Cultivating compassion: recent beliefs books

November’s list of recent books kicks off with a highly readable spotlight on Norse mythology, and an important exploration of animism, as well as including several books on creating space for happiness.

Syndetics book coverNorse mythology, by Neil Gaiman.
Read about Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, blood brother to Odin and a trickster. Gaiman has written these ancient stories with his deft novelist touch that makes for easy and accessible reading. These gods emerge with fierce competitive battles, propensity for calculation and manipulation, and a passion which drives their decision-making.

Syndetics book coverLearning to live well together : case studies in interfaith diversity, by Tom Wilson and Riaz Ravat.
“From celebrating cultural events, to considering how the police should interact with members of the public from different faith communities, this book highlights the ways in which all members of society can engage constructively with diversity. This is an excellent resource for anyone wishing to understand the issues of religion and belief that may arise at local and national levels, and develop appropriate attitudes and actions for peaceful resolution.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAnimism : respecting the living world, by Graham Harvey.
“Animism’ is now an important term for describing ways in which some people understand and engage respectfully with the larger-than-human world. Its central theme is our relationship with our other-than-human neighbours, such as animals, plants, rocks, and kettles, rooted in the understanding that the term ‘person’ includes more than humans. Graham Harvey explores the animist cultures of Native Americans, Maori, Aboriginal Australians and eco-Pagans, introducing their diversity and considering the linguistic, performative, ecological and activist implications of these different animisms.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe skeptic and the rabbi : falling in love with faith : a memoir, by Judy Gruen.
Gruen speaks with refreshing honesty about what it means to remain authentic to yourself while charting a new yet ancient spiritual path at odds with the surrounding culture. Judy Gruen began her Orthodox Jewish future with her marriage, a faith very different to her open liberal upbringing. Gruen brings the reader right along for the ride in this touching and humorous memoir.

Syndetics book coverThe book of joy, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams.
How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering? Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships – or, as they would say, because of them – they are two of the most joyful people on the planet. Here they share personal stories and spiritual practices revealing how to joyfully.

Syndetics book coverHappiness is a state of mind : how to create space for happiness in your life, by His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa ; with Kate Adams.
“His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa reveals that the secret to happiness lies in the mind. Exploring the simple ways we can train our minds to recognise a happiness that is already there, he gives us the tools to embrace an appreciation for life as it is, rather than as we feel it should be, and helps us flourish as individuals, and as part of the wider world.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe one life we’re given : finding the wisdom that waits in your heart, by Mark Nepo.
“Mark Nepo has been called “one of the finest spiritual guides of our time,” “a consummate storyteller,” and “an eloquent spiritual teacher.” ‘In order to fully live the one life we’re given,’ Nepo writes, “we each must affirm how precious this one life is and open ourselves to loving whatever life puts before us. Whether that is suffering, pain, fear or loss, or surprise, beauty, love or wonder, we work to stay in touch with our hearts in order to make sense of our experience.” (drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSacred histories in secular New Zealand, edited by Geoffrey Troughton and Stuart Lange.
“Despite recent declines in church attendance, the persistence of religious tolerance, spiritual belief and celebration of Christian festivals and ideals suggests that Christianity plays a more enduring and significant role in New Zealand life than the country’s secular reputation would indicate. Sacred Histories in Secular New Zealand examines some often neglected aspects of New Zealand’s history – from missionaries and Christian Maori to charismatic preachers and puritan novelists, from sectarian conflict and competition to increased co-operation and unity. Together these highlight the interweaving of Christianity with culture, and the interplay of sacred and secular throughout New Zealand’s history.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTen tales from Tibet : cultivating compassion, by Lama Lhakpa Yeshe.
“A collection of poetic re-tellings distilled from ancient oral tradition, the stories have been specially chosen by Lama Lhakpa Yeshe because they demonstrate a beautiful wisdom in a simple, yet profound way, and teach us how to nurture the singular human quality that defines us all.Introduced by global peace and environment campaigner, Satish Kumar, a pupil of Lama Lhakpa Yeshe, and illustrated with photography by fellow Buddhist Matthieu Ricard, this is a beautifully crafted book and unique guide to opening our hearts and minds by cultivating compassion–helping others and ourselves–to find joy, peace, and happiness.” (Syndetics summary)

Unwavering convictions – Latest Beliefs books

Holding steadfast to decisions characterises many of the books in this months new releases – even when those decisions were counter-cultural or unpopular, bringing personal cost.

Syndetics book coverMartin Luther : renegade and prophet, by Lyndal Roper.
2017 is a milestone 500 years since the emergence of Martin Luther as an influential change agent in the church. This is a full-blooded portrait of a revolutionary thinker who was, deeply flawed and full of contradictions. Distinguished Oxford University historian, Lyndal Roper looks inside the heart of this complex figure. The force of Luther’s personality, she argues, had enormous historical effects–both good and ill. “This is Luther in colour.” (The Times) “Anyone seriously interested in one of the most influential figures of the last half-millennium will need to make time to read this one.” (Literary Review) The library has also recently purchased Martin Luther : Catholic Dissident.

