Kimberly’s November Recommendation

Lila by Marilynne Robinson

Kimberly says :

“There are very few literary works of fiction that cover such theological territory as the nature of existence, prayer, eternity, and Christian faith.  It is a wonderful testament to the Pulitzer prize-winning Robinson that after reading this novel, I decided to re-read the Book of Ezekiel.  This is her third book set in the small town of Gilead, Iowa concerning the Reverend John Ames, his family and neighbors. His wife Lila is the focus and heart of the book.  Her astonishingly difficult early life and her attempts to reconcile her experiences to her new world once married to Reverend Ames are told in beautiful Midwestern images and extended theological conversations alongside of Lila’s simple uneducated voice. I found it both thought-provoking and moving.”

Similar Reads

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Little Wolves by Thomas James Maltman

Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout



Blaise’s October Recommendation

Blaise says: “I love memoirs because they give me a peek inside the life of someone else.  This one was especially fascinating as it also provided a look inside the world of Scientology, which I knew nothing much about other than the whole Tom Cruise connection.  In Hill’s memoir she shares how she grew up as part of the inner “clergy” of the church of Scientology.  I was prompted to read Going Clear by Lawrence Wright, after finishing this.”

3 Similar Reads

Going Clear by Lawrence Wright – The author draws from research and over 200 interview from those associated with Scientology in order to paint the origin story of Scientology and discuss its challenges.

Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography by Andrew Morton – Explore the life of a Hollywood actor closely associated with Scientology.

Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings by Michelle Knight – Not about Scientology, but this memoir does describe the harrowing experience of being kidnapped for ten years.

Sophia’s August Recommendation

Buddhism: A Christian Exploration and Appraisal, by Keith Yandell and Harold Netland

buddhismFrom Sophia:

There are many books published, both Christian and  Buddhist that are largely descriptive and comparative. For some reasons there is resistance among religious scholars to engage in, or  to even consider a  rational assessment of religious doctrines and their supporting framework. The result is a type of pseudo-friendly syncretism that fails to respectfully delineate differences and clarify the goals of each world view respectively. To me, that is a superficial type of engagement and to the extent that it is superficial, it is also disrespectful. Not so with these authors.

Both Buddhism and Christianity say that something is wrong with the human condition. The “problem” for both is different, as is the “solution” as is the “path” to the solution as is the “goal” of the path. It was surprising to see how very different these world views are, and also , how they are not in direct competition

Whereas Buddhism is attempting to achieve detachment from conditioned reality via self-effort and knowledge, in order to reach the unconditioned state of Nirvana, Christianity is showing a way to be forgiven of sin before God, so that one can, in their life reflect more on the character of Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit, preparing folks to be in line with the character of God and thus fit to live in God’s presence. You can have experience of the one without making the other go away. Some folks have the experience of both.

Please note that this book, (Buddhism: A Christian Exploration and Appraisal ), includes the philosophy side of the equation. Readers new to philosophy may find portions of the book–chapters four and five, in particular–to be challenging, but the benefit is well worth the effort, for not only will you understand what Buddhist doctrines might mean, but also get a sense of what it is to offer a careful and respectful assessment of Buddhist doctrine.

There is plenty of room to see additional texts, following a similar model, that engage other world faiths and religions in a similarly brave and direct way.

****Please note, this book is not available through the SWAN network. To request this book, please email

More Titles to Explore:

Understanding World Religions in Fifteen Minutes a Day by Garry Morgan

This book provides short insight into Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, Christianity, as well as other religions.

My Spiritual Journey: Personal Reflections, Teachings, and Talks by the Dalai Lama XIV

The fourteenth Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso explores his human identity, Buddhist monk identity, and his identity as the Dalai Lama.

Meditation for Beginners by Jack Kornfield

This book comes with a CD to guide you through meditations, an art long practiced by Buddhism.



Ellen’s February Recommendation

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

the righteous mindHere is a summary of this book from our online catalog: “Why can’t our political leaders work together as threats loom and problems mount? Why do people so readily assume the worst about the motives of their fellow citizens? In The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual understanding.”  Ellen says that is a “very thought-provoking book”.

