Nine Essential Things I've Learned About Life

Harold S. Kushner. Knopf, $23.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-385-35409-7

As he enters his eighth decade, Kushner (When Bad Things Happen to Good People) offers a capstone volume to his decades as a congregational rabbi and popular writer. In sharply intelligent yet friendly prose, Kushner provides a thoughtful living guide for doubters and the faithful alike. There are pointed but gracious admonitions for those claiming that a self-developed religion is all they need. Your daily paper, spring flowers, and gratitude are not enough, Kushner says: when facing serious illness or other disasters, you need the support of a faith tradition and a community that has "learned to find God in the shadows as readily as in the sunshine." Kushner braids together stories from his professional and personal life—longtime readers will remember that his son died at age 14 of a rare rapid-aging disease—alongside wisdom from biblical and theological texts and commentary on events related to science, culture, and literature. This book is a provocation and a balm for the skeptical and the religious, offering persuasive evidence that belief, forgiveness, hope, altruism, and joy are all possible, even in the face of death. (Sept.)