Whispers and Vanities book cover

In search of wisdom: Recent beliefs books

Two important books lead the selections for November – gathering diverse reflections and essays on peace-making in Aotearoa, and Samoan indigenous spirituality. They are joined by two books on ancient mythologies, a vision of an inclusive Christianity through the prism of transgender issues, and tools drawn from Buddhist mindfulness teaching to overcome negative self-talk.

Syndetics book coverWhispers and vanities : Samoan indigenous knowledge and religion, edited by Tamasailau M. Suaalii-Sauni, Maualaivao Albert Wendt, Vitolia Mo’a, Naomi Fuamatu, Upolu Luma Va’ai, Reina Whaitiri, Stephen L. Filipo.
“The essays and poetry form a careful assessment of aspects of Samoa’s religious and cultural values, from within and outside Samoa, and respond to an address on Samoan religious culture given by Samoa’s Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Tupuola Tufuga Efi, to the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions. The address challenges some fundamental aspects of and assumptions in modern Samoan indigenous religious culture.” (Drawn from the publisher’s summary).

Syndetics book coverPursuing peace in Godzone : Christianity and the peace tradition, edited by Geoffrey Troughton and Philip Fountain.
“This follow-up to Saints and Stirrers brings the history of the Christian-inspired peace movement up to the present. Quaker pacifism, nuclear testing in the Pacific, Maori land alienation and cultural dispossession, apartheid in South Africa, protests at Waihopai and changing attitudes to Anzac Day are some of the topics that are of intense contemporary interest.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIn search of wisdom : a monk, a philosopher, and a psychiatrist on what matters most, by Matthieu Ricard, Christophe André, Alexandre Jollien ; translated by Sherab Chödzin Kohn.
“Join these three luminaries as they share their views on how we uncover our deepest aspirations in life, the nature of the ego, living with the full range of human emotion, the art of listening, the temple of the body, the origin of suffering, the joy of altruism, true freedom, and much more.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTransforming : the Bible and the lives of transgender Christians, by Austen Hartke.
“This provides access into an underrepresented and misunderstood community and will change the way readers think about transgender people, faith, and the future of Christianity. By introducing transgender issues and language and providing stories of both biblical characters and real-life narratives from transgender Christians living today, Hartke helps readers visualize a more inclusive Christianity, equipping them with the confidence and tools to change both the church and the world.” (Drawn from the publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverLiving with the gods : on beliefs and peoples, by Neil MacGregor.
“Acclaimed art historian McGregor explores the relationship between faith and society. It examines mankind’s beliefs not from the perspective of institutional religions but according to how shared narratives have shaped societies–and what happens when different narratives run up against each other.” (drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSacred Britannia : the gods and rituals of Roman Britain, by Miranda Aldhouse-Green.
“Two thousand years ago, the Romans sought to absorb into their empire what they regarded as a remote, almost mythical island on the very edge of the known world — Britain. What homegrown deities, cults, and cosmologies did the Romans encounter in Britain, and how did the British react to the changes? Aldhouse-Green examines the two-way traffic of cultural exchange and the interplay between imported and indigenous factions to reveal how this period on the cusp between prehistory and history knew many of the same tensions, ideologies, and issues of identity is still relevant today.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe triumph of Christianity : how a forbidden religion swept the world, by Bart D. Ehrman.
“From the bestselling author on early Christianity, this is the story of how Christianity grew from a religion of twenty or so peasants in rural Galilee to the dominant religion in the West in less than four hundred years. Christianity didn’t have to become so dominant, it easily could have remained a sect of Judaism. An immensely readable narrative, which upends the way we think about one of the most important cultural transformations our world has ever seen–one that revolutionized art, music, literature, philosophy, ethics, economics, and law.”(Drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTalk to yourself like a Buddhist : five mindful practices to silence negative self-talk, by Cynthia Kane.
“If you talk to your friends in a negative manner, you will end up without friends. And if you talk to yourself in the same way, you will end up an emotional train wreck. Kane defines negative self-talk as the vehicle by which we pass judgments on ourselves for mistakes and circumstances, even for something as trivial as wearing the wrong shoes with the wrong belt. … Rooted in Buddhist teaching and incorporating contemporary mindfulness teachings, this book encourages readers to overcome both with internalized thoughts and spoken words. ” (drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverInside the atheist mind : unmasking the religion of those who say there is no God, by Anthony DeStefano.
“Aims to debunk the theories of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and others, through revealing their inconsistencies. He argues that atheism is a “religion” of its own, complete with a creed, a set of commandments and sacraments, and a rigid moral code with rewards and punishments and a “superstition” of the worst kind.” (Syndetics summary)

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