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The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

13 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

Kevin Roose's courage and honesty are evident in this book!

What happens when an intelligent, interested, Ivy League student wants to study in a different culture for a semester? He (or she) studies "abroad," enrolling in a different college where that culture can be experienced first hand. For Kevin Roose, "abroad" was Lynchb...
What happens when an intelligent, interested, Ivy League student wants to study in a different culture for a semester? He (or she) studies "abroad," enrolling in a different college where that culture can be experienced first hand. For Kevin Roose, "abroad" was Lynchburg, VA. at one of the most (for him) alien cultures he could find, Liberty University. As a marginal Quaker, going to a Fundamentalist, Evangelical Christian school (described as a "Bible Boot Camp") was an experiment in: honesty, education, challenging himself and his beliefs.
He entered Liberty for the Spring 2007 semester with expectations he had developed from secondary sources (media reports, unfounded opinions, etc.), his family and misconceptions of what L.U. really is. (This reader had many of those same ideas.) What he gained from his semester at Liberty , aside from a surprisingly rigorous academic course load, was the discovery that some of his presumptions were well-founded but many more were shattered by his experience. He found genuine humanity, intelligent people, a stifling administration, narrow-mindedness, a hunger for knowledge, typically bad cafeteria food, beautiful girls, deep friendships and one unanimously agreed upon "Christian Jerk." In attending L.U. he agreed to abide by "The Liberty Way ," a 46-page manual that outlines the code of conduct for all Liberty students and includes the consequences for infractions.
Mr. Roose, a 19 y/o, second semester Freshman when he began his span "abroad," was surprised by how he was challenged in this term. He learned the benefits of prayer and of being prayed for, the power of community, of communal events and experienced the cleansing miracle of confession. He discovered how much effort is required to live a life of righteousness and how that life must be more about practice than orthodoxy. He saw the absurdity of "The Liberty Way" while noting its power in bonding people as a community. He tasted the depth of intimacy available in a romantic relationship when sex is out of the equation. His stint at L. U. was a busy one: six classes, singing in the Thomas Road Baptist Church choir (2 credit hours for that endeavor), played intramural softball and "went to every extracurricular activity I could find." He became so involved and connected in his life at Liberty that, when the semester ended, he was torn about returning to his "old life."
The bitterness of his time at "Bible Boot Camp" was voiced in his experience of having to live a "shadow life" while there. He could not tell anyone (until eleven months after leaving L.U.) his real intentions of being at this school. This caused an inability to be as real with his new friends as they were being with him. It did help him to become far more open & real after he completed this experiment (he has become so earnest in his relationships that a friend has nicknamed him "Hallmark").
Mr. Roose is wonderfully honest in this work. He speaks clearly of what was gleaned from his time at Liberty , of his prejudices, choices and allows the reader to share many of his experiences seemingly without filters. He is likewise fair in his reporting of what he found Liberty University to be. When L.U. was found to be noteworthy, he named that moment in detail. When it was lacking, in his opinion, he was similarly forthcoming with his unvarnished assessment.
I read this book with relish. It was well written, funny, insightful, painful, engaging & a

posted by YoyoMitch53 on September 7, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

Unlikely to Inspire

Not quite what I thought it would be. The characters were great, the writing style was fine, but I guess I just wish he had been as open minded as he tried to paint himself as being. At the end of the read, without giving anything away, I felt as if his 'experiment' w...
Not quite what I thought it would be. The characters were great, the writing style was fine, but I guess I just wish he had been as open minded as he tried to paint himself as being. At the end of the read, without giving anything away, I felt as if his 'experiment' was a 'roose' from the beginning and was simply about getting attention and finding a story good enough to make money from - which there is nothing wrong with at all, IF that's how it's portrayed. Bit of a wet read overall, felt like I had wasted my time which seldom happens with ANY book.

posted by PowdersReadingAgain on August 24, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    With No Axe To Grind What Does He Find?

    If you're looking for a book that will ridicule the students and life at Liberty University, you will not get that here. If you're looking for a book that will show how a sinner and a skeptic was converted by the students and life at Liberty University, you won't get that either. Kevin Roose was a moderate, was from a Quaker family, and had openly gay friends while he was at Brown University in Providence. After visiting Liberty University with A.J. Jacobs (The Year of Living Biblically) he decided to spend a semester there. He intended to write about his experiences, but kept that concealed. Roose had some ideas about what the life might be like, but he wanted to see for himself: he has an open mind. He wanted to blend in reasonably, so gets a crash course from a friend.

