July Publications

Italian novelist Susanna Tamaro discusses her spiritual journey in Turning Home: A Memoir, from Crossroad. While other spiritual autobiographies trip the light fantastic with humor and inspirational anecdotes, this weighty account is refreshingly, relentlessly dark. Chapters are short—two pages maximum—but heavy, reflecting on evil and the unwavering reality of death. ("Will we still be brother and sister when we're skeletons?" the author asked her older brother when they were children.) While not for the faint of heart, those who are intimately familiar with the "long dark night of the soul" will appreciate these brief confessions. ($14.95 96p ISBN 0-8245-1902-7) Many have argued that the world's religions constitute the greatest obstacle to contraception and abortion, since most religions hold human life to be sacred. In Sacred Choices: The Right to Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions, ethics professor Daniel Maguire counters that "although many people believe that contraception is forbidden by their religion... the world's religions are open to family planning, including contraception and also abortion as a backup when necessary." He argues that many religions have selectively presented only the anti-contraception, anti-abortion threads of their tradition. However, he commits the same error by offering a highly selective reading of the same traditions in order to prove the opposite point. (Augsburg Fortress, $13 paper 128p ISBN 0-8006-3433-0)

Women, Study, and Prayer

To what extent should Orthodox Jewish women be required or permitted to study the Torah? In Women and the Study of Torah, essayist Naomi G. Cohen advocates the full religious education of Jewish girls, and contributors Arthur Silver, Warren Zev Harvey and Mayer Twersky follow suit. The essays trace the issue of women's learning through Jewish history and rabbinic tradition. The second half of the book presents the opinions of educators who are in the trenches of Orthodox shuls and seminaries, educating women of all ages. Their insights into the development of Jewish women's education are truly fascinating. (Ktav, $19.95 148p ISBN 0-88125-690-0; July)

In Women Pray: Voices Through the Ages, from Many Faiths, Cultures and Traditions Monica Furlong gathers valuable glimpses of women's spirituality. Not all of the entries are formal prayers; the collection includes spiritual poetry by the likes of Denise Levertov and Emily Dickinson, and historical prose about the martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas. Any collection of this type, which encompasses so many religious traditions, risks losing those traditions' unique particularity. This collection falls prey to that tendency to some extent, but Furlong also appreciates the special gifts each tradition has to offer: "the Buddhist insistence on 'getting free,' the ritual grace of both Judaism and Christianity, the ecstatic Native American delight in the world of trees and mountains and creatures." (SkyLight Paths, $19.95 256p ISBN 1-893361-25-X; Aug.)

Buddhist History and Spirituality

Quick trivia quiz: Which 18th-century Dalai Lama is, according to legend, still alive and traveling the earth incognito? Answer: the Sixth, who supposedly wanders the world to assist others with his spiritual knowledge. Glenn Mullin's The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation offers this tidbit alongside thousands of other anecdotes, facts and legends about the spiritual leaders of Tibet through over the last six centuries. Well researched and engagingly written, this may prove to be the definitive source on Tibet's Fab Fourteen. (Clear Light, $29.95 608p ISBN 1-57416-039-7; July)

Introductory books on Buddhism are a dime a dozen these days, with bookstore shelves scarcely able to accommodate the many primers available. One that stands out in the throng is Discover Zen: A Practical Guide to Personal Serenity, distinguished by its specific application of just one Buddhist tradition, as well as its colorful, vibrant illustrations. (Chronicle, $14.95 paper 160p ISBN 0-8118-3196-5; June)

The Christian Family

Divorce statistics for Christians are just as dismal as they are for the American population at large, motivating some CBA authors to speak out about what makes a marriage last. In We Still Do: Celebrating Lifelong Marriage, well-known CBA authors offer advice on how to be a better half. Most of it is predictable. ("Take turns talking. Practice Listening. Listen to both facts and feelings.") Gary Chapman (not the ex-husband of Amy Grant—the other Gary Chapman) recycles old material in "Speaking Love's Languages," while Gary Smalley encourages couples to nip small problems in the bud. Some, but not enough, of the material is surprising, including Tim and Darcy Kimmel's humorous essay on "3-D Sex." The only women contributors are co-authors with their husbands; no woman's voice speaks alone in this collection. (Thomas Nelson, $22.99 224p ISBN 0-7852-6698-4; May)

Cheri Fuller, author of Opening Your Child's Nine Learning Windows, carries the metaphor into the sacred realm with Opening Your Child's Spiritual Windows: Ideas to Nurture Your Child's Relationship with God. The 12 "windows" include the Wonder Window, the Worship Window, the Spiritual Gifts Window, and the Heritage Window. As before, Fuller's solid suggestions rise above the book's gimmicky organization. (Zondervan, $12.99 paper 176p ISBN 0-310-224497; May)

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

Or rather, it's beginning to look a little like Christmas, with the first trickle of yuletide books coming off the presses. It's hard to imagine that the later releases will get much lovelier than The Night of the Child, Robert Benson's reflections on the birth of Jesus. Accompanied by Dean Dixon's memorable photographs of nativity scenes and folk art from around the world, Benson's meditations come to life. (Upper Room, $25 144p ISBN 0-0835-0948-X; July)