Radical kindness, saints, angels, and even witchcraft point the way in these selections.
Angels and Saints
Eliot Weinberger, with Mary Wellesley (New Directions/Burgin)
ISBN 978-0-8112-2986-9, $26.95
Essayist Weinberger delivers a charming meditation on the nature of angels and saints, illustrated with gorgeous reproductions of the works of ninth-century German Benedictine monk Hrabanus Maurus. Weinberger contributes the bulk of the text, comprising his interpretation of angels and their appearance and essential nature. He concludes his consideration with a beautifully laid out “angelology,” naming various angels and their powers. The rest of the volume is devoted to the stories of saints—some of which are as brief as a sentence (for John the Almsgiver: “He never spoke an idle word”). The volume is concluded with an essay by Wellesley, a British Library researcher, on the nature and history of Maurus’s illustrations. The included full-color reproductions invite the reader to contemplation.
For All Who Hunger: Searching for Communion in a Shattered World
Emily M.D. Scott (Convergent)
ISBN 978-0-593-13557-0, $25
Lutheran pastor Scott asks in her exceptional debut: if you strip from church all “the creeds and the chasubles,” what would be left? The answer, for her, became St. Lydia’s Dinner Church in New York City, which she founded in 2008 as a place for queer, marginalized, artistic, nerdy, and often lonely lovers of God to gather for bread, wine, and the words of Jesus. She details daily foibles and moments of inspiration that come with working with her congregation. Scott’s writing is leavened by a healthy dose of self-awareness, and her stories capture the humanity of her mission and community with a light sacramental touch. Fine observations (“We are holy not because we are good but because we are loved”) and the terrific use of quotes from Joy Harjo, Pablo Neruda, and Flannery O’Connor guide readers through Scott’s life within the church.
Human(Kind): How Reclaiming Human Worth and Embracing Radical Kindness Will Bring Us Back Together
Ashlee Eiland (WaterBrook)
ISBN 978-0-525-65343-1, $15.99
Eiland shares in her revealing and enthralling debut her journey as a Black woman struggling to find her place. Eiland considers how her experiences shaped her and illustrates her discovery of self-worth, such as how she found a lifelong friendships through a predominately Asian Christian fellowship group. Likewise, she encourages readers practice “radical kindness” to themselves and toward others. Drawing on experiences that capture “a gateway to humankindness,” she expounds on themes such as sacrifice, honor, respect, acceptance, gratitude, rejection, commitment, and loss. Readers looking to cultivate more empathy—toward others and themselves—will enjoy Eiland’s wise testament.
Intentional Faith: Aligning Your Life with the Heart of God
Allen Jackson (Nelson)
ISBN 978-1-4002-1725-0, $18.99
Jackson, senior pastor of the World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., provides Christian readers with 10 declarations to achieve spiritual growth and a deeper connection with God. He explains that “authentic intent is expressed with action,” and includes a 100-day faith plan to help readers develop a more intentional faith. He also emphasizes the significance of practicing forgiveness and cultivating generosity, and emphasizes how intentional faith can positively impact families, churches, and communities. He encourages both experienced Christian readers and those who may be questioning their faith to step out of their “comforts and routines—and into a living faith, with benefits here on earth and for eternity.” Readers looking to reinvigorate their prayer and Bible study will relish Jackson’s comforting work.
The Way of Gratitude: A New Spirituality for Today
Galen Guengerich (Random House)
ISBN 978-0-525-51141-0, $26
Guengerich, senior minister at the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City, speaks to “spiritual but not religious” readers seeking meaning, joy, and transcendence, in this well-reasoned manifesto for a spirituality based on gratitude. The author draws on his experience in constructing a system of beliefs and practices based on prayer, personal relationships, and “shared human dignity” that move one beyond “what we need or want, maybe what we hope to get away with—to the awareness that we are part of a larger whole.” For Guengerich, “the longing for a comprehensive sense of meaning and a deep sense of purpose... remains unmet by secularism.” To fill this gap, he proposes that gratitude can provide connections, create beauty, and maximize human dignity. This deceptively simple work will appeal to spiritual explorers of any stripe.
We Are Called to Be a Movement
William Barber (Workman)
ISBN 978-1-5235-1124-2, $8.95
Barber, a MacArthur fellow and pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., demonstrates his rhetorical gifts in this expansion on a 2018 sermon he delivered at the National Cathedral. Barber attained national attention by organizing “Moral Monday” protests throughout 2013 He draws on the Psalms and the Gospel of Luke to develop his principal theme—“God uses the rejected to lead the moral revival.” He argues that all rejected should form a mass movement and come together to be the “chief cornerstones” of a more just and economically equal America. Barber’s impassioned oratory shows the influence of Martin Luther King Jr., whom Barber cites as a model for his thinking. Christians looking for inspiration toward collective action will love this.
Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything
Viktor E. Frankl (Beacon)
ISBN 978-0-8070-0555-2, $19.95
Based on three public lectures delivered in Vienna in 1946, this slim, powerful collection from Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning) attests to life’s meaning, even in desperate circumstances. Coming less than a year after his liberation from Auschwitz, Frankl’s writings address a postwar “spiritually bombed out” audience that knows the evils of which humanity is capable. Frankl (1905–1997) claims that it is not humanity’s role to question life’s meaning, but rather it’s life that demands people reflect on their purpose, and posits three ways in which humans find meaning: through work; through experiencing nature, art, or love; and through how they accept unwelcome circumstances. An afterward by Frank Vesely, Frankl’s son-in-law, attests to how Frankl’s own sense of purpose helped him survive the Holocaust and subsequent losses. This lovely work transcends its original context, offering wisdom and guidance