The Best Spiritual Books of 2011
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 2011
Call to Compassion: Religious Perspectives on Animal Advocacy by Lisa Kemmerer and Anthony J. Nocella II (Lantern Books, paperback) is an anthology of essays about the growing movement advocating ethical sensitivity toward animals.
Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now by Lama Surya Das (HarperOne, hardcover) is a timely and wide-ranging book of Buddhist wisdom on the problems of time starvation, addiction to speed, and distractions.
Into the Heart of Life by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo (Snow Lion, hardcover) provides an incisive overview of Buddhist essentials from the perspective of a woman with 40 years of spiritual practice.
The Caregiver's Tao Te Ching: Compassionate Caring for Your Loved Ones and Yourself by William Martin and Nancy Martin (New World Library, paperback) uses verses from the Tao Te Ching to focus on the feelings and services of caregivers.
Saving Civility: 52 Ways to Tame Rude, Crude and Attitude for a Polite Planet by Sara Hacala (SkyLight Paths, paperback) is a pathbreaking book with 52 practices and ideas for emissaries of civility in these contentious times.
Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong (Alfred A. Knopf, hardcover) presents exercises, in the spirit of the Twelve-Step Program of A.A., to help us embrace and walk in compassion as a transformative path.
All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons by Jay Walljasper (The New Press, paperback) is a bold call for a major paradigm shift from the market system to the commons where sharing and caring are the operative ideals.
Streams of Contentment: Lessons I Learned on My Uncle's Farm by Robert J. Wicks (Sorin Books, paperback) explores paths and practices that lead to contentment.
Keep Your Courage: A Radical Christian Feminist Speaks by Carter Heyward (Seabury Books, hardcover) is a collection of the author's speeches, sermons, and essays from the last decade which address the rampant fears of our times.
The Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom by Christine Valters Paintner (Sorin Books, paperback) covers a useful combination of practices for nurturing creativity and contemplation.
Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age by Susan Jacoby (Pantheon, hardcover) is an illuminating examination of the daunting challenges facing the baby boom generation as they age.
Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit by Parker J. Palmer (Jossey-Bass, hardcover) challenges us to practice politics through the eye of the heart.
Fragments of Your Ancient Name: 365 Glimpses of The Divine for Daily Meditation by Joyce Rupp (Sorin Books, hardcover) provides brief meditations on various names for God used in the religious and spiritual traditions.
Enlightenment to Go: Shantideva and the Power of Compassion to Transform Your Life by David Michie (Wisdom Publications, paperback) explains the spiritual insights of Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life.
The Emotional Calendar: Understanding Seasonal Influences and Milestones to Become Happier, More Fulfilled, and in Control of Your Life by John Sharp (Times Books, hardcover) offers keen insights into why emotions act up at certain times of the year, during holidays, and on days connected with bad memories.
Ethical Wisdom: What Makes Us Good by Mark Matousek (Doubleday, hardcover) makes a case for the idea that the brain has hard-wired us to be good and compassionate human beings.
By the Way: 100 Reflections on the Spiritual Life by Melannie Svoboda (Twenty-Third Publications, paperback) reveals the beauties and the bounties of a life of everyday spirituality.
The Evolution of Faith: How God Is Creating a Better Christianity by Philip Gulley (HarperOne, hardcover) looks into the transformation of Christianity into a more compassionate, open, reconciling, and loving community.
Beyond Forgiveness: Reflections on Atonement by Phil Cousineau (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, paperback) is a top-drawer collection of 15 essays on understanding and practicing atonement as an act that makes amends and repairs harm.
Grace Notes by Brian Doyle (ACTA Publications, paperback) is a collection 37 stories by a gifted writer who has some fresh approaches to everyday spirituality where wonder, imagination, and joy thrive.
Living in Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life by Angeles Arrien (Sounds True, hardcover) is a thematically rich and spiritually rewarding guide to a month-by-month practice of gratitude.
365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life by John Kralik (Hyperion, hardcover) reports on the positive results of the author's project to send 365 thank you notes to deserving individuals in his life from family to peripheral acquaintances.
Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation by Sharon Salzberg (Workman Publishing, paperback), organized as a 28-day program, provides instruction and practices for learning various types of Buddhist meditation.
A New Harmony: The Spirit, The Earth, and The Human Soul by John Philip Newell (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, hardcover) is a wake-up call for the Christian community to heed the unfurling of a new Pentecost.
The Hidden Gifts of Helping: How the Power of Giving, Compassion, and Hope Can Get Us Through Hard Times by Stephen Post (Jossey-Bass, hardcover) is an uplifting exploration of the physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits of helping.
