Newest Spirituality and Religion Reviews

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Becoming Reverend: A diary by Matt Woodcock

4.5star.jpg Autobiography

Matt Woodcock is enjoying life: successful journalist, happily married and a new dream home bought and heavily mortgaged. The only cloud on the horizon is their struggle to have children but they have faith in the IVF treatment as it's early days yet. Then comes the funny turn Matt has on the way to a story one day. This takes him by surprise but the resulting clergy collar comes as a total shock. He's a normal bloke who always thought of himself as more pint than piety believing in a God who's happy for him to remain in the pews. Errrrm… whoops! Full review...

Sun Moon Star by Kurt Vonnegut and Ivan Chermayeff

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

In his own delightfully imaginative way Kurt Vonnegut tells the story of the birth of Christ in this unique and long out of print children's book. Told from the perspective of the new born infant in his first hours of birth, this charming little story feels different to other children's Christmas books whilst at the same time goes back to the basics in exploring the true nature of Christmas. Full review...

The Forbidden Tree: History or Folklore? by Jabulani Midzi

3.5star.jpg Spirituality and Religion

This is indeed a good question that not even Christians can agree on. The spectrum goes from the right wing Evangelical literalists who believe right down to the creation's 7 days being just that, all the way over to the left wing Anglo Catholic liberals, some of whom take issue with the virgin birth and the crucifixion. Staking my colours to the mast, I'm in the middle, believing that the Bible should be taken in historical context, that it does contain Old Testament myths and some accounts clearly written in a one-sided way but I firmly believe in Jesus, the miracles etc. Full review...

Amma, Tell Me About Diwali! by Bhakti Mathur

4star.jpg For Sharing

Klaka had celebrated Diwali and it had been great fun - a wonderful, beautiful day and tonight the city is lit up by thousands and thousands of lights. Amma and daddy had given many gifts to their boy and Klaka and his brother had lit the earthen oil lamps known as diyas. They didn't just eat and have a good time - they also offered their prayers for good fortune, prosperity and health to Ganesha, the God of new beginnings and to Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. But Klaka was curious: Amma he said, tell me about Diwali. Full review...

Letters to Poseidon by Cees Nooteboom and Laura Watkinson (Translator)

4star.jpg Travel

A serviette, a glass of champagne taken outside a fish restaurant in the open-air Viktualienmarkt in Munich, all taken to celebrate the first day of spring, prompt Cees Nooteboom into Proustian reverie. Upon the paper napkin is written in blue capitals the word POSEIDON, the Greek god who has preoccupied Nooteboom's thoughts for several summers. The blue colour reminds him of the sea viewed from Mediterranean garden of his villa in Menorca. Taking this prompting as a moment of benign synchronicity, he later begins a correspondence with this sea-deity. He seeks to inquire how this somewhat unreliable ancient Greek Olympian sees aeons of time and sends him letters and legenda; meditations and stories to be read, both poetic and tragic, from the arts and the contemporary world. He is not expecting a reply. Full review...

Between Gods by Alison Pick

4star.jpg Autobiography

Alison Pick's paternal grandparents escaped Czechoslovakia just before the Holocaust by bribing the Nazis for visas to Canada; the rest of the family died in Auschwitz. They spent their whole lives trying to pass as Christians, and Pick's father, too, was reluctant to have anything to do with Judaism. Pick only learned he was Jewish through a conversation overheard when she was 11. Full review...

Mythology: An Illustrated Journey Into Our Imagined Worlds by Christopher Dell

4.5star.jpg Spirituality and Religion

What does a rainbow mean to you? How would you explain the creation of the world if you had no science as such, or the changing of the seasons? What other kinds of natures – chaotic trickery, evil personae or even the characteristics of goats – people your world? And why is it that the answers man and woman have collectively formed to such questions have been so similar across the oceans and across the centuries? This highly pictorial volume looks at the mythologies that formed those answers, and locks on to a multitude of subjects – blood, music, godly activity – to show us what has followed. Full review...

