December 6, 2005
My annual list of books to recommend as Christmas presents is led
by the clearest front-runner in years: "1776" by David
a time when the very mention of 1776 struck a responsive chord
in Americans, as the year in which their country's independent
existence began. Today, history is so neglected in our schools
and colleges that even many graduates of Ivy League institutions
would have to have the significance of that year explained to
"1776" is the book to give to them -- and to others.
This book brings vividly to life the people and the desperate
conditions in which Americans began the fight for independence
-- losing most of the battles, many of them disastrously -- and
yet persevered on, even when all seemed lost.
George Washington wrote at the time: "The reflection upon
my situation and that of this army produces many an uneasy hour
when all around me are wrapped in sleep. Few people know the predicament
we are in."
As for the
ordinary American soldiers, beaten in battle, hungry and ravaged
by disease, McCullough offers this picture of their retreat: "Heavy
rains had left the narrow road sloppy with mud, and the men were
in tatters, many without shoes, their feet wrapped in rags."
Yet these were the men whose sacrifices created America.
through clearest in McCullough's book is the character and strength
of George Washington, which was all that held things together
when the new country and its new army both seemed to be falling
account of Washington's life and character in war and peace can
be found in another outstanding book that would make a great Christmas
present: "Founding Father" by Richard Brookhiser.
world preoccupied today with the terrorism coming out of the Islamic
Middle East and spreading around the world, we need to understand
what has led up to this fanatical destruction and self-destruction.
that it is something that we have done, or that Israel has done,
which has provoked such lethal hatreds. But the roots of all this
go back long before the modern state of Israel was founded and
before American involvement in the Middle East.
Went Wrong?" is the title of a brilliant and readable capsule
history of the evolution of Islamic civilization in the Middle
East by the preeminent scholar on that subject, Professor Bernard
Lewis of Princeton. This little book is an education in itself
on a subject where education is very much needed.
best books on the welfare state and its consequences -- intended
and unintended, here and overseas -- are "Life at the Bottom"
by Theodore Dalrymple, "Do-Gooders" by Mona Charen,
and "FDR's Folly" by Jim Powell.
book is an insightful and devastating eyewitness account of the
white underclass in Britain, which is remarkably similar to the
black underclass in America. Clearly it is not race but the welfare
state behind the counterproductive and self-destructive attitudes
and lifestyles of both groups.
book is an incisive critique of the American liberals' welfare
state and Powell's book traces the roots of that welfare state
to the politically clever but socially disastrous policies of
Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.
My own book
this year, "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" is apparently
one which many liberal and conservative publications alike have
found too hot to handle. There have not been even ten reviews
of it in print -- and yet it has been as high as 11th in sales
for talk radio, C-SPAN and the Fox News Channel.
in the title essay of this book is that the reasons for black-white
income and other differences have been grossly misunderstood and,
as a result, many things advocated to deal with those differences
have largely made matters worse.
in this book argue that antisemitism has likewise been grossly
misunderstood, as has the history of slavery, and of Germans,
as part of a twisted view of history in general.
-- if we are still allowed to say that.
2005 Creators Syndicate