New Books Alert: 2015 Year in Preview, Part One (January-April)

Paul Putz

As we come to the end of another great year for new books in American religious history, it's only appropriate that we pause and reflect. But I've already (kinda) done that over at the ASCH blog. So instead, let's forget for a moment that there are likely scores of books sitting unread on your reading list: it's time for another book preview post. Below I've compiled a list of about 50 new books within the field of American religious history that are set to be released in the first four months of 2015 (I plan on posting two more lists this year, one to cover May-August books, and one for September-December).  Heath Carter has already pointed out that it looks like 2015 will be a banner year for the study of Christianity and capitalism in the United States. As you'll see from browsing the list below, there is plenty of other interesting work waiting to be read as well.

A couple quick points to make before we get to the list. First, I've listed the books in roughly chronological order based on the month of their release date. Second, although I've tried to include as many relevant and interesting titles as I could find, I'm sure that I inadvertently left out some deserving books. Please use the comments to add to this list as needed. Third, those who read through my book lists last year will notice that this post does not include pics of the book covers. I just couldn't justify the time that it took to collect/import/format book cover images for all of these books. But I would like to add a little bit of color to this post, so here are the five books that I am probably most interested in reading (I'd include Kristin Kobes DuMez's book on Katharine Bushnell as well, but alas, I could not find an image of the book cover):

*Mark Granquist, Lutherans in America: A New History (Fortress, January)
From the publisher: "Granquist brings to light not only the varied and fascinating institutions that Lutherans founded and sustained but the people that lived within them. The result is a generous, human history that tells a complete story—not only about politics and policies but also the piety and the practical experiences of the Lutheran men and women who lived and worked in the American context."

*William Mirola, Redeeming Time: Protestantism and Chicago's Eight-Hour Movement, 1866-1912 (Illinois, January)
Ken Fones-Wolf: "Mirola creatively challenges what we thought we knew about religion's role in one of the most important dramas unfolding in the Gilded Age--the struggle to limit the workday. His theoretical approach to the uses of religious rhetoric should be required reading for students of reform."

*Peter Manseau, One Nation, Under Gods: A New American History (Little, Brown and Company, January)
From the publisher: "Rather than recite American history from a Christian vantage point...Manseau fills in America's story of itself, from the persecuted 'witches' at Salem and who they really were, to the persecuted Buddhists in WWII California, from spirituality and cults in the '60s to the recent presidential election where both candidates were for the first time non-traditional Christians."

*H. Larry Ingle, Nixon's First Cover-up: The Religious Life of a Quaker President (Missouri, January)
From the publisher: "Ingle’s unparalleled knowledge of Quakerism enables him to deftly point out how Nixon bent the traditional rules of the religion to suit his needs or, in some cases, simply ignored them entirely. This theme of the constant contradiction between Nixon’s actions and his apparent religious beliefs makes Nixon’s First Cover-up truly a groundbreaking study both in the field of Nixon research as well as the field of the influence of religion on the U.S. presidency."

*Allen D. Hertzke, ed., Religious Freedom in America: Constitutional Roots and Contemporary Challenges (Oklahoma, January)
Mary Ann Glendon: "Bringing historical, juridical, and social science perspectives to bear on contemporary challenges, the authors and editors point the way to a society in which diverse religions may not only peacefully coexist but flourish, and where no one is forced to choose between religious obligations and civic duties.”

*Joseph Sciorra, Built with Faith: Italian American Imagination and Catholic Material Culture in New York City (Tennessee, January)
Robert Orsi: "No one knows the world of Italian American Catholicism in contemporary New York better than Joseph Sciorra. In the five brilliant case studies that make up this book, Sciorra explores how Italian Americans construct, by hand, their religious environment—in their homes, in the streets, backyards, and sidewalks of the city—in a kind of sacred sweat equity."

*Todd Kerstetter, Inspiration and Innovation: Religion in the American West (Wiley-Blackwell, January)
John Turner: "In this latest volume in the Western History Series, Todd Kerstetter lucidly depicts how religious belief and practices shaped the lives and interactions of the diverse peoples who lived in and fought for control of the American West."

