over the past three years, including (and in spite of!) the latter half of my studies at Brandeis University, this book lit a flame hot enough to incinerate my rotting agnosticism and send me whirling towards Roman Catholicism in a flurry of ashes. How?

Well, rather than address any specifics inside the book, I merely want to say that during this period at Brandeis I quickly became a bibliophile while working as a book-shelver at the university library. Not only did I resolve to begin collecting my own library, but I also resolved never to purchase softcover books when hardcover–or even fine leather–versions existed for a reasonable price. My records show that I acquired a hardcover copy of Another Sort of Learning on May 29, 2008 for the sum of $10, at the close of my academic year as a Junior.

When the book arrived, it had traits that I could only compare with one other book on my shelves at the time: That Eager Zest: First Discoveries in the Magic World of Books, edited by Frances Walsh. These traits were: cotton case bindings in an unusually playful color, nearly identical type and font settings on fine, odor-free cream paper, and quite wise essays written with childlike wonder and glee. They are among the most readable books I own, and the elegance of their physical structure has everything to do with it–they are so pleasing to hold that they cast nearby softcover books into oblivion.

Though I had hardly read much in either of them, the publishers evidently wanted these particular editions to be lavished with their reader’s attention. With regard to Another Sort of Learning, I am especially glad they did, because without these physical adornments I might not have returned with such “eager zest” to this book which I had at first found impenetrable.

I am not exaggerating when I say that none of the authors recommended or written about in the book were familiar to me. It took me many false starts before I began to comprehend why the likes of E. F. Schumacher, G. K. Chesterton, Josef Pieper, Allan Bloom, Plato, C. S. Lewis, and many others, warranted my utmost attention, and it will take many more just to survey all the gold in this enormous goldmine.

Another Sort of Learning is itself a brilliant guide for the perplexed, and I can only hope this volume finds its way to fellow individuals willing to concede perplexity, because it is a massive dose of truth for those who may not know that they are wrong about the most important things, or, as was in my case, did not yet even know what they were. This is a fountainhead of real philosophy, for the love of wisdom, following the truth where the truth leads, in order to secure the proper convictions for the most pressing questions of mortal and immortal life.

[This was originally published on April 11, 2010 at amazon.com.]

edit: This is too heartwarming not to share: my 2010 review of James V. Schall’s Another Sort of Learning found its way to Schall himself!

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