Welcome to a new Monitor feature, reviews of the best-selling books on religion. This page, which will appear quarterly, offers readers a one-stop opportunity to sample popular works that reflect the resurgent interest in things religious and spiritual. Such books, numbering in the thousands, are a recent publishing phenomenon. Unlike our best-selling fiction and nonfiction pages, this list does not include ratings of the books.Skip to next paragraph
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1. CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL, Health Communications, $12
Best swallowed in small doses, this collection of sometimes moving stories by Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen illustrates how human optimism, goodness, and love can make bad situations better, and occasionally even heal them. These anecdotal tales will give those hopeful about the human race a sense of vindication and may even make the hearts of a few skeptics melt. This book is well-meaning and well-executed. Most readers will be lifted by some of its content, and some by most of it. Others will consider that it attributes too much power to positive thinking and will look in vain for a theology behind these carefully crafted stories. By Tony Lobl.
2. 2ND HELPING OF CHICKEN SOUP...Health Communications, $12
Those who savored the ingredients that made up the first serving of "Chicken Soup for the Soul," will be glad to know this collection, edited by Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen, is true to its title. It is a second helping of the same kind of storytelling that lauds goodness instead of selfishness and a positive, loving outlook even in the face of adversity. Others, who enjoyed the first collection but felt ready to move on and explore deeper questions, will find this isn't that next course on the "soul" menu. Some stories contain details of medical conditions and treatments. By Tony Lobl.
3. ILLUMINATA, by Marianne Williamson, Riverhead Books, $12.
A popular speaker on metaphysics and spirituality, Marianne Williamson has devoted her third book to prayer: praying daily about physical healing, relationships, work and creativity, and the world. More than just pages of pleas for God to change things, her prayers give insight into how things may have gone wrong in the first place. And many of her most heartfelt prayers spark deep hope while pointing out, often quite profoundly, some of the possibilities for healing and regeneration. This book will assist readers looking to explore a broad aggregation of prayers along with thoughts about what prayer can do. By Mark Swinney.
4. JOSHUA, by Joseph F. Girzone, Collier, $9
Are the churches ready for a lecture from the Saviour? This book gives one. The setting is Auburn, a modern-day Everyman-village, where a reclusive carpenter lives. He denigrates traditional religious hierarchies and encourages the individual to look heavenward on his own for God. In simple and sturdy prose, the author, a retired Roman Catholic priest, gives an account of the ideal life. The Saviour ought to get a better deal, a better hearing on earth today. The central theme is a variation on the golden rule, saying: "Treat that stranger the way you would be treated, or you might miss the adventure of a lifetime. Doing this is saying 'Hello!' to your true self." By Mari Murray.
5. A BOOK OF ANGELS, by Sophy Burnham, Ballantine, $6.99
What are angels? What do they look like? Are they here to help? to guide? to punish? Using personal accounts, art, literature, and folklore of many cultures and religious denominations, the author examines but never quite answers these questions. With a tone of New Age acceptance, she contrasts her ideas of these illusive beings with demons, ghosts, images, and dreams. Whether they appear as guardian angels, dark angels, or angels of death, these mysterious beings, according to Burnham, remain servants of God, glorifying Him, caring for His creation, always just beyond any comphrensive or definitive understanding. By Laurie Peach.