PW's starred reviews and other noteworthy religion books publishing in October.

Before Amen
Max Lucado. Thomas Nelson, $19.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8499-4848-0
The concept that there is power in a simple prayer normally wouldn’t be one it would take a whole book to convey, but Lucado, a prolific author with 92 million books in print, succeeds in getting readers to approach communication with God in a whole new way.

Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence
Karen Armstrong. Knopf, $30 (528p) ISBN 978-0307957047
Bracing as ever, Armstrong sweeps through religious history around the globe and over 4,000 years to explain the yoking of religion and violence and to elucidate the ways in which religion has also been used to counter violence. Armstrong goes back to the beginnings of human social organization and into the human brain itself to explain the origins of social structural violence. Announced first print: 150,000.

The Lives of Muhammad
Kecia Ali. Harvard Univ., $29.95 (342p) ISBN 978-0-674-05060-0
Ali, an associate professor of religion at Boston University, takes an innovative approach to a biography of Muhammad. She does not narrate the Muslim prophet’s life but instead compares the various accounts of his life in what is probably the only book to do so comprehensively. Ali concludes that, as sensibilities evolved in the time since Muhammad’s life, the biographies of the prophet expanded or even altered in keeping with prevailing mores.

Spiritual Law: The Essence of Swedenborg’s Divine Providence
Joanna V. Hill. Rock Point (SCB, dist.), $15.95 (128p) ISBN 978-0-9912516-0-5
Reading Swedenborg can be a challenge, even in contemporary English translations, but Hill does a yeoman’s job of distilling “The Divine Providence,” which is itself a distillation of Swedenborg’s earlier thoughts, into a wonderfully readable and understandable work.

Kingdom Conspiracy
Scot McKnight. Brazos, $21.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-58743-360-3
Over the past decade, McKnight has emerged as America’s theologian, a breezier, more down-home version of the British N.T. Wright. His works provide another layer of theological undergirding for pastors and lay people who want to go deeper in Bible study and live more consciously under the rule of “King Jesus,” as he refers to Jesus Christ. This is must reading for church leaders today.

Vanishing Grace
Philip Yancey. Zondervan, $22.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-310-33932-8
Giving the impression that God is against those who don’t believe will result in the message being unheard or rejected unless Christians can learn how to act out their faith in a way that attracts rather than repels, Yancey writes. The issue for him isn’t disagreement, but rather how one treats those who disagree.