Both from the Wall Street Journal as it happens. I offer the teasers below in case these books, or the reviews, interest you as well.
The idea of Original Sin â€“ that we are all implicated in some terrible aboriginal calamity â€“ does not sit well with the modern mind. But then neither does the idea of sin itself. According to our therapeutic culture, people like Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin may have sinned, but the rest of us are victims of circumstance and maladjustment. Why even talk about sin? As for the idea that we all have to suffer because our first parents chose to sample a piece of fruit â€“ that obviously doesn’t resonate either. One could even define the Enlightenment, which began with 18th-century thinkers like Rousseau and Kant, as a rejection of the Christian doctrine of Original Sin.
And yet, as Alan Jacobs notes in “Original Sin,” his strangely entertaining cultural survey, some very smart people have concluded that there is no better explanation of the darker side of human behavior. Blaise Pascal, who was certainly a genius, thought that without this particular belief we lack any possibility of understanding ourselves. G.K. Chesterton opined that Original Sin is the only Christian doctrine that requires no explanation: Just look around! And the French novelist Georges Bernanos made a point worth pondering, one that has not been disproved by history, that “for men it is certainly more grave, or at least much more dangerous, to deny original sin than to deny God.”
Republicans have suffered only one sweeping election defeat in the past three decades. Yet that landslide loss, in the 2006 congressional midterm election, has produced a library of books on what Republicans must do to mend their ways and improve their chances in November and beyond.
Two former speechwriters for President Bush, David Frum and Michael Gerson, have offered insider books. Mr. Frum argued for a more centrist GOP policy agenda, including health-care subsidies and a new attention to environmental concerns. Mr. Gerson called for Republican government with a renewed moral mission, at home and abroad. Two more books have come from ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and tax-cut crusader Grover Norquist, each urging Republicans to re-embrace the party’s tradition of limited government. Now, in “Grand New Party,” two young writers for The Atlantic, Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, advance their own scheme for Republican revival. It is a simple and sensible plan and, though not always convincing, the most relevant to Republican troubles in 2008.