Great books tell stories. Here’s our pick of vivid and insightful new releases for better understanding America, world events, history, science, and theology
Some books are poorly timed through no fault of the authors. Paul Linton's Abortion Under State Constitutions (Carolina Academic Press, 2008) is a scholarly state-by-state analysis of how unborn children currently could receive protection, and what more could be done if the Supreme Court repealed Roe v. Wade. Sadly, there is little chance of the latter during the Obama years: If pro-life forces manage to hold onto the small legal beachheads already achieved, that will be an achievement.
Some books are well-timed. Stephen Wagner's Common Ground Without Compromise: 25 Questions to Create Dialogue on Abortion (Stand to Reason, 2008) should help many pro-lifers achieve the progress possible in a tough political environment: Transformations of heart and mind can save many lives now and create opportunities for when the political pendulum swings back. Wagner shows how to begin productive discussion with questions like: What do you think about late-term abortion? What do you think about aborting a fetus simply because she is female? Should we encourage women to view pictures of the results of abortion before they have one?
Some books are always in season, because the poorly informed about Christ we'll always have with us. William Craig's Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Crossway, 3rd edition, 2008) is an outstanding apologetic, and Michael Wittmer's Don't Stop Believing (Zondervan, 2008) challenges both fundamentalism and the emergent church. Creating the Better Hour: Lessons from William Wilberforce, edited by Chuck Stetson (Stroud & Hall, 2007), contains excellent essays introducing the outstanding person and work of the man who defended the reasonable faith through both word and deed.
Some books show how the existence of oppression and other evils, such as abortion, is not evidence for atheism; Mark Tabb's How Can a Good God Let Bad Things Happen? (NavPress, 2008) clearly deals with theodicy arguments. Oppression sometimes helps Christians become courageous, as were many who brought down the Communist regime in East Germany; Lutheran pastor Theo Lehman's firsthand account tells that story in Blues Music and Gospel Proclamation (Wipf and Stock, 2008). Many Christians also are active in current human-rights campaigns, as Joseph D'Souza and Benedict Rogers' On the Side of Angels (Authentic, 2007) shows.
Temporarily insane authors choose obscure titles; for example, does the title More Than Kindness tell you that a book is about abortion and adoption? But the cover of Theodore Roosevelt Malloch's Spiritual Enterprise: Doing Virtuous Business (Encounter, 2008) tells you what's up-and what's inside shows clear Christian thinking. Levi Brackman and Sam Jaffe provide a folksy Old Testament equivalent in Jewish Wisdom for Business Success: Lessons from the Torah and Other Ancient Texts (Amacom, 2008).
Biographies tend to have clear titles: You can guess from I. Francis Kyle III's An Uncommon Christian: James Brainerd Taylor, Forgotten Evangelist . . . (University Press, 2008) that Taylor doesn't even have a Wikipedia article-but he should. And some biography titles beckon: Bill Kauffman's Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Martin (ISI, 2008) is a sprightly written biography of a leading opponent of the Constitution. Martin foresaw the growth of highly centralized government and tried to drown his fears by downing brandy.
Other books also have clear titles, if not entirely clear answers. The past-tense title of Richard Swinburne's book Was Jesus God? (Oxford Univ. Press, 2008), is a bit weird, because Christ is past, present, and future-but Swinburne's answer of probably is about as good as it gets from a distinguished British philosopher.
In Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry: Drugs, Electroshock, and the Psychopharmaceutical Complex (Springer, 2008), Peter Breggin argues that psychiatric drugs are overprescribed and often do more harm than good. In opposition to psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey ("Our insane mental health system," Aug. 23), psychiatrist Breggin writes that "instead of correcting biochemical imbalances, psychiatric drugs cause them, sometimes permanently." This book is technical but it's significant for those involved in this debate, or for parents deciding whether to put their children on Ritalin or similar substances.