Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

Karen Armstrong, Knopf, $22 (248p) ISBN 978-0-307-59559-1
The prolific, well-informed, and passionate Armstrong (The Case for God) writes a somewhat different book this time out, stemming from her winning a $100,000 prize in 2007 to promote an idea worth spreading. She always has a thesis in her books as she sweeps over the historical development of world religions, but this is a book with an agenda: you ought to be more compassionate, and here’s how. So instead of being her usual somewhat academic teacher of religious history, she is more of a personal spiritual teacher, in the vein of the Dalai Lama. That task, and corresponding tone (“Be patient with yourself during this meditation”), is not her long suit. Still, this slightly self-help-y book is deeply grounded in what Armstrong knows, and presents, well: the core teachings of all religions that can make us better, more compassionate humans. The former nun pulls ideas and references from religions Eastern and Western with aplomb and respect for all sources. This counter to the religion-is-homicidal-and-superstitious school of invective passing for thought is well-informed, welcome, and practical. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/13/2010
Release date: 12/01/2010
Genre: Religion
Compact Disc - 978-0-307-88174-8
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Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-4464-0224-5
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio

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