Choosing the Pontiff

As Pope John Paul II celebrates his Silver Jubilee this year (making his tenure the third longest in papal history), his apparently failing health has been a concern to many. Speculation abounds about who will succeed him, and when. In Selecting the Pope: Uncovering the Mysteries of Papal Elections, Greg Tobin describes the labyrinthine process of choosing a successor, and even gives some odds for various contenders. The book's second half outlines the complex rules for a papal election and some of the challenges that will face the new pope. (Barnes & Noble Books, $9.95 224p ISBN 0-7607-4032-1; June)

For a broad historical perspective on the process, there's Michael Walsh's The Conclave: A Sometimes Secret and Occasionally Bloody History of Papal Elections. The first real papal conclave, he asserts, happened in 1271, when the pontificate had been vacant for nearly three years. A local captain locked a group of cardinals into a palace and refused to let them out until they had chosen a new pope. Food was withheld from them. Some things have certainly changed since then, but much about this secret process dates back to that turbulent time. Readers will be fascinated by this historical journey through conclaves of the past. (Sheed & Ward, $22.95 160p ISBN 1-58051-135-X; July)

Teen Spirit

What can youth today learn from the biblical hero Daniel and his buddies Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? Plenty, writes Connie Neal in Walking Tall in Babylon: Raising Children to Be Godly and Wise in a Perilous World. Neal argues that in contrast to the sons of the reformer-king Josiah, who were given every advantage and protection in Jerusalem but did not internalize their father's example, Daniel and friends were raised in the blazingly secular world of Babylon but grew up to be courageous moral exemplars. In this guidebook for Christian parents, Neal emphasizes the need to teach children an inner moral code, rather than blind adherence to external controls, and to be fully involved in nurturing children's spirituality. (WaterBrook, $13.99 paper 224p ISBN 1-57856-580-4; Aug. 19)

One of the recent trends in Buddhist publishing has been a subtle generation shift: we are now seeing second-generation Buddhists' memoirs as well as introductory books for teenagers and young adults. Into this latter category falls Diana Winston's Wide Awake: A Buddhist Guide for Teens, a well-written and basic primer for Gen-Ys who are asking Big Questions. Introducing concepts such as meditation, enlightenment, metta (lovingkindness), karma, the four noble truths and the eight worldly conditions, Winston writes accessibly but doesn't try overly hard to sound cool or relevant. Teens will appreciate the way she gives the dharma to them straight, while many adults will also benefit from this lucid manual. (Perigee, $13.95 paper 288p ISBN 0-399-52897-0; Aug. 5)