My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew by Abigail PogrebinIn My Jewish Year, television news producer Abigail Pogrebin recounts her systematic exploration of her faith's holiday rituals and their significance. Starting with Elul, the month before the Jewish new year, she engagingly describes the activities that mark each holiday. From learning how to blow the shofar to integrating observances into her family's daily life, she offers intriguing insights that will captivate readers interested in learning more about Judaism -- as well as Jews who are already observant.
Protestants: The Faith That Made the Modern World by Alec RyrieMarking 500 years since Martin Luther unintentionally launched the Protestant Reformation, Christian History professor Alec Ryrie surveys Protestantism's impact on European civilization. Crediting the movement with promoting free speech and the sovereignty of individual conscience, Ryrie addresses developments that range from the emergence of democratic government to contemporary controversies such as legalized abortion and the challenges of secularism. Ryrie, a licensed lay preacher in the Church of England, addresses controversial subjects candidly and with an engaging and accessible tone that will appeal to non-specialists.
Hanukkah in America: A History by Dianne AshtonIn Hanukkah in America, religion scholar Dianne Ashton offers a cultural history of American Judaism as she describes the heightened importance of Hanukkah in the U.S. Though this festival is historically a minor Jewish religious observance, American Jews have made it more prominent for a variety of reasons -- not just because of its proximity to Christmas. This thoroughly researched book engagingly provides information on Hanukkah's history and practice, from its origin to recent American influences.
The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth... by Paul CollinsAccording to historian Paul Collins, European civilization arose from the achievements of 10th-century Christian leaders. In this "lively narrative with a comprehensible story line" (Publishers Weekly), he gives credit to organized Germanic monarchs and the Roman Catholic Church for reducing chaos and anarchy to manageable levels. Though many of the Popes and secular kings engaged in barbaric behavior, and ordinary people lived in terror, stable centralized rule coalesced and eventually took over. For history buffs, this is a page-turner not to be missed.
In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire by Tom HollandTracing the varied and complex influences of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity in the first few centuries A.D., acclaimed historian Tom Holland portrays shifts in Arab culture that led ultimately to the rise of Islam. Holland shows how the teachings recorded in the Qur'an offered God's prophecies to those willing to listen. This "smoothly composed history and fine scholarship" (Kirkus Reviews) offers a plausible explanation for the success of Islam and the rise of Arab political power.
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