Also of faith and doubt

Elders; My Bright Abyss; ’Til Faith Do Us Part; The God Argument


by Ryan McIlvain (Hogarth, $26)

“Excellent, Mormon-themed novels are few and far between. This is one of them,” said Alex Beam in Ryan McIlvain makes his literary debut with a tale of young Mormon missionaries, known as “elders,” who are sent hunting for converts in a fictional Brazilian city. McIlvain, a former Mormon, does something that perhaps no writer has done before: He explains what goes on in the minds of these clean-cut missionaries “as they shuffle dutifully from rejection to rejection.”

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My Bright Abyss

by Christian Wiman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $24)

“Here is a poet wrestling with words the way Jacob wrestled the angel,” said Casey Cep in The New Republic. Poetry magazine editor Christian Wiman wrote this “burnished and beautiful” memoir after being diagnosed with a rare type of blood cancer, and he doesn’t shy from saying that neither his religion nor his love of literature has significantly eased his suffering. Yet both passions hold: “My Bright Abyss is a sobering look at faith and poetry by a man who believes fiercely in both.”

’Til Faith Do Us Part

by Naomi Schaefer Riley (Oxford, $25)

This study of interfaith marriages in America is “chock-full of fascinating statistics,” said Stanley Fish in Unions between people of different faiths now compose 42 percent of U.S. marriages, making them far more common than Republican-Democrat marriages. But Naomi Schaefer Riley wishes to highlight that the interfaith divorce rate is also rising. She isn’t anti-interfaith marriage: “She just wants prospective interfaith couples to know that love doesn’t conquer all.”

The God Argument

by A.C. Grayling (Bloomsbury, $26)

When you read A.C. Grayling, you’re reading a man “confident that he holds all the best cards,” said Julian Baggini in The Observer (U.K.). The British philosopher here too hastily dismisses religious faith before he “sums up well” the humanist position that faith is not needed to construct morality. But until atheists like Grayling recognize that not all religious belief is built on Stone Age myths, their erudition will win no converts, and “the God argument remains unwinnable.”

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