Syndetics book coverThe souls of China : the return of religion after Mao, by Ian Johnson.
“From the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a revelatory portrait of religion in China today–its history, the spiritual traditions of its Eastern and Western faiths, and the ways in which it is influencing China’s future. China is now filled with new temples, churches, and mosques–as well as cults, sects, and politicians trying to harness religion for their own ends. Driving this explosion of faith is uncertainty–over what it means to be Chinese and how to live an ethical life in a country that discarded traditional morality a century ago and is searching for new guideposts.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEverything is workable : a Zen approach to conflict resolution, by Diane Musho Hamilton.
“Conflict is going to be part of your life–as long as you have relationships, hold down a job, or have dry cleaning to be picked up. Bracing yourself against it won’t make it go away, but if you approach it consciously, you can navigate it in a way that not only honours everyone involved but makes it a source of deep insight as well. Seasoned mediator Diane Hamilton provides the skill set you need to engage conflict with wisdom and compassion, and even–sometimes–to be grateful for it.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA nun’s story : the deeply moving true story of giving up a life of love and luxury in a single irresistible moment, by Sister Agatha, with Richard Newman.
“One happy day, in the midst of writing to her fiancee, her hand stopped writing unbidden; then it continued by itself, etching the words which would change her life forever: “. . . but there’s no point now, as I am going to be a nun.” That bolt from the blue set events in motion that caused Shirley to lose her mother and sisters, her husband to be, her horses, her parties and life of ease. Within months, Shirley had become Sister Agatha. But her faith in her choice never faltered, …. Now 85, she looks back on an incredible life of love, loss, and belief. …. Sister Agatha’s momentous life will touch and inspire, while reminding us that it is perhaps better to accept that not everything in the world is yet explained.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSecular Buddhism : imagining the Dharma in an uncertain world, by Stephen Batchelor.
The practice of mindfulness is more common in mainstream Western culture, although many have little interest in the religious aspects of Buddhism. Is it possible to recover from the Buddhist teachings a vision of human flourishing that is secular rather than religious without compromising the integrity of the tradition? Batchelor explores the complex implications of Buddhism’s secularization and offers a detailed picture of contemporary Buddhism and its attempt to find a voice in the modern world. (drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSalafi-jihadism : the history of an idea, by Shiraz Maher.
“While much has been said about the way jihadists behave, their ideology remains poorly understood. As the Levant has imploded and millenarian radicals claim to have revived a Caliphate based on the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed, the need for a nuanced and accurate understanding of jihadist beliefs has never been greater. Shiraz Maher charts the intellectual underpinnings of salafi-jihadism from its origins in the mountains of the Hindu Kush to the jihadist insurgencies of the 1990s and the 9/11 wars. What emerges is the story of a pragmatic but resilient warrior doctrine that often struggles … to consolidate the idealism of theory with the reality of practice.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUnwavering convictions : Gao Zhisheng’s ten-year torture and faith in China’s future, by Gao Zhisheng.
“Gao Zhisheng was one of Beijing’s most successful lawyers. Self-taught and brought up in poverty, he came to prominence through his defense of individuals persecuted by the Chinese government for their religion and practice of Falun Gong, before being detained, tortured, and imprisoned himself by the same regime. These pages are not an easy read, because they detail the regime’s attempts to break one of the greatest spirits of our time. Despite this, Gao Zhisheng’s unwavering convictions, profound beliefs, and commitment to humanity shine through.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe hidden school : return of the peaceful warrior, by Dan Millman.
“In the long-awaited conclusion to the international bestselling Peaceful Warrior saga, Dan Millman takes readers on an epic spiritual quest across the world as he searches for the link between everyday life and transcendent possibility. Continuing his journey from Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Dan moves from Honolulu to the Mojave Desert, and from a bustling Asian city to a secluded forest, until he uncovers the mystery of The Hidden School. While traversing continents, he uncovers lessons of life hidden in plain sight–insights pointing the way to an inspired life in the eternal present.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDays? or ages? : the Genesis question : a layman looks at Creation’s calendar, by Jerry Harmon.
“This work summarizes a thorough examination of Genesis 1, including relevant passages from other parts of the Bible, all in plain, straightforward language. … it draws from a wealth of scholarly works by some of the world’s leading theologians and other learned professionals. Whatever one’s opinion might be, this thesis will be informative reading and a significant resource to help clear away some of the clouds of mystery surrounding one of the Bible’s most challenging subjects.” (Syndetics summary)

Women and faith – Recent Beliefs arrivals

A strong feminine focus is featured in this month’s selections, but from widely different viewpoints. Read about Dominican sisters in NZ, the life of Buddhist nun Freda Bedi, or the latest title by best-selling author Ann Voskamp.

Syndetics book coverFighting hislam : women, faith and sexism, by Susan Carland.
Between the extremes often portrayed in western media, there is a group of Muslim women who have chosen to fight sexism from within, committed to this fight and their faith. “Here, Carland talks with Muslim women about how they are making a stand for their sex, while holding fast to their faith. At a time when the media trumpets scandalous revelations about life for women from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, Muslim women are always spoken about and over, never with. In Fighting Hislam, that ends.” (publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverThe revolutionary life of Freda Bedi : British feminist, Indian nationalist, Buddhist nun, by Vicki MacKenzie, foreword by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo.
Freda Bedi (1911-1977) was an English woman who become both a revolutionary in the fight for Indian independence and then a Buddhist icon. She was the first Western woman to become a Tibetan Buddhist nun and broke the rules of gender, race, and religion–in many cases before it was thought that the rules were ready to be challenged, and counted among her friends, and teachers Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and many others. (Drawn from publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverWindows on a women’s world : the Dominican Sisters of Aotearoa New Zealand, by Susannah Grant.
10 Dominican sisters arrived in Dunedin in 1871, and for the first 100 years here the sisters were teaching nuns, living in large enclosed convents cut off from the outside world. But when the Second Vatican Council ushered in a period of radical change, they moved into small homes in local neighbourhoods, with new roles in education, social justice, pastoral care and spirituality. Grant completed a large number of oral histories with the sisters, and describes this transformation. (based on publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverThe religion of tomorrow : a vision for the future of the great traditions : more inclusive, more comprehensive, more complete, by Ken Wilber.
To be relevant to contemporary society, spiritual traditions need to take account of recent scientific discoveries about the mind, brain and emotions. Using Buddhism as an example, Wilber discusses his comprehensive Integral Approach — and shows how we can apply this to our own spiritual practice. “This is a call for wholeness, inclusiveness, and unity in the religions of tomorrow.” (Drawn from publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverGrace without God : the search for meaning, purpose, and belonging in a secular age, by Katherine Ozment.
Journalist Katherine Ozment guides us to understand the trends and impacts of the western flight from organized religion. Yet studies show that religion makes us happier, healthier and more giving, connecting us to our past and creating tight communal bonds. Spirituality & Health Magazine Best Book of 2016.

