While John Adams is a household name, most Americans aren’t as familiar with his son, John Quincy Adams. In fact, the story of the second Adams’ virtual exile to Russia as foreign minister and his subsequent rise from those political ashes is a rarely told story. Treating Adams and his wife Louisa with equal attention, author Jane Hampton Cook details the fascinating story of their rocky marriage, their sacrifices to preserve American independence, and the Adams’ role in bringing lasting peace with Britain after the War of 1812. Cook’s writing is at times awkward, but she hits her stride midbook, bringing the characters to life through quotes and description that—unlike David McCullough’s comparable histories—highlight the Adams’ Christian faith.
“The Revolution may be the most important event in American history and the Bible was arguably its most important book,” writes Byrd. In contrast to secular historians who downplay Christianity’s contribution, he attempts a comprehensive analysis of Scripture’s influence on the birth of America. His scope is noteworthy: Consulting over 500 war-time sermons and pamphlets, he waded through 17,000 biblical citations to identify their most prominent themes. Unlike Thomas S. Kidd’s Religion and the American Revolution (2010), however, the book is not especially readable nor does it give insightful context to the often fiery rhetoric. Still, Byrd’s research provides a useful window on the way Americans turned to the Bible in the country’s infancy.
When in February a fellow veteran gunned down Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, author of the autobiographical American Sniper, Kyle had been writing his second book. After his untimely death, his wife and editors finished this manuscript, and the result is a unique look at 10 firearms that shaped our country. From long-rifles that gave Revolutionary patriots a fighting chance, to Winchester rifles that won the West, to the complex machines Kyle used as a sniper in Afghanistan, the author slaps each gun in the reader’s hands and demonstrates its importance in a defining battle. While details of gun technology may entertain firearm aficionados, the book’s first-hand renderings of conflicts like the gunfight at O.K. Corral will likely have more general appeal. Caution: frequent cursing.
History buffs and liberty lovers alike may appreciate this book’s pocket-sized format, which makes it easily portable, but with over 200 quotes from America’s founders—often referencing God or Christian principles—it packs a wallop. It includes significant documents like the Declaration of Independence and President Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation. Through short introductions for each chapter (one of which gives the Enlightenment too much credit), Leidner offers a concise yet rich history of the Revolution. Most of the quotes remain relevant, including this one by Ben Franklin: “… the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men.”
How will our history—both as individuals and the human race—end? Scores of recent best-selling books attempt to answer these questions by citing near-death experiences (NDEs). And while the scientific establishment scoffs (see the April Scientific American article, “Why a Near-Death Experience Isn’t Proof of Heaven”), what should be the Christian response?
For those who want to test NDEs in light of Scripture, Hank Hanegraaff’s AfterLife: What You Really Want to Know About Heaven and the Hereafter is helpful. Negatives: Hanegraaff, known as the Bible Answer Man from his daily radio show, unfortunately muddies the water by including side issues like end time debates and sex in heaven. Positives: AfterLife analyzes the NDE publishing trend in a way that privileges Scripture over subjective experience. Hanegraaff’s question and answer style helps readers easily find the subjects that interest them most. —E.W.