There’s a book this Christmas for everyone, from the American history buff on your list to your children or grandchildren. We hope the recommendations below will help you with your shopping. All the books recommended here are selections of the Conservative Book Club, and Human Events is making them available through the Human Events Book Service, where you’ll find discounts up of up 33% off the retail price.
For the History Buff
“The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister”
By John O’Sullivan
John O’Sullivan’s “The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister” begins at a historical moment that has a certain resonance with our own. Before our recent midterm election, a number of pundits warned that a Democratic victory would be a ticket back to the 1970s. Remember the disastrous Carter years? Our military was under-funded, and respect for our soldiers was at an all-time low. A recklessly utopian liberal foreign policy had diminished America’s prestige abroad. We were resigned to co-existence with the Soviet communism that had turned Eastern Europe into a giant prison. The effects of the ’60s revolt against traditional morality were taking their devastating toll on family life. “Malaise” seemed to sum up the mood of the country.
But then everything changed. “The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister” tells the story of the men—and one woman—who did the most to change it: Ronald Reagan, Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II), and Margaret Thatcher. O’Sullivan’s book is a history of a turning point for America. It’s also an account of some of the most potent (and fascinating) friendships in modern political history. Finally, it’s a bracing tonic after the recent dismal elections.
O’Sullivan starts the story at the low point for his heroes: that moment in the ’70s when it seemed that all three were headed for has-been status. Reagan, O’Sullivan points out, seemed “too American,” Wojtyla, “too Catholic,” and Thatcher, “too conservative” to go any further in their careers. History, it appeared, had passed them by. But, in fact, all three were able to change history precisely because of those rock-solid principles. The very old-fashioned beliefs that made Reagan, John Paul II and Thatcher seem out of step created their successes, including the triumph over communism.
This book is a handsome one, with wonderful photos. The “Iron Lady” rides atop a tank (looking very much more at home there than Michael Dukakis) in scarf and goggles. Reagan and the pope meet after the failed assassination attempts on their lives. John Paul II wags his finger in the face of Marxist revolutionary priest Ernesto Cardenal in Nicaragua. Reagan and Thatcher stand together, seasoned allies and friends.
“The Politically Incorrect Guide to the South (and Why It Will Rise Again)”
By Clint Johnson
“The Politically Incorrect Guide to the South” by Clint Johnson is a whirlwind tour of Southern history and culture from an unabashedly pro-Dixie point of view. Johnson won’t be outdone in Southern patriotism: His chapter titles include “Southerners Create America’s Government” and “The South Saves the World.” Johnson addresses the heritage of slavery, but argues that the “mark of Cain” for America’s original sin belongs not just to the South, but to the nation, and that the history of slavery is far from the whole story of the American South. The book’s running theme is that the things that have made America great are disproportionately Southern—from the Virginians who wrote the Declaration of Independence and Constitution to the Southern soldiers who’ve done much more than their fair share in all of our wars.
Along the way, the book is a lot of fun. There are the Southern archetypes—the doomed aristocrat, the steel magnolia, the great lady—viewed through the lens of “Gone With the Wind.” There’s the South’s cuisine, including its delicious varieties of barbecue, almost a different one for every state. And there are the great quotations, which range from the moving—“There is a true honor and a true glory: the glory of duty done, the honor of integrity of principle,” from Robert E. Lee—to the hilarious—“No lie, the average Yankee knows about as much about the South as a hog knows about the Lord’s plan for salvation,” from William Price Fox—to the profound—“Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one … in the South the general conception of man is still, in the main, theological,” from Flannery O’Connor.
If you’re a Southerner, if you’ve got a Southerner on your Christmas list, or if you just want to claim honorary Southerner status because you’re a fan of the region of America with the most traditional culture, this book is the one for you.
“Don’t Tread on Me: A 400-Year History of America at War, from Indian Fighting to Terrorist Hunting”
By H. W. Crocker III
It wouldn’t be fair to Christmas shoppers to not revisit H. W. Crocker’s “Don’t Tread on Me,” previously recommended in this space. Crocker’s take-no-prisoners military history of America is the ideal present for anybody who enjoys reading history. It’s a splendid tribute to the American fighting man, whose sacrifices it behooves us all to recall this Christmas, when so many of our soldiers are far from home in Iraq or Afghanistan. And it’s simply a great read.
Crocker’s writing is marvelous—so full of vim and zest that it will pull even readers who don’t usually enjoy military history into the flow of events. But “Don’t Tread on Me” also makes some cogent points about questions of particular significance today: What does a typical or normative exercise of American military power look like? What factors created America’s extraordinary military success (and our rare failures) in the past? And what kind of resources and political commitment do we owe our soldiers?
