Benedict XVI: The Man Who Was Ratzinger
by Michael S. Rose
Spence, 182 pages, $22.95

The author of Goodbye, Good Men , a scathing and much discussed account of homosexuality in American seminaries, provides a frequently astute evaluation of what might be expected from the new pontificate. Rose’s perspective is decidedly conservative and his analysis assumes on the part of the reader a considerable interest in and knowledge about intra-Catholic disputes. Although the Rose book will be welcomed by insiders, those looking for an informed overview will do better with John Allen’s The Rise of Benedict XVI and, more especially, George Weigel’s God’s Choice .

The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death
by John Behr
St. Vladimir’s, 186 pages, $16.95

The author teaches at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in Crestwood, New York, and here provides from an emphatically Orthodox perspective an exploration into the ways that the Cross of Christ was and is the hermeneutical key to understanding all that went before and has followed after. The story of salvation, he contends, is not the linear narrative of creation, fall, prophecy, fulfillment. It is, rather, the disciples’ encounter, then and now, with the cross, which discloses the meaning of, quite simply, everything.

The Day Without Yesterday:
Lemaître, Einstein, and the Birth of Modern Cosmology

by John Farrell
Thunder’s Mouth, 272 pages, $24.95

Georges Lemaître (d. 1966) was a Belgian priest who moved in the highest scientific circles and proposed early on the model of an expanding universe, an idea that met with strong resistance from many scientific colleagues, including Einstein. The “day without yesterday” refers to his in­sight that there was a starting point for space and time, now called the Big Bang. Some scientists suspected Lemaître had nonscientific religious reasons for his interest in a beginning”as in a “creation.” Lemaître, in the author’s telling, subscribed to a radical division between scientific and religious truth that many thinkers today would view as naïve.

The Collar: A Year of Striving and Faith Inside a Catholic Seminary
by Jonathan Englert
Houghton Mifflin, 320 pages, $25

The author follows the fortunes of five men pursuing at Sacred Heart Seminary in Milwaukee what used to be called late vocations and are now more commonly called second-career vocations. The narrative suffers from occasional longueurs, but Englert conveys the feel of the everyday commitments and uncertainties, inspirations and disillusionments, that mark the way to a goal that is little understood by most Americans, including most Catholics, today. His unobtrusive commentary is always thoughtful, resulting in a book that will be welcomed by the curious and treasured by those seriously contemplating a road less traveled.