- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2000

What should be a joyful Christmas season has become, for too many people, an exhausting shopping ordeal. Battling the holiday crowds in the malls is only part of the problem. Finding a present that fits each person on your list can become a mental burden.

Books are one way out of this problem. For “the man who has everything” — an increasing number of people of both sexes in this affluent society — a book that has just been published is probably something they do not have. And it’s a one-size-fits-all gift.

For serious readers, this has been a banner year for outstanding new books. Hernando de Soto’s new book, “The Mystery of Capital,” explains in readable language why free markets fail to produce the same kind of prosperity in the Third World as in countries like the United States, Japan or Germany. In the process, this book makes Americans understand the things responsible for their own economic good fortune.

If you want to know why our schools have been dumbed down and why so much weird stuff and political correctness have displaced academic work in American classrooms, read “Left Back” by Diane Ravitch. It is a history of so-called progressive education theories, from their original guru, John Dewey, to the present. You may not like the education fads any better, but at least you will know what our “educators” are up to, as distinguished from what their spin says they are trying to do.

One of the most recent — and most destructive — of the weird notions to seize the education establishment is the idea that the normal behavior of boys is something to be stamped out and the boys re-programmed to fit the theories of radical feminists. Christina Hoff Sommers’ new book, “The War Against Boys” explains the ideology behind this — and the utter lack of evidence behind this destructive ideology. In fact, much evidence contradicts these theories.

A young black professor at Berkeley named John McWhorter has written a very thought-provoking book with the double-meaning title “Losing the Race.” Its subtitle is “Self-Sabotage in Black America.” It is about fashionable but counterproductive attitudes that are holding back the progress of blacks.

Black radio talk-show host Larry Elder has written a new book titled “The Ten Things You Can’t Say in America.” It is not confined to racial issues, but includes such things as gun control, health care and gender bias. It is very readable, insightful and presented in Elder’s usual take-no-prisoners style, using such old-fashioned things as evidence and logic. A lot of sacred cows bite the dust in this book.

Another talk-show host — from television — has written another wide-ranging book about contemporary American life. This one is titled “The O’Reilly Factor” and its author is Bill O’Reilly from the TV program of the same name. The book is very much like the program. In the book, as on the air, O’Reilly hits the nail on the head a remarkable number of times and misses by a country mile a few other times. But, either way, it is always a good read.

“The Case for Marriage” by Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher is one of the most important books of our time. Contrary to what clever people say, the hard facts show that marriage makes an enormous — and favorable — difference in everything from income to health to the education of children and their general well-being. It makes a bigger difference than race or money or practically anything else. Shacking up or sleeping around just does not have the same track record, as a ton of evidence shows.

Yours truly also had a book published this year — memoirs titled “A Personal Odyssey.” Since it is impossible to give an objective assessment of your own book about your own life, let me just suggest that you take a look at it and see what you think.

The same people who are interested in serious books are often also good candidates for a gift subscription to a serious magazine. That is especially so for conservatives who complain of widespread liberal bias in the print media, as well as on television.

Among the outstanding periodicals that will never be accused of liberal bias are City Journal, Conservative Chronicles, Hoover Digest, Insight magazine, The Weekly Standard, National Review, Commentary, Policy Review and The American Enterprise. Despite a liberal media, there is no need for either conservatives or liberals to hear only one side of the story, after you give them a subscription.

Merry Christmas — and easy shopping.

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