I know: You’re cutting back on your book bucks, rationing your movie money, saving on your DVD dough.
We’re all doing that now. We want to be very deliberate about our media selections.
SO, HERE ARE 10 GREAT SPIRITUAL CHOICES:
Not all of these are on sale just yet. Some are. Others are coming later in February or in March. But, based on my previews of these titles, I can recommend all of them as Great New Choices.
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“AN ALTAR IN THE WORLD”
By BARBARA BROWN TAYLOR
Come back tomorrow for an in-depth Conversation With Barbara Brown Taylor about her soul-stirring new book.
This is a personal memoir and guidebook, exploring the territory where our spiritual footing meets the ground in the world around us. That may sound odd. But, this is a very practical memoir, written by an already popular author who wants to help her regular readers — and new readers she will meet through this book — begin to feel spiritually comfortable in our bodies, our lives and our communities. She focuses on how various spiritual practices can help us gain new perspectives on daily living.
Why spiritual practices? “Because I have high hopes that practice can bring us together where doctrine divides us,” she says in tomorrow’s Conversation.
“A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY”
By DIANA BUTLER BASS
Plan to pick up this new book in March — and we’ll tell you more about this unique book in an in-depth Conversation With Diana Butler Bass in early March.
Subtitled, “The Other Side of the Story,” this actually is not a “history book” in the traditional sense — not even in the sense of venerable historian Howard Zinn, whose famous “People’s History” is invoked in the title of Diana’s new book.
What Diana really accomplishes here is an interpretive meditation on how thousands of years of history, when properly understood, relate to the daily challenges in our lives.
This is a great choice for small-group study — so plan ahead!
“WORLD REPORT 2009”
By HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Many of our readers are spiritual activists, volunteers and humanitarians concerned
about the lives of men and women around the world. If that’s you, then
you’ll definitely want the brand-new “Human Rights Watch: World Report
This new edition, published by Seven Stories Press,
contains analyses of human rights in more than 90 countries and
territories. It just went on sale. Grab a copy, because existing news
media are no longer reliable sources for this vital information.
“THE STORY OF INDIA”
By Michael Wood via PBS
Save up some money to purchase this DVD set coming out on March 10 — and here’s some great news: It’s only going to cost about $24 on Amazon.
I want to thank reader Greg Mann for alerting me to this series by Michael Wood. PBS-and-history junkies like myself probably know Michael Wood already from his earlier “In Search of …” documentaries — especially his wonderful mid-’80s series, “In Search of the Trojan War.”
We do have readers in Asia and, increasingly, we have U.S. readers with a strong interest in East-West cultural connections. So let me point out: For those of you who already know all the history presented in this PBS series, you’ll find gaps you wish Wood would have explored.
But this is really a terrific introduction for most Americans to the land, the history, the culture and the spiritual traditions of India. Yes, there’s far more that should be said — but this series will whet the appetites of many Americans.
(Thanks, Greg, for alerting me to this gem! And, to all of our readers: We welcome your tips and recommendations.)
“THE NEW AMERICANS”
By Gita Saedi via Facets Video
Here’s an absolutely transformative documentary.
Why “transformative”? Because immigration and cultural diversity are two enormously important issues right now and we need media like this documentary series that will transform our assumptions about immigrants. At ReadTheSpirit, we’ve just concluded the annual Interfaith Heroes Month and, this year, we’re leaving our own Heroes page as a permanent resource for the many teachers, volunteers, public officials and group leaders directly engaged in diversity education.
Thanks to Facets Video, Gita Saedi’s entire 411-minute production of “The New Americans” now is available now on DVD. It’s well worth the investment, because Saedi spent a long time and an enormous number of miles exploring this broad spectrum of real-life stories of immigrants.
As the main photo on the cover suggests, we learn about a poor Hispanic-American family struggling through the maze of American immigration hurdles. Their story is all the more poignant because they are trying to do all the right things in their move to America.
But there’s so much more here!
We meet a prominent African family, reduced to refugee status because of their tribe’s work on behalf of human rights, now trying to re-establish themselves in the U.S. The family quickly discovers problems at nearly every turn, even though Americans celebrate the kind of brave activism that wound up pushing this family toward our shores.
We also meet Dominican baseball players facing life-and-death challenges of their own. And, deep in the series we meet an Indian couple moving to the U.S. for professional work — and discovering that American culture is quite different than what they expected.
