Here is my latest edition of New and Notable Books. As a reminder, these proposals focus on fairly recent books on American and religious history. These books could certainly be of interest to fellow historians, but I also try to suggest those that are accessible and (somewhat) accessible to students and general readers.
Beth Barton Schweiger, Written South: Reading Before Emancipation (Yale). This is obviously a history of learning and culture as much as religion, but most of the antebellum of the south has learned from religious sources. From the publisher: “Drawing on the writings of four young women who lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Schweiger shows how free and enslaved people learned to read and wrote and spoke poems, poems, stories and religious doctrines that spread through speech and in the press . The assumption that slavery and reading are incompatible – dating back to the eighteenth century – has overshadowed the rich written tradition at the heart of South and American culture. We recently had a Schweiger in Baylor at a lecture, and it was extremely well received.
Andrew Delbanco, War before war: Escaped slaves and the struggle for the soul of America from revolution to civil war (Penguin). I recently listened to this on Audible, on the recommendation of Alan Jacobs, and it’s remarkable. One of the best history books I have read in the last few years.
Kate Bowler, The Preacher’s Wife: The Uncertain Power of Evangelical Women’s Celebrities (Princeton). Coming from the author of the best book on the gospel of prosperity, this book promises to examine some of the tensions inherent in the public roles of Bible teachers. A timely topic! Bowler talked about her research of this book a few years ago in Baylor, and it was fascinating.
Mark David Hall, Did America have a Christian foundation ?: Separating modern myth from historical truth (Thomas Nelson). Hall is an outstanding historian of religion and foundation, and here he delves into the ever-controversial topic of whether (and in what sense) America was founded as a Christian nation. Check out a recent post about Justin Taylor’s book.
Note that I also have a new book: The Religious History of America: Religion, Politics, and Nation-Shaping (Zondervan). If you are looking for an updated overview of American religious history or teach any class of American religion, I hope you will check it out!
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