It seems like everyone is “spiritual” these days. However, nearly one in three U.S. adults don’t believe in God, turning instead to a self-selected “higher power,” according to a Pew Research survey released in 2018. And recent surveys by Pew and others show the percentage of “nones”—people who check the box for “none” when asked their religious identity—has climbed from a statistical blip three decades ago to 16% in 2007, to 29% in 2021.

No wonder the publishing marketplace is hot for titles ranging from handbooks on personal transcendence to academic examinations of how the swell of secularism became a force in American culture and politics. And pastors are writing books reaching out to the unchurched, in hopes of drawing them back in. They may need long arms.

One pastor and author, Donna Schaper, who has officiated at over 500 weddings where couples share few common religious beliefs, has written Marriage After Religion: A Practical and Spiritual Guide (Rowman & Littlefield, Jan. 2023). Her book suggests working toward “higher syncretism,” she says. “It is a blend of paganism, religion, spirituality, interfaith or multifaith practice.” However, she admits, “we are making a lot up as we go along.” (See “Marrying Different Beliefs,” p. 28, for our q&a with Schaper.)

Many upcoming books celebrate wonder, inspiration, happiness, and healing found beyond the bounds of traditional Western religions’ doctrines, worship, and practices. Are You Still Watching? Using Pop Culture to Tune In, Find God, & Get Renewed for Another Season by Stephanie Kendell and Arthur Stewart (Chalice, Oct.) explores the spirituality in entertainment, like the theological lessons embedded in Ted Lasso and Schitt’s Creek. Chalice president and publisher Brad Lyons says, “Opportunities to reflect and strengthen our faith sneak up on us in snappy dialogue, a redemptive story arc, or a lyric or rhythm or mind-boggling dance move that sticks in our head. Sometimes all it takes to catch a glimpse of the inspiration that’s all around us, all the time, is a reminder to open our minds to the possibility.”

CICO Books lets seekers immerse themselves in awe with Around the World in 80 Spiritual Places: A Guide to the Most Sacred and Meaningful Destinations by Alice Peck (June). The usual spots—Stonehenge, Machu Pichu, Angor Wat—are included along with some unexpected ones, like La Forêt de Soignes in Belgium, with beech and oak tree branches arching overhead like a natural cathedral. Peck tells PW, “Visiting someplace for the first time or as if it were the first time, paying attention and truly being with the landscape and the sky, fully breathing the air, hearing sounds, and seeing through the patina of the present to the past and beyond that to a deeper, perhaps infinite present, changes us. That moment of change, of true presence, is where spirituality abides. No matter where we go.”

Destination: Buddhism

While some people are mulling different ideas and philosophies, not ready to commit, others take a serious dive into Eastern traditions. “Spiritual but not religious” readers often are drawn to the emphasis on breathing and mindfulness found in Buddhism and in yoga. According to Nikko Odiseos, president of Shambhala Publications, people look to Buddhism for “a corrective to the very deep-seated urges of our psyche that do not get to the root of many of the causes of suffering—emotional or otherwise—that being alive is inseparable from.” And yoga, he points out, goes much deeper than saying “namaste” and doing poses. It is “fundamentally a spiritual endeavor, deeply rooted in a highly evolved religious context,” he says.

Among Shambhala’s upcoming titles are How We Live Is How We Die (Oct.), by Buddhist nun and bestselling author Pema Chödrön, about “the Tibetan teachings on what happens between this life and the next,” according to the publisher, and Pause, Rest, Be: Stillness Practices for Courage in Times of Change (out now), by veteran yoga teacher Octavia F. Raheem, which teaches restorative poses.

Other 2022 Buddhism titles:

Buddhish: A Guide to the 20 Most Important Buddhist Ideas for the Curious and Skeptical by C. Pierce Salguero (Beacon, out now) is “an accessible but authoritative entry point for contemporary readers intrigued by Buddhism, but wary of doctrinaire religious belonging,” says editorial director Amy Caldwell.

Go Slowly, Breathe and Smile by Rashani Réa and Thich Nhat Hanh (Mango, out now) pairs wisdom from the late Vietnamese Buddhist monk with artist Réa’s collages designed to “inspire mindfulness and reduce stress levels,” according to the publisher.

Hope Leans Forward: Braving Your Way Toward Simplicity, Awakening, and Peace (Broadleaf, Nov.), by dharma teacher Valerie Brown, who trained with Thich Nhat Hanh, draws on her identity as Black, Buddhist, and Quaker to offer guidance on dealing with “emotional and spiritual alienation,” says senior acquisitions editor Lil Copan.

