If you’re looking for inspiration, challenge, or reflection, there’s some great holiday reading to begin the year. Two important recommended titles to note are The Little History Of Religion, and the latest biography of Samuel Marsden.
The world, the flesh & the Devil : the life and opinions of Samuel Marsden in England and the Antipodes, 1765-1838, by Andrew Sharp.
“By diving deeply into key moments – the voyage out, the disputes with Macquarie, the founding of missions – Sharp gets us to reimagine the world as Marsden saw it: always under threat from the Prince of Darkness, in need of ‘a bold reprover of vice’, a world written in the words of the King James Bible. Andrew Sharp takes us back into the nineteenth-century world, and an evangelical mind, to reveal the past as truly a foreign country”–Publisher information.
Talking God : philosophers on belief, edited by Gary Gutting.
Where does belief come from? This book features conversations with twelve skeptics, atheists, agnostics, and believers including challenges from evolution, cutting-edge physics and cosmology, and meditations on the value of secular humanism. Insights on Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, as well as Judaism and Christianity are offered.
A little history of religion, by Richard Holloway.
Richard Holloway begins at the dawn of religious belief and retells, quite succinctly, the history of religion to the twenty-first century. Suitable for those with faith and those without, he accentuates tolerance, mystery, and calmly restores a sense of the value of faith. The discussion covers all of the major religions, and is simple without being simplistic. Evil done in the name of religion is not overlooked. This is an important snapshot to aid understanding different beliefs.
Awakening from the daydream : reimagining the Buddha’s wheel of life, by David Nichtern.
“Although traditionally thought of as modes of reincarnation, Nichtern describes the realms as mental states that we move between, sometimes quite rapidly. He clearly and briefly describes how each blocks our path towards enlightenment but also contain unique possibilities. He also provides concise and easily implemented meditation practices for coping with the negative effects of each and includes a basic guide to karma and advice for finding a spiritual guide. …this is a clear, and current introduction to Buddhist thought and practice.” (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics).
The great good thing : a secular Jew comes to faith in Christ, by Andrew Klavan.
Klavan shares his own story – growing up Jewish in New York, and his eventual conversion to Christianity, at the end of a long search, through university and professional help. But he was gifted to receive an encounter with the living Christ, the Jewish Messiah, which brought him to a sure knowledge of his place in the cosmos and God’s kingdom. God’s answer to his prayer was “wildly generous, an act of extravagant grace.”
Angels on Earth : inspiring stories of fate, friendship, and the power of connections, by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski.
An inspiring book about the incredible impact that acts of kindness from strangers can have – impacting not only the receiver but also the giver. Schroff’s own journey has deepened her belief that angels (those sent by God) are all around us.
A Jewish guide in the Holy Land : how Christian pilgrims made me Israeli, by Jackie Feldman.
Jackie Feldman (born into an Orthodox Jewish family in New York) reflects on his work guiding many groups of Christian pilgrims – “counterintuitive work” for more than 30 years. The writing style is a mix of memoir and sociological study, which also documents his personal journey across this time.
The universe has your back : transform fear to faith, by Gabrielle Bernstein.
“New York Times best-selling author Gabrielle Bernstein teaches readers how to transform their fear into faith in order to live a divinely guided life. Each story and lesson in the book guides readers to release the blocks to what they most long for: happiness, security and clear direction. The lessons help readers relinquish the need to control so they can relax into a sense of certainty and freedom.” (drawn from the publisher’s description).
Making life easy : a simple guide to a divinely inspired life, by Christiane Northrup, M.D.
“Dr. Northrup explores the essential truth that has guided her ever since medical school: Our bodies, minds, and souls are profoundly intertwined. Feeling your best is about far more than physical health; it’s also about having a healthy emotional life and a robust spiritual life… You will learn to: – Untie the knots of blame and guilt that harm your health – Use sexual energy consciously to increase vitality – Balance your microbiome through healthy eating – Cultivate a healthy ego that serves you (not vice versa) – Communicate directly with the Divine.” (drawn from the Syndetics summary)
Preaching : communicating faith in an age of skepticism, by Timothy Keller.
“We can discern at least three levels of “Word ministry” in the Bible. … Every Christian should be able to give both teaching (didaskalia, the ordinary word for instruction) and admonition (noutheo — a common word for strong, life-changing counsel) that convey to others the teachings of the Bible. This must be done carefully, though informally, in conversations that are usually one on one.”(drawn from chapter 1)