The Unlikely Disciple is the tale of Kevin Roose's semester at Liberty University, the largest evangelical college in America. The subtitle, "A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University," sums it up well. Kevin Roose, a liberal Brown student with Quaker roots goes to find out what exactly it would be like to be a Liberty student. To do so, he becomes one of them, fully participating in every aspect of Liberty life, hiding his identity as a non-believing journalist.
I heartily enjoyed this memoir. Roose's style is similar to A. J. Jacobs's, but with less bitter sarcasm and more brute honesty. What I love about this book is that Roose really does attempt (and I do believe he succeeded) in giving Liberty a fair shake. His desire was not to go in and expose the evil underbelly of the university, his goal was to get an accurate picture of the student body and what being a student at Liberty University was like.
This book is full of characters. They may be real people, but they are as well-written as in any Dickens novel, and at times, as quirky. Though this is to be the story of the people he meets along the way, it's as much his story, the story of a young man struggling through what he believes and why. Being confronted with views so dissimilar to your own can be incredibly stretching, and being 19-years-old when he does it magnifies the affect.
I'll admit that at several times I cringed while reading this book. Some of the things Kevin finds are less than glamorous, which is to be expected. There's the unabomber-esque, homophobic roommate and the ridiculous rules on length of men's hair that are poor representations of religious views that are so similar to mine. But he's only being fair, and these things are fairly represented with the good and the interesting.
I recommend this book to anyone, regardless of your current views on Liberty University, the Religious Right, and the late Jerry Falwell. This is an eye-opening and engaging read, fully deserving it's 5 stars.