Fewer and fewer people identify as religious in the traditional sense, but unconventional spiritual practices are on the rise, as evidenced by several new books publishing this year. Some authors are constructing an individualized spirituality by selecting elements from a variety of existing beliefs and practices, while others look to fitness regimens, breathing techniques, and even the phases of the moon in search of spiritual inspiration off the beaten path.
Anna Paustenbach, editor at HarperOne, explains, “We are in the midst of a cultural shift, one that doesn’t mean we are less spiritual but does mean we seek belonging and meaning in new places.” She notes that this shift, along with the trend of people turning away from organized religion, is just getting started. “I believe this will only continue, since it represents the collective need to adapt spiritual tools to our modern spiritual needs.”
In June, HarperOne is publishing The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities into Soulful Practices by Casper ter Kuile, cohost of the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast and a Ministry Innovation Fellow at Harvard Divinity School. Drawing on years of research, ter Kuile explores how Americans are transforming ordinary practices—such as walking a dog, reading, and yoga—into sacred rituals that offer connection, well-being, and meaning. The book responds directly to the need for alternative spiritual practices, says Paustenbach. “Casper introduces ritual as a framework for the ‘spiritual not religious’ crowd to give more significance to the activities they already find purpose in,” she adds.
Below are some additional titles about emergent spiritual practices.
At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life
Fenton Johnson. Norton, out now
Johnson, a professor of English at the University of Arizona, blends personal experience, research, and social criticism to make a case for why solitude is a legitimate and dignified calling that can lead to a deeper sense of creativity and spirituality. The book also explores the lives of a dozen “solitaries,” or solitary artists, such as Henry David Thoreau and Emily Dickinson.
The Audacity to Be Queen: The Unapologetic Art of Dreaming Big and Manifesting Your Most Fabulous Life
Gina DeVee. Hachette, out now
Women’s empowerment and business coach DeVee lays out steps for pursuing one’s dreams and fulfilling spiritual callings through creating meaningful relationships, embracing intuition, and establishing confidence. Chapters include “Your Epic Life is Waiting” and “Spirituality Is Your Superpower.”
Awestruck: How Embracing Wonder Can Make You Happier, Healthier, and More Connected
Jonah Paquette. Shambhala, June
Clinical psychologist Paquette urges readers to invite more moments of awe into their lives, arguing that experiences such as the sense of wonder over a beautiful rainbow hold a key to happiness, meaning, and health. The book features tips for incorporating awe into one’s everyday life, such as savoring compassion, reflecting on change and growth, and reliving past moments of awe.
Breathwork: How to Use Your Breath to Change Your Life
Andrew Smart. Chronicle, May
Drawing on Zen and other techniques for consciously controlling one’s breath, Los Angeles–based breathwork teacher Smart introduces breathing and meditation practices aimed at decreasing anxiety, fostering energy, and building awareness. The book also features quotes from poets such as Rumi and meditative illustrations by artist Eric Nyquist.
The Moon Book: Lunar Magic to Change Your Life
Sarah Faith Gottesdiener. St. Martin’s Essentials, Sept.
Artist and designer Gottesdiener combines wellness rituals and spells with a study of phases of the moon, which, she writes, can guide readers’ rhythms of sleep, energy, and emotions. The book also reflects on the moon’s past roles in agriculture as well as the timing of holidays and celebrations, making the case that lunar connections are still present and important today.
The Moon Fix: Harness Lunar Power for Healing and Happiness
Theresa Cheung. White Lion, Mar.
Cheung, a U.K.-based author of several books on spirituality, heaven, paranormal, and the afterlife, examines the moon’s cycles as well as nature as a means for personal growth and spiritual connection. The book includes sections on crystals, candles, incense, spells, and rituals, as well as colorful illustrations by influencer and artist Indigo.
The Way of Gratitude: A New Spirituality for Today
Galen Guengerich. Random House, May
Guengerich, the leader of New York City’s All Souls church and author of 2013’s God Revised, approaches spirituality through a lens of gratitude. In our starred review, we called the book “a well-reasoned manifesto that speaks to ‘spiritual but not religious’ readers seeking meaning, joy, and transcendence.” (See “Gratitude Is a Way of Life.)
Why Be Happy? The Japanese Way of Acceptance
Scott Haas. Hachette, July
Haas, a psychologist, provides an introduction to the Japanese concept of ukeireru, or acceptance, while highlighting the benefits of the practice, such as greater peace and satisfaction through listening more and talking less. Additional suggestions for increasing overall well-being include creating a ritual around acts like making coffee or taking a bath, and minimizing experiences that offer more stress than solace.