God Tells the Sun to Shine: An Amazing Story of Love and Forgiveness by Femi Bolaji

4star.jpg Spirituality and Religion

Jacob was the second born of twin boys and resented the privileges that would come to Esau who was, after all only a few minutes older than him, but would get twice the inheritance from their father, Isaac, than that which would come to Jacob. Even in his teens Jacob plotted to usurp Esau’s position. What would happen if Esau died? But Esau was fit and a born hunter. Jacob thought about killing him, but the stories of what had happened to Cain and Abel came to mind and he was determined that he would not make the mistakes which Cain had made, so he developed an alternative plan and took advantage of Esau’s well-known greed: he was always desperate for something to eat. Esau is the man who sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew. Full review...

The Edge of Words: God and the Habits of Language by Rowan Williams

4star.jpg Spirituality and Religion

This, Rowan Williams' first book since standing down as Archbishop of Canterbury, is based on a series of lectures that he delivered as Gifford Lectures in Edinburgh in 2013. Gifford Lectures are famous for their examination of developments in natural theology; a branch of theology that argues the existence of God based on reason and nature. In these lectures Rowan sort to examine how we as human beings develop use and process language, particularly when it comes to the use of language around faith and our perception and understanding of God. Full review...

Like a Tramp, Like A Pilgrim: On Foot, Across Europe to Rome by Harry Bucknall

4star.jpg Travel

What links London and Rome? Their capital city status for one, of course. One has a St Paul's cathedral, the other a St Peter's (although pedants will say not). They both have a football team who wear red and white. Oh, and the ancient pilgrim route called the Via Francigena – although the pedant will again say that that strictly starts at that other pilgrimage site, Canterbury. As for Harry Bucknall, the Via starts at St Paul's and should end at St Peter's. Whether or not Harry himself will connect the two cities – and entirely on foot – is the subject of this travel book. Full review...

An Atheist's History of Belief by Matthew Kneale

4.5star.jpg Politics and Society

I’ve been an atheist since I was old enough to take a view on the subject. (Many atheists would argue that we’re all atheists at birth, but that’s not a subject for a book review). I did have to take Religious Studies at school but have entirely forgotten almost everything I learned! Full review...

The Rev Diaries by Reverend Adam Smallbone

4.5star.jpg Humour

Adam Smallbone wasn’t always a vicar. He used to work for the Bristol Housing Department, enabling his father-in-law to tell everyone he worked 'in property'. From there, his initial calling was to a rural church in Suffolk which did nothing to prepare him for this, his current London inner city parish. Indeed, he's not prepared for Adoha (the Nigerian parishioner with 19 grandchildren and 'the bottom of God') or Colin, the homeless alcoholic who has adopted Adam and his wife Alex (Mrs Vicarage to Colin). But then Alex also has a lot to get used to; after all, she didn't actually marry a vicar. Full review...

Burqas, Baseball, and Apple Pie: Being Muslim in America by Ranya Tabari Idliby

4.5star.jpg Spirituality and Religion

I can’t imagine it’s that easy to be a Muslim in most areas of the USA. Even if you don’t ‘look like’ a Muslim, even if you don’t drop to your knees in the direction of Mecca 5 times a day, even if you give your kids arguably Jewish names. And being openly Muslim cannot have got any easier in the wake of 9/11. This book examines one Muslim-American family’s life and the constant challenges they face from friends, neighbours and teachers. Full review...

The Atheist's Prayer by Amy R Biddle

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

I don’t shy away from a book with a little edge, in fact Chuck Palahniuk is one of my favourite authors and his books can be so sharp you can shave with them. On the surface The Atheist’s Prayer would seem to be courting controversy; why else have such a provocative title? But, is it really that shocking? Nope. This is a story about how people deal with the modern world and what happens when dangerous ideals infect a vulnerable group. Full review...

Mindfulness and the Natural World by Claire Thompson

3star.jpg Spirituality and Religion

This book appealed to me for a couple of reasons; I have recently completed a workshop on mindfulness and have been attempting to put some of the ideas into practice throughout my daily life, and I love nature and spending time outdoors cycling. Therefore, this seemed the perfect choice to learn more about combining the two and exploring fresh perspectives in my everyday life. I began reading this hardcover with high expectations, particularly as the book was beautifully laid out with unique artwork and philosophical quotes included. However, although there were some insightful ideas and inspiring thoughts presented amongst the five chapters, overall I was a little disappointed in what the book had to offer. Full review...

