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.
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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:
This book traces the dramatic shifts in American Catholics’ prayer life from the style of the immigrant church (1865-1900) through and after the Second Vatican Council. James M. McCartin, a professor of history at Seton Hall University, notes in the prologue: “Positioned at opposite ends of the twentieth century, these two scenes suggest a remarkable alteration in the patterns of prayer and in the popular experience of the spiritual life.” And these shifts, as the book shows, came alongside larger changes within the American society and its political culture and reflect how prayer shaped people’s attitudes toward the hierarchy and the institutional church. What we see in the present, inspired by the post-Vatican II charismatic renewal movement, is a personal approach to prayer.