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Treadmill checklist

Books | Catching up on a range of books, from holiness to history

Issue: "School choice," Aug. 25, 2012

Kevin DeYoung's The Hole in our Holiness (Crossway) is out at the end of this month and worth reading by all of us who recognize how slowly we move toward sanctification. It's important to see that we all sin and deserve death at the hands of God, while recognizing that "the Bible teaches that some sins are worse than others": We should be "especially eager to put to death those sins most offensive to God."

Carl Trueman's Fools Rush in Where Monkeys Fear to Tread (P&R, 2012) has some delightful lines, starting with the title and continuing through his paraphrase of the Lord's Prayer's modest petitions: "Lord, keep me out of trouble and don't let me get in the way of the growth of your kingdom." Trueman prefers that to "the typical 'Lord, use me greatly to do this, that, or other thing I quite fancy doing'-usually prayed, of course, before or after the pious throat-clearing phrase, 'if it be your will.'"

Robert Spencer's Did Muhammad Exist? (ISI, 2012) raises good questions about the origins of Islam and its jihadist principles. Colonel Doner's Christian Jihad (Samizdat, 2012) is a mea culpa by a Christian right agitator of the 1970s and 1980s who, instead of learning from the mistakes he made, is now agitating against the Christian right. Darrow Miller's Emancipating the World: A Christian Response to Radical Islam and Fundamentalist Atheism (YWAM Publishing, 2012) is much better: Miller shows how Christians are fighting a war for both souls within Islam and the soul of America.

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John Stossel's No They Can't (Threshold, 2012) shows us why government generally fails but individuals often succeed. He contrasts throughout what intuition tempts us to believe-for example, that "someone needs to plan, and the central planners know best"-with what reality teaches us: "No one knows enough to plan a society." Edward Conard's Unintended Consequences (Penguin, 2012) provides disaster stories with a similar theme: "The subprime mortgage fiasco demonstrates just how bad politically directed investment decisions can be."

Steven F. Hayward's The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents from Wilson to Obama (Regnery, 2012) is a quick guide to a century of dirty deeds. He gives Woodrow Wilson, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama "Constitutional grades" of F, Calvin Coolidge an A+, and Ronald Reagan an A-. John Guy's Thomas Becket (Random House, 2012) fluidly explains how the 12th century's most famous dirty deed came about.

Three new history books from Oxford University Press examine specific disasters: Nancy Bristow's American Pandemic describes well the mass-murdering 1918 flu epidemic. Sheila Skemp's The Making of a Patriot shows how Benjamin Franklin turned against the lords of London when they humiliated him in 1774. Samuel Zipp's Manhattan Projects (Oxford, 2012) shows how New York City's urban renewal, designed as "benevolent intervention," destroyed neighborhoods and hurt the city.

Heavy book of the month: Population Decline and the Remaking of Great Power Politics, edited by Susan Yoshihara and Douglas Sylva (Potomac, 2012), forecasts further conflict as Japan and Russia age, India becomes the most populous country, and non-native populations gain greater influence in Europe. Light book: J. Stephen Lang's The Big Book of American Trivia: Over 3,000 Questions and Answers, second edition (Tyndale, 2011).

American history for middle-schoolers

By Marvin Olasky

If I were building a middle-school library, I'd start with the 122 Landmark books on American history. Produced by Random House during the 1950s and early 1960s, series authors included good writers such as Jim Kielgaard, Sterling North, and C.S. Forrester. In those days history writing for children wasn't relegated to a committee of "educators."

I still remember my sixth-grade joy as I raced through the first 10: The Voyages of Christopher Columbus, The Landing of the Pilgrims, Pocahontas and Captain John Smith, Paul Revere and the Minute Men, Our Independence and the Constitution, The California Gold Rush, The Pony Express, Lee and Grant at Appomattox, The Building of the First Transcontinental Railroad, and The Wright Brothers.

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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