The Souls of China: The Return of Religion after Mao by Ian JohnsonMao Zedong's death in 1976 ended decades of severe repression of religion in China, and now the Chinese people are practicing religion openly (though with continued government scrutiny). Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ian Johnson has been exploring Chinese religious life since 1984. In The Souls of China, he reveals what he learned during six years of visiting with members of religious groups in China. This "compelling and lyrical" (Publishers Weekly) account brings to life the varied practices he has observed and the individuals who participate in them.
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.
The Face of Water: A Translator on Beauty and Meaning in the Bible by Sarah RudenRealizing that English translations of the Hebrew scriptures and Greek New Testament fail to convey the texts' brilliance and complexity, classical scholar and poet Sarah Ruden decided to retranslate some key passages. Both to enhance her own understanding and enjoyment and to help others, she delves into grammar and the contextual richness of certain words. She presents her technical explanations as gems discovered in an entertaining treasure hunt. Whether you're a language lover or you're intrigued by the Bible, you'll appreciate Ruden's vivid and entertaining explanations.
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.
The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic by John DemosIn The Heathen School, acclaimed historian John Demos chronicles the work of a special Connecticut school founded in the 1820s for non-Christian ("heathen") boys from North America and around the world. The idea was that the children educated at these schools would promote Christianity in their home communities and that introducing the students to European-Americans would moderate prejudices against non-Europeans. Demos' riveting narration relates both the school's successes and some unforeseen -- and unfortunate -- outcomes of this well-intentioned missionary effort.
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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