When a book arrives with enthusiastic endorsements from Rodney Stark, Mark Noll, Harry Stout, George Marsden, and Wilfred McClay, what's left to say except "Buy it and read it"? This subject generates a great many books. Most of them are not worth your time. This one is. Balanced without being bland, lucid in the telling, Thomas Kidd's chronicle corrects the excesses both of those who overstate the degree to which America was founded as a "Christian nation" and those who seek to minimize the formative role of religion in the new nation's character.

Manifest Destinies: America's Westward Expansion and the Road to the Civil War
Steven E. Woodworth (Knopf)


By the time you read this, the news will be in from the November elections. Whatever the outcome, and however much you are disappointed, gratified, disgusted, or cheered by the results, Steven Woodworth's book will make timely reading. Woodworth, who has published many books on the Civil War, takes us into the thicket of national politics (not any better then, really, than now) to explore the consequences of territorial expansion: "America's manifest destiny to overspread the continent became its manifest destiny finally to face the issue of slavery."

Anterooms: New Poems and Translations
Richard Wilbur (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)


Richard Wilbur's first book of poems, The Enormous Changes, appeared in 1947—and here he is in 2010 with a new collection. Enormous changes, indeed, in that span of more than sixty years. A good place to start is with the fourth poem, "Psalm." The first of its five stanzas reads: "Give thanks for all things / On the plucked lute, and likewise / The harp of ten strings." And the concluding stanza: "Then, in grave relief, / Praise too our sorrows ...

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