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About the Database

Search our database of more than 5,000 book and audio reviews. Remember, we only review resources we recommend for your spiritual journey.

The Best Spiritual Books of 2009

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Every year from the more than 300 books we review on this website, we choose 50 "best spiritual books." These are the titles that have most impressed and inspired us, and since we only review books that we want to recommend to you for your spiritual journey, this selection actually represents the best of the best.

We have organized this list by a major theme or spiritual practice covered in the book. These headings are just to make it easier for you to find the books you might be most interested in; they are not subcategories of the awards.

Through diverse approaches, drawing upon the wisdom and practices of the world's religions, these titles explore the quest for meaning and purpose, wholeness and healing, commitment and community, contemplation and social activism.

We congratulate the authors and publishers of these exceptional contributions to today's spiritual renaissance. Click on the title link to read the full review.

The 50 Best Spiritual
Books of 2009

Claiming the Beatitudes: Nine Stories from a New Generation by Anne Sutherland Howard (The Alban Institute, paperback) explores the spiritual firepower of these passages from the Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

The Power of Pause: Becoming More by Doing less by Terry Hershey (Loyola Press, hardcover) challenges us to savor pauses when we can slow down, rest, and recuperate from the stress and pressures of doing.

Waking Up to This Day: Seeing the Beauty Right Before Us by Paula D'Arcy (Orbis Books, paperback) elucidates nine steps in the spiritual practice of being present.

Grandpa's Soup by Eiko Kadono (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, hardcover) is a simple, elegant, and richly spiritual story for children that affirms the practice of hospitality.

A Good Neighbor: Benedict's Guide to Community by Robert Benson (Paraclete Press, paperback) includes reflections on four spiritual practices from the Rule of St. Benedict to deepen and enrich our participation in community.

Consequential Strangers: The Power of People Who Don't Seem to Matter by Melinda Blau and Karen L. Fingerman (W. W. Norton & Company, hardcover) is a fascinating and illuminating book about the changes going on in our navigation of the social terrain of our lives.

Living Fully, Dying Well: Reflecting on Death to Find Your Life's Meaning by Edward W. Bastian and Tina L. Staley (Sounds True, hardcover) is a sturdy and edifying collection of interspiritual writings and practices about preparing for the end of life and beyond.

Holy Eros: Pathways to a Passionate God by James D. Whitehead and Evelyn Eaton Whitehead (Orbis Books, paperback) is a rich and compelling celebration of eros as a force field that arouses our zest for life.

An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor (HarperOne, hardcover) is a field guide to spiritual practices that can lend meaning and richness to our days.

Eternal Life: A New Vision Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell by John Shelby Spong (HarperOne, hardcover) is a masterful meditation on God, religion, human consciousness, death, and eternity.

The Future of Faith by Harvey Cox (HarperOne, hardcover) is a helpful and hopeful overview of Christian church history and the positive dimensions of the Age of Spirit we are now experiencing.

Conquering Fear: Living Boldly in an Uncertain World by Harold Kushner (Alfred A. Knopf, hardcover) offers an engaging and substantive spiritual perspective on coping with the many different things that scare us.

How Coffee Saved My Life And Other Stories of Stumbling to Grace by Ellie Roscher (Chalice Press, paperback) is a well-written and soul-stirring memoir by an urban ministry graduate who spends a year in a small town in Uruguay where she learns about grace, small victories, and the power of love to transform us.

The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems by Van Jones (HarperOne, hardcover) presents a passionate, visionary, and hopeful look at what it will take to establish a vital green economy.

Be Happy: Release the Power of Happiness in YOU by Robert Holden (Hay House, hardcover) is an enlightening and entertaining survey of this most elusive quality.

A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story by Diana Butler Bass (HarperOne, hardcover) is a bold and visionary work that reframes the history of Christianity using beliefs and practices of the past to light the way into the future.

It's Not the End of the World: Developing Resilience in Times of Change by Joan Borysenko (Hay House, hardcover) is a helpful spiritual primer on harvesting hardship and moving beyond disappointment to a fresh future.

SUM: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman (Pantheon, hardcover) consists of wildly imaginative stories about human beings and the life beyond death.

Getting to the Heart of Interfaith: The Eye-Opening, Hope-Filled Friendship of a Pastor, a Rabbi, & a Sheikh by Don Mackenzie, Ted Falcon, Jamal Rahman (Skylight Paths, paperback) is a substantive and enlightening exploration of the interfaith journey by three friends of different traditions.

It's Really All About God: Reflections of a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian by Samir Selmanovic (Jossey Bass/Wiley, hardcover) is an iconoclastic, prophetic, and enlightening work about the contemporary religious scene with its robust spirituality and interfaith experiments.

Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian by Paul F. Knitter (Oneworld, paperback) is a thoughtful, illuminating, and adventuresome interfaith journey by a respected Christian theologian and advocate of religious double belonging.

Writing in the Sand: Jesus & The Soul of the Gospels by Thomas Moore (Hay House, hardcover) presents fresh meanings, new possibilities, and a reframing of threadbare interpretations of Jesus.

