Talking God: Philosophers on Belief by Gary GuttingIn Talking God, University of Notre Dame philosophy professor Gary Gutting collects 12 interviews (which first appeared in the New York Times philosophy blog The Stone) with other philosophers about the nature of belief and theism. Each philosopher explains his or her reasons for being an atheist, an agnostic, or a believer. In order to avoid slanting his philosophical sample toward the Judeo-Christian tradition, Gutting includes interviews with people from other faith traditions: Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. You'll find a range of carefully considered views on the intersection of philosophy and religion in these "approachable, civilized discussions about the existence of God" (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk's Life by Thich Nhat HanhThe acclaimed Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh offers fresh autobiographical inspiration in At Home in the World. Using accounts of five periods his in life to introduce specific spiritual challenges, he provides several short observations under each heading that illustrate his principles of compassion and empathy. Fans of this religious leader and readers new to his work will find thought-provoking guidance for "everyday practice and for social engagement in the world" (Publishers Weekly).
Vaster Than Sky, Greater Than Space: What You Are Before You Became by MoojiHindu teacher and spiritual guide Mooji offers challenging but accessible ways to go deeper into the spiritual life in this exploration of pathways to enlightenment. Recounting his own travels in India to illustrate what he has learned, he explains stages in the search for truth but doesn't demand adherence to specific beliefs. According to Mooji's approach, self-actualization, rather than following a prescribed journey, will lead more surely to peace and understanding. If you're unfamiliar with Mooji's approach to spirituality, this is a good place to start, and this book will also satisfy his experienced followers.
Love Hurts: Buddhist Advice for the Heartbroken by Lodro RinzlerIn this book on emotional healing, Buddhist teacher and columnist for the Huffington Post Lodro Rinzler offers advice based on the Buddha's precepts about suffering -- including but not limited to solace for the lovelorn. Built on his notes from short sessions during which Rinzler listened to people who came to share their heartbreaks, each chapter offers spiritual counsel for specific experiences, from "What Is Heartbreak?" to "If You Need to Hear a Joke" to "If You Feel Acceptance." Introductory and concluding chapters frame these anecdotal teachings on spiritual self-care. Publishers Weekly calls this a "superb book for any heartbroken reader."
The Forgetting River: A Modern Tale of Survival, Identity, and the Inquisition by Doreen CarvajalSuspecting that her family history might harbor a centuries-old secret, veteran journalist Doreen Carvajal, who writes for the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times, turned her reporter's eye on herself. Though she grew up Catholic in California, she felt there were clues that she was descended from Sephardic Jews who'd been forced to convert during the Inquisition and who'd kept remnants of their old faith. Tracing her family's roots to Arcos de la Frontera in southern Spain, she left her Paris home and moved to the Spanish town to find out more. Kirkus Reviews calls The Forgetting River "a mesmerizing journey through time, across cultures, and into one woman's rich personal history."
Called Again: A Story of Love and Triumph by Jennifer Pharr DavisIn this inspiring account of author Jennifer Pharr Davis' record-time completion of the Appalachian Trail, we read of her emotional and physical challenges on the 272-mile journey. Sustained not only by her partner and husband, Brew, but also by her Christian faith, Davis walked from Maine to North Carolina in 46 days. She also came to a deeper understanding of her relationship with God. This memoir may motivate you to undertake long hikes, but even if it doesn't, it could encourage you to make the most of your own spiritual gifts.
Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of Saint James by David Downie; photographs by Alison HarrisThough food writer David Downie wasn't interested in the religious aspects of the pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James in Compostela, Spain, he decided to trace the ancient route for its historic significance and in order to improve his health. Setting off on the Rue Saint-Jacques in Paris (the medieval but not the modern pilgrims' starting point) and walking through France with his wife, photographer Alison Harris, Downie found inspiration despite his skepticism. Noting intersections between Celtic and Roman history, Christian churches and other shrines, and the modern people he met, he began to reflect more deeply on philosophical questions he found important. Harris' photographs accompany this thought-provoking chronicle.
Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East by Gerard RussellThough Islam is the most common religion practiced in the Middle East, there are dozens of others that most Westerners know very little about. In this engaging book, a curious former British diplomat who lived in the area for over a decade provides an accessible introduction to several minor religions that have survived for centuries but are now in danger of extinction. Traveling around the Middle East, Gerard Russell learns about and meets Yazidis, Zoroastrians, Copts, Druze, Samaritans, Kalasha, Mandaeans, Manicheans, and others. For another lighthearted and informative religious tour, try William Dalrymple's From the Holy Mountain, which explores Christian communities in the region.
Mecca: The Sacred City by Ziauddin SardarPakistani-born Londoner Ziauddin Sardar introduces the history of Islam and its cultural influences in this witty and personal study of Mecca. The holiest city for Muslims, who are expected to visit there at least once in their lives, Mecca's primary function as a religious symbol contrasts with the reality that it's a modern city. Recounting intriguing stories about individuals (such as the Dutch spy who was expelled after his false conversion was exposed), warring political factions, and archaeological travesties, Sardar pays tribute to the deep spiritual and historical roots of the site in this "beautifully written and revealing" (Booklist) study.
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