Lawrence Wright delivers an exhaustively researched, equitable history of Scientology's meteoric rise. From the Church's origins under L. Ron Hubbard to its intimate bond with some of Hollywood's biggest stars, Wright's reportage unveils one of the most intriguing institutions of our time.
The Protestant Reformation's lasting impact is the subject of Brad S. Gregory's edifying work of history. As the framework of Christianity that had united much of Europe began to fragment in the 16th century, a secularized society emerged that proved the progenitor of our own.
In works like The Gnostic Gospels and Beyond Belief, Elaine Pagels has offered a fresh, fascinating perspective on the Bible and its place in history. With Revelations, she turns to the New Testament's most controversial book and finds a first century AD condemnation of Rome's decadence, as well as evidence of the early struggle to define who could and could not become a Christian.
One would be hard-pressed to find a more devastating and personal critique of Christian Science than this new memoir from Lucia Greenhouse, which details her unconventional upbringing under that medicine-declining spiritual regime and the crisis of confidence brought on by her faithful mother's death from cancer. Equally unsparing of all participants, even herself, Greenhouse seeks catharsis in telling her story.
If a flaming tree falls in the forest, does anybody panic? Not if the onlookers are Zen Buddhist monks. When wildfires threatened their mountain home in 2008, five California monks saved the oldest Zen monastery in the U.S. by guiding the flames as one would an old but unruly friend. Colleen Morton Busch's riveting account is an astonishing portrait of courage under fire, and the power of mindfulness in the face of crisis.
A piece of the True Cross is the least bizarre item in Charles Freeman's fascinating and unprecedented examination of the holy relics that shaped the course of medieval empires, as Christian rulers more concerned with prestige than sanctity vied for possession of a saint's hair or blood, all to impress their peers and subjects.
Easter week seems a good time to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible by recommending a favorite book that chronicles its making. The author, Adam Nicolson, as Katherine A. Powers once wrote, "is a partisan of this great work as a vessel containing the inherited glory and grace of the English language," and we share her admiration for his 2003 volume.
Below is an excerpt from Pamela Greenberg's lively new -- and complete -- translation of the Psalms (Psalm 27). It is always surprising to revisit texts we assume we know, and when the text is scripture, the words within words that new translations invoke can be especially refreshing, and at times revelatory. As here.
In your tent, I will make my songs into offerings,
singing forth all my melodies to your name.
Listen, God, to my voice when I call out.
With compassion, answer my need. Read more...
Voices and visions explore the reaches of the inner life in this rewarding anthology of essays, poems, fiction, and memoir by the likes of John Updike, Diane Ackerman, Richard Rodriguez, Nicholas Carr, Mary Jo Bang, Richard Wilbur, Louise Glück, and others.
May 20: Blue jeans celebrate their unofficial 140th birthday today, the dry goods merchant Levi Strauss and the tailor Jacob Davis receiving a patent on May 20, 1873 for "a new article of manufacture, a pair of pantaloons having the…