Spirituality and Religion
The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World by Bart D. EhrmanWhat it is: the 400-year story of Christianity's growth, from a fringe sect of 20 illiterate peasants into Western civilization's dominant faith. New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman follows the birth of the religion from Galilee to the Roman Empire, including the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 312 AD.
Further reading: The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World's Largest Religion by Rodney Stark.
Happiness in This Life: A Passionate Meditation on Earthly Existence by Pope FrancisWhat it is: a collection of homilies, addresses, and writings by Pope Francis, leader of the Roman Catholic Church, about finding joy and happiness in life.
Why you might like it: The short entries touch on topics ranging from humility to family; while aimed at Catholics, it's approachable for those of other faiths too. "A book as loving and encouraging as the man himself seems to be," says Booklist.
You might also like: The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Moral Combat: How Sex Divided American Christians and Fractured American Politics by R. Marie GriffithWhat it is: a sweeping history of how sexuality divided the American political and cultural landscape -- and how Christianity played a role. Starting in the 1920s (when birth control activist Margaret Sanger arrived on the scene) and continuing through Donald Trump's election as President, Moral Combat touches on issues fought over in churches and the voting book alike -- abortion, gay marriage, and transgender rights.
Is it for you? This timely book will please readers interested in the history of today's hot-button issues.
Madison Park: A Place of Hope by Eric L. MotleyWhat it is: a moving and inspiring memoir from Erik Motley, an academic scholar and former special assistant to U.S. President George W. Bush, about growing up in Madison Park, Alabama, which was founded by freed slaves in 1880. Motley reflects on the friends and neighbors who helped shape him and describes the strong role of faith in his small African American community.
Reviewers say: "The story of a remarkable yet humble life" (Library Journal).
Focus on: Women and Religion
American Saint: The Life of Elizabeth Seton by Joan BarthelWhat it's about: Mother Elizabeth Seton, the first American-born Catholic saint, was canonized in 1975, two centuries after her birth to a prominent Episcopalian family in New York City.
Don't miss: A professor of American Studies, author Joan Barthel highlights the significance of Elizabeth's contributions to American education, the Catholic Church, and women's roles in the Church.
You might also like: Alice Camille's Fearless: Stories of the American Saints, for profiles of other American Catholic saints.
Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-WeberWhat it is: Bestselling author Nadia Bolz-Weber, a tattooed former stand-up comic and recovering addict who is now an ordained Lutheran minister, shares stories of finding grace in the most surprising people and everyday situations. Tying her memoir to the liturgical calendar, Bolz-Weber writes in a witty, humorous, and "compulsively readable" (Booklist) style, but be advised that she also includes rough language and the occasional vulgarity.
Who it's for: Fans of Anne Lamott and Brian McLaren; feminist Christians.
Exodus: A Memoir by Deborah FeldmanWhat it's about: Author Deborah Feldman picks up where she left off in her bestselling 2012 memoir Unorthodox, continuing her voyage of self-discovery as a former member of a strict Satmar Hasidic Jewish sect and as a single mother. Feldman revisits her past and travels from the American South to locations in Europe, where she retraces her grandmother's experiences during the Holocaust.
You might also like: Devotion by Dani Shapiro and Cut Me Loose by Leah Vincent.
May I Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Yoga, and Changing My Mind by Cyndi LeeWhat it is: Though she danced professionally in the 1980s and has been a well-known yoga teacher for years, Cyndi Lee had always hated her body. In May I Be Happy, Lee recounts both her lifelong struggles to achieve self-acceptance and how the tenets of Buddhism and yoga helped her quiet the critical voice inside her head.
Read it for: An empowering message about body image and self-love.
Is it for me? This memoir will appeal to those who strive to make peace with their bodies.
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