    Roose is reticent to tell the other students in his dorm that he was at Brown, since in many ways Brown is almost the antithesis of Liberty University, but when he's finally asked directly ("A college in Rhode Island" is not a sufficient answer) he finds that it's not really a big deal. Many or most of the students went to high schools where plenty of hanky-panky was going on, and they're at Liberty in part for spiritual growth, in part to get away from the temptations of the outside world. Roose makes a quick adjustment to the praying schedules, the host of restrictions (e.g. viewing an R-rated movie, 12 reprimands and a $50 fine). Some of the courses he must take he enjoys, others, which stress young-earth fundamentalism, etc, he doesn't enjoy. Roose writes in a fine self-deprecating manner. There are matters he covers which may make you flinch, but there's always a sense of wry humor.

    Roose finds himself changing, particularly in his spiritual outlook: he is not becoming a fundamentalist evangelist, but he finds he has more inner peace in many ways. He wants to know how his friends feel about Liberty, about Falwell, about all the rules and regulations. He encounters students who are rabidly anti-gay, far on the extreme side of even the average Liberty student. Roose himself does not become more intolerant: quite the contrary. By the end of the semester Roose has learned what it's like to walk in the shoes of the Liberty Students--it's a good attitude on his part. What you also find, however, is that this seems to make Roose unique, or almost so, at Liberty. The other students seem to have little interest in walking in the shoes of your average Brown student: there often seems to be a worry, in fact, that exposing people to other viewpoints (other than criticizing them) can be harmful, can lead a Christian into temptation, onto evil paths. If you're sure that you are right, why look too closely at the other side? Why take a chance on fostering doubt? There's a lot of depth here--a well-told tale.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Into the Looking Glass

    THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE
    A Sinner's Semester at America's
    Holiest University
    Kevin Roose
    Grand Central Publishing
    Hachette Book Group
    ISBN: 978-0-446-17842-6
    $24.99 - Hardback
    315 pages
    Reviewer: Annie Slessman

    Bringing to the forefront one of the most debatable subjects, i.e., religion, Kevin Roose, author of THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University, shares his experiences as a student of Liberty University, one of the largest Christian universities. As a student of Brown University, Kevin arranges to attend Liberty University for one semester so he can research a book on the Christian university culture. When he adjust to the "Liberty Way" some weeks into the semester he realizes that he is opening his mind to what some would deem "a cult environment."

    What Roose discovers both about himself and Liberty is that there is good and bad in most situations. Founder of Liberty University - Dr. Jerry Falwell - is well known worldwide. He made the statement during the building of Liberty that he wanted this university to be "as far right as Harvard is left." One brochure describes the university as having a "strong commitment to political conservatism, total rejection of socialism, and firm support of America's economic system of free enterprise." Not only does Falwell teach strong political views, he also condemns homosexuality and other social issues. At Liberty University there is only one way to think - the Jerry Falwell way.

    Roose has hurdles to jump due to his belief that, "I could never become an evangelical if it meant condemning homosexuals or proselytizing aggressively to non-Christians or believing that the Bible is infallible." The thing is Roose finds Liberty a supportive, warm environment and this causes some confusion in his attempt to remain neutral about the subject matter taught at this university.

    Roose ends up writing the last written personal interview with Dr. Falwell. He didn't intend to happen that way and found himself somewhat upset by the fact that this brought him so much notoriety after Dr. Falwell's death.

    So, does Roose convert to Liberty's description of a Christian? Does he find it difficult to fit into the strict belief system required to participate fully in the school's activities? Has his experience at Liberty University provided a life changing opportunity? Read the book and draw your own conclusions.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Page Turner!

