Writings of Spiritual Leaders

Martin Buber, one of the greatest Jewish thinkers of the 20th century, had a career that spanned more than six decades. How, then, to gather the most representative pieces of his work into a collection that is still accessible? In The Martin Buber Reader: Essential Writings, Asher Biemann collects 32 essays and excerpts from all periods of Buber's career, from his 1903 article "On the Jewish Renaissance" to a 1956 treatise on "Hasidism and Modern Man." Biemann organizes Buber's writings topically, including sections on the Bible, Jewish religiosity, Hasidism, dialogue, philosophy, community and Zionism. This is just a small portion of Buber's corpus, since he also dabbled in fiction, poetry, playwriting and aesthetic criticism. However, it is a fine tribute to Buber as we are most likely to remember him today: as a major Jewish philosopher. Biemann's introduction is a rather dense intellectual history, but helpfully places the various works in context. ($18.95 paper 310p ISBN 0-312-29290-2; Nov.)

Chris Glaser, who was a student and friend of Henri Nouwen's, gathers some of the Dutch-born Christian's reflections in Henri's Mantle: 100 Meditations on Nouwen's Legacy. It's a simple but beautiful book, filled with perceptive insights not just into Nouwen's thinking but also a timeless Christian spiritual quest. The format is familiar: Glaser draws brief quotations from Nouwen's corpus of more than 40 spirituality books, then offers his own brief thoughts and a spiritual affirmation. Along the way we learn a good deal about Nouwen as a person as well as a spiritual teacher, making his writings seem all the more relevant. (Pilgrim, $18 paper 212p ISBN 0-8298-1497-3; Nov.)

A million readers embraced Basil Pennington's famous book Centering Prayer, which showcased a classical Christian spirituality and the author's easy, beautiful writing style. Both of those traits are also in evidence in the abbot's new devotional Seeking His Mind: 40 Meetings with Christ. Building off his work with lectio (which is literally translated as "reading" but can mean soaking up God through Scripture study, nature walks, or admiring a work of art), Pennington offers 40 readings based on the sayings of Christ. Divided into three sections and ending with Christ's passion and resurrection, this book would be perfect for daily Lenten devotions, but could be used at any time of year. (Paraclete, $14.95 134p ISBN 1-55725-308-0; Nov.)

Correction: In the September 30 issue, we wrote that Kabbalah Month by Month (Jossey-Bass, Oct.) was "beautifully designed in a square paperback format." The book is actually a square hardcover.