Subscriber-Only Content. You must be a PW subscriber to access feature articles from our print edition. To view, subscribe or log in.
Site license users can log in here.

Get IMMEDIATE ACCESS to Publishers Weekly for only $15/month.

Instant access includes exclusive feature articles on notable figures in the publishing industry, the latest industry news, interviews of up and coming authors and bestselling authors, and access to over 200,000 book reviews.

PW "All Access" site license members have access to PW's subscriber-only website content. To find out more about PW's site license subscription options please email: PublishersWeekly@omeda.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (outside US/Canada, call +1-847-513-6135) 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, Monday-Friday (Central).

The Road to Wisdom: On Truth, Science, Faith, and Trust

Francis S. Collins. Little, Brown, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-57630-7

Former National Institute of Health director Collins (The Language of Life) interweaves sociopolitical commentary, popular science, and theology in this smart study. Citing how distrust of Covid vaccines cost an estimated 230,000 American lives even as the scientific community celebrated “one of the greatest medical achievements in human history,” Collins describes an America so deeply fractured by hyperpartisan politics that it can be repaired only by returning to the “solid ground” of truth, science, faith, and trust. Unpacking each value, he writes that faith is vital to bridging “division and animosity” and offers truths beyond science’s reach, while the scientific community must learn from its stumbles in communicating with the public during the pandemic to address such pressing social issues as climate change. Suggestions include repairing seemingly “irreconcilable” differences through a focus on shared values—family, freedom, love—rather than statistics. Despite some wearying truisms (people should respect each other, because there is “nothing more un-American than hating fellow Americans”), the author’s expertise and lucid writing impress. This has plenty to offer. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/26/2024 | Details & Permalink

show more
Undivided: The Quest for Racial Solidarity in an American Church

Hahrie Han. Knopf, $29 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-31886-7

In this perceptive account, political scientist Han (Prisms of the People) traces the evolution of a racial justice organization founded in 2016 at a Cincinnati megachurch. Sparked by the “outpouring of support” for pastor Chuck Mingo’s sermons on racial injustice, the Undivided program developed as a six-week curriculum that examined “personal prejudice” as well as systemic racism, with participants split into small, mixed-race discussion groups. Han follows three of those participants through and after the program: Jess, a white recovering heroin addict, who began working at a prison ministry and spreading antiracist messages to friends and family; Grant, a white, conservative man with a Black brother, who grappled with the disparate parts of his identity; and Sandra, a Black woman who got divorced from her white husband after he began to chafe against her participation in Undivided and eventually found his way to white nationalist communities online. In the process, the author movingly links the expected finding—that meaningful social change begins in communities in which people are rooted and interconnected—with a Christian concept of grace that, for Undivided’s participants, “manifested itself as the courage to fight for one another’s dignity.” Rigorously researched and richly nuanced, this deserves wide readership. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/26/2024 | Details & Permalink

show more
Bright Shining: How Grace Changes Everything

Julia Baird. HarperOne, $27.99 (350p) ISBN 978-0-06-341435-8

Grace is hiding in plain sight, writes Baird (Phosphorescence) in this effervescent outing. While undergoing cancer treatment during the pandemic, Baird embarked on a search for the phenomenon—which she describes as a fleeting, hard-to-define instance of “undeserved” beauty, kindness, or clarity—and found it in unexpected places: swimming with whale sharks in Australia, the small kindnesses of nurses at treatment appointments, and seeing a luminous pink moon the night after her mother died, which put the author in mind of her mother’s “presence... gentle and strong.” Taking a broader perspective on grace, Baird describes how Australian First Nations members invited Australians to join a “makarrata”—a “coming together after a struggle”—and how some grieving families forgive their loved one’s killers despite the almost unimaginable pain involved (Danny Abdallah, whose three kids were killed by a drunk driver in 2020, notes that “forgiveness is not a single action... it has been more than two years and I must choose to forgive myself and the driver every day—to not retreat into hatred”). Baird’s ability to find wonder in the everyday is especially poignant, as when she considers the donor who made a blood transfusion she received after a surgery possible: “When I came to, I felt stronger, and I wondered whose blood it was that was now racing through my veins, injecting me with life.” Even cynics will be moved. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/26/2024 | Details & Permalink

show more
Howling to the Moonlight on a Hot Summer Night: The Tale of the Stray Cats

Christopher McKittrick. Backbeat, $26.95 trade paper (266p) ISBN 978-1-4930-7482-2

