During the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays I read two books by a very provocative author, Reza Aslan, both of which spent considerable time on the New York Times bestseller list.
No god but God
This is a very detailed history of Islam and a very good explanation of its major tenets, its origins, and the evolution of the faith. Originally published in 2005, it was updated in 2011 with an additional chapter on Islamic reformation. I found it to be the most comprehensive history of the Muslim faith that I have seen and it was well supplemented with glossary, index, and copious footnotes. It was also a very objective presentation, except for the final chapter on reformation, significant parts of which I take exception. But I recommend it as a source of education in a faith that we must try and understand and deal with.
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
Published in 2013, this book is a very provocative look at the historical Jesus. In other words, setting faith aside, what can we know about the documented Jesus of history, within and without the gospels, in the context and environment in which he lived? I must say, as a Christian, I was initially skeptical and looked very hard for bias and subjectivity, particularly since the author, who was raised as a Christian, is now of the Muslim faith. I detected no bias, found his work to be objective, and moreover, very well researched and documented–this is a book with about 160 pages of narrative and 100 of footnotes and bibliography! But it is provocative and it will represent a challenge to those who hold fundamentalist faith in the scriptures. I am surprised that this book has not received very significant publicity. I have not seen a review in the popular print sources, nor an interview with the author other than a brief and very badly conducted one on Fox News. This is a huge disservice.