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



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...


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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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