A Life in Light: Meditations on Impermanence (Bloomsbury, June), by bestselling author Mary Pipher, offers life lessons in balancing despair and joy in difficult times. Editor Nancy Miller says Pipher finds in Buddhism the source and the framework for “her sense of resilience and acceptance.”

The Other Side of Nothing: The Zen Ethics of Time, Space, and Being (New World Library, May) cuts through the complications of philosophy and “duality” for “anyone interested in the truth about life, and how understanding that truth makes it obvious that we ought to treat each other nice,” writes the author, Zen teacher Brad Warner.

Transcendent: Art and Dharma in a Time of Collapse (Melville, Jan. 2023), by cultural critic Curtis White, is “a collection of inventive, playful, and penetrating essays that reveal the connections between Western art, Buddhism, and our deep need for transcendence,” says editor Carl Bromley.

Heal yourself

Many self-proclaimed spiritual people want what religion can offer: rituals for celebration, forgiveness, and solace; connections; transcendence—minus the religious context. Mind-body-spirit publishers answer this longing with books specifically referencing the heart, love, healing, and compassion. And the answers are usually found within the reader, not in religious authorities or scriptures.

In these books, almost any activity can be imbued with spirituality. And so can activity’s opposite—stillness—according to Justin Talbot Zorn, a public policy maker who also teaches meditation, and leadership coach Leigh Marz. They are the authors of Golden: The Power of Silence in a World of Noise (HarperWave, May). Senior v-p and publisher Karen Rinaldi says Golden connects silence to “deepening the understanding of the self, of accessing compassion for others, and of being the place where the problems of the world can find peaceful resolutions. It seems to me that religions, in their most successful expressions, seek to do the same. But if religious practice isn’t where one finds this kind of inspiration, one might try to enter silence instead.”

Upcoming titles on self-love, compassion, and healing:

Be the Love: Seven Ways to Unlock Your Heart and Manifest Happiness (St. Martin’s Essentials, May), by podcaster and author Sarah Prout, lends advice and meditations for “radical and magical inner transformation,” according to the publisher.

Becoming the One (Chronicle, Apr.) by Sheleana Aiyana, leader of a spiritual collective and online community called Women Rising, guides people in healing practices for mind and body. The goal is for readers to become “the One,” which the author describes as “the most magnetic, empowered, and authentic version of yourself.”

The Burnout Antidote: A Spiritual Guide to Empowerment for Empaths, Over-givers, and Highly Sensitive People (Llewellyn, Apr.), by spiritual teacher Anne Bérubé, proffers techniques for reclaiming oneself and gaining “access to limitless spiritual energy,” according to the publisher.

How to Be Loving: Heart Centered Tools for Healing Yourself and Our World (Sounds True, Oct.), by blogger and speaker Danielle LaPorte, argues that the heart is “our greatest source of intelligence” and offers practices, meditations, reflections, and rituals to engage it.

Love Notes to My Self: Meditations and Inspirations for Self-Compassion and Self-Care by Tanya Carroll Richardson (Workman, Mar.) presents 200 meditations, mantras, and more. She writes that “self-love has a ripple effect and that being good to yourself makes you a more caring, compassionate person to others as well.”

Mood Magick: Wellness Spells and Rituals to Find Balance in an Uncertain World (Harbinger, out now) by spiritual teacher Ora North offers witchcraft rituals and spells to help people “create a sense of profound peace” and resilience in chaotic times, as well as the confidence to ride the unpredictable waves in life.

Ritual as Remedy: Embodied Practices for Soul Care (Inner Traditions, May), by yoga teacher and “spirit coach” Mara Branscombe, gives detailed instructions for rituals “that awaken freedom, intuition, self-love, and your inner mystic,” according to the publisher.

Soul Authority: Liberatory Tools to Heal from Oppres-
sive Patterns and Restore Trust in Your Heart Compass
by Loraine Van Tuyl (North Atlantic, Apr.) combines shamanic wisdom and clinical psychology to “nourish your inner power,” she writes.

You Can Remember Who You Were Before Life Made You Forget: How to Transform Your Pain, Redefine Your Story and Rediscover Your Soul Signature (Welbeck, July), by psychotherapist and spiritual coach Janny Juddly, lays out seven steps for healing from trauma that can lead readers back to their true selves, according to the publisher.

Privately spiritual, publicly secular

The march away from the doctrines and rituals found in a church, synagogue, or mosque significantly influences political and social culture. When religion and spirituality are all seen as private matters, how do people make public moral choices? Scholars of American history and religious studies see believers who insist that the U.S. has always been a Christian nation dueling with secularists who point to the Constitution, which never mentions God. Upcoming books examine the impact of rising secularism.

