February Publications

On May 29 of last year, Alabama Web designer Reata Strickland discovered an anonymously written "Interview with God" and posted it on her local congregation's Web site. There was no advertising or promotion, but within a week half a million people had visited the site, and by July it had 13 million hits. In Interview with God, a small gift book from the Free Press, Strickland offers the original posting's simple text with rather predictable nature photography (obligatory shots of sunsets, mountains, fall foliage, etc.). Strickland is listed here as the designer and editor of the book; its authorship is still in question. Will the real author of the "Interview with God" please stand up? ($12.95 64p ISBN 0-7432-2957-6)

Sundee Frazier, a self-described "AmericanAfricanScottishDutchDanishSwedeIndigenousPerson," tackles the ambiguities of being a multiracial woman of faith in Check All That Apply: Finding Wholeness as a Multiracial Person. In it she cogently describes the particular tension of multiracial identity, the sense of never quite belonging anywhere; she also insists that one's core identity comes only from God. Considering that the number of interracial marriages has swelled from 310,000 in 1970 to 1.3 million in 1994, there is an ever-enlarging audience for Frazier's thoughtful reflections. (InterVarsity, $11.99 paper 180p ISBN 0-8308-2247-X)

The Sociology of Religion

Although everyone comes to Christian faith in different ways, says religion professor Scot McKnight in Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels, conversion stories don't typically reflect that diversity. In fact, each Christian group "shuffles all oddities to the side and sanctifies only a certain ordered experience." Drawing on the personal stories of 19 men and women who embraced the Christian faith across a wide variety of traditions (mainline Protestant, Catholic and evangelical), McKnight pleads for "each of us to pause long enough to hear the stories of all Christians and not just those who frame their stories as do we." This is a well-reasoned, persuasive call to recognize "diversity" in a rather unexpected way. (Westminster John Knox, $15.95 paper 224p ISBN 0-664-22514-4; Feb.)

In the early 20th century, Harvard sociologist William James delivered a series of lectures in Edinburgh that were eventually put together in book form as The Varieties of Religious Experience, still in print today. A century later, philosophy professor Charles Taylor spoke for the same lecture series, revisiting James's work for a postmodern audience. His Varieties of Religion Today is a provocative, witty and worthy conversation with James's timeless work. (Harvard Univ., $19.95 144p ISBN 0-674-00760-3; Mar.)

In Time for Valentine's

In the season of candy hearts and pastel cupids, readers looking for more ancient—and less cloying—expressions of love could do far worse than to revisit the Song of Songs (called "Song of Solomon" in the King James Version). In Love: The Song of Songs, Frederick W. Bassett arranges and edits the classic love poems from the Hebrew Bible. One innovative twist is that the text is divided into portions to be spoken by male and female voices, suggesting a conversation between a man and a woman about the joys and sorrows of love. Fully illustrated and in color, this small gift book is an ideal token for that special soulmate. (Paraclete, $11.95 48p ISBN 1-55725-298-X; Feb.)

A Fresh Voice in Biblical Studies

It's difficult to make the case for something new in biblical studies, but Willis Barnstone's The New Covenant, Commonly Called the New Testament: The Four Gospels and the Apocalypse is certainly different. In deciding to provide "a chastely modern, literary version of a major world text," Barnstone restores the probable Hebrew and Aramaic names of all of the major characters. Jesus is Yeshua; his parents Miryam and Yosef take him to Yerushalayim each year for the Seder of the Pesach. Such determination to restore the Semitic origins of the New Testament is refreshing, and Barnstone doubles the fun by following the Gospels not with Acts, as would be traditional, but with the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation. Here is where Barnstone's literary skill shines most clearly, as he renders the Apocalypse as a great epic poem in loose blank verse. Barnstone's biblical interpretation is heavily influenced by former Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong, but his literary contribution is quite original. (Riverhead, $35 576p ISBN 1-57322-182-1; Apr.)