Olasky Books Newsletter

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The Ray Bradbury Collection

I’ll focus this month on books by and about four God-haunted genius writers: Ray Bradbury, Bob Dylan, John Donne, and Samuel Adams. The Library of America brought out last year The Ray Bradbury Collection, a two-volume assortment of stories and novellas by the science fiction and fantasy writer who died in 2012 at age 91. Captain Hart, the protagonist of Read More ›

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On Rediscovering Humility

This newsletter usually emphasizes secular books, but ‘tis the season to recommend books with Christian themes. I’ll start with Christopher Hutchinson’s excellent Recovering Humility (New Growth Press, 2018), which notes that “the surest way to a greater humility is to gaze upon Christ hanging on the cross.” True, and it all starts with a baby in a manger. Hutchinson wisely Read More ›

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On Hitler’s First Hundred

Peter Fritzche’s Hitler’s First Hundred (Basic, 2020) begins with a brilliant scene. At 11:15 a.m. on Jan. 30, 1933, conservative aristocrat Franz von Papen meets with Adolf Hitler, who wants to be chancellor of Germany — the CEO. Another key person in the meeting, nationalist media magnate Alfred Hugenberg, is wary of Hitler. The three are late for their meeting with 84-year-old Read More ›

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On Thomas Kidd’s Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Kidd’s excellent and tightly-written Thomas Jefferson (Yale University Press, 2022) notes that our third president “touted frugality” in government, but his personal life was different. (As John Adams put it, “Jefferson has a habit as well as a disposition to expensive Living…. He could not Subdue his Pride and Vanity.”) This becomes poignant in relation to the slaves Jefferson owned. Kidd notes that Read More ›

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On Desperate Remedies

Doctors are supposed to live by the Latin phrase generally translated as First, Do No Harm: Primum non nocere. Andrew Scull’s Desperate Remedies: Psychiatry’s Turbulent Quest to Cure Mental Illness (Harvard University Press, 2022) is a history of purported cures for mental illness that have often been worse than the disease. Desperate Remedies is so important and readable that for the first time I’m Read More ›

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On How the World Really Works

In Austin, 29 of the 31 days of July featured triple-digit heat. Thus, far be it from me to joke about global warming concern — but reality makes cutting back on oil and natural gas very difficult. Vaclav Smil in How the World Really Works (Viking, 2022) notes that the best offshore wind turbines generate power only 45 percent of the time. Read More ›

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On Homelessness in America

Stephen Eide’s Homelessness in America: The History and Tragedy of an Intractable Social Problem (Rowman & Littlefield, 2022) is an excellent overview. I’ll write more about it next month in my weekly column at the Fix Homelessness website, but I’ll just note here what Eide writes about “Housing First” tendencies to emphasize roofs rather than root causes: If we define a homeless, mentally Read More ›

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On Admiral Hyman Rickover

Marc Wortman’s Admiral Hyman Rickover (Yale University Press, 2022) is a tightly-written biography of brilliance: Rickover at age six came to the U.S. from Poland, gained an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, and set a record by serving in the Navy for 63 years. He oversaw the invention of the world’s first practical nuclear power reactor by essentially abolishing rank Read More ›

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On God, Human, Animal, Machine

A long time ago one little-known band claimed we all live in a yellow submarine. Now, Elon Musk and others have said we probably live in a simulation — an environment constructed by our far-distant descendants using ultra-powerful computers, or maybe by aliens. Wired columnist Meghan O’Gieblyn reports in her new book, God, Human, Animal, Machine (Doubleday, 2021), that “the theory’s popularity Read More ›

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On Bullies and Saints

Before I became a Christian at age 26 I would have protested the title of John Dickson’s Bullies and Saints: An Honest Look at the Good and Evil of Christian History (Zondervan, 2021). I would have told evangelicals, “You’re a bunch of bullies.” A decade ago I might have complained the other way: “We’re flawed saints battling against the left, Read More ›