Category Archives: Book reviews

Anne’s Prince Edward Island

Wayne Curtis takes a closer look at the picturesque island that inspired L. M. Montgomery’s beloved Anne of Green Gables series.

The island, Anne said more than once, allowed “scope for the imagination,” which the orphan asylum assuredly did not. Most of the descriptive passages are rendered through Anne’s eyes, and she was enchanted by everything—from a farm lane overarched with apple blossoms, at the end of which a “painted sunset sky shone like a great rose window at the end of a cathedral aisle,” to the red sandstone cliffs along the shore, where “scrub firs, their spirits quite unbroken by long years of tussle with the gulf winds, grew thickly.”

The women in my family are all huge fans of the Anne books and movies. And I have to confess to a fondness for the simpler time and place enshrined there.

“Dumbness is Us”

Check out this interview with Susan Jacoby, author of the new book, The Age of American Unreason. Jacoby argues that the rise of infotainment as a channel for disseminating “news” is destroying Americans’ ability to read and converse, reducing our ability to respond effectively to the world.

Dumbness is us. When I hear people saying, “You were lied to,” usually in relation to the Iraq war, I think the fundamental question we should ask is really why we as a people were so susceptible to lies. If we don’t know where Iraq is on a map, if we don’t know anything about other cultures, if we don’t know anything about our history, the problem comes from us.

She believes the internet contributes to the problem. Perhaps so, but that’s not the fault of the internet, but of how people use it. Still, when watching how the electorate is being so shamelessly manipulated in this election cycle, you can’t help but agree with Jacoby’s basic thesis.

Steyn Alone — Or Is He?

Last year Mark Steyn published a blockbuster political tome, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, a well-researched look into the demographic trends behind the rise of global Islam, especially in Europe. The book was a bestseller here in America, and in Canada, Mark’s home.

An excerpt from Mark’s book was published in Maclean’s, a leading Canadian news magazine. Now the Canadian Islamic Congress has pressured a couple of Canada’s human rights commissions (one national, one provincial) into reviewing whether the civil rights of Muslims in Canada have been violated by the publishing of this article.

Mark’s response:

I can defend myself if I have to. But I shouldn’t have to.

If the Canadian Islamic Congress wants to disagree with my book, fine. Join the club. But, if they want to criminalize it, nuts. That way lies madness. . . .

The “progressive” left has grown accustomed to the regulation of speech, thinking it just a useful way of sticking it to Christian fundamentalists, right-wing columnists, and other despised groups. They don’t know they’re riding a tiger that in the end will devour them, too.

Well spoken. Free speech applies to everyone, or it applies to no one. Once we let government get in the business of deciding who can say what, we have surrendered our most basic human right. And sooner or later, that loss will be used against us.

Judging from some posts on Mark’s website, maybe a few Canadians are beginning to wake up to what is happening in their country. But it will be an uphill battle.

Cool It: A Fresh Look at Global Warming

Glenn Reynolds calls attention to a new book by Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg that promises to change the tone of the global warming debate. Amazon.com has a guest review by bestselling author — and global warming skeptic — Michael Crichton. Crichton concludes:

In some of the most disturbing chapters, Lomborg recounts what leading climate figures have said about anyone who questions the orthodoxy, thus demonstrating the illiberal, antidemocratic tone of the current debate. Lomborg himself takes the larger view, explaining in detail why the tone of hysteria is inappropriate to addressing the problems we face.

In the end, Lomborg’s concerns embrace the planet. He contrasts our concern for climate with other concerns such as HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, and providing clean water to the world. In the end, his ability to put climate in a global perspective is perhaps the book’s greatest value. Lomborg and Cool It are our best guides to our shared environmental future.

I repeat: The current hysteria surrounding global warming will someday be taught in universities as a good example of how not to do science.

When Boys Roamed Free

We recently commented on the success of the new Dangerous Book for Boys, a celebration of everything that makes up boyhood. The success of the book has ignited a lot of discussion about how we’re raising our boys these days.

Dan Hall recounts the story of how, back in 1958, at the tender age of 13,  he and a chum were dropped off by their parents at a lake outside Detroit for four days of camping, fishing, rowboating, and general adventure-seeking — by themselves. Today, the parents could be accused of child endangerment for such a thing.

Hall bemoans the loss of this kind of boyhood rite of passage, and applauds the current discussion on how we’re short-changing our boys in today’s risk-averse culture.

The authors are right: Over the past few decades, we have focused on the dark side of masculinity: aggression, the tendency to take dumb risks, false machismo. Perhaps that is one reason boys are falling behind girls on any number of social and academic measures. Their book points to a brighter side: self-discipline, wry humor, quiet determination, and curiosity about everything. Let’s send the pendulum swinging back in that direction.

J. K. Rowling: The Next C. S. Lewis?

I’m not a big Harry Potter fan. I’ve seen several of the movies, but since I’ve not read a single book in the series, most of the plot lines go over my head. Still, it’s hard to be a student of modern culture and not at least be aware of the Potter phenomenon.

Commentator Jeffrey Weiss, however, apparently is a big Potter fan, and he sees a distinctly Christian message in the Potter story, one that may surprise the Christian critics of the series. Themes of self-sacrifice, resurrection, and the cosmic battle between good and evil are every bit as Christian as the fiction of C. S. Lewis.

Many readers who finish the Potter saga will conclude, perhaps to their surprise, that Harry’s world is at least as Christian in its essential underpinnings as is C.S. Lewis’s “Narnia.”

Two Guys, a Bus, and a Mission for Marriage

No, they’re not gay. They are two bachelors who are criss-crossing the country interviewing hundreds of couples who have been married for 40 years or longer, trying to find the secret to a happy marriage. They have been documenting their “Project Everlasting” on a website, but a book has just been published, and a film is in the works. Check out their FAQ page for a quick summary of what they’ve learned thus far.

Contrary to popular belief, traditional marriage is definitely not dead.