August Publications

Many people are familiar with the concept of "biblical history," but they are less acquainted with the notion that the Bible itself has a history. In The Oxford Illustrated History of the Bible, readers will not discover maps of biblical times or charts of the first kings of Israel. They will instead find a detailed series of essays about the canonization process (how these particular books, letters and histories found their way into the Good Book), articles on the study of the Bible through the ages, information about various translations and sections on contemporary approaches to the Bible, including feminist and liberation theologies. Oxford reference books are nothing if not thorough, and this is no exception. ($40 400p ISBN 0-19-860118-2)

According to Jack Kornfield, Thai Buddhist master Ajahn Chah (1919—1992) never taught that there were two levels of dharma instruction—one for the monk and an easier one for the layperson. Rather, he required all of the lay practitioners who visited him at his monastery to embody the dharma to the same degree that his monastic disciples did. In Being Dharma: The Essence of the Buddha's Teachings, Ajahn Chah's dharma talks (which could be as long as five hours each) are condensed for Western lay practitioners. Although the length has been shortened, the content is still bracing and memorable. Paul Breiter provides the translation, and Kornfield gives an insightful foreword. (Shambhala, $16.95 paper 272p ISBN 1-57062-808-4)

Religion in the South

As historians of American religion begin to pay long-overdue attention to the American South, more studies emerge that explore the conflicts and triumphs of Southern religion. In Religion in Mississippi, historian Randy Sparks explores the history of that state's predominate evangelical Christian population, both white and black, as well as the presence of "outsider religious groups" such as Jews, Catholics and Mormons. While not as nuanced as other studies on religion in the South (such as Christine Leigh Heyrman's Southern Cross), this is valuable for its ambitious denominational scope and its sweeping saga of change over a 300-year period. (Univ. Press of Mississippi, $40 370p ISBN 1-57806-361-2; Aug.)

Modern historians have typically noted that Southern Baptists in America opposed integration and racial equality. In Getting Right with God: Southern Baptists and Desegregation, 1945—1995, Mark Newman challenges the idea that Southern Baptists were monolithic in their racial views and demonstrates that several factions existed within the SBC during the Civil Rights movement. Although the study is clearly based on a dissertation (Newman cites his own graduate adviser as early as the third page), its scope is far-reaching enough to engage a wider audience. (Univ. of Alabama Press, $39.95 272p ISBN 0-8173-1060-6; Sept.)

Especially for Women

Evangelical Christian women who would like to leave the workforce to stay home with their children have a practical guide in There's No Place Like Home: Steps to Being a Stay-at-Home Mom. Ethan Pope, who is a certified financial planner, offers evangelical Christian women practical tips on surviving on one income, while former working mom Mary Larmoyeux tackles the emotional and spiritual issues that at-home mothers may face. The book contains numerous stereotypes about women's nature and divinely ordained roles, as well as alarmist views connecting the phenomenon of working mothers to all manner of societal ills. (In the foreword, Beverly LaHaye calls the increase of mothers in the workforce "a national tragedy.") Still, this is one of most useful and goal-centered books on the market for women who subscribe to this point of view and want to devise a plan to be at home. (Broadman & Holman, $12.99 paper 208p ISBN 0-8054-2376-1; July)

Women who are waiting for Mr. Right, says Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, should be most concerned with becoming Ms. Right and tending to their own souls. In A New Dating Attitude: Getting Ready for the Mate God Has for You, Cook applies the Beatitudes of the New Testament to single women's hearts. Cook speaks with great humor and encouraging forthrightness about her own years of searching for a mate. (Zondervan, $12.99 paper 192p ISBN 0-310-23532-4; July)

The Christian diet industry expands along with American waistlines, spawning new products and programs each year. In First Place: The Original Bible-Based Weight Loss Plan, Carole Lewis discusses the importance of giving Christ "first place" in life and of balancing daily Scripture study and prayer with healthy eating and exercise. It may not be rocket science, but half a million American Christians have found that the program works. Now that a book promises to take the program beyond its small-group church audiences and into a larger market, that number will likely increase. (Regal, $18.99 264p ISBN 0-8307-2869-4; Aug.)