Syndetics book coverThe broken way : a daring path into the abundant life, by Ann Voskamp.
Best-selling author Ann Voskamp contemplates her own brokenness and asks: Is it really possible to live abundantly? Can we be whole? “This one’s for the busted ones who are ready to bust free, the ones ready to break molds, break chains, break measuring sticks, and break all this bad brokenness with an unlikely good brokenness. You could be one of the Beloved who is broken — and still lets yourself be loved.” (publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverGod’s generals : the military lives of Moses, Buddha, and Muhammad, by Richard A. Gabriel.
One of the more startling facts of religious history is that the founders of three of the four “greats” were also accomplished military generals with considerable battle experience. Muhammad, fought eight battles and was wounded twice, while Siddhartha Gautama (later, the Buddha), suffered from post-battle collapse, and Moses led his people to new lands, defeating the occupants. Where did the influence of militarism and religion end and begin in their lives?

Syndetics book coverLove hurts : Buddhist advice for the heartbroken, by Lodro Rinzler.
Lodro Rinzler has good news for those suffering heartbreak: the 2,500-year-old teachings of the Buddha have much to say about emotional pain. “In this short and compact first-aid kit for a broken heart, he walks you through the cause and cure of suffering, with much practical advice for self-care as you work to survive a breakup.” (publisher)

Syndetics book coverGrace, not perfection : embracing simplicity, celebrating joy, by Emily Ley.
“When Ley realized she could not do it all, at least not well – she began to simplify her life and prioritize her goals. Instead of holding herself to a picture-perfect standard, the author extended grace to herself and was able to give mental and physical space to those ambitions which mattered most. In a friend-to-friend tone, she advises investing in oneself, surrendering control, and cultivating contentment and gratitude. Simple exercises and response blanks follow each chapter. VERDICT A powerful antidote to society’s pressure to have all and be all to everyone.” (Library Journal, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverWomen who knew Jesus, by Bonnie Ring.
Women were seen as low status citizens whose testimony couldn’t be trusted in court. The author paints a picture of Jesus interacting with women – becoming friends, and healing or teaching them. This mixes anecdotes, biblical commentary and short meditations to help readers engage with the stories.

Recent Religion picks for March

Fresh off the printing press is a guide-book to Martin Luther’s Reformation locations, an introduction to a Buddhist approach to economics, and two books of special interest to Jewish readers.

Syndetics book coverMuslim integration : pluralism and multiculturalism in New Zealand and Australia, edited by Erich Kolig and Malcolm Voyce.
This collection discusses the future of religio-cultural pluralism, multicultural policies, and the growing demands for greater emphasis on assimilation. Contributors examine issues such as parallel societies, Islamophobia, radicalization, tolerance, adaptation and mutual adjustment, legal pluralism, the role of mosque architecture, and media depictions of Muslims are examined. (Drawn from publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Islamic Jesus : how the King of the Jews became a prophet of the Muslims, by Mustafa Akyol.
“Akyol exposes an extraordinary historical connection between Judaism, Jewish Christianity and Islam–a major mystery unexplored by academia. From Jesus’ Jewish followers to the Nazarenes and Ebionites to the Qu’ran’s stories of Mary and Jesus, The Islamic Jesus will reveal links between religions that seem so contrary today.” (drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBuddhist economics : an enlightened approach to the dismal science, by Clair Brown.
Traditional economics measures the ways in which we spend our income, but doesn’t attribute worth to the crucial human interactions that give our lives meaning. Clair Brown, an economics professor at U.C. Berkeley and a practicing Buddhist, has developed a holistic model, which emphasises interdependence, shared prosperity, and happiness into her vision for a sustainable and compassionate world. This leads us to think mindfully as we go about our daily activities, and offers a way to appreciate how our actions affect the well-being of those around us.

Syndetics book coverAn atheist and a Christian walk into a bar… : talking about God, the universe, and everything, by Randal Rauser and Justin Schieber.
“Theology professor Rouser and YouTube personality Schieber offer complex, rigorous arguments that will challenge the thinking of believers and atheists alike…. They argue about whether testimony is valid evidence, what the major theological disagreements between religions suggest, what the creator’s seeming hostility to the universe means, whether the neat mathematical pattern of the universe proves intentional design, and how to best explain the problem of human suffering…” (From Publisher Weekly courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverThe story of Hebrew, by Lewis Glinert.
Although found in the language section, this book will be of interest to religious scholars. It shares the history of the development of the Hebrew language until modern times, as well as how religions have imbued it with rich symbolic power.

Syndetics book coverThe genius of Judaism, by Bernard-Henri Lévy ; translated by Steven B. Kennedy.
Chapter headings include : The strength of the Jews ; Jewish France ; How modern Judaism abolished the idea of revolution ; The temptation of Nineveh. What does it mean to be a Chosen People? ; Thus spake Jonah ; The Ninevites of Ukraine and Libya ; Does God arrive as an idea or through faith?

