cranky old self to the well once again, to ruminate on faith, family, and friends (often
with emphasis on their deficiencies) as she
tries to puzzle out the meaning of mercy.
The “radical kindness,” the softening and
surrendering that is a part of mercy, is what
Lamott longs for, but it often seems out of
her reach—to accept or to grant—because
life can be, well, so, unforgivable. In short
yet ruminative essays, she offers examples of
this, and along the way, will hit almost every
reader with a familiar situation that encourages one to go beyond. She herself responds
with mixed results, but with an acute awareness of doing so, something that will also
resonate. Some of the best moments in the
book come when Lamott is fighting scripture, and, as in previous books, when she is
fighting herself. Fans of her work will certainly recognize familiar themes, as well as
her particular cris du coeur, but new readers
will likely get a jolt from her bracing words.
A House Full of Females: Plural
Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early
By Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.
Jan. 2017. 528p. Knopf, $35 (9780307594907). 289.309.
Brigham Young will not soon join John
Stuart Mill and Susan B. Anthony in the pantheon of nineteenth-century feminist icons.
But in this surprising historical inquiry, Ulrich uncovers evidence that the system of
polygamy over which Young presided opened
up unusual opportunities for women to
forge a civic identity. Through diaries kept by
prominent Latter-day Saint women, such as
Eliza R. Snow, Zina D. H. Young, and Bathsheba Smith, readers see how polygamous
wives adapted to—even defended—marital
relationships that fostered an unusual sense
of sisterhood in shared religious devotion
and cooperative service. Though much of
what such women did in the church’s Female Relief Society involved traditionally
female labors, the society did school women
in grassroots organizing and public speaking.
Ulrich consequently sees no mystery in the
fact that Utah strongly supported Anthony’s
national crusade for women’s suffrage and
became only the second state to enfranchise
women, and the first to elect a woman to the
state senate. Probing scholarship sheds light
on a little-understood chapter in American
history. —Bryce Christensen
Letters to a Young Muslim.
By Omar Saif Ghobash.
Jan. 2017. 272p. Picador, $22 (9781250119841); e-book
This collection of 27 essays is written as
letters from a father to his sons (only the first
is addressed to both sons). In them, various
facets of living as a Muslim are discussed.
Each letter typically starts with a position,
takes it to its logical extreme, highlights the
Continued on p. 20
These 10 titles, reviewed in Booklist between November 15, 2015, and November 1, 2016, cover the world and go back and forth in
time, looking at the ways religion has impacted both individuals and
society. —Ilene Cooper
Apostle: Travels among the Tombs of the Twelve. By Tom Bissell.
2016. Pantheon, $27.95 (9780375424663).
Bissell melds travelogue with intensive biblical scholarship as he
visits the tombs of the 12 apostles. A thoughtful journey to be savored.
The Big Question: Why We Can’t Stop Talking about Science, Faith, and God. By Alister
McGrath. 2015. St. Martin’s, $28 (9781250077929).
This challenge to twenty-first-century New Atheists offers a perspective in which
science and faith enrich rather than threaten each other. Profound engagement with life-defining issues.
Finding Peace through Spiritual Practice: The Interfaith Amigos’ Guide to Personal,
Social, and Environmental Healing. By Don Mackenzie and others. 2016. Skylight Paths,
These interfaith friends, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim, take on the big topics and show
how spiritual practices can inspire readers to action.
Genghis Khan and the Quest for God: How the World’s Greatest Conqueror Gave Us
Religious Freedom. By Jack Weatherford. 2016. Viking, $28 (9780735221154).
Weatherford’s fascinating history makes the case that the Mongol leader’s policies
concerning religion—allowing his subjects the unfettered practice of their various faiths—
anticipates those of the U.S.
God’s Armies, Crusade and Jihad: Origins, History, Aftermath. By Malcolm Lambert.
2016. Pegasus, $27.95 (9781681772240).
This intensive look at the Crusades allows readers to experience the epic journeys and
bloody battles while introducing the leading personalities of a tumultuous time. The continuing effects of religious wars are also explored.
How God Became God: What Scholars Are Really Saying about God and the Bible. By
Richard Smoley. 2016. Tarcher, $19 (9780399185557).
This look at what state-of-the art scholarship says about the Bible’s historicity keeps the
pages turning. The book also succeeds at providing a better understanding of what God is
in mainstream and mystical Christianity, as informed by Jewish tradition.
The Murderous History of Bible Translations: Power, Conflict, and the Quest for Meaning. By Harry Freedman. 2016. Bloomsbury, $28 (9781632866011).
Freedman’s engrossing history of biblical translations documents the high human cost
of the easy availability of Bibles, including the deaths of translators. A fascinating look at a
A None’s Story: Searching for Meaning inside Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam. By Corinna Nicolaou. 2016. Columbia Univ., $35 (9780231173940).
Humorously and respectfully recounted, this follows Nicolaou’s journey as a “none,” not
an atheist but someone who does not identify with a specific religion, as she explores
the four largest faith communities in America.
Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, & Queer Christians Are Reclaiming Evangelicalism. By Deborah Jian Lee. 2015. Beacon, $26.96 (9780807033470).
In this timely book, Lee writes as the journalist she is but also uses her strong narrative
skill as she describes how the evangelical church is evolving because of the infusion of
the young, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community.
Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American
Muslim. By Sabeeha Rehman. 2016. Arcade, $25.99 (9781628726633).
The immigrant’s dilemma of retaining one’s identity while assimilating into American
society is always intriguing. In this autobiography, readers experience Rehman’s transformation from a young woman in Pakistan to a Pakistani American in New York.
TOP 10 RELIGION &