The List: BookWatch
Wasn't CT founded as an evangelical alternative to the Century? Yes, but while differences remain, the dividing lines have grown blurrier. For example, senior editor Richard Kauffman, who presides over the Century's excellent books coverage, was formerly at CT. See the May 1 issue - the spring books issue - for a good sampling, starting with Bill Placher on the concluding volume of Gary Dorrien's The Making of American Liberal Theology. You'll find enough that's familiar to make the reading congenial and enough that's different to keep it interesting. Because the Century is published biweekly, you will also encounter a lot more reviews. Value added: The magazine regularly features poetry, selected by poetry editor Jill Pel?ez Baumgaertner.
Catholic at its core, ecumenically orthodox in its scope, with friendly visitors from the Jewish community (David Novak, for example), First Things routinely features substantial essay reviews as well as shorter pieces and a handful of mini-reviews. Richard John Neuhaus's back of-the-book feature "The Public Square," where most readers turn first, often comments on books and their authors, always with wit and penetration, occasionally with withering scorn. And like the Century, First Things has poetry in every issue.
This was already the best general-interest magazine on the market. Several years ago, its books section was beefed up and otherwise improved to match the rest of the menu. I miss the hand of longtime editor Cullen Murphy, who left when the magazine moved to Washington, D.C., forsaking its ancestral home in Boston. But the coverage of books remains superb. Literary editor Benjamin Schwarz leads off every section with a delightfully unpredictable "Editor's Choice" column (the June issue focuses on books that show "how a revolution in American domestic architecture put women in command"). Another regular is Christopher Hitchens, an atheist who's often provocative and never boring.
(This originally appeared on p. 59 of the July 2007 issue of Christianity Today.)