Writings of Spiritual Leaders
Martin Buber, one of the greatest Jewish thinkers of the 20th century, had a career that spanned more than six decades. How, then, to gather the most representative pieces of his work into a collection that is still accessible? In The Martin Buber Reader: Essential Writings, Asher Biemann collects 32 essays and excerpts from all periods of Buber's career, from his 1903 article "On the Jewish Renaissance" to a 1956 treatise on "Hasidism and Modern Man." Biemann organizes Buber's writings topically, including sections on the Bible, Jewish religiosity, Hasidism, dialogue, philosophy, community and Zionism. This is just a small portion of Buber's corpus, since he also dabbled in fiction, poetry, playwriting and aesthetic criticism. However, it is a fine tribute to Buber as we are most likely to remember him today: as a major Jewish philosopher. Biemann's introduction is a rather dense intellectual history, but helpfully places the various works in context. ($18.95 paper 310p ISBN 0-312-29290-2; Nov.)
Chris Glaser, who was a student and friend of Henri Nouwen's, gathers some of the Dutch-born Christian's reflections in Henri's Mantle: 100 Meditations on Nouwen's Legacy. It's a simple but beautiful book, filled with perceptive insights not just into Nouwen's thinking but also a timeless Christian spiritual quest. The format is familiar: Glaser draws brief quotations from Nouwen's corpus of more than 40 spirituality books, then offers his own brief thoughts and a spiritual affirmation. Along the way we learn a good deal about Nouwen as a person as well as a spiritual teacher, making his writings seem all the more relevant. (Pilgrim, $18 paper 212p ISBN 0-8298-1497-3; Nov.)
A million readers embraced Basil Pennington's famous book Centering Prayer, which showcased a classical Christian spirituality and the author's easy, beautiful writing style. Both of those traits are also in evidence in the abbot's new devotional Seeking His Mind: 40 Meetings with Christ. Building off his work with lectio (which is literally translated as "reading" but can mean soaking up God through Scripture study, nature walks, or admiring a work of art), Pennington offers 40 readings based on the sayings of Christ. Divided into three sections and ending with Christ's passion and resurrection, this book would be perfect for daily Lenten devotions, but could be used at any time of year. (Paraclete, $14.95 134p ISBN 1-55725-308-0; Nov.)
Religion and Art
Photographer Stephen Johnson and poet-translator Mike O'Connor team up to provide a beautiful marriage of word and image in Where the World Does Not Follow: Buddhist China in Picture and Poem. The book explores the hermit-sage tradition of China, with poems by Taoist and Buddhist adepts from the T'ang Dynasty (618—906). These haunting poems are paired with Johnson's stark black-and-white photos, offering a visual cue to the loneliness and rugged splendor of the hermit's life. (Wisdom, $24.95 paper 144p ISBN 0-86171-309-5; Oct.)
Los Angeles's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels was dedicated on September 2 amidst much fanfare and media attention. Central features of the cathedral's bold architecture are its 25-ton doors, crafted as a bronzed mosaic of various images of the Virgin Mary. In Robert Graham: The Great Bronze Doors for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Jack Miles, Peggy Fogelman and Noriko Fujinami describe the doors' significance and the five-year process of their creation. Miles (God: A Biography) argues that Graham has conceived of the Virgin Mary not as our lady of the angels—the literal translation of "Los Angeles"—but as an intercessor for the whole city, a multiethnic, multifaith melting pot. As Richard Vosko explains in his foreword, "Graham's Virgin is a model for the peoples of the Americas where women still struggle for recognition, equality and respect." Like the doors themselves, the book is innovative and memorable, full of full-color photographs and interesting graphics. (WAVE [4 Yawl St., Venice, Calif. 90292; 310-306-0699], $40 128p ISBN 0-9642359-5; Nov.)
Will Fido Reach the Happy Hunting Ground?
Americans seem to have a deep and perpetually unresolved theological question: Will our pets be with us in the afterlife? In Will My Pet Go to Heaven?, the latest gauntlet to be thrown down in the will-Rover-find-Elysium debate, evangelical Christian Steve Wohlberg comes down firmly in favor of the idea that our furry friends will indeed accompany us to some paradisiacal Valhalla. Readers should come armed with Kleenex for the inevitable stories of pets who save humans' lives, return to their owners despite moves and accidental separations or try to communicate with their loved ones from beyond the grave. Wohlberg opens the book with an account of the devastating loss of his own dog to a car accident in October 2001. These personal stories are heartfelt and memorably told, but they do not compensate for the book's poor biblical analysis, which consists of simplistic proof-texting. (WinePress, $9.95 paper 96p ISBN 1-57921-485-1; Nov.)
Legends, Lore and Learning
From abhayamudra, the hand pose that Hindus use to dispel fear and offer divine protection, to the yupa, a pillar used in Vedic sacrifice, Anna Dallapiccola's Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend offers brief alphabetical entries on all aspects of Hindu history, belief and practice. Included are maps, a chronology, a brief rundown of India's most important dynasties and 243 b&w photos. The entries are short and not intended to be comprehensive, but they offer a useful overview of such topics as Hindu mythology, art, architecture and the caste system. (Thames & Hudson, $31.95 224p ISBN 0-500-51088-1; Nov. 25)
Why were LDS Relief Society meetings suspended for more than two decades? Who was the first settler in Utah? How did the RLDS Church gain possession of the Kirtland Temple? Readers will find answers to these and 497 other questions in George Givens's 500 Little-Known Facts in Mormon History, which offers "brief, unusual facts... to make Mormon history readable and interesting." The chapters are organized in roughly chronological order, beginning in 1813 and ending in 1921. Givens has an eye for entertaining detail and makes an effort to tell the reader when a particularly colorful story is "possibly apocryphal." (Bonneville/Cedar Fort, $15.95 paper 284p ISBN 1-55517-651-8; Nov.)
Everything you've ever wanted to know about the Jerusalem of 2,000 years ago must surely be covered in Jerusalem: Portrait of the City in the Second Temple Period (538 B.C.E.—70 C.E.), a mammoth textbook by Lee Levine. This comprehensive study opens with the period during and after the Babylonian exile, discussing Nehemiah's reforms and the decision to build a second temple, then traces the history of Jerusalem until the Romans destroyed that second temple in 70 C.E. Levine covers all of the intricacies of the Hellenistic and Roman occupations, the rise of various religious sects such as the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the customs associated with temple worship. Though dry at times, this is a well-organized and exhaustively informative resource. (Jewish Publication Society, $45 471p ISBN 0-8276-0750-4; Nov.)
Celtic Prayer and Pilgrimage
Although the rushing tide of Celtic spirituality books has ebbed somewhat, there is still room on the bookshelves for high-quality offerings on the ancient Celtic spiritual traditions. One such title is Ray Simpson's A Holy Island Prayer Book, which offers a four-week cycle of readings and prayers taken from the liturgy of the parish church on Holy Island, or Lindisfarne. Simpson, an Anglican priest and retreat leader on the island, presents simple, elegant prayers for each day of the week, including separate prayers for morning, midday and evening. The handy pocket-sized prayer book will appeal to many armchair pilgrims who can't make it to the Northumberland coast. (Morehouse, $9 paper ISBN 0-8192-1935-5; Jan.)
Correction: The price of Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember, by Barbara Rainey (Religion Forecasts, Sept. 23), is $19.99.