There are probably few reference books that vacationers will drag down to the beach this summer. And though I make a living in academia, there aren’t many works of reference that I want to read from cover to cover. I love history because I love stories, storytelling and engrossing narratives—not because I’m taken with the facts, figures and dates that populate reference books. But once I agreed to review The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History I had no choice but to crack the spine. I am glad I did.
The guide, edited by Paul Harvey and Edward J. Blum—the former a highly respected and accomplished historian of American religion, the latter one of the rising stars in the profession—provides an excellent overview of many of the most important trends, topics and issues in American religious history.