Music writer McKittrick (Gimme All Your Lovin’) delivers a forgettable retrospective of rockabilly revival group the Stray Cats. Singer Brian Setzer, bassist Lee Rocker, and drummer Slim Jim Phantom began playing together in the late 1970s at working-class bars on Long Island, developing a sound that was “far more country, less polished, wilder” than most of the era’s music. After struggling to attract interest from record labels, they moved to London in 1980 and garnered a dedicated following before returning stateside and hitting the U.S. charts with 1981’s “Stray Cat Strut.” The low ceiling of the rockabilly genre precipitated their 1984 breakup, however, as the band became convinced that even popular rockabilly artists such as Eddie Cochran had a limited shelf life. They eventually reunited and broke up several more times (they got back together again in 2018 and remain active). Despite the book’s serviceable background on rockabilly—a genre that grew from country and R&B in the 1950s, and briefly counted Elvis Presley among its early stars—McKittrick’s static prose and beat-by-beat rehashing of individual concerts sap the narrative of momentum and fail to build a convincing case for the importance of the Stray Cats. This paint-by-numbers band biography falls short. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/26/2024 | Details & Permalink

show more
Your Jesus Is Too American: Calling the Church to Reclaim Kingdom Values over the American Dream

Steve Bezner. Brazos, $19.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-58743-631-4

The Christian church has so thoroughly enmeshed itself in American politics and culture that it risks losing its “distinct personality,” according to this forceful debut from pastor Bezner. Since its founding, Christianity has deviated from the status quo, Bezner writes, noting that Jesus had women disciplines and embraced disabled people and other marginalized groups. But the rise of Christian nationalism has seen the church and some of its members adopting a “self-serving” ethos that directly contradicts the religion’s focus on “the public good,” according to Bezner. He urges readers to reclaim the “kingdom values” Jesus espoused: caring for the poor, forgiving enemies, and serving the community rather than its rulers—for example, by advocating “for those who may have less of a voice... within the corridors of power.” Things get trickier, he acknowledges, with a two-party system in which “kingdom values” won’t necessarily align with a single candidate, but Christians can “study the available candidates and their stances on major issues, pray, and then follow the leading of the Spirit.” Bezner constructs a robust theology that seamlessly links biblical principles with lucid discussions of today’s politics and interrogates the role of power and morality in the public sphere. It’s an invigorating look at the current state of the American church and what might be done to move it forward. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/26/2024 | Details & Permalink

show more
Face Forward: Reclaiming Hope When Everything Falls Apart

Bethny Ricks. Zondervan, $24.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-31015-722-9

“God’s love transcends every bruise, mistreatment, and setback,” according to this empowering debut guide from former corporate executive Ricks. Recalling how she climbed the ranks to become the youngest senior vice president at ScottsMiracle-Gro, Ricks describes the self-doubt she faced before a health crisis forced her to find new ways to protect her self-worth. Ricks advises readers to stop relying on others’ approval by eschewing “hollow promises made to appease [you]” and “words that merely stroke your ego,” and refusing “to contort who you are to fit in.” Elsewhere, she encourages readers to get clearer on their priorities (for example, by considering whether God believes the “item, idea, or rhythm... you have introduced into your life is beneficial”), reframe failure as a chance to cultivate resilience, and become more empowered decision-makers. While some might wish for more concrete advice—the book consists mostly of guided self-reflection, and questions such as “What is the posture of my heart?” can feel vague—others will appreciate Ricks’s can-do attitude, which is grounded in intimate disclosures from her personal and professional life (including the challenges of being one of the only Black women at a corporation’s executive level). Believers seeking a fresh start will be energized. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/26/2024 | Details & Permalink

show more
Storehouse of Treasures: Recovering the Riches of Chan & Zen

Nelson Foster. Shambhala, $24.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-64547-310-7

Zen teacher Foster (The Roaring Stream) delivers a rigorous reappraisal of Buddhist teachings that have been adapted for Western practitioners by translators and Zen masters who stripped away key cultural and canonical references. For example, Foster critiques 19th-century missionary James Legge’s translation of the word hundun—which is most accurately defined as “absolutely amorphous, the primordial closed and utterly dark entity containing all potential forms”—as “chaos,” a term that is negatively tinged by Western values of order over disorder. According to Foster, Buddhism advocates for embracing apparent disorder to gain “an enhanced understanding of our place in the schemeless scheme of things.” Other chapters tackle such concepts as integrity, shame, and contentment. Drawing from Chan and Zen texts as well as the Chinese literary tradition—including writings from Confucius and the eighth-century poet Wang Wei—Foster employs fine-grained analysis to draw out textual subtleties, challenging practitioners to question received values and engage with the Chan and Zen traditions’ complexities on their own terms. It’s a perceptive look at what gets lost in translation. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/26/2024 | Details & Permalink

