A personal, journalistic inquiry into the Bible's disappearance from American life
How can a book — one that's found in courthouses, libraries, and millions of households across the land — be everywhere and nowhere at the same time?
In The Invisible Bestseller
veteran religion writer Kenneth Briggs asks how, even as the Bible remains the best-selling book of all time, fewer Americans than ever can correctly articulate what it says, much less how it might offer guidance for their lives.
In a quest to make sense of the Bible's relative disappearance from public life, Briggs shares with readers his own two-year cross-country journey to a variety of places:
- to a meeting of worried Bible promoters in Orlando
- to the academic Society of Biblical Literature convention in Chicago
- to a federal prison in upstate New York
- to a traditional Presbyterian church in Pennsylvania
- to Dayton, Tennessee, site of the famous 1925 Scopes Trial
- and to many other quarters of the country.
Briggs's narrative incorporates pertinent interviews throughout with preachers, pollsters, scholars, and ordinary citizens from California to Texas to Florida to Massachusetts.
As he probes and reflects on his varied findings, Briggs offers keen insight into why and how the Bible's place in American public life has shifted and shrunk — and he suggests what role the Bible may play in the US in years to come.
"[A] knowledgeable account of how the Bible lumbers on in America, not as widely read but still precious to a core of believers."
E. J. Dionne Jr.
— author of Souled Out and Why the Right Went Wrong
"We buy a lot of Bibles but don't read them. We occasionally quote the Bible but mostly for our own immediate purposes. Ken Briggs, one of our most thoughtful religious writers, calls us to a new engagement with Scripture by offering a richly persuasive case for why the Bible still matters."
— publisher of Religion Dispatches
"Briggs's penetrating study is a welcome addition to our understanding of how religion functions in everyday life. Deeply humane and beautifully written, The Invisible Bestseller introduces readers to the ways in which Americans do and don't understand the Bible and demonstrates why it remains foundational even when its teachings are hidden in plain sight."