I've been on a tear lately! For years I've been unable to devote the time and attention to reading a book from cover to cover (I think the one exception to that is the Harry Potter series, which is the only fiction I read anymore). I buy all kinds of books on self-improvement, politics and spirituality and they end up half-read at best. I guess that with all the business and technology reading and Web surfing I do at work and home, I don't have the focus or discipline to read anything longer than a few pages. I don't know what happened but I've started reading books from cover to cover again, and I'm quite pleased about it. I decided to share with you the books I've read, am reading or have on my night stand for future consumption. They say you can tell a lot about a person from what he or she reads; I don't know what my reading selections say about me, but I'm sure you'll form an opinion!
Bamboozled,by Angela McGlowan. This is one of the more engaging, well-researched and eye-opening books I've read about the way the Democrats encourage an attitude of victimhood and grievance among blacks, Latinos and women in order to perpetuate their hold on them. Ms. McGlowan also goes into the history of the two parties and shows how the Republican Party was responsible for practically all the major civil rights-related legislation and constitutional amendments enacted in the 19th and early-to-mid 20th century, while the Democrats opposed all of them and allied with the southern press and the Ku Klux Klan after Reconstruction to terrorize and intimidate blacks into submission. The Democrats even attempted to fillibuster and kill the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and only Republican votes saved it.
Republicans will be surprised to learn of their party's 110-year history of civil rights and wonder why the Democrats are the recipients of such goodwill from minorites and women with only 43 years of belated enlightenment to their credit. I don't know if my Democratic friends will ever read it, but I hope they do, especially my black friends and associates, not so they'll become Republicans but so they'll have a more complete view of politics in America and understand the need for more political independence and sophistication in the black community.
The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama. A Democratic friend of mine encouraged me to read this one and, coming on the heels of Bamboozled, it was certainly different in tone and objective. I came away with a lot of respect for the man; he is everything you see in the news and more. I don't agree with his liberal positions on the issues, but he appears to respect differing views and looks for ways to bridge those differences and bring people together on common ground. He also points the way to a more nuanced and balanced black agenda that depends on moral persuasion, shared goals and individual responsibility and accountability - a far cry from the polemics and whites-bashing of our current crop of civil rights leaders. I think he's the best candidate the Democrats have to offer for President, not because he's more experienced but because he brings a different vision of how politics and government should be conducted. After the past few decades of partisan rancor, I think we need a clean break from the political generation of the past and a fresh start.
From Hope to Higher Ground, by Mike Huckabee. The former governor of Arkansas and my preferred choice for President in the 2008 elections, Mike Huckabee lays out a 12-stop prescription for putting America on course toward greatness. Note that I used the phrase, "12-stop." He believes that we must stop certain behaviors before we can start down a path to restoration, and he describes those "stops" with great optimism, eloquence and wit. If you're a Republican, it will give you hope for the party's future - if we choose to follow his plan. If you're a Democrat, it will change your perception of at least one Republican! There are a couple of posts elsewhere in this blog about Mike Huckabee if you want to learn more about the man and why I think he'd make a great President.
Won't Let You Go Until You Bless Me, by Andrée Seu (pronounced Ahn-DRAY Soo). I discovered this writer through an essay in World magazine, a weekly news magazine with a Christian worldview. She writes some of the most poignant and elegant prose I've ever read; her essays about life after the untimely loss of her husband will bring you to tears or make you smile as she navigates through this new life with grace and humility toward God and man. She has a way of describing small, everday encounters that makes them into exquisite sermons about life and faith. She shares her Christianity in a deep and personal way and you can't help but admire her strength and joy in the midst of trials, even if you aren't a believer. Buy this book and prepare to be touched.
The Dream Giver, by Bruce Wilkinson. This book is written by the author of "The Prayer of Jabez," the little spiritual tome that sold over 9 million copies and certainly expanded Dr. Wilkinson's territory! I have a "Jabez" story of my own that I'll share someday. The Dream Giver is a fable followed by a self-help section where Dr. Wilkinson acts as your "Dream Coach." The premise of the book is that everyone has been given a Big Dream by God, but too few of us pursue our Big Dream because of our desire for comfort, obstacles from friends and foes alike, or fear of the unknown. The fable is about a person named Ordinary "who dares to leave the Land of the Familiar to pursue his Big Dream." A friend recommended this book to me a couple of years ago when I was doubting my Big Dream, and it was just an interesting read to me then. I read it again recently after a pastor friend referred to it in conversation, and it is amazing how much more meaningful it is to me after the events of last year when I finally took the plunge and ran for elected office. I recognized the challenges and obstacles Ordinary faced and I felt affirmed by his encounters with the Dream Giver (God). If you've got a Big Dream tugging at you and you're not sure how to respond to it, read this book. Once you've embarked on your journey, read it again. I did and it blew me away the second time.
