Olasky Books Newsletter

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Olasky Books

Families, Politics, Baseball, Movies

We all tend to favor life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but what happens when the pursuit ruins children’s happiness (and sometimes keeps them from life itself)? Melissa Kearney’s The Two-Parent Privilege (U. of Chicago, 2023) shows that the national Wars on Poverty and Drugs have been less effective than the War on Family that the cultural left has Read More ›

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The Wrongs of Spring

Two decades ago John Judis and Ruy Teixeira prophesied big changes in their book The Emerging Democratic Majority. Their new book asks, Where Have All the Democrats Gone? (Henry Holt, 2023). Essentially, college-educated professionals (some with unorthodox lifestyles) have now pushed out “many of the people in the deindustrialized towns and small cities of middle America [and left them] stripped Read More ›

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Remaking the World, Past and Present

Andrew Wilson’s Remaking the World: How 1776 Created the Post-Christian West (Crossway, 2023) has probably left dozens of historians groaning, Why didn’t I think of that? Wilson could have written one more bloviating account of how the WEIRD revolution — Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic — affected the world during the past 250 years. Instead, he concentrated on the one Read More ›

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Olasky Books

Five Fine History Books

The best biography I’ve read the past year is Elizabeth Varon’s Longstreet: The Confederate General Who Defied the South (Simon & Schuster, 2023). Robert E. Lee saw northern victory resulting from a brutal turning of soldiers into cannon fodder, and did not admit that slavery was wrong. But James Longstreet, Lee’s right hand after Stonewall Jackson died, joined the Republican Read More ›

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Black History Month Books

Frederick Douglass after his escape from slavery wrote three terrific autobiographies, including My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), which since 2010 has been reprinted at least eight times by various publishers. Far less known is the escape from Georgia to Boston of enslaved Ellen and William Craft in 1848: She could pass for white and disguised herself as a wealthy Read More ›

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What You Are Looking For is In the Library

In this newsletter I mostly review nonfiction, but on a wintry night many people want to snuggle up with a novel. Here are four suggestions, starting with Michiko Aoyama’s What You Are Looking For is In the Library (Alison Watts translation, Doubleday, 2023). It’s a charming tale from Japan of people searching for change and getting the nudge they need Read More ›

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China’s dictatorship, America’s democracy

I almost always focus on recent books, but this month I want to mention one from 2014 that’s received new life because of—to quote last month’s University World News headline—“Dismay over university’s sacking of scholar denied a visa.” Rowena Xiaoqing He, author of Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy (Palgrave Macmillan), currently lives in Austin and until recently Read More ›

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Presidents and Aspirants

We’re one year away from what promises to be a tumultuous presidential election. You might prepare by reading any or all of these four books. 1. The Presidents: Noted Historians Rank America’s Best—and Worst—Chief Executives, by Brian Lamb and Susan Swain (Public Affairs, 2019), turns their C-SPAN interviews with historians into chapters on presidents in order from best to worst, Read More ›

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World Serious

Here’s a baseball metaphor as the World Series approaches: Many pastors and deacons have trouble throwing strikes when a poor person approaches a church for financial help. Instead of giving him a chance to hit, they hand him a walk to first base by treating the requestor as helpless and merely asking “What do you need?” Michael Mather’s Having Nothing, Read More ›

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Street-level September

American History teachers sometimes send me letters asking for advice about textbooks. I make suggestions — for example, Thomas Kidd’s American History (B&H, 2019) is a good main text to use — but also emphasize use of old newspapers to see how people in their own eras viewed important developments. As a teenager I started doing that on my own Read More ›