Review by Choice Review
This description of the marriage of liberal religion and publishing in the US in the 20th century fuses a deep familiarity with historical archives, sensitivity to the movement of American religious practices, and insightful interpretations of texts and images. Hedstrom (Univ. of Virginia) highlights the importance of middlebrow reading and religious practices and emphasizes how liberal Protestant thinking, interested in improving individual readers through traditional reading practices, paved the way for an expansive religious understanding that proved an important spiritual resource in the first half of the 20th century--even as it may have contributed to a spiritual life detached from Christianity. Each chapter weaves together examples of individual authors'/editors' work with responses from readers and a nuanced discussion of some of the larger social forces during these periods to show how literature became an end in itself, rather than a vehicle serving evangelistic ends. Repetitions allow chapters to be read individually, though the whole argument is worth reading. This book provides a modern counterpoint to Matthew Brown's The Pilgrim and the Bee (CH, Jan'08, 45-2400). It will appeal to educated readers and to students and researchers interested in book culture or American religions. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty. D. R. Boscaljon independent scholar
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.