Enough hibernation! To the treadmill, where good reading can help us lose more pounds and fewer brain cells.
Let's start with two books that give the big demographic picture, Ben Wattenberg's neoconservative Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future (Ivan Dee, 2004) and Phillip Longman's neoliberal The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to Do About It (Perseus, 2004). Both lucidly show how the once-feared population explosion is giving way to a birth dearth and frightening folks like Mr. Longman who worry that fundamentalists will take over unless secularists start having more children.
If the word "fundamentalist" continues to be used about Muslim extremists as well as Christians, we should at least point out the real locus of danger: The Sword of Islam: A.D. 565 to 740 (Christian History Project, 2004) does just that. It's the fifth in an anticipated 15-volume history series edited by Ted Byfield, and all of the large-format books are graphically lovely. This one, without bowing to political correctness, tells a story largely unknown in the West. The brutality of Islam's expansion stands in sharp contrast to the efforts of early Christians: They suffered martyrdom, while Muhammad and his disciples won by martyring others.
The Sword of Islam can be read alongside Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out, edited by Ibn Warraq (Prometheus, 2003), which includes moving testimonies by brave men and women now threatened with death because they saw the inadequacy of Islam and refused to pretend. Paul Sperry's Infiltration (Thomas Nelson, 2005) raises questions about subversion by radical Islam, and John Rodden's Scenes from an Afterlife (ISI Books, 2003) shows well why George Orwell, who exposed the major 20th-century threat, is still remembered.
With marriage and family under fire, Andreas Kostenberger's God, Marriage and Family (Crossway, 2004) lays out accurately and comprehensively the biblical understanding. Steven Rhoads's Taking Sex Differences Seriously (Encounter, 2004) provides scientific evidence of differences between typical men and typical woman in aggression, dominance, sexuality, and nurturing. Since God "hardwired" those differences into our biology, it's no surprise that (as the apostle Paul knew without having been married) wives must feel loved and husbands must feel respected. Michael Reagan's Twice Adopted (Broadman & Holman, 2004) is an autobiographical page-turner that shows God's redemptive power even when family goes awry.
If we depend on the same-old-same-old liberal media, though, we won't hear the facts of life. Bob Kohn's Journalistic Fraud: How "The New York Times" Distorts the News and Why It Can No Longer Be Trusted (WND Books, 2003) provides point-by-point detail of distortion in loaded labels, polls, and other devices of subtle propaganda. Mona Charen's Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help (Sentinel, 2004) summarizes evidence concerning crime, race relations, poverty fighting, and education. Hugh Hewitt's Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World (Nelson, 2005) tells how blogs are nipping at and sometimes taking bites out of old media grime.
Although press clamor to get rid of the Electoral College has died down now, it will rise again-and when it does, Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College (World Ahead, 2004) is the book to have ready. Tara Ross gives cogent theoretical reasons based in federalism and moderation to preserve the Electoral College, and dismembers the alternatives proposed. The biggest reason these days, sadly, is practical: "The Electoral College minimizes the impact of fraud, isolating it to the one or two states where the vote was close and disputed. Under a direct election, any stolen vote in any location could matter . . . the potential for national challenges and recounts would be greatly increased under a direct election system."
Finally, J.A. Crabtree's The Most Real Being: A Biblical and Philosophical Defense of Divine Determinism (Gutenberg College Press, 2004) is tough but worthwhile. It distinguishes a belief in God's sovereignty from pagan fatalism and thoughtfully deals with major philosophical and ethical arguments (human free will, God as the author of evil). Divine Determinism is not one of those theological tomes that puts many readers to sleep; instead, it can push us to comprehend the awesome extent of God's incomprehensible glory.