Monday, January 14, 2013

Five For Reading

If you received an Amazon gift card for Christmas and haven’t had a chance to use it yet or if you’re just looking for a good read, here are the top five books that I read in the past year.

Outside of sports, politics is likely the most cliché laden sphere of life. Jonah Goldberg does a masterful of job of describing and demolishing a number of such clichés that the Left holds most dear in “The Tyranny of Clichés.” Slippery slope, spiritual not religious, violence never solves anything and a host of other lazy excuses for arguments are sliced and diced with Goldberg’s usual incisive and witty manner.

For all the talk about what must be done to save the “middle class” in last fall’s campaign, candidates from either party rarely dared touch on what the real divisions in America’s social strata are and what has caused them. Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart, The State of White America 1960-2010” is a sobering statistical look at this divide and what its implications bode for the future. He doesn’t offer a lot in the way of solutions, but it helping to steer the discussion to what the real problem is he has performed an invaluable service.

I think I read my first book on the Second World War when I was about ten. Since then, I’ve read a number of books on various aspects of the war and consider myself fairly well versed on the topic. However, when I read “Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II” by Arthur Herman, I realized how little I really knew about how the United State became the arsenal of democracy that tipped the balance for the Allies with its prodigious industrial output. William Knudsen and Henry J. Kaiser are the primary heroes in Herman’s story of how American businessmen were able to redirect their energy and ingenuity into wartime production in remarkable short amounts of time with previously unimaginable results.

Even during the darkest days of the Third Reich there still were good Germans, non perhaps more so than pastor/theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Eric Matazas’ biography “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” is a gripping tale of Bonhoeffer’s all too short, but impactful life. Bonhoeefer saw the evil behind the rise of the Nazis long before most did and became a dedicated and dogged opponent of Hitler and his henchmen. His story is full of stirring examples of following God no matter difficult the path and is what people have in mind when they speak of “having the courage of your convictions.”

There a lot of books out there on how to improve your life and a lot on how to get ahead in business. But there are precious few that combine both areas in as efficient and effective manner as “How Will You Measure Your Life?” by Clayton M. Christensen does. He uses his experience in business and life to offer simple yet important advice on how to be satisfied in your career, how to be happy in your personal relationships, and how to stay out of jail. A lot of it is knowing what your priorities are and living by them. Again, it sounds simple and even obvious, but it’s also an easy path to drift from if you don’t maintain focus and this book helps to do just that.