New religion and spirituality books are offering innovative ways for readers to think about and achieve their health and wellness goals. Wellness—an amorphous topic that includes books on physical, mental, and social well-being—is an increasingly popular category in mainstream publishing, but according to NPD BookScan industry analyst Kristen McLean, “Faith is critical to health and wellness.” She presented findings to religion publishers during a leadership summit hosted by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association last year that indicated soaring consumer interest in wellness and sleep, diet, health, fitness, devotionals, and prayer. “People are stressed out,” she added, advising publishers to “engineer yourselves for the broader market.” This year, new books from religion and spirituality publishers are doing just that.
Mental health is a leading topic among new books on spirituality and wellness, with several publishers offering titles that draw on faith-based practices for calming fears, coping with uncertainty, avoiding burnout, and de-stressing. “A common trend we’re seeing in the wellness category is the call for holistic health solutions for total mind, body, and spirit wellness,” says Leah D’Sa, an editor at Simon & Schuster. Coming from the publisher’s Adams Media imprint in April, The Art of Chilling Out for Women by holistic health specialist Angela D. Coleman addresses the impacts of Covid-19 on women—for instance, the fact that increased responsibilities inside and outside their homes are preventing many women from entering the workforce. The title offers guidelines for establishing boundaries and strategies for self-care in an effort to show women how to “embrace their wellness through a spiritual lens in the face of unique societal challenges,” D’Sa says.
“There are unique stressors for women that are leading to burnout, including a pressure to succeed in their careers while simultaneously taking on a majority of domestic labor,” she adds. “We found that stress levels for women are at an all-time high, so there is a definite need for this book.”
Karey Circosta, publisher of Catholic press Ave Maria, says, “Books dealing with mental health issues are more important than ever before. Readers are actively seeking resources that address healing, addiction, compulsion, creating meaningful relationships, and avoiding loneliness, especially after the pandemic.”
Ave Maria is publishing Building Healthy Connections with Others (Oct.), by licensed mental health counselor and marriage and family therapist Regina Boyd. She warns readers that “loneliness makes us doubt God’s promises, our friends and family, and even the idea that we are worthy of love at all,” according to the publisher. The book offers tips for achieving emotional intimacy, and it’s accompanied by a workbook as well as videos available on the publisher’s website.
Safe All Along: Trading Our Fears and Anxieties for God’s Unshakable Peace (Multnomah, Mar.) is by Katie Davis Majors, a mom of 15 and wife of a missionary. In the book, Majors explores disappointment, uncertainty, and unexpected events, as well as her discovery of “a place of surrendered trust” in Jesus, according to the publisher.
From Buddhist press Shambhala, Your Heart Was Made for This: Contemplative Practices for Meeting a World in Crisis with Courage, Integrity, and Love (Nov.) by meditation coach Oren Jay Sofer explores inner resources such as generating positive states of mind during stressful periods and identifying burnout. These practices can lead to a “clear, balanced, and courageous outlook” on the world, the publisher says.
It’s okay to not be okay
The opposite of wellness is suffering, and several new books are using discomfort as a launchpad for redefining what wellness entails and how to obtain it.
“Increasingly we’re seeing spirituality and religion books challenge common perceptions of wellness as some ideal state of balance or feeling of fulfillment,” says Valerie Weaver-Zercher, acquisitions editor at Broadleaf. “These authors and others are pointing us toward the idea that spiritual health might not look like what we imagine, and that wellness might be less predicated upon the notion of ‘feeling good’ than we sometimes think.”
Broadleaf is publishing The Spirituality of Grief: Ten Practices for Those Who Remain (Apr.) by Fran Shelton, a spiritual director and founder of the nonprofit Faith & Grief, which provides services for those experiencing loss. The book addresses questions that arise following the death of a loved one, including the question of how long grief lasts. Each chapter provides a spiritual practice—such as prayer, nature walks, or reading sacred texts—aimed at “sustaining hope and connecting us to God,” according to the publisher.
Additional titles centered on grief include Reflections for the Grieving Soul: Meditations and Scripture for Finding Hope After Loss by Mike Nappa (Zondervan, July). Through personal reflections on the death of his wife, Nappa acknowledges feelings of regret, fear, and anger associated with grief, and provides prayers and quotes from scripture. In Can You Just Sit With Me? Healthy Grieving for the Losses in Life by Natasha Smith (IVP, Sept.), the author explores healthy ways to heal from loss while making a case for why “every loss is worthy of the space and grace to grieve,” the publisher says.
