Politics & Policy

Summer Reading Recommendations, Part One

Here's what our contributors are reading this season.

Hitting the beach? Traveling on a plane? You’ll need some reading material! National Review Online asked Denis Boyles, Orson Scott Card, John Derbyshire, Nancy French, Daniel Gelernter, Jonah Goldberg, Allen Guelzo, C. R. Hardy, Arthur Herman, Hugh Hewitt, Carrie Lukas, William McGurn, Eric Metaxas, Joseph Pearce, John J. Pitney, Father George W. Rutler, Hans von Spakovsky, and John Yoo for their recommendations. Here’s the first installment of their suggestions.

DENIS BOYLES

Prohibition is a pretty interesting topic to a guy who likes a drink, and I’ve found Danny Okrent’s Last Call — sidekicked by a tall, icy gin and a couple of warm afternoons — great company. “Liberals vs. conservatives” always seemed too simple and serious to me; “progressives vs. libertarians” (or, more accurately, “progressives vs. everyone else”) seems like a more entertaining way to see the 20th century, what with all those upper-class Protestants telling working stiffs how to live lives conducive to agricultural and industrial productivity. Okrent’s book is an interesting accompaniment to Andrew Sinclair’s brilliant — and by today’s standards deeply politically incorrect — 1962 study, Prohibition: The Era of Excess. If you want to know how class pretension and social issues came to define — and permanently divide — America between the years 1900 and 1990, Sinclair explains. (At the Fortnightly Review, Sinclair reviews Okrent. Judgment: mixed, not shaken.)

Recently, physicist Stephen Hawking told ABC News that “Science will defeat religion,” thus at once diminishing the value of both Hawking and science, but leaving religion unaffected entirely. Only someone whose understanding of theology and religion is deeply primitive could see a conflict between the two things; Hawking might as well have said, “Sewing machines will defeat magenta.” The real struggle for these celebrity scientists — Hawking and Dawkins, and their polemicists, like Hitchens — is to gain the mantle of moral authority. Doing so at the price of morality must seem a small price. At least that’s the topic of two very interesting books. One is Scientific Authority and Twentieth-Century America, edited by Ronald Walters for JHU Press. Reading the essays in Walters’s book, now nearly 12 years old, makes clear what’s at stake for those whose beliefs are limited by science, and why issues like climate change make them all go slightly berserk. That madness is the backdrop for Anthony O’Hear’s Philosophy in the New Century, the one book of philosophy you should read if you ever hope to use the word “philosophically” with any sincerity. O’Hear is one of the few modern philosophers fluent in English, yet his survey is far from being an overview. It’s a short essay, only 200 pages or so, but I think you’ll find it’s impossible to overpraise.

Finally, my own work completing my history of the compilation of the magnificent eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (whose 100th birthday is now approaching) has given me a chance to read one of those books that was assigned to me at least twice in college but that I neatly sidestepped each time. Now, just in time for my 750th annual class reunion, I’m finally reading Ruskin’s Eagle’s Nest — “ten lectures on the relation of Natural Science to Art.” What an idiot I’ve been (as I’m sure many of you will have realized), missing this great book all these years. I don’t know what the hell was on TV, but it couldn’t have been better than this. “How much of a man can a snake see?” (The question reverses nicely, in a debased, political way.)

Denis Boyles is author, most recently, of Superior, Nebraska.

ORSON SCOTT CARD

It’s summer, and you’re jogging, working out, hiking, cycling — or still commuting to work every day. Have a book from Audible.com in your Shuffle or Nano to keep it interesting:

Karl Rove, Courage and Consequence (read by the author): Before this book, I knew little about Rove except that everybody blamed him for everything that went right for George W. Bush and wrong for the Democrats. Rove manages not to make himself the hero of Bush’s administration, telling his story as candidly as can be done while most of the players are still alive.

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (Simon Vance, unabridged): There’s a reason why Charles Dickens was the most popular and beloved author in the world, and this book shows it. Long as it is, you’ll be sorry when it’s over — but be prepared for the emotional rollercoaster it takes you on!

Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind (Linda Stephens, unabridged): This is a Pulitzer Prize–winning Great American Novel . . . that happens to have a romance in it. Though you have to hold your nose for the N-words and racial attitudes of the 1930s when it was written, it’s a devastating look at a spoiled girl who takes on enormous responsibilities amid the collapse and rebuilding of a civilization.

Lisa Gardner, The Neighbor (Kirsten Potter, Emily Janice Card, Kirby Heyborne, unabridged): When devoted wife, mother, and middle-school teacher Sandra Jones disappears, nobody looks innocent — not her husband, not her father, and not the convicted sex offender who lives five doors down. Probing everyone’s dark secrets makes this a great ride. (Parental warning: F-bombs, sex scenes, mistreatment of children.)

Orson Scott Card is the author of Ender’s Game.

JOHN DERBYSHIRE

Some current, a couple older, plus one so new it’s not actually available yet.

Science — The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit by Melvin Konner (mine the second edition, 2002). How much of the human condition is “mere biology”? In good, nailed-down scientific results: more than anyone imagined a hundred years ago, more than most people are aware, more than we yet understand. Konner gives a comprehensive overview, thoughtful and humble, unillusioned. A classic in its field that people have been urging me to read for years. Finally just got round to it.

Math — Numbers Rule: The Vexing Mathematics of Democracy, from Plato to the Present, by George G. Szpiro (2010). I knew from reading Martin Gardner’s columns that every voting system you can devise will occasionally turn up paradoxical results — i.e., a winner nobody much wants. “A majority (Tom and Harry) prefers Bush to Gore, another majority (Tom and Dick), prefers Gore to Nader, and another majority (Harry and Dick) prefers Nader to Bush . . . ” etc. Szpiro walks you through the whole subject with very few equations.

World History — The First World War, by John Keegan (1999). I can never have enough books about Samuel Johnson, nor ever enough about World War I. Keegan is terrific. His Face of Battle is a great military classic, one of those books everyone should read even if not much interested in war. In this one, he brings his powers of judgment, historical imagination, common sense, and literary fluency to bear on the Doughboys’ war. “The simple truth of 1914–18 trench warfare is that the massing of large numbers of soldiers unprotected by anything but cloth uniforms, however they were trained, however equipped, against large masses of other soldiers, protected by earthworks and barbed wire and provided with rapid-fire weapons, was bound to result in very heavy casualties among the attackers.”

U.S. History — The High Tide of American Conservatism, by Garland S. Tucker III (available September 1; mine a review copy). Just squeaks in under the wire as a summer book, one to look out for. It’s about the 1924 election, the last in U.S. history in which both major candidates were strongly committed conservatives. Non-conservatives were represented by the Progressive candidate, “Fightin’ Bob” La Follette. He got 17 percent of the national vote. (Sigh.) His cousin Suzanne, by the way, was National Review’s first managing editor. Go figure.

Poli-Sci — Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth, by Eric Kaufmann (2010,but so far only in the U.K.). The title speaks for itself. I won’t give away the author’s answer, but there is much food for thought here.

Fiction — My fiction discovery this year has been James Gould Cozzens, who wrote carefully crafted middlebrow novels from the 1920s to the 1960s, though the general opinion is that he peaked around the middle of that range. I have committed to “do” Cozzens for a magazine in the fall, so I am reading my way through him, and as much biographical material about him as I can find. I started with Men and Brethren, and wrote about it here. I find Cozzens very simpatico, a fine cold eye, writing plain prose about real people in a real world — the world (so far as I’ve yet read) of WASP America, now at one with Nineveh and Tyre and 83 percent votes for conservatives.

John Derbyshire is a columnist for NRO and author, most recently, of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism.

NANCY FRENCH

That’s No Angry Mob, That’s My Mom, by Michael Graham: I was a latecomer to the tea-party movement. By the time it had gotten rolling, I’d expended all my energy trying to get a Republican elected president; when my parents started hanging tea bags from their rear-view mirrors, I was politically depressed. That’s why, when I was asked by a tea party in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, to speak to their group, I wished I’d had Michael Graham’s new book. It chronicles the beginnings of the movement and describes the motives and manners its members. (In Graham’s inimitable style, too: He describes tea partiers as “folks who looks less like bomb throwers and more like the early-bird special crowd at a Denny’s in Branson.”) When I finally took the tea-party plunge, I realized Graham’s description of the law-abiding, country-loving people was exactly right on: I was in Missouri, but I could’ve closed my eyes and felt like I was in Boston circa 1773.

