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As Far as the Heart Can See: Stories to Illuminate the Soul

Mark Nepo (HCI)

Inner life gets made fun of by those who don't have one. The rest of us can read Nepo, whose stories aren't always nicey-nice but prod us, like a good companion, along the way.

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Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor

Jana Riess (Paraclete)

Saints: they are so annoying. Reiss discovers this, and that God permits, and loves, goofups and shortcuts in her year of repeatedly failing at spiritual disciplines. As we said earlier: read and lighten up.

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A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good

Miroslav Volf (Brazos)

The gifted Christian theologian answers a pressing question in a pluralistic culture, arguing that nonexclusionary theological truth is not only possible but also socially healthy.

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A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny

Amy Julia Becker (Bethany House)

Unexamined faith is not worth having, and Becker asks the right heartfelt questions after her first daughter is born with Down syndrome, in a beautifully written and unsentimental reflection.

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Love Wins

Rob Bell (HarperOne)

This attention-getter of a book ignited a heated popular conversation about whether God saves people like Gandhi or sends him and billions of other non-Christians to a fiery and painful place in the afterlife.

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Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire at the Gates of Tassajara

Colleen Morton Busch (Penguin)

Spiritual insight is good, but well-written spiritual insight is better. Busch's narrative of real people taking real risks to meet the unmanageable is absorbing and exemplary.

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Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World

James Carroll (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Carroll brings his powers of observation, intellect, and passion to the city that epitomizes both faith and conflict, incisively raising, and answering, the question of sacred violence that haunts not only history but also contemporary life.

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Conversions: Two Family Stories from the Reformation and Modern America

Craig Harline (Yale Univ.)

History as it should be written: with feet deep in research and a head for individual story. Harline finds parallels in lives lived centuries apart as he narrates historical particulars and differences.

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The God Upgrade: Finding Your 21st-Century Spirituality in Judaism's 5,000-Year-Old Tradition

Jamie S. Korngold (Jewish Lights)

Tradition and heritage provide a rock-solid basis for contemporary faith, says a 21st-century rabbi as she argues for an update of God beyond one who keeps score.

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Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of Spiritual Life

James Martin (HarperOne)

If religion is both violent and without humor, there really is no hope. Blessedly, the occasional chaplain of The Colbert Report saves the Christian tradition from soul-stifling joylessness. Read and lighten up.

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