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Notable books

Notable Books | Four recent nonfiction books reviewed by Susan Olasky

In Cheap We Trust

Lauren Weber's engaging survey of America's ambivalent relationship to thrift both entertains and provides food for thought. Her broad sweep takes in Benjamin Franklin, Booker T. Washington, world wars, ethnic stereotypes and bigotry, and the Depression. The book has weaknesses: She isn't interested in a biblical view of thrift; John Calvin gets a couple of paragraphs, which she sums up with the H.L. Mencken quip about Puritans fearing that someone somewhere is having fun. Nevertheless, Weber's illustrations from both past and present show how thrift belongs in the service of a larger purpose: honoring God, fighting poverty or war, and for some young people, saving the earth. But thrift for thrift's sake becomes miserliness-and Weber has examples of that as well.

Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly

Sometime in the past five years food became a front in the culture wars: What you ate and where you bought it took on political overtones. Although his emotional sympathies are on the organic, slow food, buy-local end of the spectrum, McWilliams' training as an environmental historian forced him to ask hard questions and caused him to be skeptical of the almost religious claims made by his friends. Looking for a mean between food extremes, McWilliams examines ways to feed a growing world population in a sustainable way. His book is well worth reading for anyone interested in a way forward that takes care of the earth and the people who fill it.

The Snakehead

In 1993 a ship containing 300 illegal immigrants from China wrecked on a sandbar off Brooklyn. The plight of the passengers, their extended stay in a jail in Pennsylvania, and their claims to be fleeing China's forced abortion regime captured the interest of Americans. Keefe has done an extra­ordinary journalistic job by tracing the complicated journeys of the passengers while telling the story of Chinatown criminals who made fortunes as "snakeheads," those who led complex human smuggling operations. Through extensive interviews with federal officials, passengers, and members of the snakehead community, Keefe offers an evocative tale of American dreams and the criminal enterprises that exist to fulfill them.

Biblical Literacy

Professor Beal hopes to make biblical stories and references familiar to those who have never cracked open a Bible. He wants his readers to feel free to plunge into the stories, so he shows where phrases like Jacob's Ladder or "Let My people go" come from-and he provides big chunks of the relevant passages. That's helpful. The book is less helpful for a Christian who wants to go deeper, since Beal doesn't share an orthodox view of the Bible as Scripture-although he does call it "inspiring" and notes how artists and politicians borrow from it. Since he thinks the Bible is at most a collection of stories and poems without an overarching narrative, he's not able to show how the Bible hangs together.

Spotlight

Emerson Eggerichs' Love and Respect recently passed a major milestone: It has now sold more than 1 million copies since its release by Thomas Nelson in 2004, and it continues to top the list of Christian hardback bestsellers. The book, based on seminars of the same name, seeks to restore marriages by exploring the need a wife has for her husband's love and the need-less often written about-that he has for his wife's respect. The first half of the book examines how small disagreements morph into the "Crazy Cycle": "Without love, she reacts without respect. Without respect, he reacts without love-ad nauseam."

That men and women speak in different "codes" contributes to the Crazy Cycle. Eggerichs breaks down these codes and in the second half describes the Energizing Cycle that occurs when husbands and wives begin to communicate unconditional love and respect. Well-chosen anecdotes and teaching drawn from Scripture make this a helpful volume for couples.

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