Among other books looking at the darker days of life, The Night Is Normal: A Guide Through Spiritual Pain (Tyndale Momentum, July) addresses spiritual disillusionment and uncertainty, with author Alicia Britt Chole writing, “Though faith shines best in full sun, it grows depth in the dark.”
Night Vision: Seeing Ourselves Through Dark Moods by Mariana Alessandri (Princeton Univ., May) studies the work of writers and philosophers from the 19th and 20th centuries to argue, according to the publisher, that “suffering is a sign not that we are broken, but that we are tender, perceptive, and intelligent.”
In Happiness Is Overrated: Simple Lessons on Finding Meaning in Each Moment (Shambhala, May), author Cuong Lu writes, “Suffering is not a problem to be solved. It is a truth to be recognized.” The Buddhist monk, who studied under spiritual leader Thich Nhat Han, guides readers through meditation and mindfulness practices such as paying attention to one’s breath, considering one’s minds, and focusing on interconnectedness with others.
Coming from IVP in September, Everything Is (Not) Fine: Finding Strength When Life Gets Annoyingly Difficult draws on author Katie Schnack’s experiences coping with her son’s health challenges during the pandemic. “Maybe being honest and open and prayerful as you walk through the hard thing is a more real example of strength,” she writes in the book. “Admitting you are scared of it and doing it anyway might be more of the message we all need to hear. And not even packaged up in a pretty way but at the very least, honestly. So then when the next person goes through the hard thing, they have another truthful experience to reflect on.”
Turning pain into growth
Several wellness books explore a link between spirituality and the body’s reaction to pain. The Body Revelation: Physical and Spiritual Practices to Metabolize Pain, Banish Shame, and Connect to God with Your Whole Self (Tyndale Refresh, June) by Alisa Keeton, founder of the nonprofit ministry Revelation Wellness and a fitness instructor, argues that “what we do with our bodies can have a dramatic positive effect on our emotions, relationships, and our connection with God,” according to the publisher.
“Too often, people of faith are taught to ignore, avoid, or forget our bodies,” says Kara Leonino, senior acquisitions editor for Tyndale. “Keeton has a remarkable ability to bring together ancient wisdom, cutting-edge science, and practical experience to remind us that God calls our bodies good and cares about our pain.”
Also from Tyndale Refresh, Strong Like Water: Finding the Freedom, Safety, and Compassion to Move through Hard Things—and Experience True Flourishing (Mar.) addresses what author Aundi Kolber calls an unhealthy need to be “the strong one.” Drawing on her background as a trauma therapist, Kolber, according to Tyndale, introduces strategies and resources for overcoming challenging circumstances and ways to “move through pain instead of being stuck in it.”
In Soul Shift: The Weary Human’s Guide to Getting Unstuck and Reclaiming Your Path to Joy (Sounds True, Mar.), Rachel Macy Stafford follows up on her bestselling Hands Free Mama to address stress, emotion-based reactions, and distraction, pointing to spiritual truths intended to help readers grow both spiritually and personally.
Hope Is the First Dose: A Treatment Plan for Recovering from Trauma, Tragedy, and Other Massive Things by W. Lee Warren (WaterBrook, July), a neurosurgeon and former combat surgeon in Iraq, details the author’s personal experiences with grief, including the death of his 19-year-old son. The book aims to help readers find “hope, faith, peace—and even happiness” in God, “the Great Physician,” Warren writes.
Out now from Sounds True, In Deep Shift: Riding the Waves of Change to Find Peace, Fulfillment, and Freedom by Valerie Gangas, a life coach, examines upheaval and crises in an effort to show how unexpected challenges can give way to spiritual awakening. The book features research, personal stories, and journal exercises. Also from Sounds True, Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief: Practices to Reclaim Your Body and Your Life (Apr.) by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic at UMass Memorial Medical Center in 1979. The book features MBSR techniques and practices to help with physical pain management, and comes with illustrations and guided meditations throughout.
A wide range of practices and ideas with roots in religion and spirituality can be incorporated into the broader mind-body-spirit connection so necessary for a healthy life, according to new books.
NavPress publisher Dave Zimmerman says, “Within Christian publishing, the trend has seemed to be away from a purely cognitive approach to wellness to a consideration of how our emotions participate in our wellness and, even more, our spiritual maturity.” In this vein, The Path to Wholeness: Managing Emotions, Finding Healing, and Becoming Our Best Selves (NavPress, May) by Mark Mayfield, a counselor, explores the way emotions develop, examines the toll unexpressed emotions take, and highlights the importance of paying attention to emotions.
