A well-written religious history that is destined to become a standard classroom text.

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CHRISTIANITY IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

A WORLD HISTORY

A finely crafted exploration of Christianity in the 20th century.

Stanley (World Christianity/Univ. of Edinburgh; The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism, 2013, etc.) provides an ingenious and informative history of the Christian faith through the last century. Eschewing a linear narrative, the author relies on a topical format, giving the history a truly global approach. “This book,” he writes, “provides a historian’s perspective on the multiple and complex ways in which the Christian religion…[has] interacted with the changing social, political, and cultural environment of the twentieth century.” Stanley explores a variety of salient topics through dual geographic lenses—e.g., the interplay between Christianity and nationalism as seen in Poland and in Korea, or the life of the church in the Islamic-majority countries of Egypt and Indonesia. In a chapter on the Eastern Orthodox Church and its movement into the West, the author concludes, “this chapter, no less than any of the others, has been unashamedly selective.” Stanley realizes throughout that his approach is open to criticism, but he hopes to cast a wider historical net—and he succeeds, at least to the extent that any historian can succeed given the breadth of this topic. In both the introduction and the conclusion, the author discusses The Christian Century, a prominent publication that began in the 1900s with an optimism for Christianity that would soon be severely challenged. Stanley asks whether the hopes of the magazine’s founders were realized or not, and his answer is ambiguous. Mainstream Protestantism, as well as pre–Vatican II Catholicism, changed radically during the past 100 years, and the locus of Christian activity moved south and east globally. However, attempts to secularize the world, be it through slow cultural change or totalitarian force, have failed. Stanley presents a century not dominated by Christianity but one in which the faith played an active—and sometimes unexpected—role.

A well-written religious history that is destined to become a standard classroom text.

Pub Date: July 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-691-15710-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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