"If one agrees with an agenda of articulating a middle ground between relativism and fundamentalism …." Wait a minute. What if one doesn't agree? One will still find this book very useful, as I did. It's divided into two parts—first sociological perspectives, then a range of theological perspectives: Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran, evangelical, and Eastern Orthodox. For me these learned essays were a goad, provoking me to think harder about why the metaphor of a middle ground seems unsatisfactory.

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Paul Johnson (Viking)

Yes, there are already far too many books on Churchill, but there is always room for another good one, and you might just gobble up Paul Johnson's biography, slim and wonderfully readable, in a single sitting. Johnson himself has entered his 80s, and I think that gives him an angle on Churchill's long life that he would have lacked had he written this book 40 or even 20 years ago. Among the lessons Johnson extracts is this: "Churchill wasted an extraordinarily small amount of his time and emotional energy on the meannesses of life: recrimination, shifting the blame onto others …, harboring grudges, waging vendettas."

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The Strange Adventures of Mr. Andrew Hawthorn and Other Stories
John Buchan (Penguin)

The son of a Scottish pastor, Buchan led a wide-ranging public life: barrister, journalist, publisher; spymaster and propagandist for the UK during World War I; member of Parliament; and finally Governor-General of Canada. Meanwhile, he wrote book after book, fiction and nonfiction. He is best remembered for his novels featuring Richard Hannay (especially The Thirty-Nine Steps), but much of his work is worth recovering, as this well-chosen collection of stories attests. You might ...

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