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New Books of Note

Mar 27, 2008

Every once in a while I am asked what I am reading, so I usually produce a column such as this. Now for those folks who hate to read, or hate me, or hate what I am reading, you might want to give this article a miss. But if you are keen on reading, do not despise me, and are open to new suggestions, here are some recent titles that I have found to be quite helpful.

These books are mainly penned by non-Christians, and focus primarily on social, cultural and political issues. Presented in no particular order, these dozen titles are well worth getting hold of.

Goldberg, Jonah, Liberal Fascism. Doubleday, 2008.
Fascism is usually regarded as a phenomenon of the Right. But in this carefully researched and documented volume of 500 pages, Goldberg makes the case that it is in fact intellectually and ideologically of the Left. The original fascists were really of the Left. The Nazis for example were of course socialists, as their name implies, and modern leftists of today share a lot of common ground with these earlier fascists. While not sharing all the nasty features of the first fascists, modern progressives and political liberals are nonetheless friendly fascists, who share much the same worldview and ideology. A very important book.

Stove, David, Darwinian Fairytales. Encounter Books, 1995, 2006.
David Stove was a leading Australian philosopher and polemicist who penned this volume just before his death in 1994. He was not religious, and did not necessarily doubt evolution. But he deplored Darwinism and the quasi-religion that grew up around it, and he used his acid wit and tongue to debunk the nonsense that Darwinism produced. He especially took to task the foolishness of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. His assault on Dawkins’ “selfish genes” and other Darwinian shibboleths are both amusing and profound. A top-notch demolition of the Darwinian religion.

Dalrymple, Theodore, In Praise of Prejudice. Encounter Books, 2007.
Dalrymple is one of our more shrewd and incisive social commentators today. Here he argues that prejudice, rightly understood, is an indispensable element of both healthy character and healthy societies. We all need to make moral and social judgments, and the failure to do so does not make us tolerant, but uncivilised. While we should avoid wrong sorts of prejudice (racial bigotry for example), healthy prejudice, as in moral discernment, is a necessity for virtuous living and social progress. An important, albeit brief, volume that is well worth reading.

Scruton, Roger, Culture Counts. Encounter Books, 2007.
Roger Scruton is a leading English philosopher and social analyst. In this short volume he examines cultural decline in the West, and asks how it can be restored. What culture is, why it matters, and how it is under threat, are the themes of this perceptive volume. High culture is defended against the debasing modern trends, and the case for the moral and religious underpinnings of culture is carefully made. An important defence of Western culture, and a critique of cultural vandalism and nihilism.

West, Diana, The Death of the Grown-Up. St. Martin’s Press, 2007.
This book asks the question, Where have all the grown-ups gone? America seems intent on creating a generation of adult adolescents: men and women who refuse to grow up, to become responsible and productive citizens, but who instead seek to perpetually remain teenagers. Modern marketing, cultural relativism, multiculturalism and the youth culture have all combined to entice adults into never leaving childhood. This wide scale case of arrested development, and the mainstreaming of adolescence, spells bad news for the West, making it unable to withstand threats from without, or poisons from within. A sobering and penetrating analysis of the mess the West is in.

Singer, S. Fred and Dennis Avery, Unstoppable Global Warming. Rowman & Littlefield, 2007, 2008.
In this updated and expanded version of the 2007 New York Times best seller, the authors make the case that there exist solar-induced 1,500-year climate cycles. Global warming and cooling is a normal, natural, cyclical and unstoppable feature of planet earth, and human contributions to it are minimal. With a wealth of scientific information, data and evidence, the authors question the anthropic causes of global warming, and argue that the drastic steps being proposed are counterproductive and will harm the poor especially.

Horner, Christopher, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism. Regnery, 2007.
These last six titles are all part of a neat series called The Politically Incorrect Guide To… There are over a dozen titles now in the series, and they keep on coming. This one obviously looks at the hoopla and hysteria surrounding radical environmentalism, green alarmism, and the global warming panic. Filled with facts, figures, charts and graphs, Horner does a good job of bringing a bit of balance and sanity to this whole debate.

