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Notable Books

Notable Books | Four books about God's work in the world

Issue: "Steve Jobs 1955-2011," Oct. 22, 2011

God Is Red

Chinese writer and activist Liao Yiwu has served jail time for his work documenting life on the fringe of Chinese society. In God is Red, he describes his travels deep inside China to interview Christian survivors of the Cultural Revolution. Although he is not a believer, he says these trips "have exhilarated me, lifting me out of my drunken depression. The stories of heroic Christians ... have inspired me." He lets his subjects tell their own stories in heartbreaking detail. Many of them speak of the foreign missionaries who introduced the gospel to their villages. Introductory essays provide evocative descriptions of remote towns and villages. Liao Yiwu provides important insights into China's recent past and shows the connections between that past and the remarkable growth of the church today.

From the Garden to the City

This excellent short book is an introduction to media ecology, an area of study that looks at how technology works in cultures and changes cultures as it changes us. Since all of us use technology and live in a world shaped by it, it is important that we become more discerning about it. Dyer brings a solidly Christian perspective to the topic, arguing that technology is neither neutral nor evil, and that Christians need to ground their analysis of it in the Bible and its story of redemption. The book is lively and accessible to techies and non-techies alike. It offers help in answering a crucial question: "How then should the Christian live in a technological age?"

A Heart for Freedom

Chai Ling was one of the student leaders at Tiananmen Square. After the government's brutal crackdown, she went into hiding and eventually made her way to the United States. In this memoir, she explains how the daughter of two military doctors from a rural village in China came to be a student in Beijing and involved in the democracy movement. It also explains how she went to Princeton, earned an MBA from Harvard, and built a successful company. Happily married with three children, she seemed to put her Chinese life behind her. But God had other plans. The memoir explains how she became a Christian and concerned with fighting for the victims of China's one-child policy.

Out of the Far Corners

Peter Iliyn grew up hearing his father, Vanya, tell stories of escape at the age of 4 from Soviet Kazakhstan, and of his life as an orphan in China. Those stories shaped Iliyn's life. He writes in the afterword that he grew up thinking, "l like God because he took care of my daddy." In this book he tells those stories using Vanya's words, which convey the certainty that miracles happen, and the bewilderment experienced by a rejected child-why his foster mother hates him and beats him when he can't find the eggs, for instance. The book shows scenes of great injustice, but also shows God's presence and grace in the midst of it.


In The Executive Unbound (Oxford University Press, 2011), law professors Eric A. Posner and Adrian Vermeule show how executive branch power ballooned in the last century as congressional and judicial oversight waned. The Madisonian separation of powers is now a "historical curiosity," they write. But no need for the public to be afraid: Politics and public opinion still constrain presidents. Like doctors who prescribe aspirin for cancer, the authors are right about the unnerving growth of the administrative state but fail to grasp the need for strong medicine. Sinful men unrestrained tend to abuse power.

President Obama campaigned against Bush-era anti-terror strategies, but essays in Confronting Terror (Encounter Books, 2011) show that he has embraced the same policies. His morning security briefing must be terrifying. This collection of essays, edited by Dean Reuter and John Yoo, provides a helpful overview of the issues, written by contributors such as John Ashcroft on the right, and ex-ACLU president Nadine Strossen on the left.-Les Sillars

Listen to Susan Olasky discuss these books on WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It.

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.


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