Spirituality and Religion
A Call for Revolution: A Vision for the Future by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Sofia Stril-Rever What it is: a thoughtful, impassioned appeal from His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIV, urging readers to improve the world around them through compassion and an understanding of the ways in which all living things are interconnected.
Why you might like it: The writing is persuasive but concise, making for an approachable introduction to the Dalai Lama's teachings.
Who it's for: Although readers of all ages will find wisdom here, this book is primarily targeted at the young people who will inherit the consequences of climate change and increasing inequality.
Living With the Gods: On Beliefs and Peoples by Neil MacGregorWhat it's about: the ways that religion and society shape one another, from the primal origins of religious belief to the effects of spiritual practice on things like architecture and perceptions of time.
Read it for: its sweeping scale, relevance to contemporary issues of religion and society, and engaging, accessible writing style.
Author alert: Neil MacGregor is the author of other expansive histories, most notably A History of the World in 100 Objects.
God in the Qur'an by Jack MilesWhat it is: an accessible introduction to the Qur'an, discussing the shared God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as depicted in the Muslim holy text.
Who it's for: non-Muslims will probably get the most out of this book, since it focuses on figures that the Bible and the Qur'an have in common but covers few that are exclusive to Islam.
Don't miss: the appendix, which details concepts like the afterlife and Satan as they are portrayed in the Qur'an.
Dear Zealots: Letters From a Divided Land by Amos OzWhat it is: a thought-provoking, reflective collection of essays by Israeli intellectual and writer Amos Oz, detailing his reflections on the state of his homeland and the forces that keep it divided.
Why you should read it: Oz offers a path to reconciliation different from the current discourse, encouraging everyone to be aware of 'the little fanatic who hides, more or less, inside each of our souls."
You might also like: Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor by Yossi Klein Halevi and The Balfour Declaration by Jonathan Schneer.
Why Religion? A Personal Story by Elaine PagelsWhat it's about: religion scholar Elaine Pagels' story of her relationship with spirituality over the course of her life and career, with insights from neurologists and social scientists about the purpose faith serves for humanity.
Don't miss: the parallels between parts of the author's life story and the Book of Job, and the lessons she took from these difficult experiences.
What sets it apart: the artful balance between Pagels' respect for faith as a concept and her curiosity about why it manages to endure in the modern era.
The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims by Mustafa AkyolWhat it is: a thought-provoking exploration of the influences of Christian and Jewish thinkers on early Islamic conceptions of Jesus and his nature.
Topics include: depictions of Jesus's mother Mary as she appears in Islamic writings; discussions = of the lessons that believers of all three Abrahamic faiths can take away from the Qur'an.
Read it for: its conversational, accessible evaluation of holy texts and evidence from the archaeological record.
Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and... by Bart D. EhrmanWhat it is: an exploration of the historicity of the Gospels and the possible effects that the tradition of oral transmission may have had before they were written down.
Don't miss: the differing stories of Jesus that were circulating before and after his death, with special attention paid to the historical context in which they developed.
Author alert: Noted Bible scholar Bart D. Ehrman is the author of numerous books about early Christianity, including Misquoting Jesus and How Jesus Became God.
The Darkening Age: the Christian Destruction of the Classical World by Catherine NixeyWhat it is: a history of Christianity's rise and the author's assertion that militant elements of the faith wiped out much of the Classical world; a thought-provoking survey of diverse parts of Roman society immediately before the ascent of Christianity.
Is it for you? Although the author concedes that early Christians were the objects of persecution too, there are no holds barred in this exploration of what the world lost in order to make room for Christianity.
Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World by Tim WhitmarshWhat it's about: the existence of atheism in the ancient world, countering the idea that the concept of a life without religion is unique to modern thinkers.
Why you should read it: Cambridge scholar Tim Whitmarsh provides an accessible entry point to a long-forgotten aspect of the diverse and sometimes volatile religious milieu of Antiquity.
Reviewers say: "In [Whitmarsh's] capable hands, this topic will engage readers from classical scholars to interested laypeople" (Publishers Weekly).
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