Syndetics book coverMaking sense of God : an invitation to the skeptical, by Timothy Keller.
Timothy Keller invites skeptics to consider that as human beings, we cannot live without meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, justice, and hope. Christianity provides us with unsurpassed resources to meet these needs. Written for both the ardent believer and the skeptic, Making Sense of God shines a light on the profound value and importance of Christianity in our lives. (Drawn from the publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverMartin Luther’s travel guide : 500 years of the ninety-five theses : on the trail of the Reformation in Germany, by Cornelia Dömer.
It’s often quite fun to set yourself a mission when travelling. If you’re planning a European trip, here’s an opportunity to make that mission places connected to Martin Luther – each town, castle, and church where the famed German preached, spoke ….. or fought. Travelers will find information on the historic towns of Dresden, Eisleben, Erfurt, Gotha, Leipzig, Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Weimar, and Worms. Also includes stories about Luther’s life and work as well as maps, and timelines.

Syndetics book coverLive better : a book of spiritual guidance, by Sophie Golding.
“Your spiritual journey can take many forms, and it’s important to choose the path that’s right for you. This handbook will introduce you to traditions and practices with the power to open your heart and broaden your mind. Along with practical tips and enlightening quotes, the insights here are stepping stones towards a better life.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAtlas of Christian history, by Tim Dowley ; cartographer, Nick Rowland.
“Concise, helpful text, written by acknowledged authorities, guide the experience and interpret the visuals. … The atlas is broken into five primary parts that correspond well to most major introductions to the topic. The final section on the modern era pays significant attention to the growth of Christianity as a global religion. Extensive maps are provided that illuminate Christianity in Asian, African, and Latin American contexts.” (drawn from the Publisher’s description).

Beliefs books : January edition

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.

Syndetics book coverThe 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.

Syndetics book coverTalking 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.

Syndetics book coverA 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.

Syndetics book coverAwakening 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).

Syndetics book coverThe 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.”

Syndetics book coverAngels 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.

Syndetics book coverA 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.

Syndetics book coverThe 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).

Syndetics book coverMaking 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)

Syndetics book coverPreaching : 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)

Big questions – Recent Beliefs books

Two very different approaches to the questions of faith versus science are featured this month, together with a unique view of London, the Pyramid texts, and an award-winning book on religious violence.

Syndetics book coverFestivals in the Southern Hemisphere : insights into cosmic and seasonal aspects of the whole earth, by Martin Samson.
Many festivals draw on northern hemisphere seasons. This has led some to suggest that some festivals in the southern hemisphere should be celebrated at opposite times of the year: for example, celebrating Christmas in June. Rudolf Steiner shared cosmic, spiritual imaginations for the northern hemisphere, and in this book Martin Samson develops a useful equivalent guide for the southern hemisphere.

Syndetics book coverLondon : a spiritual history, by Edouardo Albert.
Viewing the expanse of religious history through the lens of one city provides a great snapshot of beliefs over the centuries. Albert discusses what its inhabitants believed and what they worshipped, delving into where, when, and how, and covering the landmarks, the names, the issues, and the arguments. It begins in early pagan times, and comes forward in time and is peppered with the author’s own spiritual journey.

Syndetics book coverThe big question : why we can’t stop talking about science, faith, and God, by Alister McGrath.
“McGrath develops a perspective in which science and religion enrich rather than threaten one another. That perspective highlights the formative influence of Christian faith during the scientific revolution and exposes the urgent need to move beyond the limits of contemporary science to find transcendent sources of morality and meaning. … McGrath calls for a full-bodied humanism invigorated by both scientific reasoning and religious devotion.” (Drawn from Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics) Also by the same author: Inventing the universe : why we can’t stop talking about science, faith and God.

Syndetics book coverFaith versus fact : why science and religion are incompatible, by Jerry A. Coyne.
“Religion and science compete in many ways to describe reality – they both make “existence claims” about what is real – but they use different tools to meet this goal. In his elegant, provocative, and direct argument, leading evolutionary biologist and bestselling author Jerry Coyne lays out in clear, patient, dispassionate details why the toolkit of science, based on reason and empirical study, is reliable, while that of religion – including faith, dogma and revelation – is unreliable and leads to incorrect, untestable, or conflicting conclusions.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPushing boundaries : New Zealand protestants and overseas missions, 1827-1939, by Hugh Morrison.
Quite a lot has been written on the very first wave of missionaries to come to New Zealand. But our understanding of why, within a generation or two, the settler church was sending missionaries from NZ, is weak. Hugh Morrison outlines why missions were important to the colonial churches. What motivated these New Zealanders to leave their new home to live elsewhere? Was it similar colonial trends of culture, empire, childhood and education, or something else?

Syndetics book coverNot in God’s name : confronting religious violence, by Jonathan Sacks.
“2015 National Jewish Book Award Winner. Through an exploration of the roots of violence and its relationship to religion, and employing groundbreaking biblical analysis and interpretation, Rabbi Sacks shows that religiously inspired violence has as its source misreadings of biblical texts at the heart of all three Abrahamic faiths. “Abraham himself,” writes Rabbi Sacks, “sought to be a blessing to others regardless of their faith. That idea, ignored for many of the intervening centuries, remains the simplest definition of Abrahamic faith.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWithout rival : embrace your identity and purpose in an age of confusion and comparison, by Lisa Bevere.
Bevere, popular conference speaker, offers insights on women’s identity within her place in God’s kingdom, and draws on Christ’s own teachings. She recognises the gender prejudice still to be found in many churches but reaches beyond that to remind readers of God’s message of love to women, despite the challenges they face in every age.

