The Monitor Guide to Religion Bestsellers

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.

* Available on tape

# New review

1. THE ART OF HAPPINESS, by the Dalai Lama & H. Cutler, Riverhead, $22.95

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 about 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 between the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, a Phoenix-based psychiatrist. (322 pp.)

By Leigh Montgomery *

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

As the Apocalypse lengthens, our friends from the Tribulation Force continue battling the Antichrist to bring souls to Jesus. The woes that John prophesied in Revelation continue to afflict the world, and things worsen before they get better. Unfortunately, the more I read this series, the more disappointed I get. The authors attempt too much by providing more background than necessary. The writing is choppy, and as the plot leaps from location to location, the reader is often left behind. (403 pp.)

By Jan Moller *

3. WITNESS TO HOPE, by George Weigel, Cliff Street Books, $35

This extensive, well-researched biography of the pope is a thorough account of one of the 20th century's most visible world figures. Weigel sought to tell the story from the inside after a 1996 conversation with the pope. The book includes analysis of John Paul's ideas, writings, and correspondence with world leaders, rather than merely retelling biographical details. Weigel, a Roman Catholic, is a supporter of his subject and was permitted access to many of the bishops in the church as well as 20 hours with the pope. (992 pp.)

By Leigh Montgomery * #

4. FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD, by Neale Donald Walsch, Putnam, $22.95

This reflective book asks, "Does searching for my real selfhood need to interfere with another's search - or vice versa?" To the contrary, Walsch suggests, establishing a friendship with God propels individuals into oneness with all mankind. When reaching out from the lowest ebb of his life, Walsch started talking to God, and he received answers and started writing. His latest book, written as an entertaining and sincere dialogue, reaches the conclusion that we are all one, capable of ushering in a new society based on love instead of divisiveness. (437pp.)

By Mari Murray * #

5. ASSASSINS, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale House, $22.99

"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 technology. (384 pp.)

By Jan Moller *

6. SHE SAID YES, by Misty Bernall, Plough Publishing House, $17

Bernall points a finger not at the individuals who shot her daughter at Columbine, but at ignorance of the isolation and loneliness faced by teens today. She writes of her daughter's search to belong, which drove her into the occult, and then the struggle she underwent moving away from its influence. Her daughter ultimately found an answer to her problems in Christianity. Although it's an important story, the book contains hard-to-read details of the day of the shooting that seem unnecessary to its message. (140 pp.)

By Christy Ellington * #

7. WHEN CHRIST COMES, by Max Lucado, Word, $21.99

In this encouraging interpretation of spirituality, Lucado presents a day-to-day guide for creating a spiritually based home. Meant as a practical resource for families, this helpful book tries to answer many of the questions people have about Christ and the "final day." Lucado, a preacher, speaks to the reader in a friendly style that's concise, witty, and easy to comprehend. His explanations of love, death, and Christ rely on stories to demonstrate the importance of waiting, looking, trusting, and listening to God. (207 pp.)

By Becky Davis * #

8. ETHICS FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM, by the Dalai Lama, Riverhead, $24.95

The Tibetan spiritual leader continues voicing his hope for societal harmony by encouraging ethical discipline. Every individual, he argues, must cultivate the essential qualities of compassion, patience, tolerance, and virtue. He admits these are not new ideas, but also includes some of his own ambitious suggestions for change in the 21st century, such as strategically placed zones of peace and a global organization to represent the "conscience of the world." (237 pp.)

By Leigh Montgomery *

9. DESIRE OF THE EVERLASTING HILLS, by Thomas Cahill, Doubleday, $24.95

Cahill brings texture and atmosphere to the centuries immediately before and after Jesus' birth. He traces the rise of what seemed an insignificant variant of Judaism, and follows its establishment as the Christian faith. This is no dry history. Cahill is insightful, wry, and highly entertaining as he explores the cultural influences, social expectations, and tricky politics of the day. He examines the New Testament in this light, yet remains respectful. His goal, he states early, is to ascertain whether Jesus made a difference. His conclusion is unequivocal. (353 pp.)

By Susan Llewelyn Leach #

10. TRAVELING MERCIES, by Anne Lamott, Pantheon Books, $23

Without a doubt, this book is a '90s autobiography, branded by self-absorbtion. But Lamott's relentless self-analysis yields an interesting portrait of today's seeker. Lamott loses her father, goes through two married lovers, and is hardly ever sober. She struggles with her faith through it all, but clings to a belief in God. On the road to recovery, she arrives at some pure truths. She becomes someone she can accept, yet one senses change comes more through suffering than grace. (Full review, Feb. 11) (275 pp.)

By Trudy Palmer *


(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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