One particularly notable chapter is called “It’s the People’s Seat: The Scott Brown Story.” Writing from Boston, Graham had a front-row seat to witness that revolution. You might enjoy this book if, like me, you’re a little late to the movement and want to understand it more fully. Or maybe you just want to be amused by Graham, who in a previous life was a stand-up comic and a GOP political consultant — a very entertaining combination.

 

Cosmic, by Frank Cottrell Boyce: Read Cosmic by British author Frank Cottrell Boyce on your next family road trip. The book is from the perspective of Liam, a twelve year old who is tall for his age and who recently began growing facial hair. Though his physical awkwardness cripples him socially, it has some advantages — he is nearly allowed to test-drive a Porsche, passes for the guidance counselor at his new school, and, by getting a friend to pose as his daughter, wins a father-daughter trip to an amusement park in China. But, as it turns out, it’s no amusement park, and he ends up as the guest of an unethical corporation planning to profit from commercial space travel…

 

This is a funny book. We read it aloud to our older kids (an eleven-year-old girl and a nine-year-old boy), and sometimes all of us were laughing out loud. Gamers might appreciate that Liam finds ways to translate World of Warcraft success into his actual life. People of faith might appreciate a little jewel buried at the end of the book. Parents will like that the book, funny as it is, also has a lot to say about the universe, man’s place in it, and fatherhood.  But mostly, it’s a fun book about how “grownupness is wasted on grown-ups.” (Added bonus: The book is being adapted into a movie.)

 

My Father’s Daughter, by Hannah Pool: The author, a beauty and fashion editor for the Guardian newspaper in the U.K., knew more about lipstick and the latest hemline than about her home continent of Africa. Her white parents — her dad an English academic and her mom an American — had adopted her from an orphanage in Eritrea after she’d been dropped off there by a neighbor or a distant relative. Having lived a pretty glamorous life as a Londoner, she didn’t give much thought to her background . . . until she received a letter from a man named Asmara, who turned out to be a brother she never knew she had. Apparently, she wasn’t totally orphaned after all, and her large family back in Eritrea — including the father she thought was dead — wanted desperately to be reunited with her. This is the touching story of an independent, beautiful woman returning to a home she’s never seen.

Note: Don’t confuse My Father’s Daughter with Clarence Thomas’s amazing memoir, My Grandfather’s Son. On second thought, get both for inspirational and challenging summer reading!

Nancy French is author of A Red State of Mind: How a Catfish Queen Reject Became a Liberty Belle.

DANIEL GELERNTER

The Two-Ocean War by Samuel Eliot Morison (1989): A teacher of mine once remarked in passing that he’d read far more history than he actually knew or could remember. And even basic facts of history tend to slip away from me after a few years rusting. So I find it particularly remarkable that never, since my father first read me Morison’s account of the Battle of Midway thirteen years ago, have I forgotten the names of all seven of the aircraft carriers involved.

Morison’s Two-Ocean War is a shortened version of his much longer History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Morison himself did the shortening, kicking out all the minor actions and leaving us a crisp and extraordinarily vivid picture of our naval and amphibious campaigns in World War II.

Most of the history books I’ve read are dry and tedious (except for the textbooks I had in school, which were just dishonest). But Morison is always entertaining and readable, so that the history he teaches you stays with you. If you need to brush up on World War II — or just want an exciting true story — start here.

The Pregnant Widow, by Martin Amis (2010): Amis’s latest novel is set in an Italian castle in Campania in the summer of 1970. Add it to your summer too. The story, which handles both the feminist revolution and the wasted life of a young American, is relatively unimportant. What matters in an Amis novel is the prose itself. Perhaps no other modern novelist has his fingers so firmly round the throat of the English language.

Amis is invigorating. Every sentence is bursting at the seams with energy, and he is never conventional (though often unpleasant). Those looking for a more exciting plot or a shorter introduction to Amis should start with Night Train – a contrived but intriguing murder story. If you enjoy reading for the sake of the robustness and nobility of our language, get The Pregnant Widow.

