Olasky Books Newsletter

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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 ›

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August Reading Suggestions

Recommendation of the month: If you want to learn about both black history and current opportunities for progress, read Black Liberation Through the Marketplace: Hope, Heartbreak, and the Promise of America (Emancipation Books, 2022). Authors Rachel Ferguson and Marcus Witcher cover the free market tradition in Black America and the racist tradition that Jim Crow laws encapsulated. There’s no need Read More ›

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Summertime, and the Reading is Easy

It’s July and we’re ten days away from publication of a new Daniel Silva novel, so I’ll skip my mention of new books and recommend five authors who in six series have produced 73 novels since 1981. I’ve read three-fourths of them during the past decade and can testify to their excellence for beach, deck, armchair, or Kindle-when-awake-in-the-middle-of-the-night bed reading, Read More ›

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On Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal

So much from the left (and also the right) is predictably roaring and boring. George Packer for two decades, though, has provided unexpected insights through his biting writing in The New Yorker and now The Atlantic. His Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021) displays egalitarianism but does not accept the traditional left/right spectrum. Read More ›

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On The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People

Tomorrow is the 75th anniversary of the independence of modern Israel. Few in 1948 thought it would last as long, surrounded as it was by a hostile Muslim world, now only partly hostile. The U.S. has been crucial in that survival, and Walter Russell Mead’s The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish Read More ›