Alison Aten, publicity manager at Llewellyn, sees a greater demand for a whole-body approach to health “from an inclusive, mind-body-spirit–balanced perspective.” She adds, “This parallels the increased visibility and acceptance of the discussion of mental and emotional health.” Llewellyn is publishing Your Guide to Self-Discovery: Twenty Ways to Find the True You (May), edited by Georgina Cannon, which introduces what the publisher calls “new age modalities” for getting to know one’s self. Contributors include experts in the fields of emotional intelligence, emotional DNA, recurrent dreams, and Akashic records—the energetic history of the soul.
Quarto, which focuses on illustrated books in lifestyle, gardening, history, music, and other categories, is adding wellness and spirituality to its list with Your Human Design: Discover Your Unique Life Path & How to Navigate It with Purpose (out now). The book draws on the human design modality, comprising wisdom from Western astrology, the chakra system, I Ching, and the Kabbalah, as well as facets of quantum physics, biochemistry, and astronomy. Authors Dana Stiles and Shayna Cornelius, human design specialists and hosts of a podcast on the topic, offer readers new understanding of how they can operate according to their true nature and practice strategies for navigating their unique life path. “I think the pandemic created a deeper interest in wellness,” says Jill Alexander, executive editor at Quarto. “It was a deep pause that gave people time to reevaluate how they were living, and the opportunity to bring balance into their lives.”
Ebb & Flow: How to Connect with the Patterns and Power of Water, by lifelong surfer and marine social scientist Easkey Britton (Watkins, Apr.), is inspired by the world’s different bodies of water—“the lifeblood of the planet,” the publisher says. It features strategies for restoring calm and reducing stress, including breathing exercises and exercises involving visualizing water sources.
While rooted in Catholicism, 8 Steps to Energize Your Faith (Loyola, out now) offers what author Joe Paprocki calls “non-churchy” ways to reawaken faith and deepen one’s relationship with God. Advice includes delighting in nature, simplifying life, showing compassion, and sharing generously. “I want people to know that they can grow close to God without feeling as if they must become monks, holy rollers, or theologians to do so,” Paprocki writes.
8 Steps to Energize Your Faith aligned with Loyola’s efforts “to publish books that reach the widest possible audience to share time-honored Ignatian intellectual and spiritual traditions, which are proven to help people live more fulfilled, purposeful, and joyful lives,” says Joellyn Cicciarelli, president and publisher of the press. “Spiritual wellness can enrich and enhance a reader’s current religious practices and often open them to a deeper, more intimate relationship with God.”
Additional titles draw on poetry, prayer, and aphorisms aimed at bolstering one’s faith and overall wellness. Coming from HarperOne in March, The Unfolding: An Invitation to Come Home to Yourself by Arielle Estoria—a poet, speaker, and actor—features illustrations, essays, poems, and meditations inspired by being “broken open and mended back together in new ways,” according to the publisher.
Poet and artist Morgan Harper Nichols illustrated a collection of poetry and other writings aimed at empowering readers to “embrace the next adventure,” she writes in You Are Only Just Beginning: Lessons for the Journey Ahead (Zondervan, out now). The book encourages readers to follow their passions and develop a curiosity about the world around them, the publisher says.
Wellness expansion will continue
As the category of spiritual wellness expands, religion publishers anticipate an even greater breadth of books in the years to come. Their predictions for spiritual wellness topics on the horizon include nervous system regulation, ancestral medicine, creativity, community building, and more. “If you define wellness as spending your time doing what is most important to you, then ‘wellness’ can cover a pretty expansive list of topics,” Quarto’s Alexander says.
At NavPress, Zimmerman embraces the fluidity of both the wellness and spirituality categories. “We are always open to resources that offer fresh takes on how we follow Jesus as a whole person,” he says. “We’re increasingly understanding how easily ‘spirituality’ becomes a purely conceptual category, and how tethering our understanding of spirituality to our embodied experience enriches both.”
Alison Aten at Llewellyn notes that readers interested in wellness today are more receptive to new age and alternative thought practices. “Since the pandemic started, seekers have been increasingly interested in deeper spiritual dives taking them closer to highly individualized practice,” she says. “We expect these trends to continue and intensify over the next year as people search for personal power and healing in a seemingly wild world.”
Read more from our Religion & Spirituality feature:
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