I’m posting my “books read” list every six months these days.
Blackston, Ray. Last Mango in Texas. A harmless beach read. Blackston’s trademark florid style is less pronounced here, which is a big improvement. He does have a gift for dialogue and goofy humor. But all his characters are so danged earnest and his villains are caricatures (this time a radical environmentalist) it’s hard to take them seriously.
Driscoll, Mark. Confessions of a Reformission Rev. You can skip this one if you’re not planting a church of your own for some reason. With the title I was expecting something like St. Augustine’s Confessions, but this book was very little of the sort.
Frum, David. Comeback. If you’re a Republican, this book is decent, but not great. I like how he gets (like Douthat and Salam in Grand New Party) that the growing wealth divide in this country is a real issue, and not just “class warfare.” As if we needed a recession to tell us, middle class life is increasingly unstable, with high levels of consumer debt and growing health care expenses taking a bite out of people’s pocketbooks. Frum recognizes that some government action in health care is needed, as well as in education and the environment. The environmental chapter in particular is a worthwhile alternative to the subsidy-love that Washington typically displays. On the other hand, the chapter on supporting marriage and big families was just odd. It was funny reading about a “conservative” manipulating family life like that. Comeback tries to be a Republican new deal aimed at winning back suburbanites and the upper middle class. But Frum’s proposals are less radical than GNP‘s working class agenda–and therefore less compelling. I still wonder why no Republicans even consider re-thinking the “war on terror” concept, Iraq, and the expansion of executive power that follows. That seems to be the only place where Republicans are afraid to challenge orthodoxy, yet probably where they need it most (see the Niebuhr book below). Even longer review here.
Hybels, Bill. Too Busy Not to Pray. Fairly simple book (with short chapters) on why prayer habits are important in one’s life.
Kunstler, James Howard. The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the 21st Century. Kunstler is a prophet about Peak Oil, Peak Water, and many other kinds of environmental issues facing us in the 21st century. He blames most of our troubles on the development of suburbia and its concomitant “Happy Motoring” lifestyle, calling it “the greatest misallocation of resources” the world has ever seen. His solutions call for localism and scaling-down human activities—small towns, local farms, local businesses, communities traversable by foot and/or mass transit—and have a certain nostalgic appeal. This pugnacious book was a fun read.
Livingston, Gordon. Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now. Thirty nuggets of wisdom accompanied by short essays. A quick, inspirational read.
Livingston, Gordon. And Never Stop Dancing. Ditto.
Niebuhr, Reinhold. The Irony of American History. Thoughtful book on the need for humility in foreign relations and the ironies of the exercise of power. Convincing and Christian takedown of American exceptionalism and the problems it can raise. Niebuhr teaches that we are all historical actors as well as acted upon by history. We do not know as much as we think we do and hubris is our greatest foe. Though written during the Cold War, Niebuhr’s words were prophetic of the past 8 years, as historian Andrew J. Bacevich points out in the introduction. If Niebuhr really is Barack Obama’s favorite philosopher, we’re in good hands.
Turtledove, Harry. How Few Remain. Alternate history novel about how the U.S. would have been different if the South won the Civil War. Part of a series.