Wells, Jonathan, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery, 2006.
There has perhaps been more confusion and misinformation about the topics covered in this book than in most other hot-potato issues. Wells, who has PhDs in both biology and theology, is well placed to deal with all the difficult and controversial features of these debates. He provides helpful chapters on the evidence for evolution (or the lack thereof); the religious worldview of Darwinism; how indoctrination, not real education, is often the way evolution is presented in schools; and how scientists who question evolution are punished and censured. A very helpful volume indeed.

Murphy, Robert, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism. Regnery, 2007.
Capitalism had often gotten a bad press, and it has long been misunderstood. Murphy here clears the ground, and offers some helpful insights into, and information about, the nature of capitalism and the many benefits it offers. Many topics which have attained mythical status are carefully debunked, including the cause of the Great Depression; the so-called robber barons; greed; equality; wages; job creation; and much more. A helpful and accessible guide to economics and what capitalism is all about.

Spencer, Robert, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). Regnery, 2005.
Robert Spencer is a leading expert on Islamism, and the threat it poses to the free West. He has penned a number of excellent books on this subject. In this easy-to-read volume he spends a third of the book discussing the history, beliefs and practices of Islam; another third on the Crusades and the many myths surrounding them; and the final third on jihad and terrorism.

Sieff, Martin, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East. Regnery, 2008.
This is primarily a history of Israel and the Middle East, focusing especially on the past hundred years. In addition to the historical background, Sieff tackles a number of the vexing issues involved: The Israeli-Palestinian crisis; the broader Jewish-Arab conflict; Islamic fundamentalism; September 11; the Iranian threat; and many other key issues. Along the way a number of myths and falsehoods are deftly dealt with.

Lukas, Carrie, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex and Feminism. Regnery, 2006.
Lukas here nicely dismantles many of the myths of modern feminism. She explores a number of topics, including sex and marriage; families and careers; child care; the differences between the sexes; fertility issues; abortion; and other pressing concerns. A welcome antidote to the feminist version of events as portrayed in the mainstream media and elsewhere.

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15 Responses to New Books of Note

  • Hi Bill,
    Where is the best place to source some of these books?
    Teresa Binder

  • Thanks Teresa

    Unfortunately, because these are all published by secular publishers, most cannot be found in our Christian bookstores (although most will do a special order for you). A few can be found in some of our bigger secular book chains, such as Borders. So I would try there first. Otherwise all can be obtained through amazon.com, which is where I got most of mine from.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Theresa,

    I suggest you check http://www.bookfinder.com – an excellent resource for books. Amazon not always the cheapest. I have done well with Abebooks and Alibris as well. It is a good time to buy books from overseas because of the exchange rate.

    Thanks for the list Bill. I devour anything on offer from Theodore Dalrymple and am reading “Darwinian Fairytales” at the moment. What did you think of Bethell’s “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science”, I’ve seen good reviews of it, does it overlap with Jonathan Wells?

    Cheers

    David Palmer

  • Thanks David

    Yes, amazon is not the only option, so thanks for the other possibilities. And yes, I could well have mentioned Tom Bethell’s 2005 volume, which compares both to the Wells’ volume and the one by Horner. That is, it has chapters on Darwinism, ID, and global warming. But then it has a number of chapters on various scientific issues, Green hysteria and gloom and doomism, including nuclear issues, biodiversity, DDT, AIDS, the stem cell debate, cloning, and so on. So his volume is different, and well worth adding to this list. All the PIG volumes can be seen here at the publisher’s website: http://www.regnery.com/pig.html

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Pointing to ‘The Politically Incorrect’ series is a great service that you have provided. Many thanks.
    Stan Fishley

  • Mr. Muehlenberg, I was wondering if you’ve ever read Dinesh D’Souza’s What’s So Great About Christianity? I haven’t read it yet, but I’m looking for Christian apologetics on the level of C.S. Lewis’s work.

    I will certainly take a look at some of the books you’ve listed in your post.

