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Publishers Weekly Features

Fall/Winter Religion Books
Books Both Broad and Deep

Lynn Garrett -- 7/31/00
Although the walls between faiths have become more permeable,
publishers see readers longing for roots

Bible lives, today's Church:
Augsburg, Ballantine, Liturgical
As we review the fall lists of publishers, it seems harder than ever to confine many religion books to any neat slot. Categories have become more malleable and faith boundaries less static, with many titles appealing across broad audiences and subjects. A higher number of books fit easily into more than one of the most heavily published topic areas--spirituality, prayer, inspiration, devotions--as well into smaller categories like biography/autobiography/memoir or women's issues. Yet while the '80s and '90s saw the rise of "spirituality lite," many of these new books offer greater depth and demand more from readers, leading them into spiritual practices and ideas that are grounded in the traditions of the world's major faiths. Perhaps the difficulty in grouping these books under any narrow definitions signals two major impulses--an increased openness to learning across faiths, coupled with the growing desire to be rooted in beliefs and practices that have stood the test of time.
Most striking this season is the increased title output in books on Buddhism, especially the more substantial, even esoteric, texts. Publishers such as Wisdom, Snow Lion and Weatherhill are making available more of the core books of the various Buddhist traditions, as other houses chime in with more contemporary, yet equally challenging, titles, such as Ken Wilber's A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality (Shambhala, Sept.) and Expect Nothing: A Zen Guide by Clarice Bryan (Tuttle, Jan.).

Religion Books

Click here for a comprehensive listing of Religion Books for
Fall & Winter 2000!

Also apparent is more self-conscious analysis of the role of religion in society, both historically and currently. Precursors to this were evident in the spring, with major new titles from sociologists, pollsters and other professional observers. Fall brings a significant new crop of such books, like Huston Smith's Why Religion Matters (Harper San Francisco, Jan. 2001), Rodney Clapp's Border Crossings: Christian Trespasses on Popular Culture and Public Affairs (Brazos Press, Sept.) and Education, Religion and the Common Good by Martin Marty with Jonathon Moore (Jossey-Bass, Sept.). Catholic publishers seem particularly inclined to reassess their faith's role and direction, with a noticeable uptick in titles such as The New World of Faith by Avery Dulles (Our Sunday Visitor, Sept.) and Imagining the Catholic Church: Structured Communion in the Spirit by Ghislain Lafont and John Burkhard (Liturgical Press, Dec.).

The hiring of personal service providers like trainers, career coaches and dietitians has become common, and "spirituality coaching" also seems to be growing in popularity. Spiritual directors, while usually not therapists or counselors, are nonetheless professionals who guide individuals in their spiritual development. In November, Morehouse releases Still Listening: New Horizons in Spiritual Direction edited by Norvene Vest; Holy Invitations: Exploring Spiritual Direction by Jeannette Bakke comes from Baker Books in September. Ave Maria's entry is Friend of the Bridegroom: Spiritual Direction and Encounter with Christ (Sept.).

Several big books are poised for fall release. The Mark, the eighth book in the stunningly successful Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, bursts out of the gate in November. There will be new titles from superstars Neale Donald Walsch (Communion with God, Oct.) and T.D. Jakes (The Great Investment: Faith, Family and Finance, Oct.), both from Putnam. Other major works sure to draw attention are Constantine's Sword, The Church and the Jews: A History (Houghton Mifflin, Jan. 2001) by National Book Award winner James Carroll (An American Requiem), who is also a former Catholic priest; and King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel (Ballantine, Sept.) by Jonathan Kirsch (The Harlot by the Side of the Road). For readers in search of new spiritual challenges, the varied and deep religion lists for this season can offer rich choices.

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