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5 Christian History Books for the Beach
Christian History & Biography staff suggest books for your summer reading list.
Time magazine recently published its list of 5 History Books for the Beach, including Edwin Gaustad's biography of Puritan dissident Roger Williams. That got us thinking about our own list of fun and informative Christian history titles. So kick up your feet, feel that ocean breeze, and crack open one of these books this summer:
Marriage to a Difficult Man: The Uncommon Union of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards (originally published 1971; second edition Audubon Press, 2004) by Elisabeth D. Dodds
While your friends are buried in their paperback romance novels, settle down to a very different kind of love story—between Jonathan Edwards, the awkward, absent-minded, intellectual preacher of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" fame, and Sarah Pierpont, the well-bred beauty as gifted in social grace as she was in Christian devotion. Dodds's newly republished classic has delighted readers for decades, and she offers a glimpse not only into this complex, devoted relationship but also more generally into what it was like to be married with children in Puritan New England.
—Jennifer Trafton, associate editor of Christian History & Biography
The Passionate Intellect: Dorothy L. Sayers' Encounter with Dante (Wipf and Stock, 2005) by Barbara Reynolds
This warm portrait of a Christian mind in love with creativity, clarity, and truth is unsurpassed. Reynolds was a close friend of Sayers and finished Sayers's hugely popular Penguin translation of the Divine Comedy. Reynolds is also the editor of Sayers's letters and the author of a wonderful biography of Sayers. If you want to fall in love with the Christian life of the mind, there's no better beginning. Or if you would just like to enter the world of a rambunctious, opinionated, deeply devoted but no-bull Christian woman who also happens to have been a first-rate scholar, apologist, dramatist, mystery novelist, and essayist on many topics, then this is a great place to do it. I couldn't put it down.
—Chris Armstrong, associate professor of church history at Bethel Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, and senior editor of Christian History & Biography
An American Bible: A History of the Good Book from 1777-1880 (Stanford, 1999) by Paul C. Gutjahr
A history of American Bible production from 1777 to 1880 might not sound like hours of entertainment, but in fact it's an eye-opening and deeply ironic read. Gutjahr identifies several strategies employed by Bible boosters that, unfortunately, succeeded mainly in moving the Good Book to the periphery of American consciousness. The proliferation of fancy bindings, for example, sold lots of product but made Bibles objects to be admired rather than texts to be absorbed. Includes lots of pretty (black and white) pictures.
—Elesha Coffman, graduate student in religion at Duke University and senior editor of Christian History & Biography
The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (Random House, 1999) by Thomas Cahill
The author of the bestseller How the Irish Saved Civilization followed up with this breezy and illuminating description of what the Jews have contributed to the world, including ideas we so readily assume we don't understand how radical they were. A few quick examples:History matters. Education matters (Israel was the first human society to make education a pursuit incumbent upon all). Rest matters ("No ancient society before the Jews had a day of rest.") In summary: The concepts of "new, surprise, adventure, unique, individual, person, vocation, freedom, progress, spirit, faith, hope, and justice" all come from the Jewish worldview.
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