One of the world’s most influential contemporary theologians, and “the man who stood up to Hitler” (New York Times), the German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was imprisoned in 1943—and executed in 1945—for his role in confronting The Final Solution and plotting the assassination of Adolf Hitler. His bestselling works, especially The Cost of Discipleship and Letters and Papers from Prison have influenced generations of students and Christian scholars. In a review of this masterful biography in the June 21 issue of America, Peter Heinegg assesses Bonhoeffer as “a thinker both innovative and conservative and a fearless teller of the truth” and this biography by Metaxas a “warm-hearted, lively chronicle.” (You may also visit Regina Nigro’s June 15 blog post for America, which stresses Bonhoeffer’s heroism and deep commitment to justice and “his decision to sacrifice all for faith, for the persecuted and for God.”) Bonhoeffer is a compelling, often spellbinding read that you will want to pass around to others after you have finished it.

Purchase Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy from amazon.com.

In light of the popular and critical response to Nancy Sherman’s The Untold War (reviewed in the June 7 issue of America), we bring to your attention two related books:

Gray Land: Soldiers on War
By Barry Goldstein
W.W. Norton. 128p $39.95

Filled with dramatic, full-color combat photographs—which themselves speak a thousand words—this book contains excerpts from Goldstein’s candid interviews, over a two-year period, with men and women of all ranks, spot-lighting their experiences both in deployment and after returning home. As the publisher stresses, this “is not about the war in Iraq…nor…a political treatise.” The reader sees the human faces, listens to their voices, and witnesses emotions that range widely—from pride to suffering to the cost of citizenship. The book’s title derives from a poem called “Dreamers,” by Siegfried Sassoon:

            Soldiers are citizens of death’s gray land
            Dreaming no dividend from time’s tomorrow
            In the great hour of destiny they stand
            Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.

We are sure that readers will welcome the helpful Glossary of Military Terms, Acronyms, Units and Ranks provided at the front of the book.

When Janey Comes Marching Home
Portraits of Women Combat Veterans
By Laura Browder; Photographs by Sascha Pflaeging
Univ. of North Carolina Press. 168p $35

Those profiled in these pages include veterans of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As the author noted in an interview: “War photography has traditionally focused on men as heroes and aggressors, and on women and children as victims…. [Ms. Pflaeging and I] thought that photographs of women who are mothers and wounded soldiers could have the power to unsettle our fixed ideas about Americans at war.” And that is precisely what this wonderful volume accomplishes.  The women represent all five branches of the military, and their narratives are riveting and often disturbing. Still, one is inspired to read their reasons for enlisting in service, their spiritual reflections and their sense of mission—but perhaps the most striking is absence from family and children.

Both of these books are a fitting testament and tribute to our country’s uniformed heroes and heroines. Important reading in these trying times.