*Jonathan Den Hartog, Patriotism and Piety: Federalist Politics and Religious Struggle in the New American Nation (Virginia, January)
Mark Noll: "...a convincing study that demonstrates how significantly religion factored in the history of the Federalist Party and how important religious Federalists were for propelling the voluntary style of social organization that influenced the nation so significantly in the first half of the nineteenth century."

*Jan Stievermann, Philip Goff, and Detlef Junker, eds., Religion and the Marketplace in the United States (Oxford, February)
Laurie Maffly-Kipp: "...offers a sophisticated and timely overview of the historical alliances between religious ideas and practices, on the one hand, and the variety of economic activities animating American life, on the other. Never losing sight of the contemporary relevance of this subject, a star lineup of scholars weighs in on the complexities, nuances, and historical contingencies of buying, selling, praying, and preaching."

*Leah Payne, Gender and Pentecostal Revivalism: Making a Female Ministry in the Early Twentieth Century (Palgrave Macmillan, February)
From the publisher: "...provides an interdisciplinary, theoretically engaged answer to an enduring question for charismatic Christianities: how do women lead churches? By examining the ministries of two famous (and infamous) Pentecostal revivalists, Maria Woodworth-Etter and Aimee Semple McPherson, this study shows that a woman's success in the ministry was not simply about access to ordination. It was about establishing legitimacy as a woman and authority as a pastor – no small task in the early twentieth century."

*Joseph Laycock, Dangerous Games, What the Moral Panic over Role-Playing Games Says about Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds (California, February)
From the publisher: "The 1980s saw the peak of a moral panic over fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. A coalition of moral entrepreneurs that included the Christian Right, psychologists, and law enforcement claimed these games were not only psychologically dangerous but an occult religion masquerading as a game. Dangerous Games explores both the history and the sociological significance of this panic."

*Todd M. Endelman, Leaving the Jewish Fold: Conversion and Radical Assimilation in Modern Jewish History (Princeton, February)
Derek J. Penslar: "Covering all of Europe and the United States, and drawing on a massive body of sources, Leaving the Jewish Fold is a pioneering work on a topic of great significance--Jews who converted or radically assimilated away from Judaism. It will be the definitive book on the subject and essential reading for scholars and advanced students of modern Jewish history."

*Rebecca Y. Kim, The Spirit Moves West: Korean Missionaries in America (Oxford, February)
From the publisher: "Conducting her research both in the US and in South Korea, Kim studies the motivations and methods of these Korean evangelicals who have, since the 1970s, sought to 'bring the gospel back' to America. By offering the first empirically-grounded examination of this much-discussed phenomenon, Kim explores what non-Western missions will mean to the future of Christianity in America and around the world."

*Jessica M. Parr, Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon (Mississippi, March)
From the publisher: "Parr draws from Whitefield's writing and sermons and from newspapers, pamphlets, and other sources to understand Whitefield's career and times. She offers new insights into revivalism, print culture, transatlantic cultural influences, and the relationship between religious thought and slavery....Parr reveals how Whitefield's death marked the start of a complex legacy that in many ways rendered him more powerful and influential after his death than during his long career."

*Mark T. Mulder, Shades of White Flight: Evangelical Congregations and Urban Departure (Rutgers, March)
Gerardo Martí: "...a fascinating book on race, religion, and urbanization that provides key insights on how a uniquely American brand of evangelicalism unintentionally contributed to 'white flight' in Chicago."

*Chris Beneke and Christopher S. Grenda, eds., The Lively Experiment: Religious Toleration in America from Roger Williams to Today (Rowman & Littlefield, March)
From the publisher: "...chronicles how Americans have continually demolished traditional prejudices while at the same time erecting new walls between belief systems. The chapters gathered here reveal how Americans are sensitively attuned to irony and contradiction, to unanticipated eruptions of bigotry and unheralded acts of decency, and to the disruption caused by new movements and the reassurance supplied by old divisions."