Rogerson's Book of Numbers: The culture of numbers from 1001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World by Barnaby Rogerson

4star.jpg Spirituality and Religion

One book, split into two testaments, regarding a holy trinity, the principal part known from four writers, in a world abutting another where five pillars are important, up against a world where a six-pointed star holds so many meanings… It's obvious from just a quick dash through the most schoolboy-friendly parts of religion that numbers are important. This book, although counting down from multitudes to that late-comer zero, brings them all to us, with brief notes about why they all hold relevance where whichever country, civilisation or religion is concerned. In the end, I'm sure it's a lot more user-friendly, interesting, and will be a lot more popular, than the original Book of Numbers. Full review...

Inventing the Enemy: Essays on Everything by Umberto Eco

4star.jpg History

Imagine a sumptuous Italian feast in the sunlit-bathed ancient countryside near Milan. Next to you a gentleman talks and eats with furious energy. He tells of Dante, Cicero, and St Augustine and quotes a multitude of obscure troubadours from the Middle Ages. He repeats himself, gestures flamboyantly, nudges you sharply in the ribs, belches and even breaks wind. His conversation contains nuggets of information but in the flow of his discourse there is a fondness for iteration and reiteration. He throws bones over his shoulder and when he reaches the cheese course - definitely too much information on the mouldy bacteria! When you finally get up things the elderly gentleman has said prompt your imagination. You are better informed, intrigued and prodded to examine his discourse again and again, even if only to challenge what you have heard. Such are the effects of reading Eco’s essays in Inventing the Enemy. Full review...

Sisters of the East End by Helen Batten

3.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Katie Crisp had never intended to become a nun. Raised by non-religious parents, her family frowned upon organised religion and when Katie started secretly going to church, they strongly disapproved. When Katie ran to the aid of a stroke victim, she had a vision that changed her life. She saw herself dressed as a nun with a large silver cross hanging from her neck. She decided to follow her calling and join the community of St John the Divine, a group of Anglican nuns dedicated to nursing and midwifery. She thus shed her old identity and became known as Sister Catherine Mary. Full review...

Anti-Judaism: A History of a Way of Thinking by David Nirenberg

4.5star.jpg History

Initially the choice of title seemed an odd one on account of the more widely used term, anti-Semitism. The distinction is quickly made though, that unlike the latter, anti-Judaism does not need real Jews to flourish, but is fuelled by an idea alone. In fact this is a core tenet of Nirenberg’s thesis. Throughout history the idea of ‘Judaism’ is raised as an existential spectre in societies where there may be no Jewish members at all. This is a chilling reality, and Nirenberg charts the course of how this came to be. Full review...

Transforming Pandora by Carolyn Mathews

4star.jpg General Fiction

When we first meet Pandora Armstrong in the spring of 2003 she's grieving for her husband, Mike, who had died just a few weeks before. It hadn't been his first heart attack and he had reduced his workload but this attack was fatal. He was only in his fifties and Pandora feels that he'd been snatched away from her as they'd only been married for a few years. When a friend suggests that she goes with her to an Evening of Clairvoyance she runs out of excuses to refuse and although she's not exactly convinced by what she hears there's a lingering doubt. A spirit voice mentioned her children and Pandora was adamant that she didn't have any children - it's actually quite a sore point - but that wasn't true of Mike. Full review...

Cross Roads by Wm Paul Young

4star.jpg Spirituality and Religion

Wm. Paul Young's debut novel The Shack was a revelation in many ways. Whilst many disagreed with his theology, it was refreshing to see such an overtly faith based book on the bestseller lists. Personally, I found it a very moving story and whilst I thought it helpful on some points, it tended to skim over others. Now we get to see if Young can repeat his success with his new novel, Cross Roads. Full review...

The Magic Book of Cookery by Danaan Elderhill

3.5star.jpg Spirituality and Religion

Back in the seventeenth century in what was then the Kingdom of Bohemia there was a coven of witches. As was common at that time witches were hunted and they had to hide their beliefs. The Friends of Euphrosyne, as they called themselves, turned to this deity (she's one of the three graces and there to remind us to have fun) in their time of need and developed rituals which could be assimilated into social gatherings, allowing them to hide in plain sight. Their book - The Magic Book of Cookery - vanished along with the coven when they were discovered but Danaan Elderhill wants us to benefit from its ancient wisdom - and its fun. Full review...