Untie the Strong Woman: Blessed Mother's Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Sounds True, hardcover) is a poetic and passionate, wild and lyrical spiritual journey into the Sacred Feminine in all her varied guises and glories.
The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life by Elijah Anderson (W. W. Norton & Company, hardcover) celebrates the city, civility, diversity, and places where the walls between the races are pulled down.
The Art of Intuition: Cultivating Your Inner Wisdom by Sophy Burnham (Tarcher/Penguin, hardcover) is an expansive treatment of intuition as a life skill that can open many new doors.
Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life by James Martin (HarperOne, hardcover) provides examples from scripture, teaching stories from the religions, and incidents from the lives of saints on the place of mirth in spiritual communities.
Abraham Joshua Heschel: Essential Writings by Abraham Joshua Heschel and edited by Susannah Heschel (Orbis Books, paperback) is a substantive collection of writings from the Jewish teacher and moral prophet.
Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues by Bill Moyers (New Press, hardcover) is a top-drawer collection of 47 interviews with independent thinkers on a wide variety of subjects.
The Listening Book: Discovering Your Own Music by W. A. Mathieu (Shambhala, paperback) explores the spiritual practice of listening with an awakened ear.
Tutu Authorized by Allister Sparks and Mpho Tutu (HarperOne, hardcover) is a wonderful tribute to the life and ministry of Desmond Tutu on his 80th birthday.
Morning, Noon, and Night: Finding the Meaning of Life's Stages Through Books by Arnold Weinstein (Random House, hardcover) is a superb work of literary criticism and philosophical insights into the transitional stages of growing up and growing old.
Restoring Life's Missing Pieces: The Spiritual Power of Remembering and Reuniting with People, Places, Things and Self by Caren Goldman (SkyLight Paths, paperback) provides spiritual exercises for revisiting important parts of our past as a process of personal transformation.
How to Train a Wild Elephant and Other Adventures in Mindfulness by Jan Chozen Bays (Shambhala, paperback) includes more than 50 mindfulness exercises that can enrich your everyday spirituality practices.
MINDFULNESS WITH CHILDREN
Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Community (Parallax Press, paperback) is an incomparable resource on mindfulness for children with hundreds of spiritual practices.
Fragments of a Love Story: Reflections on the Life of a Mystic by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee (The Golden Sufi Center, hardcover) contains essays on the personal spiritual journey of a Sufi mystic.
The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv (Algonquin Books, hardcover) is a visionary book about the widespread rise of interest in the natural world and a more balanced existence.
God Is Subversive: Talking Peace in a Time of Empire by Lee Griffith (William B. Eerdmans, paperback) presents the views of a Christian social activist and believer in nonviolence on war, militarism, and the unjust prison system.
The Thom Hartmann Reader by Thom Hartmann and Tai Moses (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, paperback) is a top-drawer collection of essays by the talk radio progressive who invites us to adopt a new vision of America.
Religion Gone Astray: What We Found at the Heart of Interfaith by Don Mackenzie, Ted Falcon, and Jamal Rahman (SkyLight Paths, paperback) describes how the common core teachings of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam support the healing of the grievous problems of exclusivity, violence, sexual inequality, and homophobia.
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr (Jossey-Bass, hardcover) is a visionary work about the second stage of life as a time for the unfolding of spiritual maturity.
Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in Twelve Simple Words by Brian McLaren (HarperOne, hardcover) explains the four stages of the spiritual life and twelve practices to strengthen, sustain, and deepen faith.
Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle (Basic Books, hardcover) is packed with creative observations on our machine-mediated lives and what this all means for intimacy, solitude, and being connected.
Like a Tree: How Trees, Women, and Tree People Can Save the Planet by Jean Shinoda Bolen (Conari Press, hardcover) provides an extraordinary defense and tribute to the significance of trees.
A Lamp in the Darkness: Illuminating the Path Through Difficult Times by Jack Kornfield (Sounds True, hardcover) explains Buddhist teachings and practices that can be helpful for navigating tough times.
The Art of Uncertainty: How to Live in the Mystery of Life and Love It by Dennis Merritt Jones (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, paperback) is a robust and revealing exploration of the spiritual practice of mystery.
The Flying Drum: The Mojo Doctor's Guide to Creating Magic in Your Life by Bradford Keeney (Atria Books/Beyond Words, hardcover) takes us on a magical mystery tour with sacred objects, mojo, mystery, and healing sponsored by indigenous elders from all over the world.
The Path of the Yoga Sutras: A Practical Guide to the Core of Yoga by Nicolai Bachman (Sounds True, paperback) explains 51 key elements of the philosophy of yoga.