The Battle Hymn of the Republic, by John Stauffer and Benjamin Soskis

Fall books

How did Julia Ward Howe’s pro–federal Union and abolitionist-inspired “Battle Hymn of the Republic” become the most recognizable American anthem of the 20th century? Why is it embraced by liberals and conservatives, radicals and businesspeople, whites, blacks and beyond?

Deep Roots, by Steven Curtis Chapman

This album variously rolls with the calming reassurance of a Dixie river and chugs along like a steam engine. Built around hymns and southern gospel standards, Deep Roots oozes front porch intimacy, its acoustic instruments and vocal harmonies unadorned by studio trickery.

Life and Rhymes, by Phil Angotti

Midwestern rocker Phil Angotti dishes sweet sunshine on a disc redolent of 1970s pop textures à la Todd Rundgren and the Raspberries—though “Goodbye Never Said” has a timeless chamber-pop quality, aided by a dash of strings.

Babel, by Mumford & Sons

Not since U2 has a pop music act with decidedly Christian leanings generated as much discussion, derision and delight as Mumford and Sons.