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Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense Hardcover – 6 Sep 2012


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber (6 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571225217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571225217
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.3 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 243,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm a writer of non-fiction who is creeping up gradually on writing novels. I write slowly and I always move to new subject-matter with each book, because I want to be learning something fresh every time, both in terms of encountering history and people and thinking which are new to me, and also in the sense of trying out a new way of writing. My idea of a good project is one that I can only just manage. I've written a memoir of my childhood as a compulsive reader, an analysis of the British obsession with polar exploration, a book about engineers which is also a stealth history of Britain since 1945, and a fusion of history with novel called "Red Plenty", about the USSR in the early 1960s. My next book will complete my slow crabwise crawl into fiction by being an honest-to-goodness entirely made-up story, without a footnote in sight. But before that, I have out a short polemic about religion called "Unapologetic". Despite the impression given by some of the reactions to it, it isn't, in fact, an attack on atheism, a position I have no trouble at all respecting. I am a little rude and a little mocking to the likes of Richard Dawkins - but it seems to me that when it comes to the lived experience of faith, Dawkins and co. are, as they say, not even wrong. So, though the book begins at the familiar address where the bust-up over religion has been going on for a decade now, it then goes entirely elsewhere, to try to convey to readers of all persuasions what Christianity feels like from the inside: actual Christianity, rather than the conjectural caricature currently in circulation. The book isn't an argument than Christianity is true, because how could anyone know that? It's only an attempt to show that it is recognisable, in ordinary human terms - made up of the shared emotions of ordinary adult life, rather than taking place in some special and simple-minded zoo. There is a tumblr for the book at unapologetic-book.tumblr.com.

(Oh, biography. I was born in 1964, I'm married with a seven-year-old daughter, and I teach on the MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths College, London.)

Product Description

Review

'A dazzling account ... This is a wonderful, effortlessly brilliant book ... I part company from him in all sorts of ways. Still, there are only a couple of good Christian polemicists I can think of: Terry Eagleton, the Marxist literary critic, is one, John Waters, the Irish journalist, is another. Now we ve got Francis Spufford. Thank God.' --Evening Standard

'A refreshing response that highlights the most striking feature of contemporary atheism - its invincible incomprehension of actual human beings. ... Unapologetic is a rare gem, a book that carries conviction by being honest all the way through.' -- Independent

'A remarkable book, which is passionate, challenging, tumultuously articulate, and armed with anger to a degree unusual in works of Christian piety. ... For me, Unapologetic is Spufford's most fascinating book since his 2002 memoir The Child That Books Built, which is saying a great deal. I don't think it will convert anyone... But conversion isn't the point... What's on offer here is vehement thought, ardent expostulation, and the conviction that what Spufford writes about is for him the most important thing in the world, or out of it.' --Sunday Times

'The point... is to show those on the fence that belief need not mean the abandonment of intelligence, wit, emotional honesty. In this, Francis Spufford succeeds to an exceptional degree.' --Times Literary Supplement

'The reader is left wanting to hear more from Spufford even while disagreeing with him.' --Telegraph

'Francis Spufford's short and witty book... explores Christianity from the inside... intelligent, sophisticated.' --New Statesman

'An encouraging and refreshing read for believers, reminding them of the sense faith can make... it also has the potential to move on the stale and stalled debate between atheism and Christianity in the West... I hope it comes into the hands of many unbelievers, not because it's above their criticism, but because it's worthy of it.' --Third Way


'An act of daring, a message from the frontline of an old and bruising war.' Richard Holloway, Guardian

'The point... is to show those on the fence that belief need not mean the abandonment of intelligence, wit, emotional honesty. In this, Francis Spufford succeeds to an exceptional degree.' Theo Hobson, Times Literary Supplement

'The reader is left wanting to hear more from Spufford even while disagreeing with him.'Christopher Howse, Telegraph

'Francis Spufford's short and witty book... explores Christianity from the inside... intelligent, sophisticated.' Nick Spencer New Statesman

'An encouraging and refreshing read for believers, reminding them of the sense faith can make... it also has the potential to move on the stale and stalled debate between atheism and Christianity in the West... I hope it comes into the hands of many unbelievers, not because it's above their criticism, but because it's worthy of it.' --Third Way

Book Description

The antidote to the kneejerk athiest bestsellers from the acclaimed historian and science writer.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

139 of 142 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Hooper on 6 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So, just what the world needs, another book in the ongoing faith vs. atheist war of words. Except this isn't. Several people will be wrong-footed by seeing Francis Spufford's name attached to a book supporting Christianity. As one of the UK's most erudite writers of `factual' fiction and most respected reviewers of science fiction it will come as a shock to find he has published a book which brings to bear his full powers of argument in favour of Christian belief.

