Bowdoin Reads

Heather Hietala, Director of Stewardship Programs, is reading...

American Grace
by Robert Putnam and David Campbell

On my Kindle (something I first tried by borrowing one from the H-L Library), I’ve just finished American Grace by Robert Putnam (a Harvard prof) and David Campbell (a Notre Dame prof). It’s a fascinating book that examines religion in America with all our diversity, tolerance, or lack thereof. Based on extensive surveys and research, the book avoids jargon and presents interesting stories of individual churches and people as well as broader analysis. It’s a well-written and balanced exploration of religious heterogeneity. Ultimately, the authors draw some hopeful conclusions about how we coexist with such differing beliefs and levels of faith in America.

Ironically, the other book I’ve been reading – not on the Kindle but in paperback form – celebrates the book itself, especially well-loved, beautifully-bound literary and non-fiction classics. 84, Charing Cross Road is a collection of letters primarily from the 1950s between the American writer Helene Hanff and the staff of a bookshop in London. As a former British history major at Bowdoin, I’m an Anglophile and I find this little book delightful. And despite my enthusiasm for the Kindle, I share Hanff’s appreciation for well-worn volumes. Helene writes: “I love inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins, I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned, and reading passages some one long ago has called my attention to.” The book is more than just a charming testament to love of the written word, though – it is a celebration of the power of human connection.

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