099: What are YOU hoping to read?

    TODAY, we’re turning to one of our most popular questions at ReadTheSpirit: What are YOU reading? During the weeks that I was traveling in Asia in January, then during the series of daily articles that we’ve published about spiritual connections with Asia, a lot of reader emails have piled up at our Home Office.
    Soon, we will run more of your recommendations of great books and films –- but, today, we’ll answer some questions readers have raised.

JIM WILLS, who works for an insurance firm outside Chicago and is “trying to find my way back into a healthier balance of family, faith and work” wrote to say he enjoyed an earlier quiz we published about saints. “But I really don’t find most of those guides to saints helpful,” he said. “I guess I missed some of the catechism -– my own fault I’ll admit –- and I went to public schools and all. … When I pick up those guidebooks to saints to learn about what I missed, they leave me flat. Any suggestions on exploring saints without feeling like I’ve just picked up an almanac?”
    Indeed, we’ve got a great suggestion, Jim. Its “My Life with the Saints,” by the Rev. James Martin, SJ. In 2006, it appeared in hardback and won a number of honors, including a very nice salute from Publishers Weekly Magazine. Now, Martin’s book is available in a handy new trade-paperback edition.

    As always in our stories, you can click on the book cover (above) or the title of the book to jump to our review in our ReadTheSpirit bookstore — and you can buy a copy, if you wish.

from Ohio, who is “disappointed you haven’t written more about comics,” asks: “Can you suggest anything we may be missing? … I enjoy the ones best that tell Bible stories, but I also like any of them that have good stories of faith. … Tips?”
    K.C. was referring to our earlier 3-part series on the spiritual side of comics, graphic novels and manga.

    If you haven’t been watching this section in bookstores recently, you may be surprised by how relentlessly it is expanding! And, yes, there are some great new religious titles hitting the shelves.
    I can promise K.C. and our other readers intrigued by this genre that we will write more about it in coming months. Right now, though, my favorite title among in-coming review copies arriving on my desk this month is, “The Manga Bible,” by Siku, which is the pen name of British-born Nigerian comic artist Ajibayo Akinsiku.
    It is 200 pages of fresh, black-and-white imagery and storytelling, lifting up dramatic moments from these ancient stories in new ways. Yes, it’s great for younger readers, but I’m in my 50s and found myself mesmerized for an entire evening. (Click on the title or cover to read more.)

AND — THIS IS an indicator of how timely we are at ReadTheSpirit!
    I wrote today’s piece, including the review and recommendation of Silu’s book, on Saturday to have it completed well before Monday morning’s publication on ReadTheSpirit. Then, on Sunday morning, the New York Times published an entire news story about the book.
    No, this wasn’t a piece in the Times book-review section — it was a news story about this landmark blending of Japanese manga elements with the Bible, the kind of coverage that Doubleday and Siku probably were thrilled to receive. (Such Times stories move over wire services to media outlets internationally.)
    One piece of news in the Times story is that Siku already is planning his next manga salute to the Bible. The Times reported: “His next project is a manga life of Christ. He has 300 pages to lay it out, which means there will be a lot more action, a lot less talking, something like Clint Eastwood in the Galilee.”
    I, for one, can hardly wait.

Finally, we’ve had a number of readers ask for further recommendations on Bible study and the life of Jesus, a couple of these notes prompted by the launch of the new Our Lent series within the ReadTheSpirit family of Web sites.

    JANICE from Florida asked for “something more in-depth on the life of Jesus that we could use in our Bible study class at church.” And a reader from Michigan said she’s “not a pastor but I want to read about what people who study these things are saying about the historic Jesus of Nazareth.”
    Thank you all for continuing to raise such questions. It’s a sign of the ongoing importance of Bible study and the deep interest in learning more about scriptures and the life of Jesus.
    The answer to such questions is: There are almost too many good books out there. For example, just last week, we featured a Conversation With Phyllis Tickle about her new book, “The Words of Jesus.” That book isn’t a scholarly examination of scriptures, but it is an in-depth look at Jesus’ record in the gospels. We know that Phyllis’ many books are very popular with readers. She’s popular partly because her works often cross over between mainline and evangelical audiences.
    ALSO, the Bible scholar Marcus Borg is mentioned by many of our readers — and many authors we’ve interviewed, who mention that they follow Borg’s work. Even the red-hot young evangelist Rob Bell says that he admires some of Borg’s books.

    Just last week, a new trade-paperback edition of Borg’s major work, “Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary,” arrived in the mail. The hardback edition was a best-seller nationwide and the brand-new paperback edition is likely to fly off bookstore shelves, as well. At a cheaper price, it’s now an even more practical choice for Bible-study groups.
    Click on the book cover or the title of the book to read our review and see other books we’ve recommended on scriptures. OR, click on Borg’s name above to learn more about other Borg titles.

    WE ARE ALWAYS EAGER to hear your recommendations, comments and questions on books or films with spiritual themes.

    TELL US what you think, please. Click on the “Comment” link at the end of the online version of this story. Or, Click Here to Email me directly.

    OR, click on the “Digg” link below and add a very brief “digg” comment — even a phrase — to this story’s listing on Digg-It, which will tell even more folks worldwide that it’s worth reading:

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