Posts Tagged ‘book review’

Book Review: “Demonic” by Ann Coulter

April 17th, 2012

“She’s crazy!” my friend proclaimed from the front of the vehicle when I mentioned that I had just finished listening to Ann Coulter’s Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America via the text-to-speech feature on my Kindle.

I’ll admit that this is a common reaction to Coulter–and one that I’m inclined to agree with.

I’m disappointed that this is the case, though, because her “crazy” often ends up masking that she’s also brilliant.

Coulter’s Demonic is typical of her books in that it is brash, liberal-bashing, and stuffed with well-researched connections between historical and modern events.

Coulter’s thesis is that “the Democratic Party is the party of the mob, irrespective of what the mob represents.” She argues that the Democrats gain power by encouraging mob behavior and then by manipulating said mob to their own means.

In the first part of Demonic, Coulter compares the behavior of modern day liberals to that of Gustave Le Bon’s description of a mob in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (published in 1896).

“All the characteristics of mob behavior set forth by Le Bon in 1895 are evident in modern liberalism–simplistic, extreme black-and-white thinking, fear of novelty, inability to follow logical arguments, acceptance of contradictory ideas, being transfixed by images, a religious worship of their leaders, and a blind hatred of their opponents.”

Coulter unpacks each of these characteristics, citing dozens of prominent examples for each accusation. To the accusation that all American politics is simply mob behavior, she offers conservative counterexamples (For example, the criticism that Ronald Reagan experienced from conservatives during his eight year presidency as a counterexample to political “idol” worship.)

In the second part of Demonic, Coulter argues that Liberal mob behavior has its roots in the lawless French Revolution–a revolution about as foreign to the American Revolution as you can get (despite modern attempts to compare them). In this second section, Coulter devotes less time to insulting modern liberals and focuses on the history of the respective revolutions–leaving the reader to draw parallels with modern times as she contrasts the French Revolution’s godless mobs and the American Revolutionaries’ objections which, only as a last resort (and with careful advance planning by a thoughtful assembly), resulted in violent war. Interestingly, Coulter describes how the Founding Fathers were of a split opinion regarding the original Boston Tea Party–with some arguing that it was too close to mob behavior while others argued that it was not mob-like because it had been carefully planned only after lawful attempts at protest had been exhausted. Apparent in all the Founding Fathers’ discussion of the Tea Party was their inherent distaste for mob behavior.

Which leads to the third part of Demonic, in which Coulter describes the tendency of liberals to instigate, abet, and defend violent mobs. Coulter gives the college campus protests of the sixties, civil rights mobs (both on the pro- and anti- civil rights sides), and the Central Park rape case as examples of the above. She also works through a number of media accusations of violent behavior from conservatives, finding that in most cases the accusations were overblown (or the violent individuals and groups were not conservatives after all.)

Finally, Coulter attempts a psychoanalysis of liberal mobs, asking “Why would anyone be a liberal?” She answers her own question by saying that liberals 1) have a thirst for popularity, 2) ignore the history of the French Revolution and therefore commit its same mistakes, and 3) hate traditional morality and are willing to do anything to overthrow it. Coulter ends by trying (not entirely successfully) to explain her cryptic title, explaining that Satan is the father of the mob.

Can you see the “crazy” even in just my description of Demonic? Coulter has a determined animosity towards liberals and makes no attempt to hide it. She isn’t going to “play nice” or “soften the blow” with meaningless affirmations. She says it exactly as she sees it.

Unfortunately (I think), this animus is likely to make most people dismiss the connections Coulter has made between historical and current events. I think her readers are likely to either agree with her animosity and be confirmed in their biases against liberals and liberalism or they are going to disagree with her animosity and take offense–most on either side missing the historical warning against mob-like behavior.

For my part, I like to think that I’m a more discriminating reader–able to glean valuable insight that will help me to combat mob behavior wherever it is found (on the left or the right or anywhere else) without adopting Coulter’s abrasive attitude towards the Left.

And I pray, that by God’s grace, I would recognize that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).

While I fully support strong action against unlawful mob behavior, my war is not against the mob. While I am a committed conservative, my war is not against liberals. My war is spiritual, not physical.

I have a different strategy than political machinations, than legal cases, than military action. My strategy is to fasten truth as a belt around my waist, to let righteousness guard my chest, to prepare my feet to share the gospel of peace, to trust God to deflect the devil’s arrows, to let salvation be a crown on my head, and to fight with God’s word to advance the gospel of Christ (Eph 6:13-20).

I will love my enemies–not in the sense that I will capitulate to a mob’s demands–but in the sense that I will sacrifice in order that they can know salvation in Christ. How can I do any less when my Savior responded to the truly evil mob (including myself) who demanded His death by offering His life to the Father as a ransom for the mob’s sin?

Book Review: “A is for Adam” by Ken and Mally Ham

November 29th, 2011

I pulled the books off the shelf willy-nilly, eager for some Bible story action from the Dewey Decimal 222s. Like usual, I didn’t stop to look at titles or authors on any of them. After all, I’m going to read every book in that library eventually, right?

When I got home to discover that I had Ken and Mally Ham’s A is for Adam: The Gospel from Genesis in my stack (and saw how big the book was–a whomping 118 pages for a picture book!), my heart sunk a bit.

