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Notable books

Notable Books | Four noteworthy nonfiction hardbacks

REBEL IN CHIEF

CONTENT According to this portrait, President Bush isn't a dolt in the White House as portrayed by his critics, but a prime shaper of policy that reflects a willingness to buck conventional thinking.

GIST Veteran journalist Barnes portrays Mr. Bush as a bold politician whose outside-the-beltway perspective and willingness to spend political capital have allowed him to bring new insight to previously intractable problems. He cites the president's refusal to negotiate with Yasser Arafat as an example and, through interviews with Mr. Bush and top aides, explores the president's faith and its impact on policy.

IMPERIAL GRUNTS

CONTENT Veteran travel writer Kaplan visits Colombia, the Philippines, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa to study how U.S. Special Forces promote democratic values and protect American interests.

GIST Mr. Kaplan clearly admires the grunts, those boots-on-the-ground soldiers he profiles. He praises them as cultural quick studies and ad hoc policymakers, and shows how they are comfortable with American power, impatient with politicians who haven't gotten over Vietnam, accepting of death, and often motivated by Christian faith.

OUR SCHOOL

CONTENT When one ninth-grader misread the phrase "ride the carousel" as "ride the carrot salad," Downtown College Prep's unofficial school motto was born. Long-time education reporter and blogger Joanne Jacobs chronicles the birth and first years in the life of a charter school in San Jose.

GIST Ms. Jacobs' eye for detail helps her capture the passion and energy of the school's two founders, their commitment to a particular mission (preparing failing Hispanic students for college), the huge scope of the job, and their willingness to rethink policies and curricula that don't further the mission.

SIZE MATTERS

CONTENT Veteran writer Miller attacks the growth of big government and shows how, as the subtitle puts it, "Big Government Puts the Squeeze on America's Families, Finances, and Freedom."

GIST Many social conservatives make peace with big government when it seems to support their goals. Mr. Miller's lively advocacy of small government shows, with lots of historical and current examples, how regulations "have little to do with securing general happiness but instead are designed to secure the particular happiness of various advocacy groups, politicians, and bureaucrats."

In the spotlight

Five Paths to the Love of Your Life, edited by Alex Chediak (Think, 2005), provocatively explores issues of dating and courtship. The book allows five advocates-Lauren Winner, Douglas Wilson, Rick Holland, Jonathan Kindvall, and Jeramy and Jerusha Clark-to promote paths they think best represent biblical thinking. The clear essays should encourage profitable discussion among Christian parents and singles wrestling with how best to find love and marriage. The writers move from theory to specifics as they comment on three scenarios involving people of different ages and circumstances.

Getting Serious About Getting Married by Debbie Maken (Crossway, 2006) is sure to inspire heated discussions about singleness and marriage. As a former litigator, Ms. Maken knows how to marshal her evidence: She convincingly argues that the Bible expects men and women to marry, that the postponing of marriage and the expectation of long periods of singleness is a recent invention, that church teaching contributes to ambivalence by confusing singleness with celibacy, and that we need to regain a biblical view of marriage.

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