Syndetics book coverThe quest for Mary Magdalene, by Michael Haag.
Recent novels and films have painted Mary Magdalene as a significant figure in early Christian tradition. This book follows her through the centuries from the gospels, and shows how each age has redefined her image, role, and identity – whether as a key disciple, Jesus of Nazareth’s wife, fallen woman, or a symbol of humility. This book shines a light on this mysterious figure.

Syndetics book coverThe silver eye : unlocking the pyramid texts, by Susan Brind Morrow.
“The Pyramid Texts were carved onto the walls of burial chambers in royal pyramids 4,000 years ago. They have intrigued scholars, mystics and historians ever since they were discovered in 1881… These writings are in fact among the world’s oldest poetry, cosmological speculations and reflections on nature. Susan Brind Morrow has recast The Pyramid Texts as a coherent work of art, arguing that they should be recognized as a formative event in the evolution of human thought.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBattling the gods : atheism in the ancient world, by Tim Whitmarsh.
Atheism is not a modern invention but was a capital offence in ancient Greece and Rome due to state beliefs that the gods stabilized society – despite being depicted in popular culture as cruel, or distant. Whitmarsh puts forward the view that this civic strategy spawned a large underground atheist community, hinted at in classical texts, papyri and inscriptions. When Christianity surfaced, this approach to civic order was replaced by one god and one moral code was useful uniting the large empire, and atheism was still a counter-culture.

Religious reading : latest arrivals

August’s listed books are quite a mixed bunch, across a range of religions. However, they invite the reader to challenge their misconceptions, and look below the surface to think more deeply about our beliefs and moral decisions.

Syndetics book coverThe faith of Christopher Hitchens : the restless soul of the world’s most notorious atheist, by Larry Alex Taunton.
“Hitchens was a man of many contradictions: a Marxist in youth who longed for acceptance among the social elites; a peacenik who revered the military; a champion of the Left who was nonetheless pro-life, pro-war-on-terror, and after 9/11 something of a neocon; and while he railed against God on stage, he maintained meaningful – though largely hidden from public view – friendships with evangelical Christians like Francis Collins, Douglas Wilson, and the author Larry Alex Taunton…. Taunton traces Hitchens’s spiritual and intellectual development from his decision as a teenager to reject belief in God to his rise to prominence as one of the so-called “Four Horsemen” of the New Atheism.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIslam evolving : radicalism, reformation, and the uneasy relationship with the secular West, by Taner Edis.
“How is Islam adapting to the rapid changes of the 21st century? Despite political unrest and terrorism, the author argues that many Muslim societies are successfully developing their own versions of modern life. In contrast to the secular liberal model that prevails in the West, Islam is demonstrating alternative ways to be modern while maintaining a distinctly Muslim worldview. Professor Edis, an American physicist with a secular viewpoint who was raised in Turkey, is uniquely qualified to evaluate the interplay of modern trends and Islamic values. He devotes separate chapters to prominent examples of what he calls Islam’s “pious modernity.” … This balanced overview of Islam’s relationship with the modern world will be of interest to open-minded readers in both the West and the East.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBreak the norms : questioning everything you think you know about God and truth, life and death, love and sex, by Chandresh Bhardwaj.
“Have you ever felt like you’re living out a script written for you by others–in your work, your relationships, or spirituality? “To break through the norms we’ve been conditioned to believe is an act of rebellion,” writes Chandresh Bhardwaj. “We must be prepared to be brutally honest. We must overturn our assumptions and unlearn our suffering. We must be willing to discover our real reasons for being alive….Authenticity is inherent each of our souls. When we start to be authentic, we start to get back in touch with our divine source.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhy be Jewish? : a testament, by Edgar M. Bronfman.
Completed just weeks before the author’s death, this charts his respect and love for his Jewish faith. This is a personal journey and walk through the main ideas and beliefs, explaining meanings and traditions gathered over a lifetime of study. He explains that even secular Judaism is still immersed in moral values derived from the ancient texts.

