The Monitor's Guide to Religion Bestsellers

The Monitor's quarterly review of bestselling religion books offers a one-stop opportunity to survey the resurgent interest in religion and spirituality.

1. THE INDWELLING, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale House, $22.99

With the 7th installment of their apocalyptic "Left Behind" series, LaHaye and Jenkins ascended into the "Harry Potter" realm: pre-sales of 1.3 million. In "The Indwelling," Antichrist ruler Nicolae Carpathia is dead, but a new world-wide religion looms, and Global Community police are determined to track down the killer. Members of the Tribulation Force (the good guys) are scattered around the world, hiding and waiting for further prophesy fulfillment. The book is full of melodramatic choices and white-knuckle excitement. Five more installments to go. (389 pp.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

2. ASSASSINS, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale House, $19.97

"Assassins" takes us past the midpoint of the Apocalypse, and we see more prophecies of the book of Revelation come to pass. The continuation of the story of the Tribulation Force - those left behind after Jesus' Rapture - gives plenty of background on each character as they pray to be chosen by God to assassinate the New World Order leader, Nicolae Carpathia. Fortunately, the Lord has provided the underground Trib Force with better techies to override the Antichrist's tools. (384 pp.) By Jan Moller

3. PAPAL SIN, by Gary Wills, Doubleday, $25

In the past, popes were routinely outed for their sins by Last Judgment painters depicting them in hellfire. This, argues Wills, was healthy. In contrast, the modern church's insistence on its own infallibility has forced it to defend bad positions on issues ranging from contraception to the celibacy of the priesthood. Although Wills can come down a bit hard at times, his argument overall is intriguing, and the book's many tidbits of history make for a fascinating read. (304 pp.) By Liz Marlantes

4. THE INVITATION, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, HarperSanFrancisco, $18

Dreamer, a leader of meditation workshops and retreats, extends an invitation to all individuals in search of spiritual meaning. Although presenting itself as a beginner's guide to meditation, "The Invitation" is more for those who have already investigated meditation to some degree. Sections of soul-filled writing cut off by recipe-like instructions make for a choppy read. Rather than adding something new to the many books out on meditation today, it offers more of the same. (136 pp.) By Christy Ellington

5. THE ART OF HAPPINESS, by The Dalai Lama, Riverhead, $23.95

The purpose of life, says the Dalai Lama, is to seek happiness. This seemingly elementary statement requires strict adherence and mental discipline toward a benevolent, rather than self-centered, happiness. There is great value in reading the basic spiritual values of this unique world figure and Tibetan spiritual leader: human qualities of goodness, compassion, and caring. This book is based on a series of conversations with Howard Cutler, a Phoenix-based psychiatrist. (315 pp.) By Leigh Montgomery

6. AFTER THE ECSTASY, THE LAUNDRY, by Jack Kornfield, Bantam, $24.95

A rich read about the challenges of realizing spiritual enlightenment. Kornfield, a teacher of Zen Buddhism and meditation, disputes that there is "a special place to reach in spiritual life." This goal should not be viewed as the end, but a beginning. One must continue to grow and learn. Kornfield addresses elements of Buddhism, such as the need to face death, the importance of truth-seeking, and the need for forgiveness. The testimonies by Kornfield's students describe how they succeeded in turning from fear, sadness, and other personal challenges. (300 pp.) By Leigh Montgomery

7. PAUL, by Walter Wangerin, Zondervan, $22.99

Novelists fashion fiction out of the facts that historians treasure, but to write about a towering figure like the Apostle to the Gentiles takes nerve, and Wangerin has plenty of it, enough to be one of Paul's foot soldiers himself. Most of the scenes in this theatrical novel are narrated in the first person by Paul's contemporaries. Through the zoom lens of their memories, we experience those episodes in the book of Acts that have echoed in the hearts and minds of Bible readers down through the ages. (See full review p. 19.) (512 pp.) By Colin C. Campbell

8. HE CHOSE THE NAILS, by Max Lucado, Word, $21.99

Lucado portrays the crucifixion as an invitation to enter a personal relationship with Christ. He says the "coolest" thing about Jesus' sacrifice is that "He did it for you." Lucado personalizes the crucifixion through simple stories drawn mostly from his own experiences. Each story opens into questions in the text and a study-guide postscript. Chapters are organized along familiar but little-noticed details of the crucifixion story like the wine-soaked sponge, the temple curtain, and Jesus' burial clothing. Each chapter explains their significance in non-theological terms. (240 pp.) By Ben Arnoldy

9. FRESH WIND,FRESH FIRE, by Jim Cymbala & D. Merrill, Zondervan, $17.99

This is the story of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, a Manhattan church that was literally falling apart and could barely attract 25 people a week before the Rev. Jim Cymbala became pastor. It now draws a congregation of several thousand, and its nine-voice choir has grown to 250. Cymbala also wanted the church to have a midweek meeting dedicated to prayer; those services now attract everyone from professionals to the homeless. This was 25 years in progress and reflects a deep dedication to this urban community and its challenges. (192 pp.) By Leigh Montgomery 10. HOW TO KNOW GOD, by Deepak Chopra, Harmony Books, $24

For Chopra, God "isn't a person, God is a process." Creatively weaving together physics and metaphysics, Chopra describes reality as a sandwich, with a transitional realm as the filling between God and the material world. Our brains are "hardwired" to enter this realm through seven different "God responses." Chopra draws from a variety of sources, including Eastern religions and physical sciences. While his argument at times seems jumbled, he makes several thought-provoking points. (320 pp.) By Liz Marlantes

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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