The War We’re In
“Religion of Peace? Islam’s War against the World”
By Gregory M. Davis
In “Religion of Peace?” and in the documentary film, “Islam: What the West Needs to Know,” Gregory Davis attempts to shake the conventional wisdom on Islam. The party line, clung to not only by the mainstream media but even by Republican officials and conservative pundits, is that Islam, a religion of peace, has been hijacked by violent extremists. On the contrary, Davis argues, Islam is intrinsically violent.
It’s not, he concedes, that every Muslim is violent. It’s that the mandate to spread Islam by the sword is central to Islam. Becoming a truly devout Muslim means getting serious about jihad: “As in a Christian paradigm, there is the ever-present threat that those who call themselves Christians will eschew the materialistic world, turn the other cheek, and love their neighbor, so in an Islamic paradigm there is the danger that complacent Muslims will heed the call of Allah and take up arms against the unbeliever.”
Davis backs up this disturbing claim with plenty of evidence from the Koran itself, as well as from the history of Islam. Islam, he argues, is unlike the religions we Westerners understand. It’s intrinsically political. Muhammad’s revelation, recorded in the Koran, was not just about personal holiness. That revelation prescribed a political order for society. Being a Muslim means believing that the world is divided between the House of Islam and the House of War. The House of Islam is ruled by sharia law. And Islam is necessarily at war with the rest of the world, to reduce it, too, to submission to the will of Allah. There may be strategic retreats or temporary truces. But the state of war is perpetual.
There may be flaws in Davis’s argument. For all our sakes, I sincerely hope there are. But there’s no argument for sticking our fingers in our ears and repeating “religion of peace” to ourselves whenever questions about Islam come up. Hadn’t we better summon up our courage and face the evidence about what Islam is really like, so we can make informed decisions about how to defend ourselves?
“Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America”
By Brigitte Gabriel
“Because They Hate” is a story of growing up on the disputed border between the House of Islam and the House of War. Brigitte Gabriel was a Christian girl in Lebanon when civil war broke out in her country. Her secure childhood vanished in an instant. Muslim neighbors became enemies. Gabriel’s family was impoverished by the war. Their home was ruined. Gabriel spent her adolescence in her family’s tiny bomb shelter. She and her parents were reduced to eating weeds. To leave the shelter for precious water was to risk death.
This memoir is a needed reminder of how safe and pleasant our own lives are. It’s also a wake-up call: Our security and prosperity are not the universal birthright of mankind. What we possess as Americans can be lost if we take it for granted. Gabriel is a critic not only of Islam but of Arab (even Arab Christian) culture. Critics of the excesses of Western culture may feel she’s dismissive of chastity. But Gabriel’s attitude is certainly understandable, coming from a woman who’s escaped the culture of “honor killing”—as is her enthusiasm for Israel.
It’s not just that Israeli soldiers were her family’s protectors. Israel was the first place that Gabriel encountered those aspects of Western culture that we all can agree to admire. She was astonished, for example, that in an Israeli hospital the surgeons treated wounded enemy soldiers no worse than their own. And she was amazed by the freedom and respect women enjoyed in Israel. This book isn’t a dispassionate assessment of the Islamist threat or the political situation in the Middle East. It’s a passionate warning from someone who has lived outside Western society, who has escaped into the West, and who has lived to tell the tale.
“America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It”
By Mark Steyn
Two previously recommended books on similar themes would also make fine Christmas presents. Mark Steyn’s “America Alone” is that rare thing: a hilariously funny book with a deadly serious message. Steyn is concerned about resurgent Islamic jihad. Our weakness, though, worries him even more than the jihadists’ strength. The Europeans and our own Blue State-types, Steyn points out, are fiddling while Rome burns. They’re preoccupied with the remote possibility that melting polar ice caps may one day end the world as we know it. In Europe, they’re too coddled by the American nuclear umbrella and emasculated by the welfare state even to reproduce themselves. And all the while, they’re missing the imminent, mortal threat to their way of life: resurgent global jihad.
“The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion”
By Robert Spencer
Robert Spencer’s latest contribution on Islam is the most death-defying feat in his brave career: a warts-and-all biography of Muhammad. “The Truth About Muhammad” is an in-depth look the Prophet’s character, and at its continuing central importance for Muslims today. Muhammad is the perfect pattern and example for Muslims to follow, not just the Prophet of Islam, but his many marriages, the way he treated his enemies, his self-serving behavior, his vengefulness, all are beyond criticism. Muhammad, as a warlord and the leader of a state-centered and aggressive religion, was different from the founder of any other major religion. And that difference has profound implications for the relationship between Islam and the West today.