Letters of E. B. White (revised edition by Harper Collins, 2006): No summer is complete without E. B. White, who was one of the great English stylists of the 20th century. Unlike Amis in nearly every respect (see above), E. B. White is charming, unpretentious, and utterly lovable. His essays for The New Yorker rank alongside those of A. J. Liebling and Joseph Mitchell as the finest examples of the genre.

This book of his letters — ordered chronologically and starting with his childhood — is a series of Whitean snapshots; each letter is a miniature masterpiece. I kept this book by my bedside for several months and limited myself to only a few letters a day, so I could prolong the reading as much as possible. Now that I’ve finished, I’m going to read it again. White is so clean, pithy and enjoyable that his writing is medicinal.

Daniel Gelernter has written for The Weekly Standard and National Review Online, among other publications.

JONAH GOLDBERG

I have a stack of books I want to read and I will never get through it, but I have been trying harder and harder whittle it down. Two books really stand out. The first is Never Enough by William Voegeli. I blurbed the book thusly: “William Voegeli may be the most valuable, engaging and original critic of liberalism writing today. I have been waiting for him to write this book for years.” I can’t say that I’m delighted by how persuasive I find his argument for a means-tested conservative welfare state, but even if you reject his conclusions, his dissection of American liberalism is fresh, digestible, and eye-opening.

The second book is also one I’ve written quite a bit about of late: The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley. It is an incredibly rewarding book, the kind of book you can pick up and start reading on any page. I had no idea that Ridley was such a libertarian (the greens call his kind “cornucopians”). The book is a data-filled romp that in many ways marks Ridley as the living heir to Julian Simon.

On other fronts, I’m about a third of the way through Max Brooks’s World War Z, the supposedly definitive work of zombie fiction. I will confess that I am enjoying it, but I find some of his renditions of our zombified future unpersuasive — and no, I’m not talking about the zombie part.

Also, I’ve been trying to keep a toe in the world of graphic novels. I’ve found the post-cancellation Angel graphic novels to be of wildly varying quality, but fans of the show should at least pick up the story — in Hell. Oh, and I liked Wolverine: Old Man Logan far more than I thought I would.

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online.

ALLEN GUELZO

High on any summer reading list in 2010 should be Max Hastings’s Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945. Here is a splendid chronicler of war, perfectly at home with the massive array of sources on Churchill and World War II, offering his sharply honed judgments — on Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, the Resistance, the Anglo-American alliance, North Africa, the Dodecanese — and set in a grand narrative of Britain’s last war for empire. Hastings finds Roosevelt naïve and superficial, Stalin grasping and treacherous, and Churchill crippled by the strategic outlook of a cavalry subaltern, yet withal, the greatest leader of the war and perhaps the greatest Englishman who ever lived. Along the way, Hastings scores the betrayal of critical information by Britons and Americans to Stalin (so that he would know precisely what cards Roosevelt and Churchill were holding at Teheran and Yalta); the tight-fistedness of Morgenthau, King, and Marshall; the dismal showing of the British Army; and the churlishness of the British people, who submitted to Churchill’s leadership in wartime with the expectation that they could exchange it for socialism when the war was over.

Betrayal is also the theme of Paul Berman’s The Flight of the Intellectuals, a much shorter book that falls on the hypocrisy of Western intellectuals with the justified savagery of a tiger: those who fawn over Tariq Ramadan, casually ignoring Ramadan’s intimate connections to radical Islam, while offering tepid criticism and no helping hand to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The book continues the dramatic argument Berman made in Terrorism and Liberalism: that the War on Terror is really a war on fascism redivivus, as a struggle over ideas. Similarly, Pascal Bruckner’s The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay in Western Masochism, now translated into English by Steven Rendell, flails at Western intellectuals (especially in France) who take refuge in multiculturalism in order to avoid facing up to the lethal threat of Islamic cultural aggression. Bruckner is no shill for neo-imperialism, but he is fearful of the paralysis induced by waves of intellectuals who can find nothing but stories of oppression and extortion in Western history. Both Berman and Bruckner are brief, pungent, and full of tersely brilliant bon mots. Read these two on the beach, and it will soon enough feel like Dunkirk. (And, if you read Hastings, you’ll soon find out why that’s no reason to feel relieved.)

