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Niche nook

2012 Books Issue | We asked our reviewers to recommend the best business, humor, sports, economics and self-published niche books of 2011-2012

Issue: "2012 Books Issue," July 14, 2012

David Bahnsen, a senior vice president at a leading financial firm, described five excellent business books published during the past year:

• Attacks on Mitt Romney's time at private equity firm Bain Capital are political, of course, but they also illuminate a key debate: wealth creation vs. job creation. Some theorize that the pursuit of wealth by a few does not create jobs-but in practice, as Robert Sirico shows in Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, job creation is a byproduct of the profit motive. Although Sirico did not set out in this book to spotlight 2012 politics or Bain Capital, he has produced a much-needed 200-page apologetic for free market morality.

• In 2001 top economist Jim O'Neill gave us a new acronym, BRIC, to describe the bloc of countries he saw as having extraordinary (and "emerging") economic growth potential in the decade ahead. O'Neill was right about Brazil, Russia, India, and China, and his only flaw was in understating how dramatic their growth would be. His newest book, The Growth Map: Economic Opportunity in the BRICs and Beyond, reviews the state of these growth economies and what lies ahead. He also examines the futures of countries such as Indonesia, South Korea, and Mexico, and masterfully spotlights the positive effects that capitalism and globalization are having all over the world.

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• Many evangelicals are writing and reading about character in the corner office, integrity in the marketplace, and leadership in the boardroom-so it's ironic that one of the best new books out is The Pope & the CEO: John Paul II's Leadership Lessons to a Young Swiss Guard, Andreas Widmer's delightful summary of all he learned from the late Pope John Paul II. Widmer, who was a Swiss army guard before becoming a successful entrepreneur, shares key principles that any student of faith and business must not ignore.

• Ever since he produced Liar's Poker, one of the truly iconic (and entertaining) books ever written on life inside Wall Street, Michael Lewis has given us wonderfully written books that throw new light on undervalued resources and overhyped ones. Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World unpacks the debacle that has become the Eurozone in a way that is clever, informative, and most of all, frightening. But readers will not feel so good about the challenges those leftist Europeans face when they come face to face with the situation in California and Washington, D.C.

• As a student of the great financial crisis of 2008, I was nervous to read what a New York Times contributor might have to say about the subject. Plenty of books already exist that teach the narrative of capitalism's failure and the need for greater government intervention to keep it from happening again. Much to my surprise, Gretchen Morgenson's Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon not only avoids the typical leftist storyline, but refutes it altogether: She indicts rank cronyism as the chief culprit, and the government-sponsored enterprises of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as the greatest examples.

Humorist Albin Sadar, declaring that "Christian humor" is not an oxymoron, offered as evidence a novel about a stand-up comedian, a book of funny observations, and a cartoon collection:

• In the novel category, Michael Snyder's A Stand-Up Guy is a semi-sweet romance wrapped in a milky mystery topped by a load of nutty characters. The title character, mediocre comedian Miles Oliver, can't stop saying "I'm sorry" while pursuing the quirky, kleptomaniacal accountant, Matilda. A Stand-Up Guy is light reading that's edgy without going way over the edge. It offers little that's preachy, and poignant moments of forgiveness drive much of the latter third of the book.

• Those who like quick one-liners will enjoy cartoonist Cuyler Black's What's That Funny Look on Your Faith? Think Gary Larson Christianized: Drawings go from corny (a trio of cows singing, "Amazing graze, how sweet the ground") to silly (Adam and Eve checking out a selection of leaves in "The Fall" Clothing Catalog) to clever (a supposed Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse banned from riding because he's on a hobbyhorse).

• The names of sections in Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff include "Using Vacation Bible School as Free Babysitting," "Waiting until a Co-Worker is Away from His Desk to Drop off Some Christian Propaganda," and "Church Names [Warehouse 242 and The Summit] that Sound Like Designer Clothing Stores." Acuff, tongue in cheek, shows how back-at-work conversations about worship services are supposed to lead to evangelism. Question: "What'd you do this weekend?" Answer: "I hung out at Elevation." Follow-up question: "Is that a new club?" Recommended response: "No, it's a church"-followed by a slide into a full gospel presentation.

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