*Laura Vance, Women in New Religions (NYU, March)
Margaret Bendroth: "...shows us why and how gender plays a powerful role in the formation and growth of new religions. Integrating gender and social theory with illuminating accounts of spiritual entrepreneurs both strange and familiar, this is a thorough, well-crafted, and eminently useful addition to an important field of study."

*Todd Scribner, A Partisan Church: American Catholicism and the Rise of Neoconservative Catholics (Catholic University of America, March)
From the publisher: "In the wake of Vatican II and the political and social upheavals of the 1960s, disruption and disagreement rent the Catholic Church in America...Liberal, conservative, neoconservative and traditionalist Catholics competed to define what constituted an authentic Catholic worldview, thus making it nearly impossible to pinpoint a unique 'Catholic position' on any given topic. A Partisan Church examines these controversies during the Reagan era and explores the way in which one group of intellectuals - well-known neoconservative Catholics such as George Weigel, Michael Novak, and Richard John Neuhaus - sought to reestablish a coherent and unified Catholic identity."

*Adam H. Becker, Revival and Awakening: American Evangelical Missionaries in Iran and the Origins of Assyrian Nationalism (Chicago, March)
Talal Asad: "Unraveling the complex process in which the American Protestant project of moral and religious reform helped to stimulate the development of ‘Assyrian’ national consciousness, Becker provides an excellent example of how secular modernity could be configured in a non-colonial missionary context in the encounter between two different Christian communities.”

*Elizabeth Fones-Wolf and Ken Fones-Wolf, Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South: White Evangelical Protestants and Operation Dixie (Illinois, March)
From the Publisher: "In 1946, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) undertook Operation Dixie, an initiative to recruit industrial workers in the American South. Elizabeth and Ken Fones-Wolf plumb rarely used archival sources and rich oral histories to explore the CIO's fraught encounter with the evangelical Protestantism and religious culture of southern whites....Identifying the role of the sacred in the struggle for southern economic justice, and placing class as a central aspect in southern religion, Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South provides new understandings of how whites in the region wrestled with the options available to them during a crucial period of change and possibility."

*Michael Hicks, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir: A Biography (Illinois, March)
Daniel Walker Howe: "This fascinating, honest account should find many eager readers among the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's millions of fans. Michael Hicks combines the accuracy of a fine historian with the sensitivity of a judicious music critic."

*Erin A. Smith, What Would Jesus Read? Popular Religious Books and Everyday Life in Twentieth-Century America (North Carolina, March)
Barbara Hochman: "A fascinating exploration of reading culture and religion in the United States...the most comprehensive account of popular religious fiction to date. Smith’s incisive analysis interrogates the idea of middlebrow reading by including forgotten readers of religious literature along with the books they turned to for solace, entertainment, and pleasure."

*Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz, Junípero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary (Oklahoma, March)
From the publisher: "Franciscan missionary friar Junípero Serra (1713–1784), one of the most widely known and influential inhabitants of early California, embodied many of the ideas and practices that animated the Spanish presence in the Americas. In this definitive biography, translators and historians Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz bring this complex figure to life and illuminate the Spanish period of California and the American Southwest."

*Gary Scott Smith, Religion in the Oval Office: The Religious Lives of American Presidents (Oxford, March)
From the publisher: "In his highly praised book Faith and the Presidency, Gary Scott Smith cast a revealing light on the role religion has played in presidential politics throughout our nation's history, offering comprehensive, even-handed examinations of the role of religion in the lives, politics, and policies of eleven presidents. Now, in Religion in the Oval Office, Smith takes on eleven more of our nation's most interesting and influential chief executives: John Adams, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, William McKinley, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama."

*Abram Van Engen, Sympathetic Puritans: Calvinist Fellow Feeling in Early New England (Oxford, March)
Kristina Bross: "Van Engen focuses on 'fellow feeling' as both a defining feature of seventeenth-century Puritanism and a precursor to forms of sympathy better known in later literature. In so doing, he offers a challenging interpretation of the motivations of New England colonists. Sympathetic Puritans does not ask us to empathize with the likes of John Winthrop or Mary Rowlandson, but it does demand that we consider them and our enduring connections to them in a new light."

