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Books, boils, and baseball

Fall treadmill reading while the boys of summer eye the World Series

OH, THE THRILL OF VICTORY AND THE agony of the feet. I treadmilled a lot over the past 10 weeks with baseball games in the background and a book in my hands. Some games and innings were intense but others proceeded placidly enough that I could make my way through lots of reading. Sometimes, as when I was enjoying Joel Rosenberg's hard-to-put-down The Last Days (see page 28), I continued on long after toes began smarting.

Here are brief notes on the books I can recommend, starting with three home runs. Karl Zinsmeister's Boots on the Ground (St. Martin's, 2003) is an evocative account by a smart and courageous journalist imbedded with the 82nd Airborne during the most intensive phase of the Iraq war. Hugh Hewitt's In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World (Thomas Nelson, 2003) is a good book to give graduating seniors. Peggy Noonan's A Heart, a Cross, and a Flag (Free Press, 2003) captures beautifully the traumatic year that began on Sept. 11, 2001.

Stephen Mansfield's The Faith of George W. Bush (Charisma House, 2003) depicts well the leader who helped to keep America from being traumatized. We Will Prevail (Continuum, 2003) is a handy collection of Bush speeches in which fine prose (often that of Mike Gerson) prevailed over bureaucratic fiddling. Jean Bethke Elshtain's Just War Against Terror (Basic Books, 2003) shows why we must prevail. Wealth, Poverty & Human Destiny (ISI Books, 2003), a set of essays edited by Doug Bandow and David Schindler, will be useful to those fighting the pressure to engage in class warfare.

Some parents under pressure should read Brian Robertson's Day Care Deception: What the Child Care Establishment Isn't Telling Us (Encounter Books, 2003). Doug Wead's All the Presidents' Children: Triumph and Tragedy in the Lives of America's First Families (Atria Books, 2003) reports the struggles of those with very famous dads. The Homosexual Agenda by Alan Sears and Craig Osten (Broadman & Holman, 2003) offers insights into a threat to children and to religious freedom.

Readers who want to understand more about how the United States began might look at James Hutson's Forgotten Features of the Founding: The Recovery of Religious Themes in the Early American Republic (Lexington, 2003). Part of that recovery includes puncturing notions that Americans in the late 18th century were largely unchurched. Those wanting to go further back might pick up David Hall's The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding (Lexington, 2003) and an excellent collection now in paperback, Yale University Press's A Jonathan Edwards Reader (2003).

For those probing the history of religions, Robert Bowie Johnson Jr.'s Athena and Kain: The True Meaning of Greek Myth (Solving Light, 2003) develops his provocative theory that key works of ancient Greek sculpture depict biblical accounts from a humanist perspective. Popular Christianity in India, edited by Raj and Dempsey (State University of New York Press, 2002), includes useful essays, and David Aikman provides good and important news in Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power (Regnery, 2003).

Kenneth Timmerman's Preachers of Hate: Islam and the War on America (Crown Forum, 2003) shows how anti-Semitism hurts everyone. Yaacov Lozowick's Right to Exist: A Moral Defense of Israel's Wars (Doubleday, 2003) is a good response to those who preach hatred against Israel. Larry Kahaner's Values, Prosperity, and the Talmud (Wiley, 2003) explains how business practices developed nearly 2,000 years ago can help everyone. And here's one more home run: Joseph Epstein's book of superbly crafted short stories, Fabulous Small Jews (Houghton Mifflin, 2003), depicts the sadness of lives lived without hope, and how unexpected notes of grace can occasionally break into dirges of desperation.

How can we reach the desperate, including those who don't know how desperate they are? Answer: God can and we can't, but we can always politely probe to see whether our neighbors are works in progress. In Permission Evangelism (Cook Communications, 2003), Michael Simpson notes that many nonbelievers "have bought into the stories of extreme, unloving acts by people that claim to be Christians." He provides useful advice on how to engage in conversation that can begin to cut through "the current social climate of distrust, fear, anger, and misunderstanding."