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Why Religion?

Elaine Pagels (Ecco)

Pagels, professor of religion at Princeton Univ., examines her relationship to spirituality as she comes to terms with the deaths of her son and husband in this moving memoir. Told in spare, affecting prose, Pagel’s beautiful book of ruminations bears as much hope as it does sorrow.

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Christian: The Politics of a Word in America

Matthew Bowman (Harvard Univ.)

Bowman, professor of history at Henderson State University, persuasively demonstrates how Christianity has shaped a collective understanding of American politics. Surveying recent movements, such as the development of the Tea Party, as well as largely forgotten but important figures, the essays pinpoint crucial junctures that have defined America’s relationship between church and state.

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On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books

Karen Swallow Prior (Brazos)

Prior, English professor at Liberty University, mines the wisdom of Jane Austen, Shusaku Endo, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Flannery O’Connor, and others in this treatise on building character through reading great books. Filled with wit and informed by Prior’s deep faith, it is both an approachable reading list and an elegant explanation of how literature can be a source of ethical guidance.

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Resist and Persist: Faith and the Fight for Equality

Erin Wathen (Westminster John Knox)

Wathen, senior pastor at Saint Andrew Christian Church, uses a feminist lens to equip readers with strategies for thinking about changing patriarchal standards from within Christianity. With proactive solutions delivered in vociferous prose, Wathen’s book is a clear, useful call to action.

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Seven Types of Atheism

John Gray (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Arguing that many new atheists (paradoxically) demonstrate a near-religious attachment to their concepts of progress, Gray succinctly challenges the presuppositions and positions of secular liberals in this persuasive polemic.

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