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India: A History by John Keay: The best recent single volume history, a delight to read, by a noted British scholar who writes history the old-fashioned way.
Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God by Jonah Blank: Each chapter in this book, by a staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (but don’t hold that against him), begins by retelling a portion of the Ramayana epic followed by relevant and illuminating stories from his travels through modern India. A unique concept and a great way to appreciate the Ramayana, an epic that has influenced mythology and storytelling all over the Subcontinent and Southeast Asia for over 2000 years.
The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian by Nirad C. Chaudhuri: Some Indians will not be pleased at the inclusion of this work by an exile who could be harshly critical of his native land. But the author ranks with Conrad as among the finest prose stylists writing in English as an adoptive language and the recounting of his youth of a century ago will leave a vivid impression. His second volume, Thy Hand, Great Anarch!, continues the story through Partition in 1947.
On the neighboring region of Central Asia, I recommend Tournament of Shadows, by Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac. It tells the history of the “Great Game,” the long struggle between the British, Russians, and others for mastery of the region commanding the approaches to India. This is a book for winter and for firesides. It will entertain you in the reading while adding depth to your understanding of today’s news.
John S. Gardner served as general counsel of the U.S. Agency for International Development from 2001 to 2005. He has also served as a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush and a special assistant to President George H.W. Bush.
State of Fear by Michael Crichton: A James Bond-like thriller in which the politically correct Friends of the Earth are the Dr. No-like bad guys. Crichton’s tome serves as a good antidote to the religion of global warming and the junk science that feeds it.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown: A super-secret effort by various medieval secret societies to unmask a grand conspiracy by the Catholic Church to cover up alleged fact that Mary Magdalen was the wife of Jesus and co-founder of the Church by waging a 2000-year public relations campaign portraying her as an easy woman, unraveled by brilliant Harvard professor of symbology.
The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else by Hernando de Soto: Capitalism only works in countries where independent judiciary, uncorrupted government bureaucracy, and transparent indicia of ownership enforce private property rights. He explains, perhaps unintentionally, why dumping money in Third World countries is mostly a useless endeavor. Take note, Bono.
Tom Knott is a metro and sports columnist for the Washington Times.
Comedy is hard. But former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman’s book, It’s My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America, reminds one of Woody Allen’s early New Yorker essays. She calls herself an economic conservative but winks at us with the fact that she bumped New Jersey state spending from $14.6 billion to $20 billion in her seven years in office and increased state debt from $3 billion to $12 billion. Classic Steve Martin irony. She then goes on to suggest that her governing style of bigger government and social liberalism is the model for the Reagan/ Bush Republican Party in other states. When Whitman was elected, New Jersey had the governorship and two-thirds majorities in the House and Assembly. When she left, the Democrats had the governorship and majorities in both houses of the legislature. Mark Twain couldn’t have written it better. Whitman’s career in politics is over, but she has great comedic talent.
Two Topical Books on Property Rights: The Supreme Court’s Kelo decision — upholding the power of local governments to take your house and give it to Starbucks — has energized the far-flung but heretofore under-organized property rights movement. But great movements need manifestos, and the property rights movement has two.
First, Tom Bethell’s The Noblest Triumph documents the power of property rights to shape nations and history. (Someday I hope to watch a debate between Tom Bethell, arguing the primacy of property rights, and a disciple of the late Jude Wanniski whose The Way the World Works argued everything flowed from low tax rates.)
The second seminal work on property rights is Hernando de Soto’s The Mystery of Capital, and it demonstrates how property rights — not foreign aid or even democracy — is what the Third World needs to develop. De Soto gives a great history of the development of property rights in the United States, reminding us that we too didn’t get it right at first.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?