One last new book comes from my favorite physician-turned-culturalista: Theodore Dalrymple’s The New Vichy Syndrome: Why Western Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism, like Bruckner’s book, takes a hand in flogging Western intellectuals’ passionate embrace of “miserabilist history.” Dalrymple is less afraid than Bruckner or Berman of an Islamic cultural tsunami overwhelming the crumbling dykes of Western culture; after all, he argues, the vast majority of Europe’s Muslim immigrants assimilate themselves quite well, when they can. It’s the Europeans who have lost any real zeal themselves for this assimilation, and prefer instead to let the Islamic cranks roam at will so long as they can retain their long holidays and generous pensions. Dalrymple hasn’t much personal use for religion, but he definitely sees the decay of European religion as a principal culprit in the loss of the West’s cultural confidence.

Allen C. Guelzo is professor of history, director of Civil War Era Studies, and associate director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College.

C. R. HARDY

Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset (trans. Tina Nunnally): When I first read this book, in the summer of 2000, I was a young wife and a new mother; I simply devoured it. A good friend of mine once told me then that when she tried to borrow the book from her high-school library, back in the day, an elderly nun told her she could not have it unless she promised to read it again in ten years. My oldest son turned ten last month, so I decided to reread Kristin, which I discovered had recently been translated, to great acclaim, by Tina Nunnally. Gone are the cheesy “methinks” and “thous” that, I must admit, captured the romance of my young motherhood, but the new version is bold, sweeping and gorgeous — in a word, mature. That nun’s recommendation was a wise one.

Cancer Ward, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Another book by a Nobel laureate, and maybe Solzhenitsyn’s greatest novel. Incidentally, it’s also Solzhenitsyn’s commentary on state-run health care. I first read this in the summer of 1997 while traveling in Eastern Europe, and I could practically taste and smell some of the scenes, especially riding on dusty trains and kicking around old Soviet buildings. Although it wasn’t clear to me at the time, I suspect its power contributed to the radical conversion I experienced that summer. You might find the book to be slow going at the beginning, but stick with it; you won’t be disappointed. It might even change you in ways you didn’t imagine.

Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture, by Shannon Hayes: This has been on my list ever since it came out, and I can’t wait to read it this summer. Perhaps the first and only book to describe the growing “silent revolution” of highly talented women choosing to stay home, raise and educate their own children, and live more simply. (It’s a fascinating cultural sign post, having been released just three years shy of the 50th anniversary of The Feminine Mystique.) I’m one of these “radical homemakers” — I have a Ph.D., I bake bread daily, and I homeschool my children — but I’d never realized how many more women like me were out there. I’m eager to see what I can learn from the inspiring “colleagues” I didn’t know I had.

C. R. Hardy resides with her family in northern Virginia.

ARTHUR HERMAN

During a working summer like this one, my summer reading is limited to what I read in bed. So, going to my bedstead, this is what I found:

Sherlock Holmes, The Complete Novels and Stories, Volume 1, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: No explanation needed. If a writer who’s a Sherlock Holmes fan denies having a draft of his own Holmes novel, or at least the outline of one, in his desk drawer or on his flash drive, you’ll know you’re dealing with a bald-faced liar.

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand: An obvious choice in the age of Obama. But what I enjoy as much as the pro-capitalist message are Rand’s vast dark Gothic landscapes, as evocative and disturbing as anything in Hieronymous Bosch or Batman Returns. Why Atlas Shrugged hasn’t been turned into the major cinematic statement of today’s Hollywood Right, and why we’re still stuck with the turgid Gary Cooper/Patricia O’Neill Fountainhead instead, is a puzzle worth pondering.

All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren: When I prowled the English department as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, I would pass Warren’s office door and peer in hopefully. But the door was always shut to me, and so were his novels (his essays are another matter) — until we elected our current president. The story of an up-from-nothing politician-turned-demagogue whose desire to do good corrupts everything and everyone he touches, is the roman à clef of the Obama administration. If Sugar Boy isn’t Robert Gibbs, and Sadie Burke isn’t the perfect blend of Valerie Jarrett and Maureen Dowd, then I’ll eat my Panama hat.

