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Saving Karl Barth

D. Stephen Long (Fortress Press)

One unsatisfying aspect of most narrative theology is its failure to embody the distinctive virtues of narrative. By contrast, Long's account of the long "theological friendship" between Barth and Hans Urs von Balthasar—not a work of "narrative theology"—has the feel of a compulsively readable novel. I can't remember when I last read a book of theology like this. The issues at stake—fundamentally, the rift between Protestantism and Catholicism—are as timely today as they were during the decades of conversation between Barth and Balthasar.

Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism

Thomas Brothers (Norton)

Occasionally in this space I have vented about the caricatures of "modernism" and "modernity" that continue to flourish (especially, alas, among evangelicals) even as whole shelves of interesting new books are deepening our sense of "the modern" from a wild diversity of perspectives. A case in point is Brothers's superb new biography, a sequel to his excellent 2006 volume, Louis Armstrong's New Orleans. We aren't used to hearing "Louis Armstrong" and "modernism" in the same sentence. Brothers makes it very clear how the one illuminates our understanding of the other, and vice versa—and gives us many other treasures as well. This is not a book for jazz initiates only!

Worst. Person. Ever.

Douglas Coupland (Blue Rider Press)

Warning: This novel is scabrous, obscene, deliberately offensive, and incorrect in every imaginable way (as you would discover on the very first page). It is also satire. Does this make a difference? Aha, you say, here it comes. ...

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May 2014

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