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Noteworthy books

Notable Books | Notable nonfiction hardbacks reviewed by Susan Olasky

The Death of the Grown-up

Content: America's embrace of adolescence has led to a fatal cultural decline. West's rehashing of cultural lowlights-rap music, teen hook-up parties, coarse humor in high places, Rotary Club beefcake calendars-is thorough but familiar.

Gist: Ironically, by arguing that "Western culture" is an "expression of Western peoples" and that religion isn't necessary for cultural renewal, West falls into a relativism like what she opposes. Do we support Western culture because it's familiar and, at its best, tasteful? Why not support the good parts of it because it reflects biblical understandings?

Power to the People

Content: Lawyer and talk show host Ingraham expresses concern about the increasing "pornification" of the culture, the decline of the family, radical Islam, the power of the federal courts, illegal immigration, and the need for "the people" to take back power from elites, who are loosely defined as those who disagree with her on those issues.

Gist: The book is meant to inspire activism on the part of readers, not convert the unconvinced. Its conversational style and understanding that religious transformation is necessary for cultural renewal set it apart from West's book.

Giving

Content: Clinton's short book is a series of brief anecdotes about charitable giving, arranged by topic -giving money, giving time. He writes about the givers he's known, the places he's been, and the Clinton Foundation.

Gist: The former president may be a curious person, but this book doesn't reflect much reflection or more than surface descriptions of projects and problems. Mostly it's an extended essay on Bill Clinton's world.

Going Gray

Content: As Kreamer, a married mother of two and former Nickelodeon executive, considered whether to continue coloring her own hair, she undertook clever research-on dating sites, in bars, with executive recruiters-to discover the effect of going gray.

Gist: Kreamer admits that questions of dyeing hair do not seem profound, but for women the decision to color or not raises basic questions about mortality, aging, irrelevance, ambition, beauty, sexual attractiveness, and authenticity. In a book group, Going Gray could provoke, in a nonthreatening way, wide-ranging discussions of fundamental issues.

Spotlight

For the title of his 662-page memoir, published by Crown Forum, Robert Novak uses a label pinned on him by his critics: The Prince of Darkness. Maybe he could do that cheerfully because the veteran commentator has often been an angel of light for free-market conservatives.

Novak didn't start that way when he and Rowland Evans launched their dual-reporter column in 1962. They were just reporters. Yet Novak gradually observed that big government wasn't doing much good in America. He grasped the message of conservatives like Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp while liberals missed it.

Novak wonders whether he got too close to some people he covered. A friendly young governor named Bill Clinton once gave a stranded and frantic Novak a plane ride in Michigan. Novak used the time to interview and write about the up-and-coming governor, but he never stayed in anybody's pocket.

One chapter covers his conversion to Roman Catholicism. "Novak is now a Catholic," commented the late Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan, a Catholic who observed Novak's often-abrasive personality. "When will he become a Christian?"

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