Reviews > Books

Picks and pans

Books | A hodgepodge of this year's treadmill books

Issue: "2011 Daniel of the Year," Dec. 17, 2011

As the year comes to an end, some catching-up to do:

Brian Godawa's Noah Primeval (Embedded Pictures, 2011) is a rollicking tale of Noah in rebellion against pre-flood powers. Godawa goes way beyond the Bible but his essential worldview is biblical, and every page screams, Movie! In Day of War (Zondervan, 2011), Cliff Graham is also going for a movie, this time starring King David's mighty men, but he's less successful and the publisher's press release appallingly claims the novel showed David "Suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder."

Michael Horton's For Calvinism and Roger Olson's Against Calvinism, both newly published by Zondervan, show two thoughtful scholars in vigorous and illuminating debate. Horton and Olson show respect for positions opposite their own, and that's a lot better than the response from some Christian academics to those without Ph.D.s who dare to write history or cultural criticism. For example, in The Anointed (Harvard University Press, 2011), Randall Stephens and Karl Giberson are snide about not only the hyped predictions of Hal Lindsey but the reasoned critique of Francis Schaeffer: "not an intellectual heavyweight," they sniff.

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The Patriot's Toolbox (Heartland Institute, 2010) has succinct summaries of good free-market approaches to healthcare, energy and environment, school reform, privatization, business climate, telecommunications, state fiscal policy, and even property and casualty insurance. David Pryce-Jones' Treason of the Heart (Encounter, 2011), with its chapter biographies of unpatriotic British subjects, takes us from the poet Byron to the prosaic bureaucrats who recently ceded big chunks of their country's sovereignty to the European Union. John Fonte's Sovereignty or Submission (Encounter, 2011) is a thoughtful critique of liberal plans to make the United States subject to a world government.

Mary Ann Glendon's The Forum and the Tower (Oxford, 2011) features 12 readable chapter biographies of intellectuals-from Plato and Cicero through Locke, Rousseau, and beyond-who tried to put ideas into practice, often with poor results. Charles Kurzman's The Missing Martyrs (Oxford, 2011) says acts of terror would be more frequent if more Muslims were radical, but he discounts the anti-terrorist actions that decreased the butcher's bill. Kurzman also claims most Muslims don't want Sharia law because they favor democracy-but we're likely to see in 2012 movement toward Sharia brought in by popular vote.

Alex McFarland's 10 Answers for Skeptics (Regal, 2011) will help loosen the tongues of evangelicals responding to a wide variety of questioners: educated, wounded, frightened, proud, tolerant, sensual, syncretistic, and many more. The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011), is a highly marketed and well-reviewed novel that is foul in spots-language and sex-but spot-on in evoking the wounds and pride of 20-somethings growing up (and sometimes down) during the 1980s. Stephen Hines' Titanic: One Newspaper, Seven Days, and the Truth That Shocked the World (Cumberland House, 2011) shows Christian themes in coverage by London's most-read newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, of the nearly century-old sinking.

Write about what you know

By Marvin Olasky

Scott Sabin's Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God's People (Judson, 2010) is good when he writes about what he's seen: "When we began, cutting trees had been illegal in the Dominican Republic for many years. These laws slowed deforestation, but they also removed the incentive to plant trees, because farmers could not benefit from them. ... If farmers are given the right to benefit from the trees and see a return on them, they are more willing to plant and nurture them."

When Sabin writes about what he hasn't seen, he offers standard liberal nostrums. Nevertheless, his observations about giving stuff rather than helping people start businesses are true: "We bring clothes that put local tailors out of business and give away free food that undercuts the local farmers. We construct buildings for people, putting local masons and carpenters out of work and implicitly sending the message that it takes outsiders to get things done."

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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