Syndetics book coverQueer virtue : what LGBTQ people know about life and love and how it can revitalize Christianity, by Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman.
“Christianity, at its scriptural core, incessantly challenges its adherents to rupture false binaries, to “queer” lines that pit people against one another. Thus, Edman asserts that Christianity, far from being hostile to queer people, is itself inherently queer. Arguing from the heart of scripture, she reveals how queering Christianity – that is, disrupting simplistic ways of thinking about self and other – can illuminate contemporary Christian faith. Pushing well past the notion that “Christian love = tolerance,” Edman offers a bold alternative: the recognition that queer people can help Christians better understand their fundamental calling and the creation of sacred space where LGBTQ Christians are seen as gifts to the church.” (Drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAgnostic : a spirited manifesto, by Lesley Hazleton.
“Hazleton gives voice to the case for agnosticism, breaks it free of its stereotypes as watered-down atheism or amorphous “seeking,” and celebrates it as a reasoned, revealing, and sustaining stance toward life. Stepping over the lines imposed by rigid conviction, she draws on philosophy, theology, psychology, science, and more to explore, with curiosity and passion, the vital role of mystery in a deceptively information-rich world; to ask what we mean by the search for meaning; to invoke the humbling yet elating perspective of infinity; to challenge received ideas about death; and to reconsider what “the soul” might be.” (drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhen awareness becomes natural : a guide to cultivating mindfulness in daily life, by Sayadaw U Tejaniya ; edited by Robert French ; foreword by Steven Armstrong.
“Meditation is great – but it’s not what Buddhist practice is all about. That’s the message of this engaging and funny Burmese Buddhist monk, and it’s a message that is finding a significant following among Westerners in the Insight Meditation tradition. Sayadaw U Tejaniya teaches how to bring awareness to any sort of activity in order to discover deep insight and liberation from suffering. It works in sitting meditation, but it works just as well when sorting the laundry or doing data entry. “My teachings are nothing new,” he says. “They are, as always, based on the four foundations of mindfulness: awareness of the body, awareness of feelings and sensations, awareness of mind, and understanding of dhamma or nature, i.e., mind and matter.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTears to triumph : the spiritual journey from suffering to enlightenment, by Marianne Williamson.
“The internationally recognized teacher, speaker, and New York Times bestselling author of A Return to Love argues that our desire to avoid pain is actually detrimental to our lives, disconnecting us from our deepest emotions and preventing true healing and spiritual transcendence. Marianne Williamson is a bestselling author, world-renowned teacher, and one of the most important spiritual voices of our time. In Tears to Triumph, she argues that we – as a culture and as individuals – have learned to avoid facing pain. By doing so, we are neglecting the spiritual work of healing” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverRuthless : Scientology, my son David Miscavige, and me, by Ron Miscavige, with Dan Koon.
“The only book to examine the origins of Scientology’s current leader, RUTHLESS tells the revealing story of David Miscavige’s childhood and his path to the head seat of the Church of Scientology told through the eyes of his father. Ron Miscavige’s personal, heartfelt story is a riveting insider’s look at life within the world of Scientology.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover30-second religion : the 50 most thought-provoking religious beliefs, each explained in half a minute, editor, Russell Re Manning ; contributors, Richard Bartholomew…[et al.]
As the title explains, this is not an in-depth study. It is designed to be a quick intro to the main beliefs and history of the major religions from around the world, allowing easy comparison across their main tenets, beliefs and practices, which can be an aid to further research.

The grammar of God – Latest Beliefs books

A strong biblical theme runs through this latest bookshelf, from popular author Bishop Spong’s latest reflections to stories from the Bible for minecrafters, or missionary journeys to North Korea.

Syndetics book coverThe tweetable pope : a spiritual revolution in 140 characters, by Michael J. O’Loughlin.
How do you transform a church that treasures two thousand years of tradition? Jorge Mario Bergoglio made it his mission to “rebrand” the Catholic Church when he was elected pope to better reflect Jesus Christ. With more than 21 million followers reading Tweets in 9 languages, Francis regularly posts his 140-character (or less) sermons a few times each week – communicating directly with his flock. Common themes include the poor, forgiveness, mercy, joy. These little sermons help us understand his vision for the church to be inspired to be better Christians. Also received is The name of God is mercy : a conversation with Andrea Tornielli.

Syndetics book coverBiblical literalism : a gentile heresy : a journey into a new Christianity through the doorway of Matthew’s gospel, by John Shelby Spong.
“Using the Gospel of Matthew as a guide, Spong explores the Bible’s literary and liturgical roots – its grounding in Jewish culture, symbols, icons, and storytelling tradition – to explain how the events of Jesus’ life, including the virgin birth, the miracles, the details of the passion story, and the resurrection and ascension, would have been understood by both the Jewish authors of the various gospels and by the Jewish audiences for which they were originally written. Bishop Spong makes clear that it was only after the church became fully Gentile that readers of the Gospels took these stories to be factual, distorting their original meaning….” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe grammar of God : a journey into the words and worlds of the Bible, by Aviya Kushner.
Aviya Kushner grew up in a Hebrew-speaking family, reading the Bible in the original Hebrew and debating its meaning over the dinner table. She knew much of it by heart – and was therefore surprised when, while getting her MFA at the University of Iowa, she took the novelist Marilynne Robinson’s class on the Old Testament and discovered she barely recognized the text she thought she knew so well. … the English translation often felt like another book entirely from the one she had grown up with. … In this eye-opening chronicle, Kushner tells the story of her vibrant relationship to the Bible, and along the way illustrates how the differences in translation affect our understanding of our culture’s most important written work. A fascinating look at language and the beliefs…”(Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverThe cities that built the Bible, by Robert R. Cargill.
“For many, the names Bethlehem, Babylon, and Jerusalem evoke epic stories from the Bible – fortresses, moonlit mangers or magnificent temples. This is a magnificent tour through fourteen cities: the Phoenicia cities of Tyre, Sidon, Ugarit, Nineveh, Babylon, Megiddo, Athens, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Qumran, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Rome, with dig sites, ruins, and relics. An interesting and informative adventure through time.

Syndetics book coverThe Bible from scratch, written & illustrated by Simon Jenkins.
“For first-time readers, the Bible can be an intimidating and hefty read. This lively and witty resource offers a lightning sketch of the Bible that clearly explains the essential meaning of every book from both the Old and New Testaments. It provides helpful hints for understanding the motives and messages behind each of the Biblical writers and introduces all the famous people and events from key stories. Filled with humorous illustrations and plenty of wit, this is an ideal guide for getting to know the Bible.” (Syndetics summary) We’ve also received The unofficial Bible for Minecrafters : stories from the Bible told block by block.

Syndetics book coverApostle : or bones that shine like fire : travels among the tombs of the twelve, by Tom Bissell.
Combining travel writing, and biblical history, and a deep lifelong relationship with Christianity, Bissell explores who the apostles were as men but also how their identities have been shaped ever since. This takes him around the world, from Rome to India and Kyrgyzstan, as the apostles travelled from ‘Jerusalem to Samaria and the ends of the earth’.

