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Religious Literacy in America

While this blog is primarily devoted to children’s books, I am currently listening to the audio edition of Stephen Prothero’s brilliant work, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know–and Doesn’t. I have been so taken by this book that I had to digress briefly to encourage you to get your hands on a copy of this and read it! I happen to have had the pleasure of knowing Stephen and his wife when we were living in Sandwich, Massachusetts, where they also lived. Our daughters attended the same preschool and we met at several social occasions related to that. What I didn’t know at the time was that Stephen was becoming one of the preeminent scholars of religion in America while I was busy home schooling and running children hither and thither! The first time we met Stephen (at a sushi party in our home!) he had just finished American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon. I of course, made a mental note to get his latest book and read it, but in the hectic silliness of life, my mental note disappeared in the vacuous recesses of my brain! Now that we’ve relocated to California, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t take advantage of the wonderful opportunity to learn from such a keen mind.
I think you’ll be struck by Stephen’s astute analysis of religion in America in the title (at right), as well as how many of our prejudices regarding faith, the Bible, liberal and conservative politics, and education, are the well worn tracks of a culture that, while it ascribes to a Judeo-Christian ethic, has lost many of the moorings that have traditionally bound us to transcendent truth. Stephen’s surveys of current religious and biblical knowledge will take your breath away, or if they don’t, may perhaps stun you into action and a reevaluation of what you believe and why. I hope you’ll take this challenge and read this title and then get some comments going so we can all learn together and perhaps revisit truths and creeds that we’ve long taken for granted. I’m really looking forward to hearing what you think, and I’ll continue to post musings as I finish this wonderful work!

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The Power of Books

David Brook’s most recent editorial in The New York Times speaks to the amazing power of books – and makes a good argument for summer reading lists!  As we’ve been promoting some great summer reads, you’ll be happy to know that giving your kids books during the summer helps diminish the loss of knowledge that widely happens to students during the break.  But you already knew that!  The article also speaks to the effect our internet focused culture has on learning and the ability to reason.  What I found to be the most interesting was this:

“But there was one interesting observation made by a philanthropist who gives books to disadvantaged kids. It’s not the physical presence of the books that produces the biggest impact, she suggested. It’s the change in the way the students see themselves as they build a home library. They see themselves as readers, as members of a different group…A person who becomes a citizen of the literary world enters a hierarchical universe.”

What a fantastic idea!  As the internet grabs at more of our time and attention, young people given the opportunity to read will choose to do so – and it can affect the way they see themselves and their place in the world.  Fascinating stuff here!  Happy reading –  The Medium is the Medium.


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An Ancient History Primer . . .


For any reader interested in an overall understanding of ancient history, Genevieve Foster’s Augustus Caesar’s World presents an engaging, entertaining, and fascinating look at the seminal events and persons of the major empires of antiquity.  Written using her innovative “horizontal history” approach, Foster takes the reader into the personal lives of such notable persons as Herod, Cleopatra, Octavian, Antony, Brutus, and of course, Julius Caesar. Beyond Rome, readers will be introduced to the lives of Siddhartha,  Confucius, Gamaliel, Horace, Cicero, Vergil and more.  The book opens with the intrigue involved in the plot to assassinate Caesar, but extends far beyond that to the seminal figures of Ancient China, Persia, India, Israel and more.  For a more extensive introduction to this wonderful book,  see Kerry Walter’s review at  For those new to a study of ancient history, or those just needing  a refresher course, this is a delightful choice.

Augustus Caesar’s World