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Notable Books

Books | Four recent nonfiction books

Issue: "2014 Books Issue," June 28, 2014

Homer Economicus: The Simpsons and Economics 

By Edited by Joshua Hall

Some economics professors use The Simpsons to explain basic microeconomic principles to their classes. In this volume they contribute essays about money, market failure, externalities, and other concepts using examples drawn from the animated TV show. For example, an episode in which Homer gains weight so he can be classified as disabled (and thus be allowed to work from home) can help students understand the role of incentives and opportunity costs, the relation of means and ends, and how governmental policies affect individual behavior. When the Simpsons get an elephant and sell rides for $2, Homer rejoices at $58 earned until he discovers that food costs $300. He raises the cost of a ride to $500, and his revenues fall to zero. 

Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full 

By Gloria Furman

This slender book brings the fullness of the gospel to bear on different facets of motherhood. Furman diagnoses one mother’s problem—“not a lack of creativity, accomplishment, or skill, but her inability to love God and others as Jesus loves her”—and shows that the remedy is not more practical parenting tips. In the chapter “Mommy Brain,” she writes about forgetfulness: “When the mundane looms larger than eternal life, we forget who God is, who we are, and who our children are.” In “The Fictitious Mother of the Year,” she lists ways mothers fail to live up to God’s holiness, and then points out “how firm our foundation of justification by faith really is.” She helps moms see their calling as “a piece of evidence of God’s triumphant agenda to give life despite the curse of death.”

The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition

By C.S. Lewis

With the permission of Douglas Gresham, dramatist Paul McCusker took on the job of annotating Screwtape. He makes clear in the introduction that he wants to provide helpful context, clarification, and definitions rather than an interpretation of the famous correspondence between a senior devil and his novitiate. Each page of the large format book has two columns of text, with Screwtape in black in a large font and the annotations in red. Some notes refer to passages in Mere Christianity or other Lewis writings on the same topic, and others explain unfamiliar phrases or identify historical and literary figures and works.

Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times 

By Jennifer Worth

Jennifer Worth was a midwife in post–World War II London who worked in an East End neighborhood with an order of Anglican nuns that had provided medical care in the neighborhood for nearly a century. In this memoir, she recounts the history of the neighborhood and the habits of those who made their living on the docks. Her stories, both heartwarming and grim, depict a tight-knit, insular community struggling to survive. It’s hard to imagine that level of poverty in London just 60 years ago. Both the nuns and lay midwives were motivated by their Christian faith. At first Worth doesn’t understand that faith, but she eventually comes to share it.

Spotlight

The BBC turned Jennifer Worth’s three-volume memoir, which began with Call the Midwife, into a television series going into its fourth season. Like the books, the BBC’s Call the Midwife portrays a busy East End London neighborhood in the years just after World War II. Mothers wearing red lipstick, cinched-waist dresses, and heels push prams down narrow alleys with laundry hanging overhead. Rubble and occasional unexploded bombs remind viewers of the recent war. Meanwhile, the nuns of St. Raymond Nonnatus House go about their work, making house calls on bicycles and delivering babies (the birth scenes are realistic). 

Although at first Worth is shocked by conditions, once she overcomes that initial revulsion she finds herself curious about her neighbors. The memoirs are full of their stories told with vivid detail. She meets one patient who spent years in a workhouse, where she watched all her children die. Another woman resorted to abortion when bureaucrats refused to relocate her family of six from a condemned building. She learns to admire the nuns and finds herself drawn to their faith—an aspect the TV show minimizes. —S.O.

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.

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