You see, I’m an adamant creationist–but a creationist of a different breed than the Hams. Most of my encounters with the Ham version of creation has involved bashing those of my opinion–accusing us of compromising Biblical authority, maligning God’s character, and undermining the gospel. Not exactly something that predisposes me to enjoying what he’s written.

What I found left me one part pleasantly surprised and one part frankly disappointed.

I found that the children’s picture book section of the volume focused primarily on the events of Genesis and saved its ire for evolution (rather than picking up the Old Earth-New Earth debate.) I appreciated this show of restraint in focusing on the less disputable matters in Genesis. While there were certainly some elements of the story that read into Scripture what Scripture may not actually be saying, the overall story reflected Orthodox Christian belief regarding creation with little to dispute. I found this pleasantly surprising.

What I did not find pleasant was the clunky grammar and contrived rhyme found throughout the story. I was ready to forgive “B is for Bible, a book God did give” as an awkward attempt to maintain meter. What I can’t forgive is “Like all of the animals, no man did they fear”, “To sleep God did put him, and when he awoke”, “H is for how very sly he did sound”, and so forth. The overuse of the emphatic “did”, generally in an inverted sentence, is deplorable. It is aesthetically awful, a rape of the English language. In this, the book was unequivocally disappointing.

I alluded a bit earlier to “the children’s picture book section” of this book. That’s because this volume is a multipurpose, 3-in-1 extravaganza. First, it contains a children’s picture book with the aforementioned despicable writing accompanied by full color cartoon-like illustrations. The second section consists of commentary and “student exercises” for each of the 26 rhymes found within the children’s picture book. Finally, the book is repeated with the illustrations offered in outline so that children can color the book.

The second section of the book showed little of the restraint that characterized the first. Among other things, the commentary asserts that we can confidently date both the creation of the world and the flood of Noah from the genealogies of Scripture, that Noah’s flood must have been a global flood, that animal death was necessarily a consequence of the fall, and that dinosaurs unequivocally coexisted with humans.

I’d have liked to have liked this picture book, with its mostly indisputable story of creation and its clear emphasis on the gospel as being God’s plan from the beginning. Unfortunately, the combination of bad writing in the picture book portion and the presentation of young earth perspectives as the only Biblically faithful way to interpret Scripture leaves me unable to recommend this book, even in part.

Rating:1 Star
Category:Nonfiction picture book
Synopsis: An A-B-C book detailing the events of creation as interpreted by Young Earth creationist Ham.
Recommendation: Great idea (for the picture book part). Awful writing. Wooden interpretation of Scripture. I don’t recommend it.

If it hadn’t have been too long, I would have subtitled this post “In which I come out of the closet.” I realize that many of my readers likely hold different views than I regarding creation. Please realize that my review of this book as an Old-Earth creationist is not, in any way, meant to be a criticism of New-Earth creationism as such. Rather, my criticism is for the refusal to accept alternate interpretations of the creation account (such as the Day-Age view, to which I subscribe) as orthodox. In other words, I understand and appreciate that others hold to a different interpretation of the events of creation than I do. I do not appreciate the tendency to make the age of the earth a point of doctrinal orthodoxy or to accuse those of a differing viewpoint of not caring about Scriptural faithfulness or gospel truth.

Book Review: “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande

December 21st, 2010

I’m quite fond of checklists myself. I use them for practically everything. They save me time, money, and energy–but did you know that checklists can save LIVES too?

And I’m not being facetious.

Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto tells the story of how simple checklists save lives–in the building of skyscrapers, the flying of planes, and in the running of operation rooms.

Gawande is a surgeon, and the bulk of the book concerns how he and a number of colleagues in the WHO developed and implemented a checklist to reduce surgical complications–with stunningly positive results.

As a dietitian (and sister and roommate of a physician assistant), I was fascinated by Gawande’s stories of operating rooms, emergency rooms, and public health campaigns. But this book isn’t just for people who like medicine. Gawande stretches outside the constraints of medicine to discuss how checklists are used in architecture and aeronautics, in disaster relief (well, by Walmart during Katrina, at least) and in investment.

Gawande makes a compelling case for the necessity of checklists, even among highly trained professionals, to deal with the problem of extreme complexity. He argues that in the world in which we live, there are hundreds (even thousands) of opportunities for something to go wrong. Even the most advanced practitioners need only forget one thing for a fatal error to occur. Checklists can be used to reduce these errors by ensuring that all of the most important considerations are made.

As I read, I found myself thinking of ways I could use checklists in my own work. Maybe checklists for weight loss interventions (I find myself typing the charting shorthand “wt” instead–I think I may be spending too much time charting at work) or for tube feeding initiation. I toss around a half dozen ideas, start compiling mental checklists. Yes, I’m going to be implementing checklists soon.

The Checklist Manifesto isn’t a self-help book or a “how to” manual–but I can almost guarantee it’ll get you thinking about how you can use checklists to make your life and your work better, faster, and more efficient.

I read this book on recommendation from Lisa Notes. Check out her review.

Rating: 4 stars
Category: Medical(?)
Synopsis:A history and defense of the checklist as a life-saving tool for modern days.
Recommendation: Definitely of interest to medical types, probably of interest to quite a few more. A fascinating story told well.

Visit my books page for more reviews and notes.

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