Reflections on the Sunday Gospel: How to More Fully Live Out Your Relationship With God by Pope FrancisWhat it is: an inspiring collection of sermons built around the liturgical calendar that emphasize reconnecting with scripture and the early church leaders on a regular basis in order to deepen your connection to God.
Read it for: the uplifting tone and straightforward, approachable writing style.
Don't miss: the discussions of lesser-known figures like St. Irenaeus and the wisdom to be gained from their stories.
Beyond Welcome: Centering Immigrants in Our Christian Response to Immigration by Karen GonzálezWhat it's about: the Christian case for welcoming immigrants, explored through the teachings of Jesus and the author's own experiences as an immigrant and advocate for immigrants.
Topics discussed: Jesus and hospitality; assimilation as a myth; and movement as a fact of human civilization.
Reviewers say: Thanks to "strong storytelling skills" Beyond Welcome effectively "challenges readers to rethink their understanding of immigrants" (Library Journal).
Confessions of a Crappy Christian: Real-life Talk About All the Things Christians Aren't... by Blake GuichetWhat's inside: relatable reflections on personal and spiritual insecurities, the pitfalls of perfectionism, and the indirect path to grace.
Chapters include: "My Church Hurt Me; Now What?" "Where Do I Get My Worth?" and "Should I Just Fake Forgiveness?"
About the author: Blake Guichet is a ministry and business coach who hosts the podcast also named Confessions of a Crappy Christian.
Heretic by Jeanna KadlecWhat it is: a thoughtful and compelling memoir of trauma and rebirth that explores issues like identity, indoctrination, and the ways evangelical Christianity affects American society.
Read it for: author Jeanna Kadlec's candid reflections on growing up evangelical in the Midwest, her dysfunctional marriage to a pastor's son, and her struggles to reconcile the shame she felt as a queer woman with her church's teachings about unconditional love.
Reviewers say: Heretic is "a poignant story of being born again in a secular world" (Publishers Weekly).
American Caliph: The True Story of a Muslim Mystic, a Hollywood Epic, and the 1977 Siege... by Shahan MuftiWhat it's about: the politically and religiously motivated hostage crisis that shut down Washington, D.C. for 3 days in 1977, from its origins to its fallout.
The forces behind it: conflicts between the Nation of Islam and other groups in the Black Muslim movement; the assassination of Malcolm X; the 1973 Hanafi Massacre, in which 2 adults and 5 children were killed.
Key players: Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, a critic of NOI leader Elijah Muhammad and leader of the 1977 siege; Muslim ambassadors Ashraf Ghorbal (Egypt), Sahabzada Yaqub-Khan (Pakistan), and Ardeshir Zahedi (Iran), whose mediation was critical in ending the crisis and saving lives.
The Mexican Witch Lifestyle: Brujeria Spells, Tarot, and Crystal Magic by Valeria RuelasWhat it's about: brujería, or "witchcraft" in Spanish, a term which has come to include a spectrum of Afro-indigenous spiritual practices embraced in Latin American communities around the world.
Topics include: how to respectfully acquire herbs and other materials needed for your practice; how to create your first altar; and the importance of honoring ancestors.
Reviewers say: "Ruelas’s simple instructions and the thorough glossary explicating key terms and concepts make for a rich primer" (Publishers Weekly).
The White Mosque: A Memoir by Sofia SamatarNo, not those: The titular house of worship probably isn't one you've heard of, such as the Ottoman-built mosques in Nazareth and Acre, the former state mosque of Malaysia, or the 8th-century mosque in Ramla, Israel. Instead, The White Mosque described here was a small church, built in what is now Uzbekistan in 1884 in the style of a mosque.
Who built it: the followers of Prussian-born minister Claas Epp Jr., who came to Russia during a period when the Tsarist government allowed Mennonite settlement. Epp's leadership was controversial and divisive, but members of the community lived and worshipped in the area until Soviet collectivization in 1935.
About the author: Sofia Samatar is a writer best known for her fantasy and speculative fiction, including the novel A Stranger in Olondria and the story collection Monster Portraits. In The White Mosque, she chronicles the community's history and reflects on her identity as the descendant of both Swiss-German Mennonites and Somali Muslims.
To Sanctify the World: The Vital Legacy of Vatican II by George WeigelWhat it is: a well-researched but accessible analysis of the Second Vatican Council -- how it started, controversial topics addressed, key players, and fallout for the modern Catholic Church.
Don't miss: the effort author George Weigel makes to place the Council in the context of World War II and the Cold War.
Reviewers say: To Sanctify the World is a "fluid reevaluation of Vatican II's origins and impact" (Publishers Weekly).
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