Content: This first volume of Bill Bennett's two-piece history of America (the second is due out next year) offers memorable anecdotes within a highly readable narrative that moves from Columbus to the beginning of World War I.
Gist: Bennett, fighting cynical views of American history, recreates the tone of some pre-1960s high-school texts but includes paragraphs showing minority perspectives that older books often ignored. He minimizes personal and national dark sides, but students will have plenty of time later on to learn about that.
Content: King Philip's War (1675-1676) has often been merely a footnote to the story of the Pilgrims. Philbrick's compelling narrative tells Plymouth Plantation's 60-year history, culminating in the war, in a way that respects both English and native perspectives.
Gist: Philbrick's great storytelling makes historical characters come to life. He explores shifting relations between Pilgrims and Indians: For a half-century the two cultures lived mostly in peace, but then there came a generation that knew not the lessons of the previous generation.
Content: Liberalism is a religion, with sacraments, a priesthood, and dogma that must not be challenged.
Gist: Ann Coulter isn't in the persuasion business. She's out to destroy with words her ideological enemies, and even friends cringe at her often cruel verbal excesses, such as her critique of four 9/11 widows who have become propagandists: "I have never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much." She criticizes liberals for denying "that we are moral beings in God's image," but then she dehumanizes her opponents.
Content: People believe lots of nutty stuff, and John Stossel has made a career out of proving wrong the conventional wisdom about government, business, the press, science, parenting, and more.
Gist: Stossel's opinionated writing makes this book fun to read-though there's plenty to disagree with, especially in the parenting chapter. He's right to start with a chapter on media, since many of the myths owe their spread to reporters who don't know much about science and are so eager to bag a sensational headline that they abandon skepticism.
Ann Coulter is a talented and gutsy conservative polemicist: She's proven that she can incite controversy and sell books, and maybe savage ripostes are the inevitable response to liberal media tendencies to downplay conservative ideas and ignore thoughtful Christian viewpoints.
But as a Christian, Coulter could learn from John Robinson, pastor to the Pilgrims, who was saddened when he heard that Miles Standish had attacked and killed some Indians. Mayflower quotes Robinson's letter to Gov. Bradford: "You say they deserved it. I grant it, but . . . it is . . . a thing more glorious in men's eyes, than pleasing in God's or convenient for Christians, to be a terror to poor barbarous people."