Category Archives: Non-fiction

Eloquence: Most Powerful When Mixed with Truth

In the Wall Street Journal, Ian Brunskill writes, “Eloquence is a quality as much mistrusted as admired.” He goes on to review Denis Donoghue’s book, On Eloquence. “Mr. Donoghue, as teacher, essayist and author, has often been in the front line of the resulting “culture wars.” “On Eloquence” is his latest broadside. . . . [He believes] the main attribute of eloquence is gratuitousness: its place in the world is to be without place or function, its mode is to be intrinsic. Like beauty, it claims only the privilege of being a grace note in the culture that permits it.”

Alan’s Seven Books

Alan of Thinklings recommends seven books he read last year, including this one from Wendell Berry:

The Unsettling of America. There are certain authors about whom I have to say, “but of course I don’t agree with everything he says.” Wendell Berry is one of those guys. He probably wouldn’t approve of the time I spend commuting in my truck, my fancy phone that keeps me hooked up to the office 24/7, or my fondness for frozen pizzas. By the same token, I think he could stand to read a few books on economics. But he is a good corrective to many of the more/faster/now obsessions of contemporary life.

Great Dinosaur Pop-up Book

Happy New Year (again)! I told you that one of my daughters thought this was the best Christmas ever. Part of that assessment came from the gift of this book, Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs. This is an incredible book. If you can find a display edition somewhere, it’s worth spending ten minutes flipping through it. The primary illustrations leap off the page, and one of the secondary ones wrestles with itself. Of course since we are evolution-deniers, I shed doubt on certain age statements, and I criticized the section on why the dinosaurs died. What else can a father do? Now my girls throw around dinosaur names they can’t pronounce.

Another Christmas book which excites my older two girls is Starfinder, a neat book with a star chart on the cover. We tried to use this last night, while my oldest kept identifying constellations that weren’t there. I want to sit out in the back yard with them one night when the sky is clear. We’ll have to study this book ahead of time.

Coming Soon to a Bookshelf Near You

Buzz Girl has news on a few new books coming out this year. Here are ones I found interesting.

  • The U.S. Poet Laureate has a book of poems coming in April.
  • Buzz Girl writes about Ursula K. Le Guin’s new novel, “Unlike anything Le Guin has done before, this is an imagining of Lavinia, the king’s daughter in Vergil’s Aeneid, with whom Aeneas was destined to found an empire.”
  • She says there will be a marketing splash made by Master of the Delta by Thomas H. Cook, a “literary mystery by a writer’s writer.” I haven’t heard of Cook, but I’m interested in literary mysteries and strong writing.
  • She reports “HarperOne is the new identity for HarperSanFrancisco, publishing books on religion, spirituality and personal growth.” They have a couple books on politics and faith or religion coming soon. First, Jim Wallis thinks he’s gotten something to say in The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post-Religious Right America. I don’t care if the “religious right” label goes the way of the world, but if Wallis thinks the country has rejected conservative faith as exercised in government, he needs to get around more.
  • Second from HarperOne is God in the White House: A History–1960-2004: How Faith Shaped the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush by Randall Balmer. Could be interesting.
  • Bart Ehrman, author of Misquoting Jesus, continues to criticize his Creator and display his twisted faith in secondary sources with a new book, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer. Perhaps this one will inspire several response books too, just as his other one did.

In other news, Andrew Kalvan’s next book is coming this summer. Empire of Lies deals with a man with strong faith and a solid family who came from a violent life which comes back to haunt him. He is thrown into “a murderous conspiracy only he can see and only he can stop—a plot that bizarrely links his private passions to the turmoil of a world at war.”

Unplug

I actually did a little shopping the day after Christmas, in part because one of my girl’s presents came with dead batteries and in part because I hoped to save a little on a things the children will enjoy but don’t fit the personal gift model (replacing the back yard swings). I didn’t save anything–well, maybe a little. I bought a couple early birthday gifts. One of my daughters has a birthday in February, and I briefly thought to ask her if she missed a gift at Christmas, but I didn’t want to encourage her to be discontent, especially after she declared this year to be the best Christmas ever (she got Little Debbie Swiss Rolls from her uncle). How could I ask her to think about how the best Christmas ever could be improved by one more gift? I hope her birthday will be the best ever with the large set of Tinkertoys I got her. And a chocolate cake, naturally.

I also had to go out today to return a gift my sweet, sweet wife gave me and was unable to return herself after she learned she could get it from a friend for less. Now I have to correct a problem caused by the return. The store gave us back about $50 more than we deserve. At least, the traffic wasn’t bad.

I received a toolbox for Christmas, but it wasn’t loaded with books, so I’m disappointed. Bill Reichart talks about just such disappointments and other Christmas hangovers and refers to a 1991 book called, Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season.