    Victoria Demona

  • Thanks Victoria

    Yes it is an excellent book and I have reviewed it here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2007/11/11/a-review-of-what%e2%80%99s-so-great-about-christianity-by-dinesh-d%e2%80%99sousa/

    As I said in a comment under my review of the new Timothy Keller book, if believers read both Keller and D’Sousa (who both refer to Lewis quite a bit), they would be very well placed indeed to fulfil their obligations as Christian apologists. And if sceptics and seekers who are really open to follow the evidence where it may lead were to read these two books, many might have a change of mind and heart.

    My review of Keller is found here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/03/26/a-review-of-the-reason-for-god-by-timothy-keller/

    Also, I recently wrote a select bibliography on some great apologetics titles: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/02/13/the-christian-apologetics-arsenal-a-select-bibliography/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill

    What was the Scruton book like to read? I believe the man to be a first rate intellectual with great cultural and philosophical insight. However, his writing can be a little abstract and obscure. Was this work easy to read?

    Damien Spillane

  • Thanks Damien

    Yes, as a philosopher he can be heavy reading at times, and this volume is no exception. But this book is short – just 100 pages, so that helps to make it more palatable.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hello Bill, Just to let you know I really appreciate you and the work you do for God. I am reading and enjoying very much How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J Schmidt.
    Dawn McGregor

  • The Politically Incorrect Guide series has attracted my attention because its views are so different from those of students with whom I associated as a young student.

    I have mixed opinions about the series, but really wonder why you overlooked “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Hunting” by Frank Miniter? I never understood why people violently hate hunting, and Miniter demonstrates hunting provides services most people do not recognise and how hunters know more about ecology than members of many environmental lobby groups.

    Julien Peter Benney

  • Thanks Julien

    I suppose the main reason I did not mention it is because I have not read it yet. I will have to add it to my list of books to get. Thanks for the tip.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Two more books – neither written recently – which have attracted my interest lately are and I wonder if you have read:

    1) Hans Hermann-Hoppe’s Democracy: The God That Failed. Argues that Europe’s transformation from (absolute) monarchy to democracy reduced liberty and has contributed to lowered prosperity because people become more inclined to waste resources and focus only on short-term gain and self-interest. The book has very good evidence in Hoppe’s favour in terms of interest rates, savings rates and inflation, but it suffers from focusing only on Europe and the US, ignoring Asia and Canada.

    2) Erik von Kühnelt-Leddihn’s Leftism Revisited: Published as far back as 1974, in a sense this is an earlier version of Hoppe’s thesis, but it looks more at the roots of modern European democracy and why democracy cannot be self-sustaining.

    In the light of democracy in Australia, I am very curious as to how you would view these severe criticisms of democratic government as inherently leftists and secular.

    Julien Peter Benney

  • Thanks Julien

    I have not read the first volume, but years ago I read parts of Leftism. I also used to read his columns in National Review. I recall being impressed with the man and his mind.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • One recent book of note is Benjamin Wiker’s Ten Books Every Conservative Should Read. It is sort of a sequel to his Ten Books The Screwed Up the World, and offers ten books, including
    Orthodoxy by Gilbert Keith Chesterton
    The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich von Hayek
    Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocquevilly
    The Federalist Papers
    The Anti-Federalist Papers
    The New Science of Politics by Eric Voegelin
    The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
    Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke

    Wiker, following on from The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature, add four works of fiction that he says conservatives should not miss:

    The Tempest by William Shakespeare
    Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
    The Lord of the Rings by J.R. Tolkien
    The Jerusalem Bible by William Blake

    One thing that attracted me to Wiker’s new book is that when describing why he included Hayek, he noted Adam Smith’s association with early atheist philosopher David Hume and French Revolution father Baron d‘Holbach.

    In the process Wiker said that Hume’s books could be in a title Ten More Books that Screwed Up The World. Since I love lists, I would be very interested in your thoughts on books for a Ten More Books that Screwed Up The World!

    Julien Peter Benney

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