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Review: The Unlikely Disciple

October 16, 2009

Unlikely Disciple

As a sophomore at Brown University, Kevin Roose was working as writer’s assistant.  His boss, A. J. Jacobs, was doing research for his book, The Year of Living Biblically, and took Kevin on a research trip to Thomas Road Baptist Church, which was founded by Jerry Falwell, and sits on Liberty University’s campus in Lynchburg, Virginia.  While he was there, Kevin spoke with a few Liberty students and unknown to him at the time, a seed was planted.

Back on Brown’s campus, it seems that everyone is talking about studying abroad, which gets Kevin thinking.  The purpose of studying abroad is to experience a different culture, and Liberty University’s conservative Christian culture is about as different from Brown University’s left leaning, Ivy league culture as you can get.  With the permission of his parents and the Dean of Students, Kevin decides to attend Liberty for one semester.

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University is Kevin Roose’s memoir of his time at Liberty University.  When Kevin decided to go to Liberty, he went with an open mind and wanted to experience every aspect of it that he could.  He took religious classes, played intramural softball, participated in Bible Study and self help groups, sang in the Thomas Road Church choir, met with a spiritual advisor, and even went on a mission trip over his spring break.

I found this book to be fascinating, well written and non-judgmental.  I’m sure Carl is glad that I’m through reading it because I talked about it a lot while I read it.  I felt like Kevin did a wonderful job showing how the students at Liberty are different from, yet very similar to, their counterparts at secular schools.  He did a great job of not passing judgment and really getting to know the people of Liberty.  In his conclusion he said,

Religious conflict might be a basic human instinct, but I have faith, now more than ever before, that we can subvert that instinct for long enough to listen to each other.

If there are more young people like Kevin, I think he’s right!  Kevin will graduate from Brown in December with a degree in English and I suspect we’ll be seeing lots more of his work in the future.  I, for one, look forward to reading it.

Review copy provided by Hachette Books.  I am an Amazon Associate.
36 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2009 7:09 am

    This one sounds really interesting, Kathy – I love fish out of water stories and it sounds like he treated it kindly rather than meanspiritedly.

  2. October 16, 2009 7:34 am

    I was out to lunch the other day with my husband—a little sandwich shop—and beside us were two young men having the most civilized and passionate conversation about church and church life. Your review today reinforces a thought I’d had about how important being non-judgmental is during searching conversations such as those.

  3. October 16, 2009 7:36 am

    This sounds absolutely fascinating!

  4. October 16, 2009 8:43 am

    I keep thinking this one looks like something I should check out. If you like it, then that’s another mark in the “yes” column. 🙂


  5. October 16, 2009 9:03 am

    My dad read this one and really liked it! Nice review!

  6. October 16, 2009 9:12 am

    This sounds like a refreshing book. I suspect the author learned more about life than the usual student having a semester away. Nice review!

  7. October 16, 2009 9:23 am

    I really liked The Year of Living Biblically and think AJ Jacobs is a hilarious. I bet I would enjoy this one too.

  8. October 16, 2009 9:24 am

    This one sounds really interesting. I’ve had my eye on it since it came out. Thanks for your review.

  9. October 16, 2009 9:46 am

    My husband gets an earful too when I am reading an interesting book. And then when I say, don’t you want to read it?, he says, “why do I need to? you’ve told me everything!”

  10. October 16, 2009 10:18 am

    This one looks very interesting, I’ll probably pick it up soon. Thanks for the review, Kathy!

  11. October 16, 2009 10:39 am

    A blogging friend sent me a copy of this — you’ve reminded me of why I really wanted to read it.

  12. stacybuckeye permalink
    October 16, 2009 10:52 am

    I remember seeing an interview with him somewhere and being interested in the idea. Thanks for review 🙂

  13. October 16, 2009 11:01 am

    I read a review of this maybe six months ago, and it is still stuck in my mind. I have admiration for this guy…not very many people would have the open mind and ambition to see it through. It is actually something that my non-reading husband might read!