Orwell Didn’t Know Everything

Here’s a book you may have overlooked. What Orwell Didn’t Know: Propaganda and the New Face of American Politics, edited by András Szántó. It’s an essay anthology from people who believe the “state of public discourse in our country, especially the language used by politicians and journalists, [is] ‘divorcing itself from reality at an alarming rate.’ [They] ‘were especially concerned about the waning power — or inclination — of the press to bring political rhetoric in line with fact,’ believing that the line between debate and propaganda had become dangerously obscured.” The fact that George Soros funded the book may mean it’s a waste of paper, that is, a collection of thoughts from those who would take the speck out of our eyes will nurturing the log in their own. But on the surface, I agree with their premise. Political discourse and those “debates” they keep pushing at us appear to be pretty lightweight.

Increase Your Food Knowledge (and Vikings)

Sara Dickerman reviews a book for the epicurean in you, The Food Snob’s Dictionary. She writes, “[Q]uite funny throughout, the Food Snob’s handbook doesn’t so much seek to define individual terms . . . as define how such terms can be used to score points against other snobs or food-loving novices.”

Perhaps this book could explain why Snickers appeal to both vikings and pilgrims or how a bite of food can spare the monarachy.

Perhaps they just needed a little Greensleeves.

Military History Reading

Here’s a book you may have missed, The National Guard: An Illustrated History of America’s Citizen Soldiers by Michael Doubler and John Listman. The book notes “The Guard fought at Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill, New Orleans, First Bull Run, San Juan Hill, the Meuse-Argonne, Omaha Beach, Operation Desert Storm, and in many, many other engagements.” We owe them a lot.

On the Michael Doubler’s website, he offers a few other recommendations for history reading. Very interesting.

Why Is He Funny?

Delancey Place quotes Groucho Marx on being a comedian.

My guess is that there aren’t a hundred top-flight professional comedians, male and female, in the whole world. They are a much rarer and far more valuable commodity than all the gold and precious stones in the world. But because we are laughed at, I don’t think people understand how essential we are to their sanity. If it weren’t for the brief respite we give the world with our foolishness, the world would see mass suicide in numbers that compare favorably with the death rate of lemmings.

Girls, Girls, Girls

A review of modern culture and modesty. “If he’s pressuring you for sex, he probably doesn’t love you,” no matter what last nights TV show taught you. I hope that become common wisdom soon.

This book looks like a good one. From the review:

Shalit’s book [Girls Gone Mild] has been attacked by one feminist critic for suggesting that the sex act “should have an everlasting warranty of love attached to it.” To the contrary, writes Nona Willis-Aronowitz in the Nation, all girls should realize that sex “is the ultimate risk, a risk that makes human relationships complicated, intoxicating, and wonderful. It is a risk that women are finally allowed to take without being chastised for it.”

Or, as Shalit herself quotes a feminist lawyer barking: “I am very suspicious of telling girls they need to be morally good—that’s sexism right there!”

That’s right, girl. Tell the next generation to follow their hearts, regardless of what’s in their hearts. And kill the offspring so they won’t get in the way. What is life but today’s comfort?

Tim Keller Writes on “Belief in an Age of Skepticism”

Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer PCA in New York City apologetically announces his new books, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. He wants to avoid the appearance of hype, but now that the news has hit the blogosphere there’s no stopping the hype. It will take on a life of its own, ha, ha. Really, it looks like a good book. He says, “Ever since I got to New York nearly two decades ago I’ve wished I had a volume to give people that not only answered objections to Christianity (what has been called ‘apologetics’) but also positively presented the basics of the gospel in an accessible yet substantial way.” Only Mere Christianity does that, he says, and it doesn’t address some issues pertinent today. So Keller has written the dual purpose book himself, not to replace Mere Christianity, but to add to the modern intellectual debate on God.

Grandfather’s Son: Why Now?

Ever since I read the rumor that Justice Clarence Thomas was going to write a book, which was shortly after starting this blog, I have looked forward to reading it. I knew it would be interesting. Same goes for anything Condoleezza Rice will write. Now, Judge Thomas’ memoir has been released. From what I’ve heard, My Grandfather’s Son describes Thomas’ entire life with more candor than most readers would expect.

Did you see the “60 Minutes” special on Thomas? I didn’t (segments available here), but I hear the same question asked in two different discussions of the book, and you know what they say about non-verbal communication carrying most of the weight in a conversation? Saturday on NPR, a couple women were talking about how angry and bitter the book felt despite its beautiful language. The anchor or host asked the reviewer why Thomas would write this book now? Why can’t we just put all this behind us? Why irritate old wounds? The tone was clearly negative.

Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh asked the same question of Thomas himself. Why did you write this book now? The tone was clearly positive, asking for a stated purpose of the book as opposed to a justification for something distasteful. If I remember correctly, the answer to both questions was about the same, though Thomas added a little which NPR may not have known. He wanted to describe his life and work at the Supreme Court–a high honor, in his view, not his destiny. Many had described his life already and with many lies or errors, so he wanted to give his perspective as an eye-witness.