However, 'Unapologetic' is not a case for the defence, indeed it's almost the opposite, it's a deeply personal exposition on the effect that Christian belief has had on Spufford at an emotional level. Quite rightly he has not sought to provide proof or evidence for the existence of God, it is simply a report from inside the mind (and possible soul) of a believer and the writer is fully aware of what this means in the context of his previous work.

Francis Spufford is no fool; his previous works are the result of meticulous research, feverish enthusiasm and a precision in writing that is a joy to read. Whether he is getting inside the minds of polar explorers or imagining the possibility of how the Soviet economic dream might have worked, he is never short on detail, wit and supporting knowledge. 'Unapologetic' is different insomuch as it appears to be written `from the heart' and as such it feels a little like the follow up to 'The Child That Books Built'. Whereas that book explored the constructs created from the borrowed world view of authors this book concerns itself with the personal effect of faith and more importantly the effects on ourselves of our self-awareness when we fail and let others down.
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92 of 94 people found the following review helpful By Michael Cook on 13 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have a habit of marking passages in books, with a pencil line running down the margin at the side of words I want to refer back to. Many of my books have a few such markings, and some have many. Occasionally a book comes along in which this habit soon becomes pointless, as every paragraph of every page is worth remembering. 'Unapologetic' is one such book.

I read a fair amount of books about religion, some serious theology, some more devotional spiritual literature; this is neither, and I wish there was much more literature like it. If your tired of the dryness of much theology and the gentility of much Christian spirituality, then this is for you. A real breath of fresh air in the God debate, something that doesn't seem possible I know, but Spufford has done it. It is, first and foremost, a truly passionate book about Spufford's religious life and convictions. He offers no easy solutions to the basic theological riddles Christians have to live with, and in fact spends several pages pretty much demolishing the very idea of theodicy - and what a relief it is too, to find a Christian author who actually doesn't want us to swallow the excuses theologians make for God. This book might actually challenge some Christians as much as it does non-believers, in a good and necessary way. No, this is something else; an unblinking, completely honest, head-on look at what it is that Christianity really means for us, as emotional human beings, rather than as walking intellects.

Some more sensitive souls might be put off by Spufford's strong language and imagery. This would be a great shame, as the book also contains some passages of great lyrical beauty, one of which is quite simply the best description I have ever read of what prayer is actually like.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Frances Stott TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 20 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover
At least one reviewer has complained that this books is "unresearched" (as the author says), but for me, this was part of its strength; it is one man's experience, told, as it were, from the inside. The author doesn't try to "prove" his point, but describes how he has come to arrive at the faith he holds, and why. He doesn't preach, or persuade; he tells it is it is, leaving the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. And what this amounts to is, paradoxically, a very persuasive account of the Christian faith.

Spufford does make short work of prominent atheists, such as Dawkins, but again, this is his view; not one pressed upon the reader. And it is all the more strong for that. He paints a vivid picture of Christ as he might have been and how he must have been perceived, within the society in which he found himself, and I found this particularly moving. He admits repeatedly that there is no proof for the existence of God; that most Christians - himself included - have frequent doubts. But what he has experienced for the main part does transcend those doubts. Most of all, he brings home the reality (for him) that Christianity makes sense. It is an impossible road to follow, but that that's okay; it is only by reaching for the impossible that we manage, just occasionally, to grasp the possible.

This book is very readable, and at times, I found it hard to put down. And if the language is at times crude, then that fits in with the informal style of the writing, and didn't bother me (although some readers might object). I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in Christianity, whether believer or non-believer. Whoever you are, it is likely to make for absorbing, and at times entertaining, reading.
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