I’m at the public library right now, and I checked out four books:
1. David Jay Johnston, Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill) (New York: Portfolio, 2007). This book is endorsed by Ralph Nader, but its inside jacket convinced me that it’s worth the read. Consider this:
“Johnston cuts through the official version of events and shows how, under the guise of deregulation, a whole new set of regulations quietly went into effect–regulations that thwart competition, depress wages, and reward misconduct…A lot of people appear to be getting free lunches–but of course there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and someone (you, the taxpayer) is picking up the bill.”
One puzzle Johnston addresses is something I have wondered about: “How we ended up with the most expensive yet inefficient health-care system in the world.”
Well, I’m not sure if I’d call our health care system “inefficient,” but I wonder to what extent government intervention is driving up its costs. Is government suppressing competition somehow, to the delight of certain powerful profiteers?
2. Bruce Bartlett, Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008). Bruce Bartlett was a domestic policy advisor in the Reagan Administration, and he wrote a book called Impostor, which depicts our beloved current President as a big government liberal. I was initially reluctant to check out Wrong on Race because I thought it stated the obvious: that southern Democrats throughout American history supported racism, in the forms of slavery and segregation. But there’s more to this book than that. It also reveals dirt on some of liberalism’s most prominent heroes: Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy. I’m sick of liberals thinking I’m a racist because I vote Republican. I’d like to shove some things in their faces, for a change (or at least come up with some effective comebacks).
3. John Marks, Reasons to Believe: One Man’s Journey Among the Evangelicals and the Faith He Left Behind (New York: HarperCollins, 2008). While doing a story on the Left Behind series for 60 Minutes, John Marks was confronted by an evangelical couple with a couple of provocative questions: would he be left behind? If he were to die, would he go to heaven or hell? That motivated John to investigate the evangelical sub-culture. He was born again when he was sixteen, but he later abandoned the faith. Now, he’s taking a fresh look at it.
I checked this book out because it reminded me somewhat of Carlene Cross’s Fleeing Fundamentalism, a book that I loved. I enjoy books about people’s search for values and meaning, wherever they may be heading in terms of their beliefs. In the case of John Marks, I wonder what it would be like for someone who had a bitter experience with conservative Christianity to revisit it after so many years. I’ve asked myself a similar question: should I participate in an evangelical small group after six years of not being in one? Would my experience be better? Would evangelicals look different to me because of any growth or change on my part? So I’m interested in Marks’ perspective, as both a former participant and also a detached observer.
4. Dale Buss, Family Man: The Biography of Dr. James Dobson (Wheaton: Tyndale, 2005). I’ve often wondered if I’d get along with Dr. James Dobson. On his radio program, he conveys a sense of warmth, compassion, wisdom, and empathy to his guests and listeners. At the same time, he doesn’t exactly strike me as the most open-minded person in the world–someone who looks at both sides of the issues. And, at one point, a former associate of Dobson’s, Gil Alexander-Moegerle, said that the dogmatic, closed-minded Dobson is the real one behind closed doors. So I wanted to read a biography about what Dr. Dobson is like, from someone who interviews a lot of people, not just Moegerle. As you probably notice, the book was published by a Christian company, Tyndale House Publishers. And, in the back, there is an advertisement for a discussion guide, which strikes me as, well, so evangelical. But the author writes for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, plus he was nominated for a Pulitzer in 1986 for his reporting on General Motors. So I expect a fairly well-balanced biography–one that may lean to the conservative side, even as it considers other perspectives.
These books may take me a while to finish, but I’ll share any jewels that I find in my reading. Stay tuned!