    I had a hard time putting this book down, it opened up a part of history that I did not know about, and it kept my interest by weaving the past and the present in alternating chapters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2009

    Really Enjoyed this Adventure

    As I believer, I was interested to in an outside point of view, though I'm not nearly as strict a Christian as Liberty U. students. The author is very balanced and does a great job keeping an open mind, and being very open about his feelings through the journey as well. Wonderful book, I've shared it with many already.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2014

    The Unlikely Best Read I recently read ┬┐The Unlikely Disciple┬┐ b

    The Unlikely Best Read
    I recently read “The Unlikely Disciple” by  Kevin Roose, it may sound like a super christian love God and all his children book, but it’s not. This is a true story about a college sophomore that finds himself in an awkward situation with three Christian students. After being dumbfounded and majorly embarrassed, Kevin wonders why he was so different from the Christian students he had met.  After much thought Kevin decides to Enroll in one semester at Liberty University, the same college the Christian students attended. Liberty is a very conservative, Christian and strict school, they even have a 400 page rule book called The Liberty Way. At the time Kevin was attending Brown University, a liberal, loose and free spirited school. Kevin wants to live as a normal Christian Liberty student, which mean he will have to convince everyone around him that he is just like them and he’s doing this not to exploit or argue but just as a journalistic assignment for research and knowledge.  As the story continues we follow Kevin on his journey of friendship, investigation, and exploration. He learns about the lives of others and starts to understand the lies of the stereotypes put on them. Kevin founds out strange, scary and sometimes hilarious facts of the students and teachers of this legendary evangelical university. He makes friends and even has a cute love interest. Overall this book is funny, sweet, informational and fun. Kevin enters world that many people criticise and put down, he opens the door to what really happens and proves that you don't really know someone until you put yourself in someone elses shoes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2012

    Highly recommended

    A fair report of Liberty college life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2012

    Not what I expected

    I thought this might be a book that bashed evangelical Christians. Although Roose does not agree with may of the views of the other students at Liberty, he does portray them with respect. I enjoyed this book. I do not hold the same views as Roose does on many issues but I liked that he was able to build relationships and his sense of honor that showed through in his book.

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  • Posted September 12, 2011

    I loved it.

    Great first book by a new author. If you're looking for something to awaken your ability to empathize and get a glimpse of human nature, pick up this great peice of journalism.

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  • Posted August 9, 2011

    A big culture change for the author. Christian or not, this book is a must read.

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  • Posted July 3, 2011

    Full of heart, but missing a clear thesis

    I enjoyed the read, but was looking for more than a linear recounting of events. The book could have used some introspection.

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  • Posted April 1, 2011

    Highly Recommended...

    I really enjoyed this book. More people should be open to others beliefs instead of shooting them down right away. This helped me to open my mind. Take sometime to read this book you may surprise yourself.

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  • Posted February 21, 2011

    Not what I expected

    The concept of an author going undercover in an evangelical Christian university intrigued me but I didn't believe that someone young enough to still be in college himself would be able to separate his own bias from his observations. Roose was able to treat the students and professors he met as individuals and to allow himself to like them. He writes honestly about how his time at Liberty University affected him. The book serves as a reminder that evangelicals really believe that they are doing the right thing.

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  • Posted December 31, 2010

    Good read

    I actually enjoyed this book.

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  • Posted September 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting look at young Christians

    I enjoyed reading this book. It's about a student from Brown University who decides to spend a semester at ultra-conservative, Christian, Liberty University. He gets a quick education in basic Christianity from some friends and he manages to blend in without raising too much suspicion.

    I consider myself to be a moderate Christian, but I was raised in a rather conservative Southern Baptist home, so I can identify with many of the people and experiences described in the book, although they may sound odd to non-Christians. Author Kevin Roose does get to know many students at Liberty and he does portray them fairly and as individuals.

    I would read other works by this author.

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  • Posted June 26, 2010

    Innovative

    I am a devout Christian. Many times people defame our choice because it is popular to do so. The problem is most people are responding to a stereotype. Mr. Roose had the courage to find out what was beyond the stereotype. Thank you Mr. Roose.

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  • Posted May 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Sensitively written, well-balanced view

    I liked this book so much that I had to drop an email to the author and tell him so -- something I have never felt compelled to do before. (And he responded!) Kevin Roose is clearly an intelligent, open-minded individual and treats the entire topic with a sensitivity that is rarely seen. Most discussions of the Evangelicals are highly polarized, with both sides flinging insults and accusations: Kevin Roose avoids all that and seeks his own path. He humanizes without condescending.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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