show more
Soul Survivor: Miracles Beyond Imagination

Gigi Watson White. Gigi Watson White, $25 (214p) ISBN 979-8-89409-820-3

White debuts with an emphatic if clumsy testament to the faith that helped her beat cancer. Seven years old when her older sister was diagnosed with cancer (which she survived), White grew up plagued by fears of death and struggled with overeating. Further heartache followed in her teens when her mother died. White describes being diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was 18; the seemingly endless, crushing rounds of radiation that followed; and the love from friends and family that sustained her until she went into remission after a year and a half of treatment—only to be told at age 28 that the cancer had returned. From there, White recounts how she developed congestive heart failure and chronic lung and kidney disease at 38, and received a heart and kidney transplant at 47. The author’s passionate ode to her unshakable faith in “God’s grace and mercy” inspires, but the book’s strengths are obscured by awkward writing that tends toward platitudes and often contradicts itself (“Although Sheila and I had an ambivalent relationship due to me ‘taking her place as the baby of the family,’ we were also best friends, and I did not want any harm to come to her”). Still, readers will find it hard to forget White’s incredible life story. (Self-published)

Reviewed on 07/26/2024 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Bible: A Global History

Bruce Gordon. Basic, $35 (528p) ISBN 978-1-54161-973-9

Yale Divinity School history professor Gordon (Calvin) delivers an ambitious study of how a collection of prophecies, poems, and letters became a sacred text that has shaped cultures. Styling the Bible as a migrant, he describes how diverse writings—the rabbinic Bible, the four Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles—coalesced into canon through “worship, reading, and devotional practices,” then were spread by “merchants and colonizers” to the Americas, Africa, and Asia. There, local communities adapted the “alien” book through a mix of cultural blending, reinterpretation, and even rebellion. For example, theologians in 20th-century China drew comparisons between Confucianism and biblical texts, Native Americans centered themselves in biblical stories (a group of 18th-century Mohican converts renamed themselves Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, declaring themselves “patriarchs of a new nation of believers”), and a charismatic 20th-century Baptist catchetist in the Democratic Republic of Congo formed the “Kimbanguist” movement, which rejected “the God of the missionaries” but revered Christ. Smoothly capturing a sprawling and complex history, Gordon frames the Bible as a cultural artifact and a dynamic site where identity is negotiated; a force that binds communities; and an arena where foreign influences are contested. The result is a fascinating look at how the “most influential book in the world” came to be. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/19/2024 | Details & Permalink

show more
What About Me?: Get Out of Your Own Way and Discover the Power of an Unselfish Life

Joyce Meyer. Faithwords, $28.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5460-4698-1

A self-centered life is inherently unsatisfying because it deviates from “God’s will,” according to this gentle guide. Bible teacher Meyer (How to Hear from God) outlines a loose, introspective model for rooting out selfish tendencies and living a more outwardly focused life. Suggestions include adopting more “godly” thought patterns (“When you think about people you know... think about their strengths”); feeling such emotions as guilt, self-pity, and anger without acting on them; and regularly turning to the Bible for wisdom. Elsewhere, she calls on readers to “cooperate with the Holy Spirit, obeying what He leads us to do,” though what exactly this looks like is unclear: “If what we are doing... isn’t right, we will sense a gentle pressure that does not feel pleasant.” Despite such murky moments, readers will appreciate Meyer’s ability to succinctly capture the nuances of her topic, as when she distinguishes selflessness from self-neglect: “If we are to love our neighbor (other people) as we love ourselves, how can we do it if we don’t love ourselves?” It’s a solid study of what it means to be a giver. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/19/2024 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Forgot Password

Premium online access is only available to PW subscribers. If you have an active subscription and need to set up or change your password, please click here.

New to PW? To set up immediate access, click here.

NOTE: If you had a previous PW subscription, click here to reactivate your immediate access. PW site license members have access to PW’s subscriber-only website content. If working at an office location and you are not "logged in", simply close and relaunch your preferred browser. For off-site access, click here. To find out more about PW’s site license subscription options, please email Mike Popalardo at: mike@nextstepsmarketing.com.

To subscribe: click here.