Living Brave: Lessons from Hurt, Lighting the Way to Hope by Shannon DingleWhat it is: This mix of memoir and self-help is the moving account of how writer and disability activist Shannon Dingle worked to rebuild her life and the lives of her children after her husband's sudden death at 37 years old.
Topics include: practicing self-compassion, overcoming shame, and the importance of self-care during even the darkest times.
Is it for you? Throughout Living Brave Dingle makes reference to her traumatic childhood, which includes discussions of topics like human trafficking and sexual abuse.
Herbal Magic: A Handbook of Natural Spells, Charms, and Potions by Aurora KaneWhat it's about: fostering a deeper spiritual connection with the earth through exploring the unique properties of plants.
Series alert: Herbal Magic is the 7th entry in the Mystical Handbook series, with five more books planned to be released.
About the author: Aurora Kane is an American herbalist who has contributed to other Mystical Handbook titles, including House Magic and Moon Magic.
Better to Have Gone: Love, Death, and the Quest for Utopia in Auroville by Akash KapurWhat it is: author Akash Kapur's moving and engaging reflections on the Indian utopian religious community of Auroville, where he grew up and where his wife's parents, John Walker and Diane Maes, met tragic ends.
Reviewers say: "Expect the unexpected in this riveting story" (Publishers Weekly).
Did you know? Although the Indian government has taken over administration of many parts Auroville, about 3,000 residents continue to live there as part of the original intentional community.
Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda MontellWhat it's about: This thought-provoking guide to cults takes a special look at how such groups use language as a tool and how the modern "language of fanaticism" is making its way outside of religious spaces.
Groups discussed include: Synanon, the Peoples Temple, Heaven's Gate, and followers of controversial social media "spiritual influencers" such as Bentinho Massaro.
Why you might like it: Although the writing in Cultish is both engaging and accessible, the points raised by author Amanda Montell are well-grounded in scholarly research.
Books You Might Have Missed
Freeing Jesus: Rediscovering Jesus as Friend, Teacher, Savior, Lord, Way, and Presence by Diana Butler BassWhat it is: an inspiring, candid exploration of the multiple aspects of Jesus and how He can play a variety of different yet complimentary roles in readers' daily lives.
Roles such as: Friend, Teacher, Savior, Lord, Way, and Presence.
About the author: Historian Diana Butler Bass is an independent religion scholar whose previous works include Grateful, A People's History of Christianity, and The Practicing Congregation.
Don't Call It a Cult: The Shocking Story of Keith Raniere and the Women of NXIVM by Sarah BermanWhat it's about: the sobering story of the group NXIVM, from its earliest days to the 2019 criminal trial of its founder, Keith Raniere.
Read it for: the comprehensive and well-researched chronicle of NXIVM's decades-long efforts to avoid prosecution, and of the investigation that finally exposed the organization's disturbing secrets to the world.
Reviewers say: "This deep dive behind the headlines isn’t to be missed" (Publishers Weekly).
Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing by Lauren HoughWhat it is: a candid and engaging look at the childhood and later life of author Lauren Hough, who grew up in the notorious group The Children of God (now called The Family International).
Don't miss: Hough's moving reflections on feeling like an outsider (both before and after leaving The Children of God) and her unique perspective on what makes a cult a cult.
Did you know? Fleetwood Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer left the band in 1971 in order to join The Children of God.
Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone by James Martin, SJWhat it's about: the many facets of prayer as a concept, different forms it has taken throughout history, and how readers can approach the act of praying with a fresh perspective.
Read it for: the unassuming tone and unanticipated moments of self-effacing humor.
About the author: Jesuit priest Father James Martin is the editor-at-large for Jesuit magazine America and his previous books include The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything and Building a Bridge.
Faith After Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do About It by Brian D. McLarenWhat it is: a thoughtful examination of doubt as part of a faith journey, and how it can serve as a springboard for a more mature relationship with spirituality.
Why you might like it: Author Brian D. McLaren argues for approaching doubt with sincerity instead of scorn, and for making space for struggling believers to ask questions without fear.
Reviewers say: Faith After Doubt is a "helpful, non-judgmental resource for readers questioning their Christian faith" (Library Journal).
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