I am not a Buddhist by Charity Seraphina Fields

3.5star.jpg Spirituality and Religion

I am not a Buddhist is an individual through Buddhism and its principles seen from the point of view of one on the path. Charity Seraphina Fields attempts - through her own musings on this ancient Eastern philosophy - to explain why Buddhism is better suited to the rich West than the poorer East. For Fields, the question isn't Why am I suffering without all those things I want?. The right question is actually Why am I still suffering even though I have everything I want? Full review...

Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition by Eamon Duffy

4star.jpg History

In the introduction to this book Eamon Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity at Cambridge History, points out that all too often historians have written about the English Reformation from strongly polarised views. Taking two extreme examples, he cites one which states that the people of England, formerly happy medieval Catholics, were forced by King Henry to abandon their religion, and England was never merry again, alongside another which speaks of the English being oppressed by corrupt churchmen until King Henry gave them the Protestant nation for which they longed. On the following page, he suggests that it had long been an axiom of historical writing that the success of the Reformation in England was an inevitable consequence of the dysfunction and unpopularity of late medieval Catholicism. Such remarks were evidently made by writers with an axe to grind. Full review...

Take the Plunge by Timothy Radcliffe

4star.jpg Spirituality and Religion

There appears to be more Christian literature around than ever before at the moment. I don't know whether this is a response to Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, which has meant that Christian writers and publishers have increased their outputs, or because I'm noticing it more. Timothy Radcliffe's Take the Plunge is taking a more or less opposite view to that of Dawkins, exploring the importance of baptism in everyday life and arguing that there is no aspect of life that cannot be touched if you are baptised and therefore living with faith. Full review...

Azazeel by Youssef Ziedan and Jonathan Wright (translator)

5star.jpg Historical Fiction

An archaeologist in a time and place close to that of modern troubled Syria discovers thirty scrolls. These are the writings of a Coptic Christian monk born into Roman dominated Egypt in AD391. A door thus opens into an ancient world and the emerging vista stretches from the present into the distant past, as if eliciting an omnipresent dimension to reality. The fluent evocative prose flows like a meandering river or a ribbon connecting continuously the present moment with the ancient world. A panorama emerges dominated by Rome and Constantinople and extends to Alexandria, Jerusalem and Antioch. Full review...

The Face of God: The Gifford Lectures by Roger Scruton

3.5star.jpg Spirituality and Religion

Atheist culture has recently become more mainstream, thanks in part to the success of Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion. However, religion does still have a part to play, with Prince Charles urging the United Kingdom to be more tolerant towards faiths other than the Church of England he was raised as part of and even the Prime Minister talking about faith issues. Since 1888, the Gifford Lectures have been given to 'promote and diffuse...the knowledge of God'. Full review...

The Hidden Geometry of Life by Karen French

2.5star.jpg Spirituality and Religion

The Hidden Geometry of Life aims to explore the esoteric and often mystical meanings contained in shapes and patterns [that] represent ideas and distil the essence of reality. This mystical angle was a little bit of a unpleasant surprise for this reader. I should have had a better look at Karen French's Amazon pages and previous work, but I was attracted by an exciting-sounding title, attractive cover and and references to author's art. Full review...

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Grace McCleen's debut novel, The Land of Decoration paints an original, unsettling, sometimes dark and generally rather wonderful picture. Narrated by ten year old Judith, raised by her father who is a fundamental religious follower of the end of the world is nigh variety, it looks at bullying, both at school and in more general society, faith and the possible rejection thereof and the strength of childhood imagination. Full review...

The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live by Roman Krznaric

5star.jpg History

'How should we live?' asks author Roman Krznaric. To answer this ancient question, he looks to history. 'I believe that the future of the art of living can be found by gazing into the past', he says. Creating a book which is as full of curiosities as a Renaissance 'Wunderkammer', he has a stab at the big questions: love, belief, money, family, death. The result is a pot-pourri of delights which left this particular reader stimulated and invigorated. Full review...