The Joy of Appreciative Living: Your 28-Day Plan to Happiness in 3 Incredibly Easy Steps by Jacqueline Keim (Jeremy P. Tarcher/ Penguin, paperback) presents a multidimensional program to bring joy into your life.

Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone by Eduardo Galeano (Nation Books, hardcover) presents more than 600 vignettes about underdogs, losers, and the persecuted in the sweep of history over the past 5000 years.

Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine by Huston Smith and Jeffrey Paine (HarperOne, hardcover) is the creative, inspiring, edifying, and appealing memoir of the foremost authority on the world's religions.

The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship by David Whyte (Riverhead Books, hardcover) offers an engaging and imaginative examination of the triumphs and tragedies of human belonging.

Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness by Arnie Kozak (Wisdom Publications, paperback) sheds new light on this ancient and respected spiritual practice.

For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics by Roger Housden (Hay House, paperback) contains 98 poems by Christian mystics with commentaries by Housden.

Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters by Omid Safi (HarperOne, hardcover) is a well-developed, rounded, and revealing portrait of the life, work, and legacies of Muhammad.

The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder's Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows by Kent Nerburn (New World Publishers, paperback) is filled with Native American wisdom, keen insights into the dark side of American history, and soul-stirring observations about ceremonies, the Great Mystery, and the spiritual practice of listening.

Pronoia Is the Antidote to Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Give You Blessings by Rob Brezsny (North Atlantic Books, paperback) is an imaginative tour of our friendly universe where play, optimism, and hope abound.

Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings edited by John Dear (Orbis Books, paperback) is a capacious work that brings together the prophetic writings of the antiwar activist, peacemaker, poet, and Christian commentator.

Praying For Peace Around the Globe by James McGinnis (Ligouri, paperback) contains an incisive and inspiring collection of prayers about peace and justice.

Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices by Thich Nhat Hanh (Parallax Press, paperback) is a glorious, down-to-earth, and practical book containing the key practices this Zen master has developed over the past 60 years.

The Book of the Shepherd: The Story of One Simple Prayer, and How It Changed the World by Joann Davis (HarperStudio, hardcover) is a parabolic story about seeking a new way of compassion, love, and peace in world where violence and revenge hold sway.

Recovery - The Sacred Art: The Twelve Steps as Spiritual Practice by Rami Shapiro (Skylight Paths, paperback) relates the teachings and practices of the world religions to each of the Twelve Steps and the challenges involved in giving up the delusion that you are in control of your life.

A Conservationist Manifesto by Scott Russell Sanders (Indiana University Press, paperback) is a beautifully written conservation ethic which embraces frugality, simplicity, beauty, community, and justice.

Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day by Diane Ackerman (W. W. Norton & Company, hardcover) is a lively and imaginative journey through the wonderland of dawn.

The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism by Andrew Harvey (Hay House, paperback) presents a vision of the transformation of society brought about by those who wed mystical passion with radical change in the world.

Spirit of Service: Your Daily Stimulus for Making a Difference by Nancy Hancock (HarperOne, hardcover) is a top-notch daybook descriing the work of more than 500 organizations for those looking for a way to serve.

A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland (Counterpoint, hardcover) is a memoir that deepens and enriches our knowledge and appreciation of silence.

Listening Below the Noise: A Meditation on the Practice of Silence by Anne D. LeClaire (HarperCollins, hardcover) salutes the ample benefits of being in silence regularly.

Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler (Little, Brown and Company, hardcover) registers as an immensely revealing and thoughtful overview of this phenomenon and how the spiritual practice of connections is changing and transforming our lives.

Out of Darkness Into Light: Spiritual Guidance in the Qur'an with Reflections from Christian and Jewish Sources by Jamal Rahman, Kathleen Schmitt Elias, and Ann Holmes Redding (Morehouse Publishing, paperback) delivers a rich and illuminating look at the similarities of the three Abrahamic faiths.

Making the Good Life Last: Four Keys to Sustainable Living by Michael A. Schuler (Berrett-Koehler, paperback) argues for expanding our view of sustainability to include not only the environment but also economics, community, and relationships.

The Second Book of the Tao by Stephen Mitchell (Penguin, hardcover) presents translations and audacious interpretations of Lao-tzu's disciple Chuang-tzu and Confucius's grandson Tzu-Ssu.

The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See by Richard Rohr (A Crossroad Book, paperback) challenges the world's religions to foster mysticism, nonduality, and the contemplative mind.

Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth by David C. Korten (Berrett-Koehler, paperback) encourages us to move beyond Wall Street to a new economic paradigm based on Main Street.

A Book of Wonders: Daily Reflections for Awakened Living by Edward Hays (Forest of Peace, paperback) is an imaginative, eclectic, and deeply spiritual primer on living a wonder-filled life every day of the year.

Ubuntu: I in You and You in Me by Michael Battle (Seabury Books, paperback) presents a solid and substantial overview of the African concept of personhood, cooperative living, and communal solidarity.

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