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.


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THE PRAYER OF JABEZ, by Bruce Wilkinson, Multnomah, $10.99

Bruce Wilkinson, founder of the Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, is convinced that the prayer of a man named Jabez could change your life, if you're a Christian, that is. Found in I Chronicles, the prayer of Jabez is brief. Wilkinson believes that when this prayer is used daily, it opens the doors to God's blessings. Although it glimmers with moments of inspiration and even aspiration for human life, by packaging those ideas as a strictly Christian ministry, Wilkinson will leave many seekers of faith on the sidewalks of the road he claims to have found. (144 pp.) By Christy Ellington

BUDDHA, by Karen Armstrong, Viking/Lipper, $19.95

"Buddha" is an elegant work that seems destined to become the classic source for anyone delving for the first time into the life and teachings of the religious icon. In a blend of history, philosophy, mythology, and biography, Armstrong not only portrays the tumultuous cultural landscape that helped spawn one of the world's most influential faiths, but she also plumbs the motivations of the man - Siddhatta Gotama - and vividly depicts his quest for transformative enlightenment. (205 pp.) (Full review Feb. 22) By Jane Lampman

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FRESH POWER, by Jim Cymbala with Dean Merrill, Zondervan, $18.99

The latest in a series by Brooklyn Tabernacle pastor Jim Cymbala, this installment turns to the third element of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. With oratory prose, Cymbala incorporates Biblical passages and testimonials from his own rejuvenated and growing congregation, but unlike his previous works, this book is less about affirmation and more an evaluation of contemporary Christianity. Cymbala has some pointed remarks on the modern church, with its increasingly grand edifices and entertainments. Written with inspiring honesty and vigor. (204 pp.) By Leigh Montgomery

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THE MARK, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale House, $22.99

Another in the long line of the Apocalypse series by LaHaye and Jenkins. This time believers and unbelievers in Christ are made to choose "the mark" so they can continue to trade goods in the New World economy. Our friends from the underground rebellion, Tribulation Force, lose members but gain others, one of whom is a computer wizard who can continue to be their mole in enemy headquarters. This book, like previous ones, continues to interpret biblical prophecy for a modern era and pitches the acceptance of Jesus as Saviour at every chance. (400 pp.) By Jan Moller

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

Lucado portrays the Crucifixion as an invitation to enter a 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 follow 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 nontheological terms. (240 pp.) By Ben Arnoldy

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READING THE BIBLE AGAIN..., by Marcus Borg, HarperSanFrancisco, $24

Using his expertise as a biblical scholar and a Christian, Borg offers an approach to reading Bible stories that respects both their original cultural setting and their power to teach and inspire in today's world. Most of the book focuses on applying this historical-metaphorical approach to specific Old and New Testament books. Borg writes passionately about the enduring value of the Bible. The engaging historical details he includes make familiar stories read like new. Whether you read the Bible religiously or rarely, this book is thought-provoking. (321 pp.) By Kim Risedorph

NIGHTLIGHT, by Dr. James and Shirley Dobson, Multnomah, $19.99

Recognizing the time and relationship demands faced by married couples, this book is a devotional for husbands and wives to read together for 10 minutes at the end of each day. Dobson and his wife, Shirley, have constructed entries that combine a Biblical verse, testimonies from other marriages and their own, and a series of reflective questions to ask each other. While some may not relate to the commentary written from an evangelical Christian perspective, many of the questions are essential for couples to ask at any point in their marriage. (304 pp.) By Leigh Montgomery

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WALKING THE BIBLE, by Bruce Feiler, Morrow, $26

Considering the bigness of the subject - traveling the entire Fertile Crescent in relation to the first five books of the Bible - you have to hand it to Feiler for getting his arms (and feet) around it at all. The resulting book blends elements of a personal journal, an undergraduate lecture series, a conversation, and a long letter home. It's a multi-layered epic played out in the lives of Biblical ancestors, but also in the minds and hearts of a wide assortment of residents, pilgrims, academics, and desert dwellers of the modern Middle East. (304 pp.) (Reviewed at left.) By Linda Giedl

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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

CONSTANTINE'S SWORD, by James Carroll, Houghton Mifflin, $28

Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were not only anti-Jewish, but anti-Christian. Nonetheless, a vast number of Hitler supporters were Christians. In this magisterial and searching study, Carroll probes the dark question of the link between "ancient Christian hatred of Jews" and "the 20th century's murderous hatred that produced the death camps." As a Roman Catholic, Carroll feels compelled to examine how the religion that means so much to him became tainted with anti-Semitism. (756 pp.) (Full review Feb. 22) By Merle Rubin


(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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