The most amusing but serious politics book I've read recently is Yale computer science professor David Gelernter's America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture and Ushered in the Obamacrats (Encounter, 2012). He sprinkles wry observations throughout, starting with an explanation that intellectuals often rebel because they see folks of ordinary intelligence as rabble: "Any society that does not give its intellectuals money, does not give them prestige, but does give them cultural influence, is grossly foolish."
Gelernter is a thinker like those he describes who "get down and play in the sand": Gelernter wants to "feel the grit beneath his fingernails, smell the dust … know all about real people and places and things and goings-on." But he writes that the left and its leading representative, Barack Obama, substitute "for the intractable bloody mess called reality a seamless, silky tapestry of pure ideas." He calls "left-liberalism" a new religion, PORGIs-post-religious, global intellectuals-its priests, and Barack Obama "important not because he is exceptional but because he is typical. ... He represents the post-cultural-religion PORGI elite."
When presidential elections loom, heated books bloom. Our WORLD slogan has been "Sensational facts, understated prose," but writers find it hard to be reserved when discussing the most radical administration in U.S. history. For example, David Limbaugh's The Great Destroyer (Regnery, 2012) is unrelenting in its criticism of an Obama administration that has brought us "The War on Our Culture and Values," "The War on the Economy," "The War on Oil," "The War on Business," and eight more wars.
Similarly, Jose Rodriguez's Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Action After 9/11 Saved American Lives (Simon & Schuster, 2012) takes no prisoners in its defense of the techniques the Bush administration used in its war on terror: He criticizes an Obama administration "afraid to use successful, legal, and safe techniques."
Amy Black's Honoring God in Red or Blue (Moody, 2012) is a good introductory civics primer for those not looking for specifics about this year's campaign. For those who want to go issue by issue, Wayne Grudem's two Voting as a Christian books (Zondervan, 2012) are worthwhile: One is on social issues, one is on economic and foreign policy issues, and both are paperback takeouts from Grudem's large book from 2010, Politics - According to the Bible.
I haven't reviewed my own books in WORLD, but what about a book by the president of the Acton Institute, a think tank with which I've been loosely associated for 13 years? Compromise: I'll say tersely that Robert Sirico's Defending the Free Market (Regnery, 2012) is a highly readable look at the morality of capitalism.
Aili and Andres McConnon's Road to Valor (Crown, 2012) shows how Italy in 1948 almost descended into a Communist-generated civil war-until cyclist Gino Bartali's victory in the Tour de France temporarily focused Italian minds on achievement against odds.
More U.S. Civil War books have emerged as America goes deep into the 150th anniversary of our tragic war that at least ended another tragedy, slavery. Allen Guelzo's Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War & Reconstruction (Oxford U. Press, 2012) is a thoughtful and fluidly written history of the war and Reconstruction, and Walter Stahr'sSeward (Simon & Schuster, 2012) takes Lincoln's secretary of state (and "indispensable man") out of the Alaskan icebox into which he's often placed and forgotten.
John and Charles Lockwood's The Siege of Washington (Oxford, 2012) vibrantly brings to life the first weeks of the war. Jack Hurst's Born to Battle (Basic, 2012) brings two lives into focus: Ulysses S. Grant and Nathan Bedford Forrest, both from impoverished backgrounds, demanded that others surrender to them unconditionally. One big difference is that the Union made great use of Grant but class elitism held back Forrest's advance.