Spirituality and Religion
In Search of Wisdom: A Monk, a Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on What Matters Most by Matthieu Ricard, Christophe Andre, and Alexandre JollienThe premise: What happens when a monk, a shrink, and a philosopher walk into a (proverbial) bar? If they're as well-educated and observant as the three authors of this book, expect an expansive discussion of many of the issues at the core of happiness, enlightenment, and life itself.
What sets it apart: While other books have presented interfaith and interdisciplinary dialogues about spiritual issues, the has a warmth, intimacy, and frankness to that is only possible because of the authors' many years of close friendship.
Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held EvansWhat it is: an eloquent analysis of the Bible as a work of literature.
What sets it apart: Rachel Held Evans admirably analyzes the Bible without getting too caught up in literalism: the "literal truth" of biblical stories is less important to her than the lessons they hold.
Why you might like it: The author's esteem for and admiration of her subject is palpable, which makes for a compelling balance of historical context and personal reflection.
The House of Islam: A Global History by Ed HusainWhat it is: An informed, accessible exploration of Islam's past and present, thoroughly researched but effectively condensed to provide general readers with the historical context needed to understand many of the contemporary issues the religion faces.
Read it for: The in-depth examination of the many divisions within Islamic thought and practice, something that sets this book apart from other "Islam for beginners" titles.
Costly Grace: An Evangelical Minister's Rediscovery of Faith, Hope, and Love by Robert SchenckWhat it's about: the thought-provoking story of one man, his three conversions, and the multitude of lessons he learned over the course of a life and career at the fraught intersection of politics and religion.
Why it matters: Although the author had a role in ushering in the very atmosphere of politicized Christianity he condemns in the book, he also unequivocally takes responsibility for his past while advocating for a return to faith for its own sake.
Reviewers say: "This powerful book is a universal call for a change of heart in both the political and sacred realms" (Publishers Weekly).
The Chosen Wars: How Judaism Became an American Religion by Steven R. WeismanWhat it is: an engaging, richly detailed journey through the history of Judaism in America, from the first arrivals in colonial New Amsterdam through the turn of the 20th century.
Don't miss: the special attention Weisman pays to how America and Judaism influenced each other, such as the economic consequences of Jewish and Christian communities observing the Sabbath on different days of the week and the roles that Jews played on both sides of the Civil War.
Did you know? The first Jewish congregation formed in what would later become the United States dates back to 1654.
Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved by Kate BowlerWhat it's about: In her previous book Blessed, Kate Bowler explored the history and theology of the Prosperity Gospel. It's in this same context that she reflects on her diagnosis, at age 35, of Stage IV cancer, and how her impending mortality has affected her own faith.
Read it for: the seemingly effortless way that Bowler weaves her brand of warm, candid humor throughout a book that is as funny as it is bleak and as erudite as it is intimate.
Daring to Hope: Finding God's Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful by Katie Davis MajorsWhat it is: Katie Davis Majors's second account of her life and missionary work in Uganda (following Kisses from Katie), this time focusing on how the return of one of her adopted children to their biological mother prompted her to begin questioning God for the first time.
Further reading: Kathryn Joyce's The Child Catchers explores the flawed management of many international "orphan" adoptions, which can lead to heartbreaking situations like the one Majors went through.
Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World by Eric MetaxasWhat it's about: Published to mark the Protestant Reformation's 500th anniversary, this fast-paced, accessible biography explores Martin Luther as a religious reformer but also as a human being.
Reviewers say: “a masterful portrait of a seminal figure" (Booklist).
Don't miss: Eric Metaxas's biographies of other pivotal figures in European Christianity, such as Amazing Grace (about William Wilberforce) and Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.
How to Be a Muslim: An American Story by Haroon MoghulWhat it is: In this informed, touching, and funny memoir, Haroon Moghul explains how in advocating for his fellow Muslims, he was pushed to reexamine his somewhat estranged relationship with God and with his Pakistani heritage.
What happens: After the 9/11 attacks politicized Muslim identity in America, Moghul found himself pushed into the spotlight and became, as he jokes, a "professional Muslim."
What sets it apart: The author meditates on some of his mental health struggles within the context of his religion, offering a welcome foray into a sometimes taboo topic.
Higher is Waiting by Tyler PerryWhat it's about: Successful film director and actor Tyler Perry reflects on the people and places of his youth and how they shaped his current faith, his drive to achieve, and his creativity. The lives he describes have more than their fair share of pain and sorrow, but their trials taught a young Perry how to rely on God when dealing with his own challenges.
Read it for: the unexpected yet deeply moving discussion of Perry's relationship with the natural world and the peace he has learned to find in it.