Syndetics book coverThe last supper : the plight of Christians in Arab lands, by Klaus Wivel ; translated by Mark Kline.
“In 2013, alarmed by scant attention paid to the hardships endured by the 7.5 million Christians in the Middle East, journalist Klaus Wivel traveled to Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, and the Palestinian territories on a quest to learn more about their fate. [He] spoke with priests whose churches have been burned, citizens who feel like strangers in their own countries, and entire communities whose only hope for survival may be fleeing into exile. Wivel asks, why have we not done more to protect these people?” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNot forgotten : the true story of my imprisonment in North Korea, by Kenneth Bae ; with Mark Tabb.
“Bae moves to China and leads guided tours into North Korea. Six years later, after eighteen successful excursions in and out of the country, Ken is suddenly stopped at the border, arrested, brought to Pyongyang for further questioning, and sentenced to fifteen years of hard labour. His crime? Attempting to overthrow the North Korean government. Media attention culminates in President Obama’s call for prayer on behalf of Ken at the 2014 National Prayer Breakfast. Meanwhile, Ken grapples with his new, solitary reality as a captive of one of the world’s most brutal governments….” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGood faith : being a Christian when society thinks you’re irrelevant and extreme, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.
“Many Christians today feel overwhelmed as they try to live faithfully in a culture that seems increasingly hostile to their beliefs. … This isn’t just a problem that affects individual Christians; if left unaddressed, the growing gap between the faithful and society’s tolerance for public faith will have lasting consequences for the church in America. … Readers will discover the most significant trends that offer both obstacles and opportunities to God’s people, and how not only to challenge culture but to create and renew it for the common good. David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons invite fellow Christians to understand the heart behind opposing views and show them how to be loving, life-giving friends despite profound differences.” (Syndetics summary)

Passwords to Paradise : Beliefs books

A fascinating and detailed work on the influence of language and linguistics on the development of religions across the ages is featured in this month’s latest arrivals together with a thoughtful treatment on globalisation by Miroslav Volf.

Syndetics book coverLife’s too short to pretend you’re not religious, by David Dark.
Religion is often a forbidden topic in conversation. Some prefer the word “spirituality” which doesn’t have quite the same association with ritual, self-righteousness, or hypocrisy. But religion includes the stories that make up a person’s values and beliefs. Dark illuminates how thoughts are handed down to us, what we judge to be essential, and argues a convincing case for religion’s place in modern society.

Syndetics book coverFlourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World, by Miroslav Volf.
In this perceptive and thoughtful book, a leading theologian discusses how world religions and globalization have interacted across the centuries, but what ought their relationship to be? How do we judge globalization – how well it enables us to live out our authentic humanity? Despite their flaws, religions remain one of our most powerful sources of moral motivation and renewal. The ongoing process of reform in religions needs to shape globalization to encourage people to flourish at every level.

Syndetics book coverPasswords to paradise : how languages have re-invented world religions, by Nicholas Oster.
“Ostler (The Last Lingua Franca) roams across several millennia of world history and delves into precise linguistic shifts looking for clues to how the “missionary religions” of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam have been affected by the new language communities they entered. [He demonstrates how] they may have been altered not only by the imperfect art of translation but by their social, political, and military contexts. … For those fascinated by linguistic transitions, this impressive study is a feast. (drawn from Publisher’s Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverPutting God second : how to save religion from itself, by Rabbi Donniel Hartman.
“Rabbi Donniel Hartman tackles one of modern life’s vexing questions: Why are the great monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – chronically unable to fulfill their own self-professed goal of creating individuals infused with moral sensitivity and societies governed by the highest ethical standards?” He observes that the primary focus of a relationship with God can distract religious believers from their own traditions’ ethics. So he argues that decency toward one’s neighbour must always take priority over acts of religious devotion.

Syndetics book coverThe surrender experiment : my journey into life’s perfection, Michael A. Singer.
Shares stories from the author’s pursuit of enlightenment, from his years as a hippie introvert and successes as a computer engineer through his work in humanitarian efforts, counseling readers on how to navigate confusing aspects in the spiritual journey, with lessons on how to put aside conflicting beliefs, let go of worries, and transform misdirected desires. Singer provides a road map to a new way of living not in the moment, but to exist in a state of perpetual happiness.

Syndetics book coverPagan planet : being, believing & belonging in the 21st century, edited by Nimue Brown.
“What does it mean to live as a Pagan in this uncertain world of climate change, economic hardship and worldwide social injustice? What does it mean to hold nature as sacred when ravaging the land is commonplace? How do we live our Paganism in our families and homes, our communities and countries? Pagans are stepping up in all kinds of ways. … This is a book of grass-roots energy, of walking your talk and the tales of people who are, by a vast array of means, engaged with being the change they wish to see in the world.” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverThe heaven promise : engaging the Bible’s truth about life to come, by Scot McKnight.
“Heaven. Eternity. The Afterlife. Mention any of these concepts, and people of all ages and from all walks of life are certain to have opinions. Maybe that’s why there are so many books and movies that feature heaven-and-back experiences. …. Separating fact from fiction, McKnight helps the reader examine the over-arching story of scripture in order to discover what awaits us. Heaven isn’t the construction of a fairy-tale or some mythical narrative. It’s …the fulfilment of God’s promise to us.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBrand Luther : 1517, printing, and the making of the Reformation, by Andrew Pettegree.
“Pettegree illustrates Luther’s great gifts not simply as a theologian, but … as the world’s first mass-media figure, its first brand. He recognized the power of pamphlets, written in the colloquial German of everyday people, to win the battle of ideas. … Luther had a partner in the form of artist and businessman Lucas Cranach, who together with Wittenberg’s printers created the distinctive look of Luther’s pamphlets. Together, Luther and Cranach created a product that spread like wildfire.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Emmaus code : finding Jesus in the Old Testament, by David Limbaugh.
This made The New York Times Best Seller List in 2015. Limbaugh takes as his starting point a meeting between Jesus and two travellers where the former began discussing “Moses and all the prophets” to explain to them what was already in the (OT) Scriptures about himself. The reader is taken on a journey through all 39 OT books to reveal Jesus Christ and God’s meta-narrative.

