Coming Soon to a Bookshelf Near You

By Mark Galli and Elesha Coffman, editors of CHRISTIAN HISTORY

The announcement of our sister publication Christianity Today's annual book awards (see calls attention to some important new contributions in Christian history. Two books on historical topics made the top 10, and two more followed close behind.

Saint Augustine by Garry Wills (Viking) took top honors in the history/biography category. Challenging assumptions made by readers who feel they know Augustine based on his famous Confessions (which Wills argues should be translated The Testimony instead), this book explores what Augustine believed and what those beliefs meant to him and to the church at large. Wills, a professor at Northwestern University who won a Pulitzer for Lincoln at Gettysburg, describes Augustine as "a tireless seeker, never satisfied" yet also a man who knew his intellect could never fully penetrate the mysteries of God.

The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform by Roger Olson (Intervarsity) won in the theology/ethics category, but its focus is thoroughly historical. Olson, a professor of theology at Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University, delivers on his promise to tell the story of theology. He introduces us to the main characters, the setting, and the plot of each theological controversy through the ages, then explains what difference it all makes. Best of all, nonspecialists can actually understand this stuff.

Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President by Allen C. Guelzo (Eerdmans) earned the history/biography award of merit. A professor of history at Eastern College, Guelzo endeavors to place Lincoln in his historical context—a time of competing ideas about economics, religion, politics, civil rights, and the very identity of the United States. Guelzo finds his approach unique and necessary, as most people have "difficulty in beholding Lincoln as a man of ideas … [or] conceding that the American republic has any intellectual history at all."

The New Millennium Manual: A Once and Future Guide by Robert G. Clouse, Robert N. Hosack, and Richard V. Pierard (Baker) didn't make CT's published list but finished third in the history/biography voting. Released during the pre-Y2K flurry, this is the most informative—and entertaining—book available on the end times.

Another list in this issue of CT also merits attention: 100 "Books of the Century" as chosen by more than 100 contributors and church leaders. Unlike the annual book awards, this list goes beyond "Christian" books to include "classics that have shaped contemporary religious thought." Even so, the top 10 are basically familiar: C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity ; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship; Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics; J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (trilogy); John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus; G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy; Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain; Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline; Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest; and Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society. But the other 90, ranging from Brave New World to Black Like Me, from Annie Dillard to Anne Frank, will certainly surprise you.

Elesha Coffman can be reached at