1. America (The Book) -- Jon Stewart
Content: Jon Stewart and his Comedy Channel team send up education (the book is a parody of a civics textbook), government, the courts, politics, and the media.
Gist: Obnoxious elements-bad language and pictures with the heads of Supreme Court justices stuck on naked bodies-kill this book for all except Daily Show fans and others who relish sophomoric jokes and swipes at American institutions. The humor comes mostly from the left but is not always directed at the right.
2. . . . Not That Into You-Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo
Content: Women tempted to make excuses for guys who don't call and can't commit should understand that the problem is that "he's just not that into you."
Gist: The advice here is better than you'd expect from two writers involved with the TV show Sex and the City: Let men initiate, expect them to commit, don't tolerate unfaithfulness, expect them to be responsible. The book's blind eye to the problems caused by out-of-wedlock sex make it of limited usefulness to Christians.
3. Faithful-Stewart O'Nan and Stephen King
Content: Two novelists offer their diaries and e-mail exchanges about the 2004 Red Sox season.
Gist: On paper this project sounds like a winner. Take two novelists, both passionate Red Sox fans, have them keep track of their team's season, and let that team finally win the World Series. The result, however, is boring and flaccid. Fans should wait for one of the many more thoughtful books sure to be written about the historic 2004 season.
4. Jesus. . . the Pork Chops? -- George Carlin
Content: Third volume of stand-up comic George Carlin's wisdom.
Gist: Carlin's comic sensibility is on a par with the cartoon bumper sticker that shows Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes urinating in public. Carlin's primary target is God, and he also goes after social conventions, especially regarding language, that help human beings get along. Those who think a foul mouth and irreverence is hilarious will enjoy this book.
5. His Excellency-Joseph P. Ellis
Content: A well-written, conventional biography of the leader who was "first in the hearts of his countrymen."
Gist: Mr. Ellis skillfully elucidates Washington's good judgment, persevering leadership, and concern for his own reputation. He thoughtfully narrates the plantation owner's worries about slavery but leaves out his religious concerns and does not explain whether it was social convention or something more that led W to refer to "Providence" so often.
In the spotlight
If you're one of the 62 percent of internet users who don't know what a blog is, you need to read Hugh Hewitt's Blog (Nelson Books, 2005). Recently, blogs have been an immediate source of information about the tsunami in South Asia and a fundraising force for disaster relief. Ask John Kerry or Dan Rather about blogs. Both learned that people with expertise and passion, armed with computers, research, and writing skills, could force a story to the forefront even when the mainstream press tried to shut it down.
Mr. Hewitt, an influential blogger, argues that blogs have changed the way people consume news and information. He sees the internet revolution challenging established authorities just as the printing press allowed Luther and Calvin to challenge a corrupt Catholic Church. Low costs and easy access to technology mean anyone can blog, good guys and bad. It has made it easier for Christians to get their message out, a point that Mr. Hewitt makes. He argues that any industry needs to figure out how to use the new technology's speed and decentralization, and how to respond when the blogosphere turns negative attention on it.