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Treadmill catch-up

Books | Good and challenging reads published in 2011

Issue: "2012 Cities Issue," March 10, 2012

I like to recommend the good and challenging books publishers send me. I generally don't spend limited space and time on bad ones, but if you think the world loves America, keep in mind Icelandic writer Arnaldur Indridason's Operation Napoleon (Minotaur, 2011). Here's one statement by its heroine: "You [expletive] American [expletive]. ... You are murderers. You have violated every law and standard of decency. You disgust me."

Turning to good books published in 2011: The many that follow are worth far more than a brief mention, but I have neither time nor space now to do more than recommend them.

Paul Marshall and Nina Shea's Silenced: How Apostasy & Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom Worldwide (Oxford) covers the bad news from countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, and then turns to blasphemy restrictions and "hate speech" in non-Muslim countries. It's not an easy read but a deep and important one.

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Michael Milton's Songs in the Night (P&R) shows how to praise God amid the pain of physical challenges, broken relationships, and more. Defending Inerrancy, by Norman Geisler and William Roach (Baker) systematically explains the background of inerrancy debates and takes on critics of inerrancy such as Clark Pinnock, Bart Ehrman, and Brian McLaren.

William Ryan's The Darkening Field (Minotaur) is a superb detective novel set in the Soviet Union in 1937, as the ripples of Stalin's paranoia leave no one safe. Andrey Kurkov's Death and the Penguin and Penguin Lost (both Melville) are masterfully mordant Kafkaesque tragicomedies set in the Ukraine.

Robert Scott's Questions Muslims Ask (IVP) is an easy-to-read resource for Christians who have an opportunity to correct Muslim misunderstandings. He lists and gives good answers to typical questions: What sort of God can be murdered? What sort of God can be born as a baby? Why do you worship three Gods? Hasn't the Bible been corrupted?

The Declining Work and Welfare of People with Disabilities, by Richard V. Burkhauser and Mary C. Daly (AEI) is a model of public policy analysis. The authors show how Social Security programs for the disabled (see WORLD, Dec. 17, 2011) have grown in a way that not only adds to the national deficit but impoverishes people still capable of working and adding to both their skills and their bank accounts.

Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel's More Than Good Intentions (Dutton) is another in the growing number of iconoclastic books regarding international poverty fighting. Karlan and Appel suggest that inexpensive deworming of students at some African schools would do more than many costly projects, that chlorine dispensers can be a big step toward getting more people to drink clean water, that microsaving is better than microlending, and that individual accountability in microlending works better than group meetings.

David C. Rose's The Moral Foundations of Economic Behavior (Oxford) shows that capitalism does not live by capital alone: Without trust, markets die. Robert Wuthnow's Red State Religion (Princeton) goes beneath liberal "What's the matter with Kansas?" questions and explains that Kansas conservatism is based not on abstract ideology but on the trust developed among churchgoers, friends, and neighbors.

Vern McKinley's Financing Failure: A Century of Bailouts (Independent Institute) shows that the bailouts of 2008 were not only bad but part of a long pattern of government interventions that promised economic speed-up and delivered slow-down. Daniel Flynn's Blue Collar Intellectuals (ISI) describes how populists like Milton Friedman, Mortimer Adler, and the Durants (Will and Ariel) intellectually financed 20th-century America.

Nathaniel Deutsch's The Jewish Dark Continent: Life and Death in the Russian Pale of Settlement (Harvard) illuminates the Jewish world of Eastern Europe that persecution and then the Holocaust eradicated. Are Christians the new Jews on most-hated lists? Former Norway Minister of Justice Anne Holt's 1222 (Scribner) displays hatred for Christians (and Americans). One of its back cover blurbs accurately calls Holt "the latest crime writer to reveal how truly dark it gets in Scandinavia."

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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