Content: Familiar O'Reilly Factor rants against anti-Christmas grinches and other "secular progressives" who clearly deserve criticism.
Gist: O'Reilly does not want "to sit in the church pew and listen to the priest explain St. Paul's letters to the Corinthians for the 876th time." He wants to know how "Paul, a Roman warrior and pagan activist before conversion, would see today's culture." O'Reilly's bio of Paul is inaccurate, but if he studied Corinthians he might understand more of God's holiness, man's sin, Christ's grace, and the centrality of love.
Content: Muslims are confident enough to have big families. Europe is soft and dying through childlessness. America, the world's last best hope, needs to emphasize self-reliance at home and liberty in the Muslim world.
Gist: Steyn makes some of the same points O'Reilly does but uses a rapier rather than a battleax. Steyn's acerbic wit makes for an edifying and sadly amusing read as he shows how countries with young populations and the will to conquer are trouble for anyone who gets in their way.
Plot: A doctor decides to lie to his wife and tell her that their Down syndrome daughter, a twin, died at birth. He watches his wife and the surviving twin, a son, suffer from the walls created by that secret.
Gist: The doctor tells the nurse to take his unwanted baby to an institution, but she chooses instead to raise the girl herself. Although her life is hard, she finds joy. Without being preachy, Edwards makes clear through her characters that meaning isn't found in material prosperity.
Plot: An alcoholic baseball has-been loses everything. Depressed over not being invited to his daughter's wedding, he plans to get drunk and commit suicide. Instead he wrecks his car in his hometown, meets the ghost of his dead mother, and has a chance to spend a day with her.
Gist: Albom is a sometimes hard-edged sportswriter for The Detroit Free Press but an addict to sentimentality in his best-selling fiction. Plots and characters take second place to "the big message," in this case all about mother love and sacrifice being enough to save a man.
Conservatives have to be culturally bilingual. Most live conservative cultural values but do not hide from a culturally liberal world, where most networks, movies, and publishing enterprises operate from left-of-center premises. Liberals don't have the same experience. When they turn on the news or open a bestseller, they see their own beliefs displayed.
In A Red State of Mind: How a Catfish Queen Reject Became a Liberty Belle (Center Street, 2006), evangelical Nancy French humorously mines this red state/blue state divide. She grew up in Paris, Tenn., a small town best known for its catfish festival. When marriage took her away from Tennessee and plopped her in the middle of Manhattan, she began to learn that her Southern drawl signaled bigotry and backwardness to her new neighbors. The book is peppered with funny stories from Ithaca (where she was almost arrested for throwing away recyclable items) and Philadelphia, where she lived during the 2000 elections. Red-staters will enjoy this book, and blue-staters willing to endure a few barbs will find a window into the red-state mind (Caution: language).