1 Samuel:
Francesca Aran Murphy (Brazos Press)

Many commentaries exhibit a strange doubleness. On technical points they are sharp and decisive; on large questions they are evasive. Not Francesca Aran Murphy's 1 Samuel, the latest volume in the Brazos Theological Commentary series. Murphy is almost belligerently forthright in laying out her interpretations, making her book a delightful read even when one disagrees. And whereas typical commentary is written with all the verve of an instruction manual, Murphy's prose is fresh, witty, at times exuberant--not to draw attention to itself, but in mimetic homage to the richness of the text.

Not in the Heavens: The Tradition of Jewish Secular Thought
David Biale (Princeton University Press)

"Secularization" should be understood as a consequence of the Reformation, so the story goes. In a similar vein, David Biale suggests that there is a dialectical relationship between Jewish secular thought (which was enormously influential in shaping the self-understanding of "modernity") and Judaism's religious patrimony. Lucid and winsome, Biale's book is also melancholy. "No trajectory toward the future can be charted with confidence," he writes. "Secularism can make no promise of continuity or survival, but it does guarantee the freedom to experiment, without which neither continuity nor survival is possible." Pretty thin gruel, isn't it?

The Identity man
Andrew Klavan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Don't start this novel unless you have plenty of time to keep reading. Yes, as the title suggests, it probes the meaning of identity (and shows why a lot of fashionable ideas about "identity" are destructively wrong), but Andrew Klavan prompts us to think afresh about this subject by telling a story that won't let go. Fast-paced, savvy, violent, laced with allusions to current events and sometimes rising to Swiftian indignation, it is also informed by Christian hope and the astonishing reality of grace.

Related Elsewhere:

1 Samuel, Not in the Heavens: The Tradition of Jewish Secular Thought, and The Identity Man are available from ChristianBook.com, Amazon.com, and other retailers.

John Wilson is editor of Books & Culture, a Christianity Today sister publication.

Other Bookmarks and reviews are in our books section.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.