The Best Spiritual Books of 2012
By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Every year from the more than 300 books we review on this website, we choose the Best Spiritual Books. This year, in addition to 50 adult books, we have chosen 10 Best Spiritual Children's Books.
These are titles that have most impressed and inspired us. 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. 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 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.
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 2012
Animals and World Religions by Lisa Kemmerer (Oxford University Press) is a helpful survey of the attitudes, practices, and core teachings about animals in the world's religions.
Blessings of the Animals by Gary Kowalski (Lantern Books) provides delightful essays about the author's ardent spiritual practice of reverence toward all animals.
Everything Is the Way: Ordinary Mind Zen by Elihu Genmyo Smith (Shambhala Books) is an astonishing collection of essays on the wisdom of Zen as it applies to everyday life.
The Freedom of Being: At Ease with What Is by Jan Frazier (Weiser Books) presents new insights on the important spiritual practice of living in the moment.
Our Religious Brains: What Cognitive Science Reveals About Belief, Morality, Community, and Our Relationship with God by Ralph D. Mecklenburger (Jewish Lights) is a rousing tribute to the pivotal role of our brains in our spiritual journeys.
A Season of Mystery: 10 Spiritual Practices for Embracing a Happier Second Half of Life by Paula Huston (Loyola Press) explains spiritual disciplines to bring meaning and wisdom to old age.
Sacred Darkness: Encountering Divine Love in Life's Darkest Places by Paul Coutinho (Loyola Press) is an examination of the pervasive and important role of darkness in the spiritual life.
Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History's Best Teachers by Gary Neal Hansen (IVP Books) explains different ways of praying from ten masters of the medium.
Sufi Talks: Teachings of an American Sufi Sheikh by Robert Frager (Quest Books) contains enlightening talks about the Sufi path and its emphasis on heart, practice, and spiritual maturation.
A World of Prayer: Spiritual Leaders, Activists, and Humanitarians Share their Favorite Prayers by Rosalind Bradley (Orbis Books) is a top-drawer collection of multifaith prayers for many occasions.
Inner River: A Pilgrimage to the Heart of Christian Spirituality by Kyriacos C. Markides (Image Books) provides an exploration of Eastern Orthodox mysticism and the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit.
A Unified Theory of Happiness: An East-Meets-West Approach to Fully Loving Your Life by Andrea F. Polard (Sounds True) is a compelling map of the good things growing out of a synthesis of Western science and Eastern wisdom.
Swami Vivekananda: Essential Writings by Swami Vivekananda and Victor Parachin (Orbis Books) is a top-notch collection of the work of the Hindu spiritual teacher who introduced yoga to the West.
God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Mirabai Starr (Monkfish Book Publishing Company) celebrates the common wisdom streams of the three monotheistic traditions.
The Huston Smith Reader by Huston Smith and Jeffrey Paine (University of California Press) is a wonderful crosscut of 60 years of writings by the renowned world religions scholar.
India: A Sacred Geography by Diana Eck (Harmony Books) is a spellbinding survey of India's sacred places and the pilgrims who frequent them.
My Life in Jewish Renewal: A Memoir by Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi and Edward Hoffman (Rowan and Littlefield Publishers) presents a robust and creative memoir of the founder of Jewish Renewal and pioneer in interspirituality.
The Encyclopedia of Mental Imagery: Colette Aboulker-Muscat's 2,100 Visualization Exercises for Personal Development, Healing, and Self-Knowledge by Gerald Epstein and Barbarah L. Fedoroff (ACMI Press) is an incredibly helpful collection of 2,100 imagery exercises by a master teacher.
Good Citizens: Creating Enlightened Society by Thich Nhat Hanh (Parallax Press) explains the importance of mindfulness to being compassionate citizens committed to repairing the world.
Everyday Kindness: Shortcuts to a Happier and More Confident Life by Stephanie Dowrick (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin) offers a rousing and multidimensional overview of the spiritual practice of kindness.
Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What Is Sacred by Mark Nepo (The Free Press) is a master work on the importance of listening to our hearts and the world.
How to Say Yes When Your Body Says No: Discover the Silver Lining in Life's Toughest Health Challenges by Lee Jampolsky (Hampton Roads Publishing) explains how to replace a fear-based consciousness with a life-centered consciousness.
Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell (HarperOne) offers a defense of the grace, love, and mystery of God and Jesus.
Soul Unfinished: Finding Happiness, Taking Risks, and Trusting God as We Grow Older by Robert Atwell (Paraclete Press) contains a top-drawer series of essays on the spiritual life of an older person who loves sharing the wisdom he has accrued.
Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammad Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World by Brian McLaren (Jericho Books) offers a credo for a bold, brand-new world of multi-faith action based on a deep, true hospitality.
Eleven Modern Mystics and the Secrets of a Happy, Holy Life by Victor M. Parachin (Hope Publishing House) is an impressive book with an interspiritual flair and a deep appreciation for mysticism.
Journey to the Heart: Christian Contemplatives Through the Centuries edited by Kim Nataraja (Orbis Books) is a survey of Christian mysticism from Jesus through John Main.
The History of New Thought: From Mind Cure to Positive Thinking and the Prosperity Gospel by John S. Haller Jr. (Swedenborg Foundation Press) presents a well-done and wide-ranging history of the New Thought in America.