Fighter Squadron at Guadalcanal, by Max Brand: “Max Brand” was the pseudonym of Frederick Faust, a former cowhand and Berkeley undergrad who turned his hand to writing Westerns in the ’20s, and who wound up becoming one of the most prolific and highest paid writers in the America, averaging a new novel every four months.

Faust took his fictional duties lightly, however, and when World War II came he jumped at the chance to go as a journalist (he had tried to enlist back during World War I, but he got turned down). Fighter Squadron is the result of his interviews with Marine pilots returning to El Toro Air Force Base in Los Angeles from the fighting at Guadalcanal. Faust finished it just in time to join in the fighting on the Italian front, where he was killed during a night attack on a German position in May 1944. That made Fighter Squadron his last book and I’d say (having sampled his Westerns) his best. It’s told largely through the words of the young men Faust spoke to as he sat behind a typewriter on a rickety coffee table. Like our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, these Marines are touchingly unaware of their heroism. Faust makes them immortal. Every writer should be so lucky.

Arthur Herman is author of Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age.

HUGH HEWITT

Books stack up in radio studios, and getting three winners in a row is rare. But it’s just happened.

First, John Kasich’s Every Other Monday is a wonderful and inspiring account of the former congressman (and, hopefully, future Ohio governor) and the small group he organized, which has met for more than two decades to wrestle with the big questions of life and what the Bible says about them. This is so unlike any other book by an elected official that, even if you are in the non-believers’ club, you will enjoy it and perhaps be moved by it to begin your own group.

Speaking of non-believers, my favorite from that small but noisy gang is Christopher Hitchens, and his new memoir, Hitch-22, is one of the most remarkable books I have read in a long time. Anyone who has lived through even part of the last 40 years will inhale this one. I’m interviewing Hitchens soon, and audience members listening on AM 1260 (D.C.) or AM 970 (New York City) will likely hear some wonderful asides on life in their towns, as everything Hitchens has done and everywhere he has lived gets its star turn, including his wonderful set of freinds and his very unusual family.

 

I am in the middle of the engrossing Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes, a surprising new biography of the great German theologian and hero. I thought I knew the Bonhoeffer story; I didn’t. Metxases’s new work is a standard-setter, and I’m sure it will continue its climb up the bestseller lists, as it is both deeply serious about a serious man and very readable. It provides not just a sympathetic and thorough retelling of Bonhoeffer’s life but also short detours into other subjects, such as Germany’s descent into darkness and the fundamentalist-revisionist divide that split Christianity in the first half of the 20th century.

 

Finally, for those who just want some fun, I have been ensnared by Bernard Cromwell’s Sharpe series: I am somewhere on the Portugal-Spain border, and it is 1811. Enjoy Richard Sharpe’s long march, but do so in the order of events, not in the order that the books were written.

Hugh Hewitt is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and author of In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition.

CARRIE LUKAS

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman (2009): Parents get tired of hearing about the latest book that will help them make their child smarter, healthier, or better behaved, but this parenting book is different than most. Sure, NutureShock provides clues about strategies for raising a healthy child, but mostly it provides insight into why children act the way they do. It dispels long-held myths (such as the assumption that only children are less socially skilled than those with siblings — disappointing news for those of us who packed our kids together and assumed sibling fights were a necessary part of life). Some of the information has interesting policy implications: For instance, researchers’ limited ability to identify high intelligence in young children suggests that early-tracking efforts may backfire. This book is a fun read with information that is bound to interest any parent.

The Female Brain, by Louann Brizendine (2006): This book provides an in-depth look at how women’s brain chemistry influences our perceptions and emotions. Sound dry? It’s not. For women, it’s better than any self-help book at promoting a greater understanding of why we see and experience the world as we do, which is so often the key to improving our happiness. For men, the benefits are obvious: Wonder why your teenage daughter is constantly on the phone? Or why your young wife starts wanting a baby soon after her best friend has one? This book provides a window not just into what women want, but into why we want the things we do.

Any Vince Flynn novel: Fans of 24 looking for a light but gripping beach read should try Transfer of Power. It’s the first book in Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series; I predict that you will move quickly through the rest.

Carrie Lukas is vice president and director of policy at the Independent Women’s Forum.

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