The mother of a hopeful pro-baseball player, who lives in poverty in her own homeland, says it all: “Poor people’s dreams are very deep things.”
They are — and so is this terrific series.
“ZEN-WRAPPED IN KARMA DIPPED IN CHOCOLATE”
By Brad Warner
Thanks to the urging of reader and occasional contributor Geri Larkin, a Buddhist author herself, I’ve become a fan of Buddhist writer Brad Warner, whose “Sit Down and Shut Up” we recommended earlier.
Brad is back with another memoir that’s wise, funny and spiritually sharp as a razor.
Here at ReadTheSpirit, we love edgy spiritual memoirs. We’re the publishers of The Spiritual Wanderer, after all. But I have to admit, Brad Warner slices deeper into his life than most writers are willing to commit to paper. This isn’t braggadocio. This is a Buddhist sage who knows that there’s going to be suffering in the world and that a second timeless truth is this: We’re often the cause of that suffering ourselves.
I see parallels here with the diaries of Dorothy Day — perhaps a crazy connection to make, but this is that kind of a weirdly connective book.
Plus, I love Brad’s utterly dead-pan sense of humor. Midway through the book, you’ll encounter the line, “I couldn’t go back to bed after that.” I laughed out loud when I read that line. I won’t spoil the book by explaining what took place just prior to that line, but trust me: not even the saintliest Buddhist master would expect to go back to bed after what has befallen Brad in that scene.
And here’s a tip: If you buy that book via Amazon, there’s a deal on the Amazon page that lets you get all three of his books for $31.51.
“STICKS AND STONES”
By ACE COLLINS
It’s a little book with a child-like cartoon on the cover, but the subject is serious. The subtitle is “Using Your Words as a Positive Force.”
This is essentially a Miss Manners guidebook (with a dose of pastoral wisdom woven through the advice) on the rapidly increasing challenges of modern communication. How do you handle Email vs. an in-person conversation? How should you evaluate what to say on an online message board?
The focus is not merely etiquette — but compassion as well. I like the way Zondervan has packaged and presented the book. A back-cover invitation to readers says: “Of the roughly 30,000 words you will speak today, imagine if just a handful of them could save a life, or heal a broken heart, or inspire a vision that would shape the course of history.”
That’s the big picture here.
Look for Collins’ book in March.
“SUM: FORTY TALES FROM THE AFTERLIVES”
This book doesn’t go on sale until mid-February, but the early review copy certainly caught my eye and my imagination.
Eagleman is a PhD neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine and, borrowing a page from C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce,” Eagleman has given us this little book of speculative scenes from Heaven.
Despite the fact that billions of men and women believe in what we call Heaven — no one knows how Heaven will work, how it will feel, what it will look like. Eagleman invites us to read 40 of his own speculative visions of how Heaven might function.
Several years ago, I worked as an adviser to Divine Light Media, a student filmmaking group, on producing a feature-length documentary about people’s diverse ideas of God and Heaven. I found a number of the speculative ideas about Heaven that were voiced by people in the filmed interviews echoed in some of Eagleman’s chapters. So, some of these ideas may seem familiar to you, too. But, there are many ideas in this book that I hadn’t contemplated before. It’ll stretch your mind and spirit.
This is a good choice for small-group discussions, as well. You’ll have no end of conversation.
“THE FIRST PAUL”
By Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan
and “IN THE STEPS OF PAUL”
By Peter Walker
Consider this for an innovative small-group study: In March, Borg and Crossan fans will be buzzing about their latest collaboration, which is subtitled: “Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon.” Plan ahead. Borg and Crossan readers can catch the basic idea of this new book from the title — and likely will be eager to sign up for a group study of their latest work.
BUT — consider adding to the small-group study Peter Walker’s “Illustrated Guide to the Apostle’s Life and Journeys,” a gorgeous and information-packed book by Zondervan. The millions of readers of DK illustrated books will find a very similar style in this volume: lots of colorful photos, maps, charts and even a color coding on the edges of the pages to easily index Paul’s various destinations.
Meshing the more progressive Borg-Crossan interpretation of Paul’s life with Walker’s and Zondervan’s more traditional overview of Paul’s world should spark some great exchanges in a small group.
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(Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)