I am an independent scholar, culture critic, book editor, and writer of popular history. I’m the author of The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvation (Image, 2012), which was a History Book Club selection, and was just optioned by HBO, Inc.
I am married, live in Evanston, Illinois, and have three kids. My oldest daughter is in college; my son is headed off to college next fall; and my youngest is an 18-month old daughter who is now climbing the bookcases. I am currently finishing a book with Phyllis Tickle, and starting to write another with my wife about our interfaith marriage.
I’ve worked in books all of my life, beginning with my first college job in 1987 at Ex Libris Theological Used Books in Wheaton, Illinois. After seminary I managed Divinitas Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts (Central Square) for two years, and then moved into publishing, working for a Lutheran-owned house, a Jewish-owned house, a publisher owned by a Christian religious community, starting a multifaith trade spirituality book imprint, and editing books by everyone from Sufis and Vedantists to evangelical Christians and the Eastern Orthodox.
My personal path has been anything but linear: After 20 years as an evangelical, and 21 years as an involved Episcopalian, in 2009 I became a Catholic on the feast day of St. Francis. My primary congregational involvement today, however, is Jewish.
I actually love organized religion (would never say that I’m spiritual but not religious) and want to see it survive, but I’m not interested in doing things to simply prop up falling institutions. I’m drawn to the ancient and medieval and a lot of what I write stems from wanting to understand the past.
I started this blog because I called myself “almost Catholic”–at that time I was an evolving Protestant who wanted to be more and more Catholic (both uppercase and lowercase c). Now I am actually a Catholic, but that doesn’t really define me. In many ways I’ll religiously and spiritually always be “almost.”
Francis and Clare of Assisi are a passion of mine, and I’ve written several books about them including a joint biography, Light in the Dark Ages: The Friendship of Francis and Clare of Assisi, which was a History Book Club and Book-of-the-Month Club selection, and The St. Francis Prayer Book. I also edited and re-introduced Paul Sabatier’s classic biography of St. Francis to a new generation with The Road to Assisi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis. It too was picked up by History Book Club, BOMC, Crossings Book Club, and the Literary Guild.
I often speak at conferences, retreat centers, and churches. I welcome you to contact me. The photo, above, was taken in Assisi in May 2009, and shows me next to an icon of St. Clare outside of San Rufino. Since then I’ve lost a bunch of weight–but haven’t been back to Assisi since. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.