A weekly roundup of noteworthy reviews from other sources.
Lisa Miller’s Heaven tracks the historical development of the idea and reports on what current-day people imagine the afterlife will be. Johann Hari says the history is “highly competent (if rarely more)” but the reporting is “insufferable.” . . . The Economist looks at new books by Paul Johnson (Roman Catholic) and Philip Pullman (atheist), who, in very different ways, address the question: “Was Jesus of Nazareth divine or human, or did he combine both attributes in a unique, mysterious way?” . . . Jon Meacham reviews a new history of Christianity that reaches back to a thousand years before the birth of Christ. . . . In Ill Fares the Land, Tony Judt makes an impassioned case for saving social democracy. Julian Baggini says that, “perhaps inevitably,” Judt is better at diagnosis than solutions: “In asking what is to be done, Judt suffers from an illusion common to intellectuals, that the way to get the world to walk right is to get it to talk right.” . . . Tom Bissell calls Jake Silverstein’s new book, the chapters of which alternate between fiction and nonfiction, “greatly entertaining and extremely funny.” He also calls it “one of the weirdest books I have ever read.”