Christmas books for 2009 | John Carlson

It is easier and quicker to buy someone a gift card at a bookstore than shopping for a book. But what makes shopping worthwhile is taking the time to think for a moment about the kind of book that your friend or relative would enjoy or benefit from reading. Getting them what they want also saves them a trip to the bookstore to find it. And even if you guess wrong, the recipient just goes to the store and exchange it for the one they wanted, which is what they would have done with the gift card.

So here are my suggestions for some good books this Christmas.

The greatest mountain climber in the America and maybe the world is Ed Viesturs from Bainbridge Island, who still guides occasionally on Mt. Rainier. His new book “K-2: Life and Death on the World’s most Dangerous Mountain” (Broadway publishers) is a harrowing history of the mountain that nearly killed him. His previous autobiography, “No Shortcuts to the Top” (also by Broadway) explains how a boy who grew up in the flattest part of the Midwest, came to the UW and literally climbed his way to the top.

While we’re talking about Washington state writers with national reputations, Mercer Island’s Michael Medved has written another soon-to-be bestseller. “The Five Big Lies About American Business” (Random House) forcefully argues that growth and prosperity flow naturally from a free, competitive economy, and that government policies often do more harm than good. Chock full of examples, it’s an especially good read for business people who find corporate America under attack from economically illiterate activists, politicians and media pundits. Medved, one of the country’s most popular radio hosts, understands anti-corporate attitudes because he used to harbor them as an Ivy League educated politico and film critic in Hollywood.

Yet another local author with a national reputation is Seattle writer Timothy Egan. Three years ago, Egan wrote the astonishingly powerful “The Worst Hard Time” about the great Dust Bowl catastrophe during the 1930s. It won the National Book Award, and more honors will be chasing his latest book, “The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America” (Houghton Mifflin) which tells the story of America’s worst forest fire, the 10,000 men who tried to fight it across three states (including Washington), and the impact it had on environmental policies. Ironically, while Egan is as liberal as Medved is conservative, both are huge fans of Theodore Roosevelt.

While we’re talking politics, if you want to know how far the Republican Party strayed from its conservative foundation (and was understandably pummeled at the polls in both 2006 and 2008), read Mark Levin’s “Liberty and Tyranny” (Threshold Editions). Levin, a former Reagan administration lawyer who now hosts a radio talk show in New York, defines the core principles of American conservatism and argues that a nation that defined its freedom by crafting a Constitution that limited the power of the federal government, will not remain free if it continues to massively expand the federal government.

Moving on from politics, what comes after life? Death. And what follows death? Nothing, says atheists, who use logic, reason and science to argue that when life ends, it ends.

But bestselling author Dinesh D’Souza says that death is NOT the end. And in “Life After Death: The Evidence” (Regnery), he makes his case not on religious grounds, but from his opponents’ turf, using logic, reason and science to argue that an afterlife literally makes sense. He further claims that the people clinging to “blind faith” are actually the atheists. Powerful, provocative and inspiring.

Enjoy Christmas!

John Carlson hosts a daily radio program, “The Commentators,” with KOMO 4’s Ken Schram each weekday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. E-mail him at johncarlson@komoradio.com.

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