by Denise Dee
I love to read about people's journeys- both physical and interior travels. When you get right down to it a lot of books seem to be about quests. Books that cover spiritual terrain can be hard sells because people think the writing might be boring or pious. These books are anything but.
The Year of Living Bibically- One Man's Humble Quest to follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs. Jacobs is an agnostic. So we know going into the book that it's going to be funny. I had no idea how profound it would be as he examines lying, polygamy, faith, and gratitude among other 'laws' or 'rules' of the bible. He takes us to visit the Amish, Lubavitchers, Creationists and a few other groups that take the bible literally. Jacobs wife Julie is not real thrilled with the project. And as he takes to the streets of Manhattan in a white robe, sandals, payot and a long beard you have to wonder if their marriage will last.
Longing for Darkness - Tara and The Black Madonna by China Galland. Galland journeys from the Catholicism of her childhood, through alcoholism, meditation and eventually to Tibetan Buddhism. Galland makes pilgrimages to Tibet and Czestochowa to see Tara and The Black Madonna. Along the way we make stops in Galland's childhood. This is deeply moving story about the longing deep within for both the feminine face of the divine and an understanding of mothers.
My Life in Orange by Tim Guest. Guest was raised in a series of Rajneesh houses and communes. Imagine the confusion of a small boy who is only allowed to wear clothes in the color of the sun and who is not allowed to live in the same room as his mother. Guest shows us his mothers journey as a seeker and the daily life of the Rajneeshee. Photographs taken by Guest's father are scattered throughout the book adding a layer of poignance as we see the 'family' on film versus the collection of individuals that are trying to come together but do not quite know how to do it.
The Red Book by Sera Beak. This would be a great book to give to a young spiritual seeker as Beak is both irreverant and serious about her path though different religions and beliefs. She includes rituals, meditations, sex, laughter and other 'tools' you can use on your journey to go discover the divine within. She celebrates your inner goddess and goddesses from many paths. She is eclectic and I think of this a cookbook for the soul.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. My favorite book of 2006. Gilbert has a breakdown (or breakthrough depending on your p.o.v.) and leaves a rather comfortable life to spend a year- you guessed it- eating, praying and loving. She travels to Italy, India, and Indonesia. I was calling and e-mailing people with quotes from this book and laughing quite loudly. I know it's a best seller, don't let that turn you off, it's well worth reading. She says at one point in the book- I know an unexamined life is not worth living, but can I just have an unexamined lunch? Anyone that spends time questioning their motives and interior lives should find something to relate to in this book
The Spiritual Life of Children by Robert Coles. Coles is a psychologist who is a self admitted skeptic about anything non-rational. He decides to travel to different countries and have children draw pictures about their ideas of God and their beliefs. The words and drawings of the children are mind-blowing and just as interesting is that Coles includes his own doubts about what the children are telling him. This is a fascinating book that covers everything from dreams about Elvis to a furry hand of God reaching down from the sky to 'fix' things.