Read about or request this book from the online catalog!

3 Similar Reads (Nonfiction)

The Political Brain: The Rule of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of Our Nation by Drew Westen

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath

Sophia’s September Recommendation

What the Bible Really Teaches about Crucifixion, Resurrection, Salvation, the Second Coming and Eternal Life by Keith Ward

“Keith Ward, recently retired professor of divinity at Oxford, and Anglican philosopher theologian rebukes fundamentalist readings of the Bible. Ward says that fundamentalist interpretations of Scripture fail on the Bible’s own terms. He shows us how the fundamentalist approach to the Bible is actually a recent development in Christian history. He is a theist, and best described as a scholar who doesn’t see any inherent
conflict between faith and reason. I’d recommend this book for anyone looking to find a scholarly ( his colleagues are the  theology department of Oxford) interpretation of the message of love and acceptance in the Bible and Christianity…In the end, although you may not agree with his theology, this book is a must read for anyone who has an open mind and who wishes to consider first hand what the Bible really teaches.”

3 Similar Reads (Nonfiction)

1) How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels by N.T. Wright (Access to library catalog here!)

2) The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not A Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture by Christian Smith (Access to library catalog here!)

3) Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas by Elain H. Pagels (Access to library catalog here!)

3 Similar Reads (Fiction)

1) The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (Access to library catalog here!)

2) Fallen by David Maine (Access to library catalog here!)

3) City of God by E.L. Doctorow (Access to library catalog here!)

Pat’s January Recommendation

jacketca7brw9oBeing Catholic Now by Kerry Kennedy

Review from Library Journal: “Human rights activist Kennedy (Speak Truth to Power ), one of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Skakel Kennedy’s 11 children, here shares her own religious remembrances and motivations as well as those of 37 others, many of them writers (e.g., Doris Kearns Goodwin and James Carroll) or performers (e.g., Susan Sarandon and Martin Sheen). Not all are “Catholic Now,” as the title suggests; some never deepened in their birth-faith. Together, their journeys—the loss, discovery, and recovery of their faith—attest to the power of parental or other influences and reflect a search for truth and justice. The eclectic selection manifests a wide range of attitudes, from orthodox devotion and practice, to selective acceptance of church teachings, to total rejection of religion. A photograph accompanies each individual’s essay-interview. Among the recurring challenges cited are the priest pedophilia scandals, abortion, poverty, war, and labor issues. Most of the interviewees express hope in the future despite institutional failures of the past.”

You can find this title in the library under 282.092 KEN.

Find this title in the library catalog.

Parry’s November Recommendation

cloisterwalkThe Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris

From Parry:  “I just started reading Kathleen Norris’s latest book, and am reminded of why she is one of my favorite writers, poets and thinkers. The Cloister Walk is among my favorites of her books.  While Norris writes largely of spiritual matters, you do not have to consider yourself a person of religious faith to gain from her wisdom and generous spirit, which show plainly in her works.”

Review from Library Journal: “The monastery has been a haven where I could come, and stay a while, and work things out,” poet Norris writes in her latest work of nonfiction since she explored the landscape of her imagination in Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (LJ 12/92). Norris spent two nine-month terms as an oblate, or associate, at a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota; though raised Protestant, she came to understand that “for years literature had seemed an adequate substitute for religion in my life.” Racked by marital strife and weary of the “literary hothouse” of the big city when she arrives, Norris finds the liturgical rhythms of the community of monks restorative and delights in the lectio continua, or continual reading through of the books of the Bible, especially the “ancient poetry” of the Psalms. Her narrative is structured as a diary, punctuated by thoughtful meditations about virgin saints or Emily Dickinson and startling examples of spirituality in the “real world.” Whether she is sharing the brothers’, and sisters’, views on the challenge and freedom of celibacy, or the private letter of her “borderline” sister, Norris marvelously and with dignity conveys “the great human task to learn to live, and love, and die.” A courageous, heartening work.”

You can find this book in the libary at Call # 255 Norris.  Find this title in the library catalog.