History Faculty Publications

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date

6-2016

Publication Source

American Historical Review

Abstract

In this interesting book Erin Smith analyzes popular religious books since the late nineteenth century with an eye toward understanding why – despite the scorn heaped on them by intellectuals -- they have been so beloved by their readers. Rather than being a comprehensive survey, What Would Jesus Read? consists of five case studies: the Social Gospel novels (1880s-1910s), Bruce Barton’s The Man Nobody Knows (1925), post-World War II religious self-help books, Hal Lindsay’s The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), and books for “the seeker” from the past twenty-five years. Smith’s focus is on white Protestant readers; working against the overworked liberal-conservative binary, she argues that these readers, who are “believed to be at opposite ends of the religious and political spectrum,” actually “share a culture of religious reading” (302) in which what really matters is “if these texts worked – that is, made them better people, managed their fears and anxieties, and made them feel as if their lives mattered” (7).

Inclusive pages

953

ISBN/ISSN

0002-8762

Document Version

Postprint

Comments

The document available for download is the author's accepted manuscript, provided in compliance with the publisher's policy on self-archiving. Permission documentation is on file. To read the publisher's version, use the DOI provided.

Citation information for the book reviewed: Erin A. Smith. What Would Jesus Read?: Popular Religious Books and Everyday Life in Twentieth-Century America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015. ISBN: 9781469621326

Publisher

Oxford University Press

Volume

121

Issue

3

Embargoed until Friday, June 01, 2018

Link to published version

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