Great summer reading: World religions in 100 Minutes

Tour world religions via guidebooks tucked into your tote

Got an hour or two? Want religion?
The creative folks at the UK-based 100-Minute Press are stirring spiritual awareness with a whole series of books that are perfect for summer reading. ReadTheSpirit recommended the first volume in the series—The 100-Minute Bible—several years ago. If you click on the book’s title, you’ll find that the Amazon page for this book lists various formats, including a Kindle edition, paperback, large-print and even an audio edition. So, tucking The 100-Minute Bible into your tote bag is flexible—and cheap!

In our 2008 review of the Bible, we said: Michael Hinton, who was born in Bristol, England, and spent 25 years as a school headmaster, knows something about the challenges of educating people. Now that Hinton has switched professions and runs a village parish in Kent—he has prepared a remarkable little tool to give people a “big picture” of the Christian Bible.

We also “road tested” the book, asking a group of people to look over and evaluate various new formats of the Bible. Here’s what we discovered: People immediately “got” this 100-minute concept and were fascinated. The truth is: Although the vast majority of Americans tell pollsters they love the Bible, most Americans don’t have time to study much of it. This little book by Hinton provides a very helpful introduction—in less than two hours!

Since that first project, the 100-Minute folks have been working long hours on other world scriptures! Today, we’re also recommending …

The 100-Minute Buddha by Jinananda

The 100-Minute Buddha was written by the London-based Buddhist teacher and writer known as Jinananda. He is an ordained Buddhist teacher who has written several earlier books on the religious tradition that is such an important part of world culture—and yet is so often misunderstood. Everybody recognizes the Dalai Lama’s name and photo, but relatively few understand what he teaches and fewer still understand the diversity of Buddhist traditions circling the globe.

This slim volume won’t make you a scholar, but it will aquaint you with the tradition’s founder. The 50 chapters include titles such as “Compassion: Siddartha becomes the Buddha,” “The Buddha’s guide to ordinary happiness,” “Meditation: distractions and concentration,” “The Buddha’s farewell to life,” “The Buddha’s funeral and the first Council” and “The Lotus Sutra.”

100-Minutes with the Qur’an by Anwar Rashid Siddiqui

100-Minutes With the Quran has a distinctively different title, which Muslims immediately will understand. It would be wrong to call this book “a Quran,” as there are no substitutions for the original. This is a commentary on the Quran, written by the British Muslim writer Abdur Rashid Siddiqui. For most of his career, Siddiqui was a noted librarian in the UK. He retired in 1997 and has devoted himself to working with Islamic educational programs.

Non-Muslims who study English versions of the Quran discover several surprises. First, the Quran contains a lot about familiar Judeo-Christian figures, including: Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, Job, Mary and Jesus. Second, the Quran is sacred poetry in the original Arabic, so its meaning often seems abstract. Stories are sketched in phrases rather than the detailed prose that explains every detail. In this little volume, Siddiqui excerpts English versions from the Quran to show the diversity of sacred stories you’ll find in the actual scriptures.

The 100-Minute Torah by Cliff Cohen

The 100-Minute Torah was prepared by Rabbi Cliff Cohen, who lives in East Kent where his work as a rabbi includes serving as chaplain at several prisons and hospitals. He was a good choice to write this brief introduction to Jewish scriptures, which most Jews and Christians will find intriguing.

The publishers faced a bit of a dilemma here. Cohen covers the entire Tanakh, the canon of the Hebrew Bible, not just the Torah, the first five books of scripture. However, if they had called this a 100-Minute Tanakh, what newcomer would have understood the title? Chapters include “The Creation” and “The Covenant with Abraham” plus “The Dietary Code and Festivals”—all drawn from the Torah. But the book continues with dozens more short chapters, including “Song of Songs,” “Daniel” and “Torah and the Sabbath.”

PLEASE NOTE: You’ll quickly find that the Bible edition is easy to purchase from Amazon, but the other three books are sold, in June 2011, only by Amazon re-sellers. You also can visit the 100-Minute Press site, based in the UK, to find out about obtaining copies, but it’s clear that these editions are a labor of love from a small press. Even though the newer three volumes are not widely available, we are recommending these books today to encourage this noble publishing effort.

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Originally published at, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.


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