  14. October 16, 2009 11:41 am

    Interesting concept for a book, but that cover just does nothing for me.

  15. October 16, 2009 11:58 am

    Nice review Kathy. This one sounds interesting.

  16. October 16, 2009 12:19 pm

    I’ve seen this book around, and while I probably won’t read it, it does sound interesting. Thanks for the review!

  17. Carol permalink
    October 16, 2009 1:15 pm

    I really want to read this one. I’m hoping our library system will get it.

  18. October 16, 2009 1:27 pm

    I read this for my book club this month (I think I reviewed it last month?) and I really enjoyed it as well. My club is meeting next weekend to discuss it, and I’ll certainly have more to say on the subject after our meeting.

  19. October 16, 2009 2:34 pm

    It sounds as if this young author tackled a difficult subject, and did a good and interesting job. Thanks for your review.

  20. etirv permalink
    October 16, 2009 4:06 pm

    I just got this book and really look forward to reading it!

  21. October 16, 2009 6:13 pm

    I just read Heather’s review of this book and between hers and yours, I’m definitely interested!

  22. October 16, 2009 8:21 pm

    Good for Kevin Roose. A good education involves seeing the world from all perspectives. Sounds like he did that and was able to communicate his learnings so we all can benefit.

  23. October 16, 2009 10:01 pm

    Very nice review, Kathy. I’ll add this book to my TBR list.

    Have a great weekend!

  24. October 16, 2009 10:19 pm

    I read this recently too and agree with your assessment wholeheartedly. He was very open-minded and fair and non-judgemental and did a great job of explaining a world that I think is very very easy to scoff at as being ridiculous and short-sighted. And I was so amazed at the sophistication of his writing and insights at such a young age. I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of him!

  25. October 17, 2009 2:07 am

    I really loved this book and you’re right…he does have a great gift for writing. 🙂

  26. October 17, 2009 2:25 am

    A fabulous review. Very well thought out. Thanks!!!!

  27. October 17, 2009 9:05 am

    I have been wanting to read this one for awhile. I am sure that I’d be talking about it all the time the way that you did.

  28. October 17, 2009 11:01 am

    Yours is the first review of this book that I’ve actually read. It sounds like something I would enjoy. I had assumed it was evangelical – guess I need some lessons in being non-judgmental! Thanks for your review.

  29. October 17, 2009 6:33 pm

    This is the first review that I’ve read of this one…does sound like one I would enjoy reading.

  30. October 17, 2009 7:48 pm

    I heard about this book after I read The Year of Living Biblically, but forgot it about now. AJ Jacobs’ book has the same sort of conclusion about not be judgmental and such, I’m sure they worked well together.

  31. October 17, 2009 10:07 pm

    This book catches my interest each time I read a review, I must add it to my wish list.

    While it sounds like Roose really was open-minded about his time at Liberty (full immersion and all), didn’t he enter the college “under cover”? That is, he intended to observe the lifestyle there but wasn’t upfront with the students and faculty?

    • October 17, 2009 10:14 pm

      Roose did indeed go undercover because he wanted to be treated like every other student at Liberty. After he wrote the book, he told his friends there what he’d done and they were all very supportive of him and his book.

  32. October 17, 2009 11:19 pm

    Dawn – He actually addresses that issue in the book several times. He was genuinely concerned that he was basically lying to so many people – his honesty on this issue made me like him even more.

  33. October 17, 2009 11:19 pm

    I read and reviewed it. I really enjoyed it.

  34. October 19, 2009 4:45 pm

    This book seems like it is written with a really interesting perspective. I would be really curious to read it and find out how his semester went. I can imagine that he faced a lot of challenges that were out of his experience set. Great review, I will be looking for this book. Thanks!

  35. October 27, 2009 11:18 pm

    I read a very long article (perhaps an excerpt from the book) by the author in the Brown alumni magazine and I was also really struck by how open-minded he was. Glad you read and enjoyed the book – and I’m always happy to see a fellow Brown grad get some attention!! Great review.

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