Syndetics book coverShi’i Islam : a beginner’s guide, by Moojan Momen.
“Provides readers with an accessible and insightful introduction to the Shi’i branch of Islam, from its beginnings after the death of the Prophet Muhammad through to the present day. As well as providing a historical overview, the book also introduces readers to Shi’i doctrines and practices, explains the key differences between the Shi’i and Sunni branches of Islam, and addresses the role and position of women within Shi’i communities.” (drawn from publisher’s description)

Living with awareness and intention – New Beliefs books

This edition covers quite a mix of approaches and worldviews. Two books chart the growth of individuals across a year of challenges, while others urge a return to the beliefs at the heart of their faiths.

Syndetics book coverThe Bloomsbury reader on Islam in the West, edited by Edward E. Curtis IV.
Some assume that Islam is foreign to the West, but it has been part of western civilisation for more than a millennium. The Reader discusses the impact of Islamic ideas and Muslims on Western politics, societies, and cultures. Part 1 takes a more historical approach e.g. significance of Islam in medieval and early modern times e.g. Islamic Spain, while Part 2 addresses more contemporary issues. A timeline of key events in the history of Islam in the West is particularly helpful.

Syndetics book coverSecular meditation : 32 practices for cultivating inner peace, compassion, and joy, by Rick Heller.
Written by meditation teacher Rick Heller includes step-by-step instructions, personal stories, and question prompts to encourage the reader develop more empathy, reduce stress and build resilience. “Heller simplifies what is often found mysterious, describing and providing detailed instructions for thirty-two different practices, ensuring that anyone can find the right one.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKarma : what it is, what it isn’t, why it matters, by Traleg Kyabgon.
“What is karma, really? Does karmic theory say that we are helpless victims of our past? Is all karma bad, or can there be good karma too? Is reincarnation the same as the Buddhist theory of rebirth? In this short and eminently readable book, Traleg Kyabgon answers these questions and more by elucidating the Buddha’s teachings on karma and rebirth. He distinguishes the Buddhist view of karma and rebirth from related notions of karma and reincarnation found in the Hindu tradition, explains why the notion of karma is indispensable to the theory and practice of Buddhism … Throughout he shows how to work with karma intelligently to bring about beneficial changes in the way we relate to our thoughts, feelings, and circumstances.” (drawn from the publisher’s description.)

Syndetics book coverA year of living prayerfully : how a curious traveler met the Pope, walked on coals, danced with rabbis, and revived his prayer life, by Jared Brock.
Brock takes readers on a world tour, but learns something of “the practice of the presence of God” (prayer according to 17th-century monk Brother Lawrence), trust, reverence, evangelism, and the need for silence. This book is a story of a young man finding his way as a pilgrim, although at times his honesty leads the reader through insensitive comments (humour?). However, after this year, Brock realises that he is just at the beginning of his journey.

Syndetics book coverAfter Buddhism : rethinking the Dharma for a secular age, by Stephen Batchelor.
As the subtitle suggests this focuses on the need for considering a Buddhist world view alongside within the context of today’s global and secularized world. What was the core of the Buddha’s vision ? Chapter titles include Letting Go of Truth, Experience, The Everday Sublime, and A Culture of Awakening, together with selected discourses from the Pali Canon.

Syndetics book coverInterrupted : when Jesus wrecks your comfortable Christianity, by Jen Hatmaker.
Hatmaker was a pastor’s wife and far too busy doing church than being church. She describes God asking her questions like, “What is really the point of Church? What have I really asked of you?” She realised she had missed the point. She invites readers to take a similar journey through Scripture towards a more frontline mission.

Syndetics book coverCathedrals and churches of Europe, edited by Rolf Toman ; photography by Achim Bednorz ; text by Barbara Borngässer.
Whether your interest is in travelling, or in church architecture across the ages, this explores the cathedrals and churches along the Rhine, to the brick Gothic and Romanesques in the Baltic Sea to the Baroque and Rococo in the foothills of the Alps as well as the iconic buildings in the heart of Italy and France before crossing the channel to the medieval cathedrals in England.

Syndetics book coverHow would Buddha act? : 801 right-action teachings for living with awareness and intention, by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD.
“Based on the Buddhist teachings of Right Action, this inspirational guide will help you gain insight into the importance of your actions, improve your relationships, and live a more meaningful life. Author Barbara Ann Kipfer offers a unique, modern take on the ancient teachings of Right Action–the Buddhist concept of acting in loving, compassionate ways and responding to others with the intention of doing no harm. In the book, you’ll learn that every thought, word, and deed has a consequence, and that by trying to be a better person in day-to-day life, you will be taking meaningful steps toward true enlightenment.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe year without a purchase : one family’s quest to stop shopping and start connecting, by Scott Dannemiller.
“In 2005, a life-changing mission year in Guatemala inspired Dannemiller and his wife, Gabby, to develop a family mission statement: live with integrity, be grateful what they have, grow in faith together, and serve God’s people. Ten years later, living in the suburbs with two children and feeling spiritually off-track, they embark on another yearlong experiment to reinvigorate their mission … Dannemiller explores a handful of recurring themes, such as wanting “to do the right thing, but not wanting to force our values on other people,” the difficulties around deciding what’s a necessity, and managing social pressures, particularly rituals and expectations around gift-giving.” (drawn from Publisher Weekly)