“Who Really Cares? The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism”
By Arthur C. Brooks
Who Really Cares? by Arthur Brooks is proof positive that the “greedy conservative” is a myth of liberal fantasy. The actual data, it turns out, shows that conservatives are astonishingly “compassionate”—certainly more so than the liberals who pride themselves on caring for the poor. When it comes to their own money, that is. And their time. And their blood. Conservatives, especially religious ones, give more even when it comes to blood donations—one area where you’d think even leftists couldn’t delude themselves into believing the government could handle better than private charity.
Of course, liberals are much more “compassionate” when it comes to other people’s money. They treat tax revenues as a slush fund for their income-redistribution and poverty-eradication schemes. The results? Well, more than 40 years after President Johnson declared war on poverty, poverty certainly hasn’t been eradicated. But liberals are still telling themselves that their political support for government programs absolves them of their responsibility to assist their neighbors. Brooks’s map-to-map comparison between, on the one hand, charitable giving by state and, on the other hand, the Bush-Kerry electoral map is, as they say, alone worth the price of the book. There’s a nearly perfect correlation between the Red States and the states with high levels of giving.
“Conservative Comebacks to Liberal Lies: Issue-by-Issue Responses to the Most Common Claims of the Left, from A to Z”
By Gregg Jackson
Conservative radio host Gregg Jackson has provided something really useful: a sort of debater’s cheat sheet for conservatives. “Conservative Comebacks to Liberal Lies: Issue-by-Issue Responses to the Most Common Claims of the Left, from A to Z” delivers on the promise in its subtitle. Jackson begins with abortion and proceeds down a checklist of issues giving facts, figures and logical arguments for conservative positions on all of them. He specializes in demolishing liberal myths with telling facts. For example, how many times have you heard that the Republican Party is beholden to rich donors? Jackson shows how Democrats actually receive more contributions from the ultra-rich. If you know you’ll be seeing some stubbornly liberal friend or relative this Christmas, wrap a copy of this book for that person. Or better yet, get it for yourself so you can have the facts at your fingertips—and enjoy a friendly intellectual battle over the Christmas cookies and eggnog.
“The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy’s Dossier on Hillary Clinton”
By Amanda Carpenter
Hillary Clinton is still the Democratic front-runner for 2008. And the disastrous midterm elections have put her that much closer to becoming President of the United States. “The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy’s Dossier on Hillary Clinton,” by HUMAN EVENTS’ own Amanda Carpenter, is your inside track to the real scoop on Hillary. Carpenter dishes up the facts and the documents. Possibly the most disturbing thing she reports is that Hillary refuses to rule out funding her presidential campaign with money that her husband has been paid in speaking fees for appearances abroad. It’s perfectly legal, of course, for a husband and wife to share their assets. And it’s perfectly legal to pour your own money into your political campaign. But in this case—when one spouse is a senator bound by stringent ethics rules about outside income, the other is an ex-President who commands enormous speaking fees, and both of them are suspected of being subject to the influence of foreign cash—it seems like a serious problem. Every Hillary watcher needs this book!
“Can a Catholic Be a Democrat? How the Party I Loved Became the Enemy of My Religion”
By David Carlin
“Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?” is the perfect book for that friend or relative who needs to be disabused of the illusion that the Democrats are still the party of “rum, Romanism and rebellion.” The Democrats of yore may have built their electoral majorities by an alliance between unreconstructed Southerners and Northern Catholics. But times have changed. The Democratic Party has long since overcome any allegiance to the values Catholics hold dear. In fact, the Democratic Party program bears a strange resemblance to the “culture of death” the pope keeps complaining about. But too many Catholics—including some American bishops—can’t seem to get over their history with the Democrats. It’s time for Catholics to re-examine their political loyalties. This book is a good start.
Families, Marriage and the Single Life
“Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know”
By Meg Meeker
“Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” is the obvious choice for all the men on your list who have daughters. It’s a wonderful contribution to what novelist Tom Wolfe calls “the great re-learning”: our rediscovery of perennial truths about human nature and culture—attacked and abandoned in the sexual revolution and other ’60s craziness, and now being slowly recovered. Feminists since the 19th Century argued that marriage and the traditional family were a kind of slavery or prison for women. In the second half of the 20th Century, we found out how much worse things could get for women and girls in the absence of traditional family structures. Dr. Meg Meeker, a pediatrician with many years’ experience treating adolescents, wrote this book to show fathers how much their daughters really need them.
Dr. Meeker shows how a strong father-daughter bond helps protect girls from the many plagues of modern adolescence: eating disorders, drug abuse, depression, promiscuity. Dr. Meeker helps fathers understand exactly what their daughters need from them and shows how they can find it within themselves to be the hero every girl needs her dad to be.
