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Kendal at Oberlin Blog

Good Reads: Best Spiritual Books

Posted by Molly Kavanaugh on Dec 27, 2016 10:04:00 AM

kao-good-reads-1.jpgAs your thoughts turn to 2017, consider incorporating Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat’s Spiritually Literate New Year’s Resolutions into your life.  

The 10 practices developed by the Brussats, founders of the Spirituality & Practice website, include seeking liberty and justice for all, cultivating the skill of deep listening, and learning from diverse spiritual teachers all around.

Certainly worthy aspirations, but how do you become a kinder, gentler man or woman?  With any resolution, spiritual or otherwise, the path forward requires specifics, experts will tell you.

“As important as what you are going to change is how you are going to change it. This year, try using implementation intentions. This is a big name for a fairly simple strategy: instead of making a vague resolution such as ‘get in shape,’ make a concrete resolution that specifies where, when, and in what way you are going to implement your resolution. This strategy helps you automatize your new habit faster,” postdoctoral scholar Amie Gordon writes in Psychology Today.

For many of us, the how is often found in trusted and wise words. So as we contemplate a spiritually literate new year, let’s take a look at the best spiritual books.

Spiritual Lessons from Rain, Silence, Failing in Books

The Brussats are still compiling the 2016 list, but the 60 best spiritual books of 2015 include something for everyone on the spiritual path, even children:

    • Better than Before, a thorough review of what is involved in changing bad habits and strengthening good ones, by Gretchen Rubin;
    • Felicity, poems of living and loving in the wider world, by Ohio poet Mary Oliver;
  • The Yes, a children’s book about the power of a positive attitude, by Sarah Bee;
  • Rain, an exploration of rain’s lessons and mysteries, by Cynthia Barnett;
  • The Spirituality of Age, a seeker’s guide to growing older, by Robert L. Weber and Carol Orsborn.

For more suggestions, check out all the “best of” lists compiled since the website began in 2006.

Spiritual Books to Pursue Resolutions

Spirituality & Health magazine lists 10 books to pursue resolutions “worth keeping.”

Here are three of them:

  1. Silence, The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise, by Thich Nhat Hanh, “who presents Buddhist teachings in a way that anyone can intuitively understand. Silence, he tells us, is the basic condition for us to be able to listen to our hearts,” writes Sam Mowe.
  2. Inside the Miracle, Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness, by Mark Nepo. “The book, much of which is drawn on Nepo’s personal journal entries during and after his illness, touches on relationships and meditation, art and nature; it is about trying to find connections in the world,” writes Jennifer Haupt.
  3. Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better, Wise Advice for Leaning into the Unknown,
    by Pema Chödrön, based on a commencement speech that the Buddhist nun gave at Naropa University.

Oprah’s List of “Supersoulful” Books

Seven of Oprah Winfrey’s all-time “supersoulful” books include two from Eckhart Tolle – The Power of Now and A New Earth.

Tolle was born in Germany and, at age 29, had a “profound inner transformation” that radically changed the course of his life.  He now lives in Vancouver, Canada, and travels the world teaching about the need for a personal and universal spiritual awakening.

Other Lists of Spiritual Books

The New York Times list of Religion, Spirituality and Faith books is based on sales. The paper’s most recent top-10 list includes: Shaken, by Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow; The Book of Joy by spiritual leaders Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu; and Is This the End? by pastor David Jeremiah.

The Barnes & Noble current bestseller list of books that  “engage your mind, energize your spirit” includes classics How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

Also on the list is Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and four books by Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate School of School Work.

Journalist Joshua Prager put together his own list of wise words, selecting quotes from Norman Mailer, William Shakespeare, Maya Angelou and other literary artists about aging. He talks about his new book 100 Years: Wisdom from Famous Writers on Every Year of Your Life in a TED Talk filmed last year.

Learn about more spiritual books by joining an online or off-line book club or visiting your local library.

ABCs of Lifelong Learning Opportunities

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Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years.

Topics: Lifelong Learning

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