*Baird Tipson, Hartford Puritanism: Thomas Hooker, Samuel Stone, and Their Terrifying God (Oxford, March)
David Hall: "Baird Tipson has written a searching and thoughtful description of an early American theologian, notable because Tipson has an exceptional command of the history of theology, both Catholic and Reformed, and uses this knowledge to illuminate what was different or special about Hooker's version of the practical divinity."

*Josh McMullen, Under the Big Top: Big Tent Revivalism and American Culture, 1885-1925 (Oxford, March)
Matthew Avery Sutton: "In this fascinating and well-researched book, McMullen carefully demonstrated how the United States' largest revivals and most popular evangelists, working out of tents, tabernacles, and sports arenas, shaped and reflected an age of dramatic change. Religion became not just something to experience but to consume alongside the greatest spectacles of the era."

*Paul D. Numrich and Elfriede Wedam, Religion and Community in the New Urban America (Oxford, March)
From the publisher: "...examines the interrelated transformations of cities and urban congregations over the past several decades. The authors ask how the new metropolis affects local religious communities, and what the role of those local religious communities is in creating the new metropolis. Through an in-depth study of fifteen Chicago congregations--Catholic parishes, Protestant churches, Jewish synagogues, Muslim mosques, and a Hindu temple, city and suburban, neighborhood-based and commuter--this book describes the lives of their members and measures the influences of those congregations on urban environments."

*W. Paul Reeve, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness (Oxford, March)
Armand Mauss: "...plows truly new and important ground in explaining the fuller story of Mormonism's place in the long American struggle with racial bigotry, as well as the uses of racialist thinking in U.S. history more generally. Previous studies have tried to explain the traditional racial teachings of Mormonism mainly by reference to doctrines and developments inside the Church. This new study instead analyzes the heavily racialized context of the entire nation, in which Mormons became both victims and perpetrators of racist policies and practices."

*Andrew Preston, Bruce J. Schulman, and Julian E. Zelizer, eds., Faithful Republic: Religion and Politics in Modern America (Penn, March)
Paul Harvey: "The essays collected here are outstanding and bring to light some of the best scholarship on a topic in which new work is rapidly emerging and fundamentally changing. The research is excellent-the book is full of archival finds from all over the country-and the analyses are stimulating, often sparkling."

*Philip F. Gura, The Life of William Apess, Pequot (North Carolina, March)
From the publisher: "The Pequot Indian intellectual, author, and itinerant preacher William Apess (1798–1839) was one the most important voices of the nineteenth century. Here, Philip F. Gura offers the first book-length chronicle of Apess's fascinating and consequential life."

*Julia Marie Robinson, Race, Religion, and the Pulpit: Rev. Robert L. Bradby and the Making of Urban Detroit (Wayne State, April)
From the publisher: "During the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the cities of the Northeast, Midwest, and West, the local black church was essential in the making and reshaping of urban areas. In Detroit, there was one church and one minister in particular that demonstrated this power of the pulpit--Second Baptist Church of Detroit and its nineteenth pastor, the Reverend Robert L. Bradby....Julia Marie Robinson explores how Bradby's church became the catalyst for economic empowerment, community building, and the formation of an urban African American working class in Detroit."

*Amy Kittelstrom, The Religion of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition (Penguin, April)
From the publisher: "Today we associate liberal thought and politics with secularism. When we argue over whether the nation’s founders meant to keep religion out of politics, the godless side is said to be liberal. But the role of religion in American politics has always been far more nuanced and complex than today’s debates would suggest and closer to the heart of American intellectual life than is commonly understood....historian Amy Kittelstrom shows how religion and democracy have worked together as universal ideals in American culture—and as guides to moral action and the social practice of treating one another as equals who deserve to be free."

*Russell E. Richey, Methodism in the American Forest (Oxford, April)
From the publisher: "...explores the ways in which Methodist preachers interacted with and utilized the American woodland, and the role camp meetings played in the denomination's spread across the country....Camp meetings, if not a Methodist invention, became the movement's signature, a development that Richey tracks throughout the years that Methodism matured, becoming a central denomination in America's religious landscape."