Christianity’s American Fate: How Religion Became More Conservative and Society More Secular (Princeton, Oct.), by American studies scholar David A. Hollinger, examines the role of Christianity in national politics. With a heavy dash of economic conservatism, Hollinger focuses on the face-off between “highly educated ecumenical Protestants” allied with Jews along with other non-Christians, and “white evangelicals allied with conservative Catholics on issues of sexuality, gender, and the limits of civic authority,” according to the publisher.

This Earthly Frame: The Making of American Secularism (Yale Univ., out now), by historian David Sehat, features what the author calls a “social history of secularist ideas.” The book tracks contesting claims of traditional religious and secular worldviews on issues of “liberalism, pluralism, legitimacy, authority, democracy, privacy, and governance” through Congress, the courts, and the culture.

The Secular Paradox: On the Religiosity of the Not Religious (NYU, June), by religious studies scholar Joseph Blankholm, zeros in on commonalities between churchgoers and the unchurched. Blankholm recalls in the book that an Ethical Culture Society leader told him, “Every community needs traditions. Rituals are traditions which are freighted with symbolic meaning.” He writes, “Christianity shapes our world even if we are not Christian,” but“its gravity is weakening.”

Gone but not forgotten

The unchurched may be out of sight of institutional religion, but they’re certainly not out of mind for many pastors and chaplains. In upcoming books, they address the critics, the doubters, and those who have turned to a more personalized versions of spirituality.

Becoming the Church (IVP, Dec.) draws on author Claude Richard Alexander Jr.’s decades as a pastor and leader in seminary, ministry, and media roles, but it begins with a simple concept that might be news to folks who have given up on church. “God has not and does not give up on the church” is Alexander’s message, according to the publisher. He writes that the road back into church is through the Bible. Alexander focuses on the Book of Acts, which describes how the apostles were transformed by Christ. It models how Christ can transform any believer.

Humbler Faith, Bigger God: Finding a Story to Live By (Eerdmans, Mar.) is by Samuel Wells, an Anglican vicar in London facing some dismal numbers. A recent survey found nearly 52% of Anglicans in the U.K. say they never attend church. Wells’s rebuttal to what he describes as the shortcomings, misdeeds, and arrogance of the institutional church is to be “honest about where Christianity has gone wrong, and [seek] a renewed, gentler, yet even more dynamic faith.” PW’s review says, “Readers looking for a modern approach to Christian devotion will appreciate Wells’s rigorous and nuanced analysis.”

Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care in the Twenty-First Century (Univ. of North Carolina, May), edited by Wendy Cadge and Shelley Rambo, is a textbook that takes on a newly urgent issue: people with no religious institutional ties still need spiritual care in difficult times. Executive editor Elaine Maisner calls the book “a sorely needed primer.” After all, says Maisner, “Who has not encountered a chaplain in some circumstance—in a hospital room or a hospice, perhaps—and wished for a chaplain who could better understand where you and your loved one were coming from?”

Do I Stay Christian? A Guide for the Doubters, the Disappointed, and the Disillusioned (St. Martin’s Essentials, May) by Brian McLaren, a theologian and former pastor, offers, according to PW’s starred review, a “gloves off critique of the ‘Christian-industrial-project,’ ” which McLaren finds rife with racism, colonialism, and stale theology. So why stay? In Christianity, one finds the “uniquely extraordinary” character of Jesus, says McLaren. And following Christ can be a force for progressive change in the church and in society, he argues.

Next Sunday: An Honest Dialogue About the Future of the Church (IVP Praxis, June) offers two different generations’ views on how the church can attract and hold disaffected believers. The authors are a boomer, Nancy Beach, who moved from programming at a suburban megachurch to work with a downtown Chicago congregation, and her millennial daughter, Samantha Beach Kiley, a writer, performer, and creative arts pastor at a Texas church. They “balance an honest look at the church’s shortcomings with an abiding hope that it is still the transforming community God has called it to be,” says associate editor Ethan McCarthy.

Cathy Lynn Grossman is a veteran religion and ethics writer living in Washington, D.C.

Below, more on Religion and Spirituality books:

Marrying Different Beliefs: PW Talks with Donna Schaper
The author of 'Marriage After Religion: A Practical and Spiritual Guide' (Rowman & Littlefield, Jan. 2023) offers insight on the rise of spirituality and the advent of "postsecularism."