New Nonfiction: The Toltec Art of Life and Death – Don Miguel Ruiz

Chances are you’ve heard of The Four Agreements. If you’re a bookseller, you definitely know it. Published in 1997 it has sold five million copies and continues to sell solidly week in and week out almost twenty years later. This new book incorporates Don Ruiz’s teachings with a personal spiritual journey he underwent during a nine-weeks-long coma after a near fatal heart attack.

“There’s a lot to chew on, as Ruiz switches between the parable-filled inward journey he took during his coma, his mother’s impressions of joining him there in that dream-state, and straightforward memories of family and students. Mirrors are a recurring theme in Ruiz’s work, and many images present a duality tailored to challenge ‘your entire belief system.’ Readers might find it difficult to follow Ruiz’s winding road to the truth, but will come away from this book with a deeper understanding of life’s complexities.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Another classic that will bring joy and enlightenment to the world.”
— Deepak Chopra

“Once again, Miguel Ruiz delivers the deepest truths in the most relevant ways…. [H]is poetry, his wisdom, and his depth are as profound as ever.”
— Marianne Williamson

The Toltec Art of Life and Death: A Story of Discovery (9780062390929) by Don Miguel Ruiz. $25.99 hardcover. 10/27/15 on

sale.

Book of the Week: Grounded – Diana Butler Bass

Bass is a religion writer and journalist who has been following American spiritual culture for some time. She’s been a columnist for the NYT, Washington Post and Huffington Post. Her last book, Christianity after Religion, was something of a breakout and this new book is the logical extension of the issues explored in that book.

“I’m spiritual but not religious” is a phrase so familiar in the last forty years that it now verges on cliché. But Bass digs in and enlivens it, examining what exactly this position means for contemporary Christianity.

And the news is good. While people may be increasingly turning away from the traditional Church, it’s clear that they are not turning away from a spiritual life. Bass combines current research with a deep knowledge of history and theology. The result is a well-constructed blend of news, trends, data, and pop culture with stories of peoples’ individual spiritual journeys. What she finds is a radical change in the way many people understand God and how they practice faith—but one that is no less committed.

“In cogent, convincing arguments, [Bass] declares the current state of religion as not dying but transforming….Her conclusion comes with the revelation and defense of ‘an ongoing spiritual evolution.’ She often quotes fellow religious writers (from Sam Harris to Hildegard) and tells transformative stories (from finding her Quaker roots, to mourning with a man on a plane). Bass’s biblical and effusive style, always mixing the personal with the political and scriptural, finds a deeper, more profound register in this latest book. It is a call to arms, sure to inspire Bass’s intimate fan base committed to a Christian revolution.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“An absolutely gorgeously written book about real faith in the real world.”
— James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage

Grounded: Finding God in the World–A Spiritual Revolution (9780062328540) by Diana Butler Bass. $26.99 hardcover. 10/6/15 on sale.

 

Publicity: Learning to Walk in the Dark – Barbara Brow Taylor

I was standing in an airport bookshop last week was super happy to see Barbara Brown Taylor on the cover of Time magazine. A wider readership is long overdue for this insightful, reassuring and thought-provoking spiritual writer.  If you haven’t yet treated yourself to her writing you can get a flavor of it from this opinion piece on time.com

In a serendipitous follow up this week, Time named Taylor to its 2014 list of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World” noting that her “spiritual nonfiction that rivals the poetic power of C.S. Lewis and Frederick Buechner.” Read the whole piece here.

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

 

 

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.

Short Take: The December Project – Sara Davidson

Based on a series of interviews between journalist Davidson and Jewish Renewal leader and rabbi, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, it’s impossible to avoid a comp to Tuesdays with Morrie. But PW’s review points out how this book carves out its own distinguished and useful territory.

Besides touching on topics like aging well, facing mortality, and dying, Davidson provides a biographical sketch of Schachter-Shalomi—from his narrow escape from the Holocaust through the influence of the sixth Lubavitcher rebbe on his life and thought to his encounters with such influential non-Jewish figures as the Catholic monk Thomas Merton…. Fortunately, Davidson and Schachter-Shalomi don’t elide the most difficult aspects of aging, including physical pain and memory loss (a topic close to Davidson, whose mother suffers from Alzheimer’s). Davidson ends with 12 exercises—from taking a ‘gratitude walk’ to feeling free to ‘kvetch to God’—designed to help readers achieve a Zalman-like, hard-earned equanimity in the last stage of their lives. For boomers who wish to devote serious attention to questions of meaning as they experience ineluctable aging, this book of intense, personal conversations leavened with profound insights is an excellent place to begin.”
Publishers Weekly

The December Project should be required reading for everyone over 50, but anyone who gets a head start on facing mortality by joining this project is in for a surprise: there is as much laughter, healing, and deep peace in these pages as sober reflection on the limits of being human. Above all, this book is a testament to the rich rewards of sustained conversation between fearless friends about what really matters in this life.”
— Barbara Brown Taylor, author of Leaving Church

The December Project: An Extraordinary Rabbi and a Skeptical Seeker Confront Life’s Greatest Mystery (9780062281746) by Sara Davidson. $25.99 hardcover. 3/25/14 on sale.

Short Take: The Book of Forgiving – Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tuto

Few are better positioned to offer a prescription for living a life of forgiveness and reconciliation than Nobel Peace Prize winner, Bishop Tutu. He identifies a four-fold path based on the wisdom of his experience, showing the way to release ourselves from cycles of anger, hurt and violence.

“[This book draws] on his experience heading South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but this is freshly informed with experiences that include smaller slights and insults as well as more traumatic wrongs, among them the murder of the housekeeper of Mpho Tutu, daughter of Desmond Tutu. The father-daughter pair relate stories but also include instructions on how to forgive, as well as scientific and moral reasons to do so. No one is unforgiveable; it takes a moral icon such as Tutu to credibly assert this. The book may get a boost from the recent death of Nelson Mandela, about whom Tutu says, ‘It took 27 years for him to be transformed from an angry, unforgiving young radical into an icon of reconciliation…’ This book belongs on nightstands, shelves, and altars everywhere.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World (9780062203564) by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu. $25.99 hardcover. 3/18/14 on sale.

Religion Short Take: Jesus: A Pilgrimage – James Martin, S.J.

Jesuit priest James Martin has written two best-selling humor-tinged books on religion—The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything and Between Heaven and Mirth. In this book he starts with the premise that what should be a life-changing encounter with the vivid, real-life person of Jesus is often turned into a cold series of dos and don’ts. He takes us on his personal spiritual journey and invites us to find our own way. Given Martin’s sales track and relationship with Stephen Colbert, expect good publicity and media coverage.

“Inviting readers of ‘deep faith or no faith’ to meet the Jesus he loves…[t]he noted Jesuit, media commentator, and author balances faith and reason in the classic Catholic tradition as he ponders the meaning of significant events in Jesus’s life. Martin’s broad knowledge of current academic work informs his imaginative exploration of possible answers. [H]e emphasizes that Jesus, at once both human and divine, is ‘not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.’… Throughout, vivid details of his search in blistering heat for holy sites both authentic and dubious anchor this complex, compelling spiritual testimony. ‘You’ve met my Jesus,’ he concludes. ‘Now meet your own.’”

Jesus: A Pilgrimage (9780062024237) by James Martin, S.J. $27.99 hardcover. 3/11/14 on sale.
Publishers Weekly (starred review)