Archive for Book Reviews
Review of Jack Beatty, The Lost History of 1914: Reconsidering the Year the Great War Began (Walker & Co., 2012), vii + 392 pgs., hardcover, $30.
The 100th anniversary of World War I—the Great War, the War to End All Wars—is next year. A steady stream of new and reissued books on the war has already been flowing for the past couple of years. I have read a few of them, and will probably read a few more. Of those that I have recently read, one stands out for the unique approach it takes to 1914, the year the war began.
The Lost History of 1914 has been out now since early 2012. Many reviews of the book can be found online, although I deliberately did not read any of them once I made up my mind to review the book. I say this because I originally had not planned to do so. Because I review so many books and read so many other books for research purposes, I wanted to try to just sit down and read The Lost History of 1914 without taking notes, highlighting sentences, and writing comments in the margins.
It didn’t work. There is so much in the book that illustrates the complete and utter folly of World War I that I felt compelled to write something.
Tags: ethics, history, war, world war 1
Review of Daniel M. Bell Jr., The Economy of Desire: Christianity and Capitalism in a Postmodern World (Baker Academic, 2012), 224 pgs., paperback.
This is the sixth volume in the series The Church and Postmodern Culture, edited by James K. A. Smith. The series “features high-profile theorists in continental philosophy and contemporary theology writing for a broad, nonspecialist audience interested in the impact of postmodern theory on the faith and practice of the church.”
Although I am not the least bit interested in postmodern theory, I am very interested in the intersection of Christianity and economics or politics. Thus, the phrase “Christianity and Capitalism” in this book’s subtitle caught my eye. Nevertheless, I have never been more disappointed, or bored.
The author describes his work as “a contribution to the conversation about the relationship of Christianity to capitalism with a postmodern twist.” That twist is nothing short of pure Christian anti-capitalism, although of a very unique kind. You see, Daniel Bell, professor of theological ethics at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary and the author of several books, is not a socialist. He maintains that his book “changes the focus from capitalism versus socialism to capitalism versus the divine economy made present by Christ and witnessed to by the church.”
Fortunately, I didn’t have to read through the whole book to discover what the author meant by capitalism. He equates capitalism with the “free-market economy” because the name “highlights the centrality of the market.” This is well and good, and certainly makes it easier to understand where the author is coming from. Unfortunately, this is not the case for understanding Bell’s concept of the divine economy. Read More→
Tags: capitalism, Christianity, church, economics, free market, free society, Kingdom of God, laissez faire, society, theology
I have written many articles on gun control. As a book reviewer, I am especially interested in new books on gun control. I have in front of me a review copy of To Keep or Not to Keep: Why Christians Should Not Give up Their Guns, by Chuck and Timothy Baldwin. I have read the book. Although I had intended to review the book, I am instead just mentioning it here since the authors are Christian conservatives. The reason I am not reviewing the book is because it is not actually about gun control as the title implies. The book is a biblical defense of self-defense.
Although the authors do say: “Scriptures support man’s right to keep and bear arms; and as such, Christians must not give up necessary and proportional means of self-defense,” the opening line in chapter 1 makes it clear what the book is really about: “This book concerns a simple yet profound issue. Does Scripture support or deny the right of self-defense; and thus, should Christians protect that right even in the face of government opposition?” Guns are hardly mentioned in the book. As I have seen little written from a Christian perspective on the natural and biblical right of self-defense, I recommend the book to those who are interested in that subject.
The authors occasionally raise some good points:
Jesus did not command Peter to give up his sword or right to use it.
In every instance where “love thy neighbor” is mentioned, it is always followed by “as thyself.”
Unfortunatley, I don’t consider the writing and the formatting of the book to be as good. And some of the Scripture verses quoted are a bit stretched, and especially the few word studies. I think the authors made a noble attempt to present a biblical defense of self-defense; I just think the title should have been more indicative of the book’s contents.
Review of Martin A. Lee, Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana—Medical, Recreational, and Scientific (Scribner, 2012), vii + 519 pgs., hardcover.
Although I don’t use marijuana for medical, recreational, or scientific purposes, I highly recommend this book to every reader no matter how he wants to use or not use marijuana or what he thinks about the ethics and morality of marijuana use and the medical effectiveness and therapeutic benefits of marijuana.
I know that I am putting things backward. A reviewer’s endorsement of a book is usually implied during the course of a review and certainly stated in no uncertain terms at the end of the review. But this book is so good, so important, and so necessary that I am stating right up front that if you never read anything ever again about the war on drugs, including my book, The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom, or anything I have written about the federal war on marijuana or hemp, and even including the rest of this review, this is the one book that you must read. It is the most important book ever written about marijuana.
Although it is a well-written and engaging book, Smoke Signals is not an easy read. First of all, it is over 500 pages. Even not counting the index, acknowledgments, notes, bibliography, and appendices, it is still over 400 pages. You will not read this book in an afternoon. Because of so many other reading and writing commitments, I actually read the book over the course of many months. But I assure you that it will be worth the time you put into reading it. The second reason it is not an easy read is because, for all but the most intransigent liberal or conservative statist, the reader will early on find the federal war on drugs, and especially marijuana, to be so bizarre, unnecessary, so perplexing, so asinine, and so evil that it is sometimes hard to keep reading without slamming the book shut and pulling out your hair. Read More→
Tags: book review, drug war, ethics, health, health issues, history, Laurence Vance, marijuana, recommended books, war on drugs