“The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On”
By Dawn Eden
Yet another bit of perennial wisdom is the main theme of Eden’s book: To experience the kind of love that will actually make them happy, women need to wait for marriage. Dawn Eden is not your typical chastity writer. She’s a former rock music critic and journalist who’s a veteran of the New York City singles’ scene. She speaks about the Cosmo girl lifestyle from experience. And what she’s learned from that experience is that promiscuity makes women deeply unhappy. But Eden also speaks from faith. Since she became a Christian at the age of 31, Eden has practiced what she’s now preaching. And she testifies that chastity has already improved her life in ways she couldn’t have imagined. One of her many fresh insights: Becoming chaste has enabled her to appreciate men—with whom she’s no longer in a sort of competition to use or be used—in a way she couldn’t when she was living “Sex and the City”-style.
Just for Kids
“Goops and How to Be Them”
By Gelett Burgess
“Goops and How to Be Them” is a wonderful book of illustrated verse first published in 1901. Back in those days of yore, children were still expected to accommodate their manners to adult standards, rather than the other way around. In reality, lessons in this collection will never grow stale.
Self-control, consideration for others, table manners, perseverance in your work, respect for other people’s property, kindness—these are timeless virtues. And it’s never too early for children to begin to learn them. The clever poems in this book help the lessons stick in their heads. And this charming reprint from Applewood has the original—and unforgettable—illustrations of the Goops themselves, in all their glorious naughtiness.
“The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus”
By Joel Chandler Harris
The furor that erupted when Mitt Romney and Tony Snow used the phrase “tar baby” showed how out of touch we are, in these politically correct times, with the great African-American stories that Joel Chandler Harris collected for the Uncle Remus books. The tar baby story, like Aesop’s tale about the sour grapes, is a classic fable that perfectly illustrates a recurring, almost an archetypal, feature of human experience—and sums it up instantly in two words, for anybody who knows the story. And that’s just one of the 185 marvelous tales in this collection, complete with the wonderful original illustrations. As the Saturday Review pointed out, these stories have their roots in Africa and are, at the same time, “as American as the Stars and Stripes.”
“The Book of Saints and Heroes”
By Andrew and Lenora Lang
The Andrew Lang, who, together with his wife Lenora, collected the stories in “The Book of Saints and Heroes,” is the same folklorist who also put together the “Blue,” “Red,” and a dozen other “Fairy Books” around the turn of the 20th Century. Children don’t read fairy tales as they used to, and it’s a pity. “The Blue Fairy Book” and its companion volumes are crowded out by dreary realistic stories teaching “tolerance” and “diversity.” The fairy tales used to teach much richer lessons—in Lang’s own words: “immortal examples of courage, patience, kindness, courtesy, and piety toward God and man.” This volume, with its beautiful black-and-white drawings, is ideal for reading aloud to children of any age.
“Help! Mom! The 9th Circuit Nabbed the Nativity”
By Katharine DeBrecht
“Help! Mom! The 9th Circuit Nabbed the Nativity” is the newest title in the politically incorrect “Help! Mom!” series for elementary-school-aged children. These picture books feature the nefarious schemes of such liberal busybodies as “Al Snore” and “Congresswoman Clunkton.” These villains show up at George Washington Elementary School with the judges of the infamous 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to put a stop to the Christmas pageant—in the name of separation of church and states. The hero of the story is Justice Clarence Thomas, who not only saves the Christmas pageant, but helps the children discover the Bill of Rights—and authentic religious liberty. The story is enlivened by Jim Hummel’s eye-catching illustrations, which have the vigor of political cartoons, but in full color. This book might just have a significant effect on the elections—10 or 15 years from now, when its readers are old enough to vote.
Keeping Christ in Christmas
“Rediscovering God in America: Reflections on the Role of Faith in Our Nation’s History and Future”
By Newt Gingrich
In “Rediscovering God in America,” Newt Gingrich takes the reader on a grand tour of our nation’s public monuments, and points out how our forefathers’ faith in God has left its mark, in brass and marble. From the Washington Monument and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials to the White House, Capitol, and even the Supreme Court building itself, our nation’s most hallowed buildings are not religion-free zones.
The men who erected these monuments surely understood the religious freedom enshrined in the 1st Amendment to our Constitution. And yet their ideas about the role of faith in public life were very different from our current courts’ notion of separation of church and state.
“Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels”
By Craig A. Evans
Craig Evans surveys contemporary controversies about Jesus—including those surrounding the “Jesus Seminar,” “The Da Vinci Code,” and the Gospel of Judas. What he finds is that the folks putting themselves forward as experts on the historical Jesus are far from impartial scholars. The documents they give credence to are much less reliable than the New Testament accounts that these same “scholars” subject to radical skepticism. The overwhelming evidence is that the most reliable source of historical information about the life of Jesus is the Bible itself—a book we could all benefit by reading this Christmas.