Living Nonviolent Communication: Practical Tools to Connect and Communicate Skillfully in Every Situation by Marshall Rosenberg (Sounds True) is a helpful explanation of the principles and the philosophy of nonviolent communication.
Nourishing the Spirit: The Healing Emotions of Wonder, Joy, Compassion, and Hope by James D. Whitehead and Evelyn Eaton Whitehead (Orbis Books) offers a substantive examination of the healing emotions of wonder, joy, compassion, and hope.
Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott (Riverhead) has the bestselling spiritual writer explaining the meaning of her most used prayers.
The Path of Centering Prayer: Deepening Your Experience of God by David Frenette (Sounds True) is a handbook on the practice of centering prayer and reflective exercises for contemplative attitudes.
Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity by David M. Felten and Jeff Procter-Murphy (HarperOne) poses twenty-one topics that need to be addressed by progressive Christians.
Saracen Chivalry: Counsels on Valor, Generosity and the Mystical Quest by Pir Zia Inayat-Khan (Sulik Press/Omega Publications) is a visionary classic on the spiritual zest and transformative power of the chivalric code.
Saints As They Really Are: Voices of Holiness in Our Time by Michael Plekon (University of Notre Dame Press) is the third in a series of books about people of faith who put their spirituality to work in the world.
The Thing You Think You Cannot Do: Thirty Truths about Fear and Courage by Gordon Livingston (Da Capo/Lifelong Books) is a hard-hitting and timely collection of 30 essays of cultural criticism.
Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings - Annotated and Explained by Christine Valters Paintner (SkyLight Paths) sets out a creative and engrossing close-encounter with the wisdom sayings of the fourth and fifth century Christians.
Spirituality: What It Is and Why It Matters by Roger S. Gottlieb (Oxford University Press) is a useful exploration of spirituality as a movement that is happening inside and around us.
Prayer of the Heart in Christian and Sufi Mysticism by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee (The Golden Sufi Center) is an inspiring treatise on what the mystical prayers of Christians and Sufis have in common.
Animal Teachings: Enhancing Our Lives Through the Wisdom of Animals by Dawn Brunke (CICO Books) is an beautifully illustrated resource on personal qualities we can learn from observing animal behaviors.
In the Beginning Was the Spirit: Science, Religion, and Indigenous Spirituality by Diarmuid O'Murchu (Orbis Books) is an ambitious theological work offering a richer understanding and more expansive view of the Spirit.
Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron (Shambhala Books) contains teachings on how to live in beauty with chaos, uncertainty, and change.
Rediscovering Life: Awaken to Reality by Anthony de Mello (Image Books) is a life-transforming book about freedom, contentment, and fearlessness.
Don't Believe Everything You Think: Living with Wisdom and Compassion by Thubten Chodron (Snow Lion) offers wise insights and practices based on a fourteenth-century Tibetan classic about wisdom and compassion.
When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Willams (Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux) is an astonishing memoir about the writer's quest to discover her own values and visions through a look at her mother's legacy.
Fearless at Work: Timeless Teachings for Awakening Confidence, Resilience, and Creativity in the Face of Life's Demands by Michael Carroll (Shambhala Books) offers wise counsel based on 38 spiritual slogans from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
Growing into God: A Beginner's Guide to Christian Mysticism by John R. Mabry (Quest Books) is an engaging map of the path of Christian mysticism with profiles of some its most illustrious movers and shapers.
The Fire Starter Sessions: A Soulful and Practical Guide to Creating Success on Your Own Terms by Danielle LaPorte (Crown Archetype) is an exploration of the secrets of the American ideal of success that will change perspectives on the subject.
The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling by Stephen Cope (Bantam) presents an illuminating and wise guide to vocation and one's true self.
Natural Brilliance: A Buddhist System for Uncovering Your Strengths and Letting Them Shine by Irini Rockwell (Shambala) explores the Five Wisdoms teachings developed from a Tibetan Buddhist perspective.
The 10 Best Spiritual
Children's Books of 2012
It's Our Nature by Rebeca Orozco (Tundra Books) is a charming, edifying book that presents ten animals as spiritual teachers.
Three Hens and a Peacock by Lester L. Laminack (Peachtree Publishers) is a sprightly story about three hens and a peacock who try an experiment and come away with new respect for each other.
Moody Cow Learns Compassion by Kerry Lee MacLean (Wisdom Publications) is an outstanding children's book about two cows who discover the liberation in practicing empathy and caring for other beings.
Black Dog by Levi Pinfold (Templar Books) is an inventive book about facing fear and finding love.
Little Bird by Germano Zullo (Enchanted Lion Books) is a marvelous and captivating parable about freedom, soul singing, and joy.
Mr. Zinger's Hat by Cary Fagan (Tundra Books) is a magical book about the delight that comes with the creation of stories.
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan (Chronicle Books) is an awe-inspiring children's book about beauty in Islam and the colors that pervade the everyday life of a young Muslim girl.
Every Little Thing by Cedella Marley (Chronicle Books) is a feel-good song by Bob Marley made into a feel-good picture book.
The Shema in the Mezuzah: Listening to Each Other by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso (Jewish Lights Publishing) is a tale about controversy, mezuzahs, and the Shema that affirms the value of the spiritual practice of listening.
It's a ... It's a ... It's a Mitzvah by Liz Suneby and Diane Heiman (Jewish Lights) is a playful book introducing kids to the abundant pleasures of being kind, doing good, and repairing the world.