Most of us, at some point in our lives, question or struggle with our spirituality. Whether we were raised Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or with another teaching, we may ask: what’s the truth?
From ’07-’09, many books came out that covered this topic as a whole. Though it was difficult to choose just 10 of them, the books on this list cover a wide array of spiritual themes and beliefs. Some may be considered Christian, and others nonreligious; regardless, there is a unifying message with all of them…we all seek connection. In hopes that one or more of these texts will resonate with you, here are my “Top 10 Spiritual Books from 2007-2009.”
Note: None of the books on the list were officially published in 2009…however, it is likely that the same authors may write new material this year, so consider these books as representing literature to come as well!
1. Peace Is Possible: The Life and Message of Prem Rawat by Andrea Cagan (2007) – Prem Rawat, also known by the honorary title Maharaji, has led an extraordinary life that is incredibly documented in this biography. Peace Is Possible delves into his childhood, growing up in India with his father, an admired spiritual master himself.
At six years old, Prem Rawat’s father, Shri Hans, gave him a powerful gift: namely Knowledge, a way of accessing peace within oneself. When Prem Rawat was only eight years old, Shri Hans passed away, and his son took on the responsibility of continuing to spread his message to the world.
This book takes the time to truly find a deeper understanding of Prem Rawat, his life, and his work. It is an excellent read for anyone looking for peace in their lives, and perhaps the reason why we, as human beings, are here.
2. Native American Spirituality: Path of Heart (Don Juan Matus, Eagle, and Others) by Vladimir Antonov (2007) – This book contains a collection of stories taken from Native American spiritual masters, including the notable Don Juan Matus. Matus’ teachings have been described in great detail by author Carlos Castaneda, who traveled to Mexico in order to obtain information for his anthropology thesis. Castaneda, in his writings, describes encountering fantastic phenomena beyond even his imagination. For all readers who enjoy the mystical and esoteric traditions, Native American Spirituality is the perfect read.
3. A Course in Miracles: Combined Volume by Helen Schucman, Author; Foundation for Inner Peace, Corporate Author (2007) – A Course in Miracles is quite a unique read; though it can be read cover to cover, that is by no means necessary. This volume consists of three books: Text, Workbook for Students, and Manual for Teachers. Students may read the books in whatever order or time period they see fit. Though the book often uses Christian terminology, it is not necessarily intended as a supplement to the Bible; it deals in universal mystical concepts.
The Workbook, which some consider the most important of the three, contains a set of 365 lessons, one for each day of the year, to gradually change one’s perception of life and existence. The first lesson, for example, states: “Nothing I see means anything.” As to the relevance of that teaching, it’s best for you to read the book and find out! To boot, the lessons make excellent stress relievers on any given day.
4. Wisdom of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman (2007) – In Dan Millman’s semi-autobiographical The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, he tells the story of his college years at the University of California, in which he works to become, among other things, a world-champion gymnast. At the heart of the story, however, is Dan’s encounter with an older man who becomes his mentor (whom he nicknames Socrates). Through a series of physical, mental, and spiritual lessons, Socrates teaches Dan “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior,” as he terms it.
Wisdom of the Peaceful Warrior, published 25 years later, brings new insight and clarification to the original story, inviting readers to join Millman in his spiritual journey. Whether or not you’ve read the original book, Wisdom is a great text to add to your collection. Check it out, and find the peaceful warrior in you.
5. Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life by Kathleen Norris (2008) – “I believe that such standard dictionary definitions of acedia as ‘apathy,’ ‘boredom,’ or ‘torpor’ do not begin to cover it, and while we may find it convenient to regard it as a more primitive word for what we now term depression, the truth is much more complex.” So says Kathleen Norris, in her explanation of “acedia,” which in ancient times was seen as a horrific plague upon one’s inner being. Now, she clarifies, it has become the norm in some societies, or even chic.
Part of Acedia and Me is autobiographical; Norris makes clear, through some of her own life experiences, a mystical and hard-to-define concept. All through the book, she uses the example of her and her husband’s personal struggles with acedia and its sister illness, depression. For many of today’s readers, it may prove a fascinating literary journey through mental anguish.
6. Small Miracles of the Holocaust: Extraordinary Coincidences of Faith, Hope, and Survival by Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum and Judith Leventhal (2008) – The Small Miracles series, by now familiar to a number of readers, contains short stories of extraordinary coincidences that have taken place all over the world, in different time periods. Many of them are heartwarming and inspirational to readers, and have helped them to discover the “small miracles” in their own lives.
Small Miracles of the Holocaust is, as you may have guessed, a collection of such stories from one of the most horrifying times in human history. Though it is often the atrocities committed in the concentration camps that are most remembered, Small Miracles aims to bring light to some of the incredible “coincidences” that took place during the Holocaust, and perhaps remind you that God, or some remarkable force, is there when you least expect it.
7. The Prophet (Kindle Edition) by Kahlil Gibran (2008) – Originally written in 1923, The Prophet is a series of poetic essays by Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese-American artist, philosopher, and writer. The poems cover many areas of life, including love, marriage, children, eating and drinking, buying and selling, and work.
The book is by no means intended as a “self-help” text, as we think of them today, but more an inner reflection on the various aspects of day-to-day living. For example, in the poem about work, Gibran writes:
You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons,
and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and
proud submission towards the infinite.
The Prophet, in particular, is a book that you might pick up, turn to any page, and find a lesson relevant to your life. Read it and find out!
8. The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore by Deepak Chopra (2008) – In his book The Third Jesus, Chopra proposes a new and altogether different version of Jesus than what is being taught in many places today.
This book emphasizes a triptych of Jesus having, simultaneously, “a human, an institutional, and a mystical dimension,” according to Arvind Sharma, Birks Professor of Comparative Religion, Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill University. The Third Jesus primarily focuses on the mystical side, the inner journey that Jesus strove to inspire in his students.
It may prove fascinating to Christians and non-Christians alike, with its universal messages of peace, love, and “God-consciousness”.
9. The Book of Angels: Dreams, Signs, and Meditation—The Hidden Secrets by Christiane Muller and Kaya (2008) – Muller and Kaya, in their Book of Angels, teach one how to reawaken what they refer to as “Angelic States of Consciousness”. The book helps students to make use of Angelic Energies in their thoughts, feelings, words, and deeds, revitalizing their lives and helping them to recognize powerful symbols and synchronicity.
Some of the teachings are drawn from Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical traditions; the idea behind this, as the book states, is to guide one through the process of discovering one’s “Celestial Origin.”
Though it may sound vague by description, this book is a fascinating look into our inner selves and the makeup of the universe.
10. Spiritual Poetry for Leading a Purposeful Life by Joseph Anthony Wardy (2008) – Spiritual Poetry is comprised of verse covering four topics: spirituality; living and dying; ego; and love. The chapter that focuses on living and dying covers the truth of a Zen chant which says, “By night’s end our days will be numbered by one.” All of the poems intend to help the reader find a greater connection with the universe and hopefully, with her inner self.
This list is by no means definitive. However, each of these books is, in its own right, valuable. All are available online, and most are also found in your local bookstore. Find one that suits you, and expand your spiritual vocabulary.