The Battle Over the Fight for the Struggle Over the Soul of Everything

Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 10 2010 12:26 PM

The Battle Over the Fight for the Struggle Over the Soul of Everything

A good sports book needs conflict. It should also have high stakes. But how do you signal to readers that your tome captures the titanic clash of this or any age? Jeff Carroll's Perfect Rivals , published Aug. 31, broadcasts its importance with a fateful subtitle: "Notre Dame, Miami, and the Battle for the Soul of College Football." Chad Millman and Shawn Coyne's The Ones Who Hit the Hardest , which came out on Sept. 2, uses pretty much the same subtitle in service of a slightly more sweeping argument: "The Steelers, the Cowboys, the '70s, and the Fight for America's Soul."

Josh Levin Josh Levin

Josh Levin is Slate's executive editor.

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It's not just sportswriters who see soul-rending conflict in their chosen field. While struggles for the soul predominate in a couple of subject areas (Islamic studies, evolution) you're likely to find soul tug-of-war in every section of the bookstore—there's a struggle for the soul of physics, as well as a struggle for the soul of judo. (I must disclose that these subtitles are not just a publishing industry epidemic: Slate has identified struggles for the soul of the Republican Party , figure skating , and a fantasy baseball league .)

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In the list below, I've collected 62 battles for the soul, broken down by category. If I'm missing any book-world soul fights—or if you want to nominate another favorite book title cliché—please drop a line in the comments.

Foreigners, South Africa subdivision:
Bring Me My Machine Gun: The Battle for the Soul of South Africa, from Mandela to Zuma
Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC

Higher education:
Harvard Rules: The Struggle for the Soul of the World's Most Powerful University
In the Company of Scholars: The Struggle for the Soul of Higher Education

School Choice: The Struggle for the Soul of American Education

History:
Battle for the Soul: Métis Children Encounter Evangelical Protestants at Mackinaw Mission, 1823-1837
A Battle for the Soul of New York: Tammany Hall, Police Corruption, Vice and Reverend Charles Parkhurst's Crusade Against Them,1892-1895

Caterpillars and Newfangled Religion: The Struggle for the Soul of Colonial American Presbyterianism

Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for the Soul of Renaissance Florence

The Long Pursuit: Abraham Lincoln's Thirty-Year Struggle with Stephen Douglas for the Heart and Soul of America

Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul
The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country
With the Heart of a King: Elizabeth I of England, Philip II of Spain, and the Fight for a Nation's Soul

Islamic interest:
Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, in the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation
Defenders of the Faith: Christianity and Islam Battle for the Soul of Europe, 1520-1536

Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam

In the Shadow of the Prophet: The Struggle for the Soul of Islam

Standing Alone in Mecca: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam

Jewish interest:
Crying for Imma: Battling for the Soul on the Golan Heights
Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry
The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul

The Zaddik: The Battle for a Boy's Soul

Journalism:
Salant, CBS, and the Battle for the Soul of Broadcast Journalism: The Memoirs of Richard S. Salant

Music:
Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Popular Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement
Johnny Cash and the Great American Contradiction: Christianity and the Battle for the Soul of a Nation

Sonic Boom: Inside the Battle for the Soul of Music

Philosophy:
Breaking the Power of Evil: Winning the Battle for the Soul of Man
Two Kingdoms: The Battle for Man's Soul

Politics:
The Battle for the White House ... and the Soul of America
The Conservative Comeback: How to Win the Battle for the Soul of America

Irreconcilable Differences: The Battle for the Heart & Soul of America's Animal Shelters

Stand for Something: The Battle for America's Soul

Kennedy vs. Carter: The 1980 Battle for the Democratic Party's Soul

Science:
Faust in Copenhagen: A Struggle for the Soul of Physics
Kuhn vs. Popper: The Struggle for the Soul of Science

Uncertainty: Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and the Struggle for the Soul of Science

Spiritual matters:
Green Man, Earth Angel: The Prophetic Tradition and the Battle for the Soul of the World
Keep the Faith, Change the Church: The Battle By Catholics For the Soul of Their Church

The Struggle for America's Soul: Evangelicals, Liberals, and Secularism

The Struggle for the Soul of the SBC: Moderate Responses to the Fundamentalist Movement

Sports:
Ippon!: The Fight for Judo's Soul
Juicing the Game: Drugs, Power, and the Fight for the Soul of Major League Baseball

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City

Technology:
Leaving Reality Behind: The Battle for the Soul of the Internet

A good sports book needs conflict. It should also have high stakes. But how do you signal to readers that your tome captures the titanic clash of this or any age? Jeff Carroll's Perfect Rivals , published Aug. 31, broadcasts its importance with a fateful subtitle: "Notre Dame, Miami, and the Battle for the Soul of College Football." Chad Millman and Shawn Coyne's The Ones Who Hit the Hardest , which came out on Sept. 2, uses pretty much the same subtitle in service of a slightly more sweeping argument: "The Steelers, the Cowboys, the '70s, and the Fight for America's Soul."

