Competition: US & Canada
Jack Miles won a Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for God: A Biography (Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), a work that he began during his life-changing Guggenheim fellowship year, 1990–1991. In fall of 2001, he published a companion work, Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God, which was reviewed on the cover of the New York Times Book Review and may have led to his being named a MacArthur Fellow for the quinquennium 2003–2007. During that period, Miles wrote a prospectus for and recruited six eminent scholars to collaborate on what has become The Norton Anthology of World Religions, an anthology of primary texts in the history of Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam from their origins to the present. At more than 4,000 pages in two hardcover volumes, boxed, this work is forthcoming in September 2014.
Miles was born in 1942 into a lower middle-class Roman Catholic family in Chicago, attended parochial schools, and after graduation from a Jesuit high school, joined the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1960. As a Jesuit in formation, he studied in Italy, Germany, Israel, and at Harvard University, completing a doctorate in Near Eastern languages in 1971. In 1970, he amicably exited the order and ten years later married Jacqueline Russiano with whom he had a daughter, Kathleen, in 1985. That marriage ended, amicably, in 2010.
Professionally, Miles taught college for five years (1971–1975) at two universities, then became an editor first with Doubleday in New York for two years and then with the University of California Press for just over seven, at which point he began a decade with the Los Angeles Times as its literary editor and subsequently a member of its editorial board. In 1995, he resigned, amicably, from the Times and over the following decade was employed successively as an administrator at the Claremont Graduate School, a professor at Caltech, and Senior Advisor to the President of the J. Paul Getty Trust. After a final year at the Getty as Senior Scholar with the Getty Research Institute, he became in 2007 Distinguished Professor of English and Religious Studies at the University of California, Irvine, where he directs the Program in Religious Studies.
As of this writing (January 2014), he looks forward—after retiring, amicably, from his university—to completing several works in early progress: a book on the Qur’an as the Bible corrected; a book on the New Testament as Jewish imaginative literature; a book on the Septuagint as the greatest translation of all time; and a reflective companion to The Norton Anthology of World Religions whose title is to be The Library of the Gods.
Profile photograph by Christine Nguyen.