*Sam Haselby, The Origins of American Religious Nationalism (Oxford, April)
Nancy Cott: "In this revelatory narrative, contrasting the competing visions of itinerant frontier preachers and institutionally-based New England evangelicals, Haselby brilliantly illuminates flashpoints of political as well as religious history. While tracking the progress of American Protestantism toward nondenominationalism and missionary enterprise, he tells a suspenseful political story deeply interwoven with the success of nationalism and dynamically rife with sectional and class tensions."

*Jonathan J. Edwards, Superchurch: The Rhetoric and Politics of American Fundamentalism (Michigan State, April)
From the publisher: "...drawing on five fascinating case studies, Superchurch blends a complex yet readable treatment of rhetorical and political theory with a sophisticated approach to Fundamentalism that neither dismisses its appeal nor glosses over its irresolvable tensions. Edwards challenges theories of rhetoric, counterpublics, deliberation, and civility while offering critical new insights into the evolution and continuing influence of one of the most significant cultural and political movements of the past century."

*Eve A. Hargrave, Shirley J. Schermer, Kristin M. Hedman, and Robin M. Lillie, eds. Transforming the Dead: Culturally Modified Bone in the Prehistoric Midwest (Alabama, April)
From the publisher: "Transforming the Dead is a collection of essays that examines culturally modified human bones and their roles as 'cultural and ritual objects' among prehistoric Eastern Woodland cultures. Previous scholarship has explored the role of human body parts in Native American cultures as trophies of war and revered ancestors. This collection discusses new evidence that human elements were also important components of daily and ritual activities across the Eastern Woodlands....the contributors bring into focus how the careful selection, modification, and retention of particular bones or body parts of an individual after death offer insights into concepts of personhood, the body, life, and death among the prehistoric Native Americans in the Midwest."

*Kevin Kruse, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (Basic, April)
From the publisher: "We’re often told that the United States is, was, and always has been a Christian nation. But in One Nation Under God, historian Kevin M. Kruse reveals that the idea of 'Christian America' is an invention—and a relatively recent one at that....Provocative and authoritative, One Nation Under God reveals how the unholy alliance of money, religion, and politics created a false origin story that continues to define and divide American politics to this day."

*John Corrigan, Emptiness: Feeling Christian in America (Chicago, April)
Peter Thuesen: "Corrigan’s latest book turns a surprising theme—emptiness—into a fresh way to conceptualize the American religious landscape. Drawing on an impressive range of sources, he argues that emptiness is a ubiquitous feature of American Christianity and is experienced in multiple ways—emotionally, bodily, spatially, temporally, and doctrinally. Rich, erudite, and thought-provoking, this is a highly original contribution and a work of considerable theoretical importance.”

*Lila Corwin Berman, Metropolitan Jews: Politics, Race, and Religion in Postwar Detroit (Chicago, April)
Deborah Dash Moore: "A brilliant intervention in intersecting areas of history, Metropolitan Jews is a significant and exciting contribution to scholarship on cities, suburbs, American Jews, postwar religion, and liberal politics. Berman argues persuasively that Detroit provides a window into larger trends happening in cities across the United States. This is a subtle book and one that will be read widely by scholars of cities and suburbs, of postwar religion and politics. It opens a fresh and exciting perspective on suburbanization, Jewish urban politics, and the postwar transformation of Judaism."

*Stephen Prothero, Why Liberals Win: The Story of America's Culture Wars and the Lost Causes of Conservatism (Harper Collins, April)
From the publisher: "...places today’s heated culture wars within the context of a centuries-long struggle of right vs. left and religious vs. secular to reveal how, ultimately, liberals always win....Though they may seem to be dividing the country irreparably, today’s heated cultural and political battles between right and left, Progressives and Tea Party, religious and secular are far from unprecedented. In this engaging and important work, Stephen Prothero reframes the current debate, viewing it as the latest in a number of flashpoints that have shaped our national identity."

