The Revealer has become awfully opaque of late, a static page of rarely renewed writing. That’s because I’ve turned my energies back toward my first internet love, I hope Revealer readers will join me there. It’s like The Revealer-plus, and then some.

I’ll continue to occasionally blog about religion and media, along with KtBlogger NathanSchneider, but the main attractions are feature essays and stories, published every Monday and Thursday (and sometimes Saturday), by writers, artists, and photographers covering the religious, political, and aesthetic spectrums. Michael Muhammad Knight writes on the man he calls Allah; Nina Burleigh investigates the unholy world of the Israeli antiquities trade; Meera Subramanian reports on the “100 Unspoken Rules” of a Hindu mangili ponduceremony; Nathan Schneider compares Al Qaeda recruitment imagery with Donald Rumsfeld’s“Full Armor of God”Revealer editor Kathryn Joyce accepts the 2009 “Vulgaria Child Catcher of the Year Award”; novelist Ilana Stanger-Ross investigates the “Perfect Breasts” of orthodox Brooklyn; and I chip in with “Naked and Guilty,” on the eros of evangelicalism and a hell house in Texas.

There’ll be more news on the future of The Revealer soon. In the meantime, why don’t you read a book, for chrissakes.

Hey, here’s an affordable one: my NYT bestseller, The Family, out in paperback this week! So is its lovely review in the Journal of American History, which breaks from academic form to declare that The Family “does for fundamentalism what Greil Marcus’ Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century did for punk.”

And here’s an even better book: erstwhile Revealer editor Peter Manseau’s Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter, also out in paperback this week! It’s a beautiful novel about pogroms, poetry, and the death of print — literally — but what makes it really unique is that it won the National Jewish Book Award for fiction.. Peter is the first goy to take the prize in half a century.

Back in 2004, Peter and made a book together called Killing the Buddha: A Heretic’s Bible. Amazon apparently loved it so much that lately they’ve been attributing all sorts of books to the Manseau & Sharlet team. Our latest collaboration is a book we traveled back in time to write, Calvin and the Reformation, published in 1962 by “Peter and Sharlet, Jeff Manseau.” But that’s really kind of a specialized work. For the general reader, we recommend our other latest collaboration. Here’s the premise: An elven witch, a bar mitzvah cheater, and a Bible camp saboteur walk into a bar… and nine years later they walk out with a book: Believer, Beware: First-Person Dispatches from the Margins of Faith, an anthology of coming from Beacon Press on July 1.

Believer, Beware

The advance reviews are in:


STARRED REVIEW Believer, Beware: First-Person Dispatches from the Margins of Faith. Beacon, dist. by Houghton. Jul. 2009. 263p. ed. by Jeff Sharlet & others. ISBN 978-0-8070-7739-9. $16.

From Beacon comes a book that, if not a beacon, is certainly a message from the vanguard of popular spirituality. This extremely diverse set of essays is the second to come from Killing the Buddha, an online religion magazine “for people made anxious by churches” and the ideal home for the “spiritual but not religious” and all the other great unchurched believers in America. Here you’ll find a Jewish adolescent who hopes she is the promised Messiah, an elven witch, a Zen A.A. memoir, and much more. Shocking, exhilarating, and never dull, these essays sometimes give off the self-conscious, twee air of modern memoirs à la Burroughs, but they are important voices. Highly recommended.


Believer, Beware: First-Person Dispatches from the Margins of Faith Edited by Jeff Sharlet, Peter Manseau and the editors of Killing the Buddha. Beacon, $16 paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-8070-7739-9

This is the second collection of contributions to the online magazine Killing the Buddha (which Sharlet and Manseau founded) to be published in book form. The editors are among the smart, candid, and insightful authors whose personal narratives form the book’s 35 brief chapters. The selections represent a wide range of experiences from cheating on bar mitzvah prep to discovering hunger as spiritual food in a Ramadan fast, from sabotaging Bible camp to stumbling upon barbershop theology. Contributions reflect the scope of religious diversity, including orthodox Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Islam, Zen Buddhism and even a meditation on agnosticism. Some are funny, others heartbreaking, and some are simply revelatory. Despite the variety, the collection is unified by the contributors’ wrestling with received religious traditions and expectations for belief and practice, each articulating a particular moment of the author’s life. The voices are refreshingly honest. Given the narratives’ personal nature, readers will not jive with each one but will find particularly thought provoking those that hone in on their own questions, suspicions and experiences. (July)