Why Government Can't Save You, by John MacArthur. As a Christian who senses a calling to the public arena, I walk a delicate balance between my faith and my politics. The Bible says we will attract non-believers by living a life that honors God and showing them the same grace and compassion that God shows us. We're not here to make disciplines by remaking government, but by investing personally in individual souls throughout our lives. John MacArthur argues that we need to keep our focus on salvation and not changing the culture, and he is critical of Christian political activism when it detracts from bringing people to Christ. That doesn't mean that Godly men and women cannot serve in government or elected office. It means that their efforts should be pointing others to the Kingdom, not trying to create the Kingdom on Earth through political action. It's a topic addressed in a book I read years ago about how the evangelical Christian political movement of the 1980s not only fell short in remaking American society but distracted us from the business of bringing people to Christ. That book, Blinded by Might by Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson, is also a must-read for Christians trying to understand the proper balance between earthly and spiritual kingdoms.
Life Wisdom from Billy Graham, by Billy Graham. This is more a collection of quotes, anecdotes and spiritual insights than a full-fledged book, but it honors one of my heroes from childhood. In today's superheated partisan environment, it's hard to believe there was once a prominent evangelical Christian leader who was revered by the nation for his pure and simple preaching of the Good News to millions all over the world. I remember watching his crusades on television when I was nine years old and wanting to preach like he did. I used to go from door to door among the military housing units at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho with my Bible in hand, "preaching" to the families that answered the door. The parents thought it was incredibly cute; the other kids found me annoying. My Big Dream emerged from that summer in Idaho. I was shaped by my passion for politics, my love for Jesus Christ, the influence of my grandfather who was visiting from Louisiana that summer and also shared my passions, and my admiration for Billy Graham, Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. From that point on, I knew that God's path for me was going to involve politics and the ministry and, as a child, I saw no conflict between them. Even today, I see my pursuit of public office as a ministry, not for the purposes of establishing God's rule on Earth but to serve others and be a beacon of God's grace in a graceless age. Billy Graham is a good and faithful servant, and while the world will be diminished when he dies, what a welcoming party they're going to have in heaven!
God and Government, by Charles Colson with Ellen Santilli Vaughn. This is a revised and updated edition of Kingdoms in Conflict, and it's another book about "the boundaries between faith and politics." It's extremely balanced and well-written and I'm enjoying the intellectual and spiritual depth displayed in what I've read so far.
In the Bullpen
Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, & Priorities of a Winning Life, by Tony Dungy. One of my modern-day heroes, not only because of his sucess in professional football but also because of his calm demeanor and unshakeable faith, even in the face of a tragedy as wrenching as a son's suicide.
Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get out the Shovel -- Why Everything You Know is Wrong, by John Stossel. I peeked at some of the entries in this book, and it's pretty provocative. There's enough in here to get liberals and conservatives riled up, which is what I would expect from a libertarian like John Stossel. It will be an interesting read.
The Art of Transformation, by Newt Gingrich and Nancy Desmond. A book that only a policy wonk like me could love. I'm an advocate for transforming government, not just tinkering at the margins; I believe as Newt Gingrich does that there's a world that fails and a world that works, and government is in the former world and needs to change to be in the latter one. I think Mr. Gingrich is one of the most brilliant people in politics and public policy today. I can't wait to read his ideas.
I Don't Know...
Godless: The Church of Liberalism, by Ann Coulter. I met Ann Coulter last spring when she entertained a auditorium full of Republicans and conservatives here in Calvert County; I even had my picture taken with her. I started to read her book but I couldn't finish it. I don't have a problem with her key points, but she comes across as so angry that I struggled through the chapters I was able to read. I'll try to get through it sometime, but she's not an easy read if you're not in a state of perpetual rage.