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. CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD, BOOK 3, by N. Walsch, Hampton Roads, $22.95 The theme of this final installment of Walsch's bestselling New Age trilogy is universal truths. The conversation - presented in dialogue form - tackles everything from whether humans have soul mates to the existence of aliens. The God in these pages is an all-knowing being who doesn't condemn people and who eschews guilt. He simply waits for them to listen to Him and act according to the wisdom He imparts. By Abraham McLaughlin 2. THE LADY, HER LOVER, AND HER LORD, by T.D. Jakes, Putnam, $19.99 T.D. Jakes tries valiantly here to provide women with a navigational atlas for today's world. He perceptively assesses some typical pitfalls of relationships and self-perception. Using the Scriptures as the foundation, he hammers home three basic points: (1) Be happy with yourself, (2) have confidence in your relationship with God, and (3) trust that everything else will follow. But that's where the book loses its punch. These ideas could have easily fit into a brief pamphlet. Instead, his concepts get lost in 208 pages of belabored writing and fluffy analogies. By Kristina Lanier 3. JUST LIKE JESUS, by Max Lucado, Word, $19.99 The Rev. Max Lucado's latest book encourages readers to make changes in their lives by following Jesus' example. Lucado infuses his chapters with examples of common challenges, many from his own family's experience. While this book would be of great value to someone exploring faith anew, it's also for any reader wishing to improve by considering the statement, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Included is a study guide, correlative biblical passages, and questions corresponding to the chapters. By Leigh Montgomery 4. CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD, BOOK I, by Neale D. Walsch, Putnam, $19.95 Written in a simple, accessible style, this book is based on what the author, the founder of an Oregon-based organization called ReCreation, describes as a three-year conversation with God that he transcribed. It contains some substantial insights and flashes of humor. God is described as an all-good, omnipotent Being, who is constantly communicating with all people. Prayer is described as a process, not a petition. This is the first of three books. By Abraham McLaughlin 5. SOUL HARVEST, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale, $22.99 Book 4 in the popular apocalyptic saga is set in a future where the world is afflicted by the wrath of God. Rayford Steele and Buck Williams, members of the Tribulation Force, an underground Christian army, search desperately for their loved ones amid the ruins of a global earthquake. This fast-paced roller coaster of a story reads as if it's written for the big screen. Jenkins and LaHaye, however, steep the adventure in biblical references and religious symbolism, so it may alienate readers who are not evangelical Christians. By Caitlin Shannon 6. SEVEN FROM HEAVEN, by Kenny & Bobbi McCaughey, Thomas Nelson, $22.99 Some called it tampering with nature; others heralded it as a miracle. Regardless, the fact remains that in November 1997, Bobbi McCaughey gave birth to seven healthy babies - the first living septuplets ever. Here, the McCaugheys recount their story, from their decision to use fertility drugs to the overwhelming media attention focused on the family after the infants' landmark birth. Though the "syrup" gets a little thick at times and bogs down in medical discussions, the McCaughey's unwavering faith in God and genuine gratitude to all those who helped is refreshing. By Kristina Lanier 7. KADDISH, by Leon Wieseltier, Alfred A. Knopf, $27.50 When the author's father dies, he assumes the task of saying "kaddish," or prayers, in accord with Jewish law. As he researches the history of the mourner's kaddish, applying his scholarship to matters of loss, faith, and continuity, he sees the duty become a benediction of sorts. This book is the journal of that momentous year. It is written in the manner of a man conversing with himself, and as such can be ponderous. But the intelligence, compassion, and yearning that pervade the book stay with the reader. By April Austin 8. DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT THE BIBLE, by Kenneth Davis, Morrow, $25 For those who shrink from the prospect of reading the Bible cover to cover, Davis, author of the bestselling "Don't Know Much About" series of history guides, delivers a fast-paced overview. Short, selected readings are followed by answers to questions like: Was there a coat of many colors? Who really killed Goliath? He quotes rabbis, popes, pastors, creationists, and evolutionists. "I try not to 'interpret' the Bible," he writes, "so much as to explain what is actually in it." His humor and sometimes in-your-face tone add interest. There's much here for anyone to learn. By Sara Gallant 9. WHAT'S SO AMAZING ABOUT GRACE?, by Philip Yancey, Zondervan, $19.99 The latest book by Christianity Today's editor-at-large comes from the heart with a sense of urgency. His message: Christian churches often seem to have misplaced grace, the essence of the gospel and the gift the world hungers for; many Christians act more like "moral exterminators" than dispensers of God's mercy. Through poignant stories, Yancey explores the glory and "scandal" of grace and the devastating consequences of "ungrace." Likely to ruffle some feathers, this compelling book challenges Christians to become a genuine healing force in society. By Jane Lampman 10. A PORTRAIT OF JESUS, by Joseph F. Girzone, Doubleday, $18.95 Joseph Girzone, the painter of this portrait of Jesus, is also an artist of the ways of the heart. As a retired Roman Catholic priest and a parish pastor, he colors and shades ecclesiastical laws until what appears are the glorious hues of the great commandment: Love God and thy neighbor as thyself. He contends that the world canvas of intractable conflicts caused by religious self-righteousness would fade into abstraction if the simple and profound picture of Jesus' naturalness and kindness were accepted and practiced more widely. By Mari Murray RELIGIOUS BESTSELLER RANKING FROM PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, DEC. 1998

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