*Robert Marovich, A City Called Heaven: Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music (Illinois, April)
From the publisher: "Marovich follows gospel music from early hymns and camp meetings through the Great Migration that brought it to Chicago.... As Marovich shows, gospel music expressed a yearning for freedom from earthly pains, racial prejudice, and life's hardships. In the end, it proved to be a sound too mighty and too joyous for even church walls to hold."

*Michael J. McVicar, Christian Reconstruction: R.J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism (North Carolina, April)
Diane Winston: "McVicar's groundbreaking book is a welcome addition to our understanding of recent American history. McVicar explicates R. J. Rushdoony's role in late-twentieth-century debates over religion and politics, as well as his influence among religious conservatives and in the culture at large. An invaluable contribution to the study of American politics, religion, and the intersection of the two."

*Timothy Gloege, Guaranteed Pure: The Moody Bible Institute, Business, and the Making of Modern Evangelicalism (North Carolina, April)
Kathryn Lofton: "The single most important work on Protestant fundamentalism written in the past decade, Timothy Gloege's learned, far-reaching text is phenomenally researched and beautifully written, providing a Gilded Age history that links powerfully to the present story of American religions. It will inspire debate and admiration."

*Andrew Hartman, A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars (Chicago, April)
Elaine Tyler May: "In lively, elegant prose, Andrew Hartman explains how and why the consensus that appeared to permeate the nation following World War II frayed and fractured so dramatically in the 1960s. With keen insight and analysis, he shows that the Culture Wars were not marginal distractions from the main issues of the day. Rather, they were profound struggles over the very foundation of what it meant to be an American. In tracing the history of those conflicts over the last half of the twentieth century, Hartman provides a new understanding of the tensions and processes that transformed the nation."

*David P. Sandell, Open Your Heart: Religion and Cultural Poetics of Greater Mexico (North Dame, April)
From the publisher: "In this ethnography of Catholic religious practice in Fresno, California, David P. Sandell unveils ritualized storytelling that Mexican and Mexican American people of faith use to cope with racism and poverty associated with colonial, capitalist, and modern social conditions."

*Jason C. Bivins, Spirits Rejoice!: Jazz and American Religion (Oxford, April)
From the publisher: "...explores the relationship between American religion and American music, and the places where religion and jazz have overlapped....Rather than providing a history, or series of biographical entries, Spirits Rejoice! takes to heart a central characteristic of jazz itself and improvises, generating a collection of themes, pursuits, reoccurring foci, and interpretations. Bivins riffs on interviews, liner notes, journals, audience reception, and critical commentary, producing a work that argues for the centrality of religious experiences to any legitimate understanding of jazz, while also suggesting that jazz opens up new interpretations of American religious history."

*Kristin Kobes DuMez, A New Gospel for Women: Katharine Bushnell and the Challenge of Christian Feminism (Oxford, April)
From the publisher: "A work of history, biography, and historical theology, Kristin Kobes DuMez's book provides a vivid account of Bushnell's life....The book restores Bushnell to her rightful place in history. It also illuminates the dynamic and often thorny relationship between faith and feminism in modern America by mapping Bushnell's story and her subsequent disappearance from the historical record."


John Ashcraft said…
Heath Carter has already pointed out that it looks like 2015 will be a banner year for the study of Christianity and capitalism in the United States.

IT will be a banner year because the Day of the Lord may or will begin in September of 2015 on the 14th and 24th. Jesus between 2015 and 2017.
Trevor Burrows said…
Paul - as always, thanks for this comprehensive list! Feel like I have barely cracked many new books from 2014 and already another round of excellent literature on the way for 2015... need to get reading!
Paul Harvey said…
With the cornucopia of works to read noted here, make sure you scroll down towards the very end and check out Jason Bivins's SPIRITS REJOICE -- aside from having a cool cover reminiscent of the Blue Note covers from their classic 1960s albums, this book (which I read earlier in manuscript form) is one of the most inventive, challenging, provocative cultural studies I've read in a good long while. Also, a total must for anyone interested in music and religion.
Mark T. Edwards said…
Thanks as always for these lists, Paul!

Just an FYI to be on the lookout for a roundtable on Kevin Kruse's book coming in March, and an interview with Andrew Hartman in April.

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