The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University was my first book, published in 2009, during my senior year of college. It was about the semester I spent undercover at Liberty University, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell’s “Bible Boot Camp” for young evangelical Christians.
I grew up in the ultimate secular/liberal family (my parents are Quakers who used to work for Ralph Nader), and I went to Brown University – a school known for its lefty politics and nude parties. But during my sophomore year at Brown, I got the idea to enroll at Liberty as a transfer student, hoping to learn about my right-wing Christian peers by living among them for a semester while pretending to be one of them.
The Unlikely Disciple is the story of that semester – one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I sang in Jerry Falwell's church choir, took classes in Creationism and Evangelism 101, lived on a hall with sixty Christian guys, went on a spring break trip to Daytona Beach to convert lost souls, and made some unexpected friends amidst the chaos.
Here's some praise the book got from reviewers:.
“Roose went to Liberty as an undercover writer, not as a seeker, though much of his book’s considerable charm comes from the fact that he liked a lot of what he found...[a] vivid, sunny and skeptical portrait of life among the saved.”
— The New York Times Book Review
"A great book ... The portrait he paints of the place is nuanced and fascinating."
“The setup for this book sounds like a joke...But Kevin Roose, a strong and thoughtful writer, pulls it off without caricatures or condescension, and with a whole lot of humor and soul-searching.”
— The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“The Unlikely Disciple is by turns appealing and appalling, laugh-out-loud funny and sobering, serious and silly — just like a semester at college. Kevin Roose has produced a book that is fair, empathetic, thoughtful, touching, consistently entertaining, and a harbinger of more good writing to come."
— The Providence Journal
There's also a Newsweek Q&A I did about the book, a Flickr photostream of photos from Liberty, and an excerpt that ran in Salon. And if you really want to know more about my semester at Liberty, you can view the book trailer (remember book trailers?) below.