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BROWSE PRINCETON'S SERIES (by title) in Lives of Great Religious Books

Lives of Great Religious Books is a new series of short volumes that recount the complex and fascinating histories of important religious texts from around the world. Written for general readers by leading authors and experts, these books examine the historical origins of texts from the great religious traditions, and trace how their reception, interpretation, and influence have changed--often radically--over time. As these stories of translation, adaptation, appropriation, and inspiration dramatically remind us, all great religious books are living things whose careers in the world can take the most unexpected turns.

Published Books | Forthcoming | Original Texts | Reviews

Forthcoming Books:

  • The Book of Revelation: A Biography
    -- Timothy Beal
  • The Analects of Confucius: A Biography
    --Annping Chin & Jonathan D. Spence
  • Josephus's The Jewish War: A Biography
    -- Martin Goodman
  • Dante's Divine Comedy: A Biography
    -- Joseph Luzzi
  • The Greatest Translations of All Time: A Biography of the Septuagint and the Vulgate
    -- Jack Miles
  • The Passover Haggadah: A Biography
    -- Vanessa Ochs
  • The Song of Songs: A Biography
    -- Ilana Pardes
  • The Daode Jing: A Biography
    -- James Robson
  • Rumi’s Masnavi: A Biography
    -- Omid Safi
  • The Talmud: A Biography
    -- Barry Scott Wimpfheimer

Original Texts

Project Gutenberg free online editions:

Israel Museum:


"[A]n excellent Princeton series."--Wendy Doniger, New York Review of Books

"[A] superb series from Princeton University Press."--Brian Bethune, Macleans

"Princeton University Press has launched a series called Lives of Great Religious Books. Each volume is a 'biography' of a significant religious text. That is, each volume looks at the origins and the effects of significant works of theology....These initial books are very well done: brief, fascinating in what they reveal, contentious (especially those by Wills and Lopez) and vivid introductions to works one may not be familiar with. (I knew Bonhoeffer’s work only by reputation. So, for me, Marty’s book has been a real spur to read the Prison Letters.)"--André Alexis, The Globe and Mail

"If it’s true that a book takes on a life of its own, then each has a life story waiting to be told. So let the telling begin--starting with books that have sought the divine and rocked history, one soul at a time. That’s the ambitious idea behind the new Lives of Great Religious Books series...With the Lives of Great Religious Books series, Princeton aims to fill a void on the publishing landscape."--G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Religion Bookline, Publishers Weekly

"Innovative....With three marquee scholar-experts like [Wills, Marty, and Lopez], it’s clear that Princeton isn’t fooling around, isn’t simply launching a series of low-profile secondary works. Forthcoming volumes are also impressive in conception, including Annping Chin and Jonathan Spence on The Analects of Confucius, and John J. Collins on The Dead Sea Scrolls. Someone up in New Jersey plainly wants to launch a distinctive, powerful genre."--Carlin Romano, The Chronicle of Higher Education

"A promising new series...With the distinctions and relationships among contexts of textual production, textual circulation, and textual consumption in mind, we confront a constellation of fascinating questions: What roles do these texts play (or refuse to play) in liturgical contexts? How do these texts these texts relate to their readers’ practices of worship? What is at stake in the separation of a text from ritual life, or, alternately, its integration within it? From a rather different vantage, how are we to understand intertextuality? Keeping with the metaphor of a textual biography, what other texts constitute a given text’s kin, acquaintances, intimates, and antagonists? In other words, what types of relationships do these texts maintain with other texts, both scriptural and secular, classic and quotidian? Finally, we might pose a reflexive question: how do academic interpretations of these great texts relate to the more explicitly religious contexts in which these texts are read, embodied, and understood? There are no singular answers to these questions, of course, but I am confident that the diligent reader of any of the titles in The Lives of Great Religious Books will find ample occasion to ponder them with a great text at hand."--Jeremy Walton, The Immanent Frame

"Lives of Great Religious Books is one of those inspired publishing ideas. Take the great religious books from different cultures and religions--the Bhagavad Gita, the I Ching, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Song of Songs et al--and commission experts to write 'biographies' of the books recounting their history and central ideas, the larger context in which they were created, their enduring influence and the stories of their authors."--Bruce Elder, The Sydney Morning Herald

"Princeton University Press is introducing a series of volumes called Lives of the Great Religious Books, and if the first issues are any indication, there is an overarching theme: People have been reading these books for centuries, or even millennia, without any accurate conception of what their authors were thinking….These small volumes are not about the authors, except incidentally, nor primarily about what the authors had to say. Rather they explain where and how the books came to be written - dictated in the case of Confessions - how and by whom they were received, and how those receptions altered through succeeding generations. In short, books about the lives of books."--Harry Eagar, Maui News

"Princeton University Press is to be commended for launching a new series of biographies, not of well-known authors, but of their well-known books."--John S. Conway, Association of Contemporary Church Historians Quarterly

"It was Jorge Luis Borges who famously wrote, 'I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library,' and the Argentine poet and storyteller often wrote about books in ways that demonstrated their complicated existences, lived quite outside of or beside themselves. Princeton University Press is now honouring certain classics this way with its Lives of Great Religious Books series. Volumes on Augustine's Confessions and Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison were published last year, and Genesis and the Dead Sea Scrolls have more recently been treated by A-list scholars."--Jon M. Sweeney, The Tablet

"Princeton's Lives of the Great Religious Books continues to offer interesting titles (up soon: The Book of Revelation) and is the rare instance of a series with a concept that really works."--Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed

Go to Listing by Date | Go to Listing by Author | Princeton Legacy Library by Subject/Date

bookjacketAugustine's Confessions:
A Biography
Garry Wills

bookjacketThe Bhagavad Gita:
A Biography
Richard H. Davis

bookjacketThe Book of Common Prayer:
A Biography
Alan Jacobs

bookjacketThe Book of Genesis:
A Biography
Ronald Hendel

bookjacketThe Book of Job:
A Biography
Mark Larrimore

bookjacketThe Book of Mormon:
A Biography
Paul C. Gutjahr

bookjacketC. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity:
A Biography
George M. Marsden

bookjacketThe Dead Sea Scrolls:
A Biography
John J. Collins

bookjacketDietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison:
A Biography
Martin E Marty

bookjacketThe I Ching:
A Biography
Richard J. Smith

bookjacketJohn Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion:
A Biography
Bruce Gordon

bookjacketThe Koran in English:
A Biography
Bruce B. Lawrence

bookjacketThe Lotus Sūtra:
A Biography
Donald S. Lopez Jr.

bookjacketThomas Aquinas’s Summa theologiae:
A Biography
Bernard McGinn

bookjacketThe Tibetan Book of the Dead:
A Biography
Donald S. Lopez Jr.

bookjacketThe Yoga Sutra of Patanjali:
A Biography
David Gordon White

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File created: 8/11/2017

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