Book of the Week – Learning to Walk in the Dark – Barbara Brown Taylor

Of the many spectacular writers we publish, Barbara Brown Taylor may be the writer I love the best and the one to whom I return most often. She was a well-established and respected religious writer and thinker before she came to HarperOne in 2006. Newsweek had named her one of the top ten preachers in America, and one of the ten most influential living pastors in a nationwide poll of Protestant pastors. So her first memoir with us, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, drew much attention and became a national bestseller for its thoughtful, inspiring reflection on how she “left church” while “keeping faith.” That book remains a strong backlist title for us and moved Taylor into the ranks of bestselling writers on spirituality like Kathleen Norris and Anne Lamott.

Her second book with us, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, also became a national bestseller. This tender, exquisitely written meditation on how to find sacred space in everyday life quickly found a permanent place among my bedside reading. Given the jittery, media driven, attention-sucking nature of daily culture, I return to this book often as a way of grounding myself.

So you can imagine the pleasure I have in adding a new book by Barbara Brown Taylor to my library. I’m happy to say that Learning to Walk in the Dark is as thought-provoking, reassuring and delightful a read as the others. It poses the question: How might our lives become richer if, rather than avoiding and being fearful of darkness—physical, metaphorical, spiritual—we embraced darkness as the complement to the light in our lives. She posits that light and dark work together—and that that they have necessary and inevitable roles in making us complete.

Here’s are some snippets from a series of brief talks she did for The Work of the People. It’ll give you a good sense of both her voice and point of view:

The advance reviews are very strong. Bookseller fans have made it an April Indie Next Pick and the initial media line-up includes a Time magazine feature, an excerpt in Time.com, and a Washington Post feature. I expect Taylor’s legion of fans will turn this one into her third bestseller.

Ever the teacher, [Taylor] passes on her knowledge, whether purposefully studied or accidentally absorbed, of living with loss….Taylor’s intimate voice makes good points and asks good questions, especially in the last chapter’s dialogue. She writes exemplars of exposition (narration, description, argumentation), and pens poetry in her similes and metaphors.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“An elegant writer with the common touch, Taylor is always a wonderful guide to the spiritual world, and this book is no exception. Here she encourages us to turn out the lights and embrace the spiritual darkness, for it is in the dark, she maintains, that one can truly see.”
— Booklist

“Taylor continues her unconventional, outside-the-pulpit Episcopalian ministry…by showing readers how she has learned from the darkness…Taylor writes with consistent charm and an unobtrusive faith in God; her work is certain to appeal to some church groups and to fans of Annie Dillard and Anne Lamott.”
— Library Journal

Learning to Walk in the Dark (9780062024350) By Barbara Brown Taylor. $24.99 hardcover. 4/8/14 on sale.

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