1. 1776 | by David Mc Cullough
Gist The bold political promises made in the Declaration were given meaning by the success of a military campaign that was "little short of a miracle."
Content Mr. McCullough writes history the way it ought to be written, with graceful prose, a dramatic narrative thread, and a focus on individuals. He portrays George Washington as a dignified leader who, despite lapses in battlefield judgment, inspired his troops and held the unlikely enterprise together. Mr. McCullough emphasizes the way that "circumstances-fate, luck, Providence, the hand of God, as would be said so often-intervened," and he doesn't go beyond the provable facts to say which of those factors was crucial.
2. 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America | by Bernard Goldgerg
Gist An easy-reading, tit-for-tat, and sometimes tasteless response to the Michael Moore/Al Franken genre of leftist personal attacks.
Content Conservative journalist Goldberg doesn't pretend to offer anything other than his idiosyncratic choices, but the selections and short profiles are sometimes amusing. Michael Moore is #1, Ted Kennedy #3, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is #8, and philosopher Peter Singer #39. Some who are right-of-center also make the list: Roy Moore is #21 and Michael Savage #61. Abortionist Martin Haskell is #26 and abortionist-killer James Kopp #25.
3. Coach | by Michael Lewis
Gist This small book is an ode to Mr. Lewis' high-school coach, Billy Fitzgerald, and a meditation on whether Americans still have what it takes to compete.
Content Coach Fitz, 6 feet 4 inches and 220 pounds, hollered at his players, punished them for skipping practice, and pushed them to the brink of collapse, but also told them they could beat the world-and sometimes they did. His demands knocked the laziness out of Mr. Lewis, who became a zealot for practice-"and it didn't take long to figure out how much better my life could be if I applied this new zeal acquired on a baseball field to the rest of it."
4. China Inc. | by Ted C. Fishman
Gist Journalist Fishman pleads for Americans to take China seriously: "We need to know what is happening today in China . . . and why it will affect everyone."
Content Mr. Fishman describes modern China's rapid growth, its desire to "get to the top of every measure," its "fluid view of agreements," and asks whether the United States can compete. He wonders whether corporations are right to bet on China's basic stability, or whether internal problems will undermine economic progress. He captures the dynamism of China's development without ignoring the dark underbelly, but he ignores the growth of Christianity and its potential effect on the culture.
In the spotlight
The Fate of Africa | by Martin Meredith
If you want to understand the problems of Africa, read Martin Meredith's The Fate of Africa (Public Affairs, 2005), a sweeping narrative of the 50 years following independence. Mr. Meredith is a gifted journalist, able to tell a continent-wide story of dashed hopes, wealth squandered, and people oppressed by greedy, "vampire-like" politicians.
Mr. Meredith moves from country to country, showing how movements like independence were contagious. Bad ideas like socialism also caught on. Now AIDS threatens sub-Saharan Africa, where countries making up 10 percent of the world's population have 70 percent of the HIV/AIDS cases.
Is there any hope? You'll have to pick up Darrow Miller's Against All Hope: Hope for Africa (Disciple Nations Alliance, 2005), to find it. Without ignoring the real problems that confront the continent, Mr. Miller shows that transformation is occurring, and its engine is the gospel of Jesus Christ.