Thomas Sowell
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 Then there is "What's So Great About America" by Dinesh D'Souza, who brings a foreigner's fresh appreciation of American society and its benefits that too many Americans take for granted.

 For those people you think would appreciate a good book, even if it is not upbeat, there are a number of outstanding choices.

 One is "Abuse of Power" by Steven Greenhut, a very eye-opening little book which exposes the misuse of the power of eminent domain by local politicians across the country to demolish working-class neighborhoods, in order to turn the land over to developers who will build shopping malls, casinos and other things that will pay more taxes than the homeowners were paying.

 Those people who are constantly denouncing "greed" almost never apply that term to what the government does, no matter how unconscionable it may be, as the routine misuse of eminent domain has become, with its Robin-Hood-in-reverse redistribution of wealth.

 "Intellectual Morons" by Daniel J. Flynn was one of this year's best books. It shows how the intelligentsia have for years fallen for unbelievably stupid -- and often tragic -- notions on everything from the environment to Communist dictators.

 Michelle Malkin's courageous and carefully reasoned and documented book "In Defense of Internment" was a long-overdue re-examination of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. It was one of the few books on that painful subject which was not just an attempt to trash the U.S. government or American society.

 Another gem is "What Went Wrong?" by eminent Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis. It traces the decline of Islamic civilization from its leading position in the world a few centuries ago to its present position, lagging far behind the West -- and looking for scapegoats to blame.

 Among my own recent books, "Affirmative Action Around the World" cannot be called upbeat, and in fact the experiences of other countries -- some of which have had group preferences and quotas longer than the United States -- can serve as a grim warning.

 My other book this year was the revised edition of "Basic Economics" -- which is neither upbeat nor downbeat, but tries to dispel some of the confusion surrounding the operation of the economy, domestically and internationally.

 Giving books as presents can make Christmas shopping less stressful and more enjoyable, in keeping with the holiday spirit.

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Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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