It's not just sportswriters who see soul-rending conflict in their chosen field. While struggles for the soul predominate in a couple of subject areas (Islamic studies, evolution) you're likely to find soul tug-of-war in every section of the bookstore—there's a struggle for the soul of physics, as well as a struggle for the soul of judo. (I must disclose that these subtitles are not just a publishing industry epidemic: Slate has identified struggles for the soul of the Republican Party , figure skating , and a fantasy baseball league .)

In the list below, I've collected 62 battles for the soul, broken down by category. If I'm missing any book-world soul fights—or if you want to nominate another favorite book title cliché—please drop a line in the comments.

Business:
Backfire: Carly Fiorina's High-Stakes Battle for the Soul of Hewlett-Packard
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism

Blue Blood and Mutiny: The Fight for the Soul of Morgan Stanley

Crime:
Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle for the Soul of America
Getting Ghost: Two Young Lives and the Struggle for the Soul of an American City

L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City

Darwinism:
The Darwin Wars: The Scientific Battle for the Soul of Man
The Evolutionists: The Struggle for Darwin's Soul
Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul
Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul

Economics:
The Struggle Over the Soul of Economics

Foreigners:
Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America's Soul
Ireland's Holy Wars: The Struggle for a Nation's Soul, 1500-2000
The Struggle for the Soul of the Nation: Czech Culture and the Rise of Communism

Vatican and the Red Flag: The Struggle for the Soul of Eastern Europe

What America Owes the World: The Struggle for the Soul of Foreign Policy

Foreigners, China subdivision:
China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power
Out of Mao's Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China

Foreigners, South Africa subdivision:
Bring Me My Machine Gun: The Battle for the Soul of South Africa, from Mandela to Zuma
Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC

Higher education:
Harvard Rules: The Struggle for the Soul of the World's Most Powerful University
In the Company of Scholars: The Struggle for the Soul of Higher Education

School Choice: The Struggle for the Soul of American Education

History:
Battle for the Soul: Métis Children Encounter Evangelical Protestants at Mackinaw Mission, 1823-1837
A Battle for the Soul of New York: Tammany Hall, Police Corruption, Vice and Reverend Charles Parkhurst's Crusade Against Them,1892-1895

Caterpillars and Newfangled Religion: The Struggle for the Soul of Colonial American Presbyterianism

Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for the Soul of Renaissance Florence

The Long Pursuit: Abraham Lincoln's Thirty-Year Struggle with Stephen Douglas for the Heart and Soul of America

Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul
The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country
With the Heart of a King: Elizabeth I of England, Philip II of Spain, and the Fight for a Nation's Soul

Islamic interest:
Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, in the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation
Defenders of the Faith: Christianity and Islam Battle for the Soul of Europe, 1520-1536

Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam

In the Shadow of the Prophet: The Struggle for the Soul of Islam

Standing Alone in Mecca: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam

Jewish interest:
Crying for Imma: Battling for the Soul on the Golan Heights
Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry
The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul

The Zaddik: The Battle for a Boy's Soul

Journalism:
Salant, CBS, and the Battle for the Soul of Broadcast Journalism: The Memoirs of Richard S. Salant

Music:
Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Popular Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement
Johnny Cash and the Great American Contradiction: Christianity and the Battle for the Soul of a Nation

Sonic Boom: Inside the Battle for the Soul of Music

Philosophy:
Breaking the Power of Evil: Winning the Battle for the Soul of Man
Two Kingdoms: The Battle for Man's Soul

Politics:
The Battle for the White House ... and the Soul of America
The Conservative Comeback: How to Win the Battle for the Soul of America

Irreconcilable Differences: The Battle for the Heart & Soul of America's Animal Shelters

Stand for Something: The Battle for America's Soul

Kennedy vs. Carter: The 1980 Battle for the Democratic Party's Soul

Science:
Faust in Copenhagen: A Struggle for the Soul of Physics
Kuhn vs. Popper: The Struggle for the Soul of Science

Uncertainty: Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and the Struggle for the Soul of Science

Spiritual matters:
Green Man, Earth Angel: The Prophetic Tradition and the Battle for the Soul of the World
Keep the Faith, Change the Church: The Battle By Catholics For the Soul of Their Church

The Struggle for America's Soul: Evangelicals, Liberals, and Secularism

The Struggle for the Soul of the SBC: Moderate Responses to the Fundamentalist Movement

Sports:
Ippon!: The Fight for Judo's Soul
Juicing the Game: Drugs, Power, and the Fight for the Soul of Major League Baseball

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City

Technology:
Leaving Reality Behind: The Battle for the Soul of the Internet

Josh Levin is Slate's executive editor.

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