Collections of columns or other such occasional pieces: a genre I usually skip. But now and then there are exceptions. One is this volume from Miroslav Volf, all but one of the pieces in which were first published in The Christian Century. Miroslav, a dear friend whom I see all too rarely these days, is one of our foremost public theologians, and his columns—like those of the late Richard John Neuhaus, another sterling exception—are very much worth gathering in book form, to learn from and argue with.

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The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade
Susan Wise Bauer (Norton)

With this hefty volume, the second of a projected four, Susan Wise Bauer continues her chronicle of nothing less than the history of the world. (Conversation in the Bauer household must be interesting.) Don't be misled by the traditional associations of "medieval": the scope is worldwide. Bauer's narrative is crisp, assured, and delightfully unfussy. The history of the world turns out to resemble the history of a single life, at once mundane and fantastical, pointing beyond itself.

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Rouault—Fujimura: Soliloquies
Thomas S. Hibbs (Square Halo)

This lovely booklet, richly illustrated, features an essay by the philosopher Thomas Hibbs (dean of the Honors College at Baylor University) occasioned by an exhibition at Dillon Gallery in Chelsea in the fall of 2009, juxtaposing two Christian artists: the French painter Georges Rouault (1871-1958) and the New York-based contemporary painter Makoto Fujimura (b. 1960). The booklet concludes with a brief "refraction" by Fujimura, "Georges Rouault: The First Twenty-first Century Artist"; like Hibbs's essay, it invites re-reading and opens up a space for ...

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