A Monitor Guide to Religion Bestsellers

1. The Purpose-Driven Life

by Rick Warren

Zondervan, $19.99

Pastor Warren thinks there is one thing wrong with self-help books: too much focus on the self. He's designed his book to put the focus back on God, a chapter a day, for 40 days. It's refreshing to put aside personal goals for a service- and community-based purpose, but Warren hangs a lot on his claim that God is using our time on earth to put us through a series of tests. The suggestion that God might seem to take off for awhile because all relationships need "space" is also disturbing. His God sounds surprisingly human and manipulative. (336 pp.) By Kendra Nordin

2. Wild at Heart

by John Eldredge

Thomas Nelson, $19.99

Eldredge says God designed men to be dangerous, adventurous, and heroic. He rejects society's praise for the "nice guy," insisting that our emasculating culture forces men to deny their true nature, and he challenges men to live lives full of risk. At times, Eldredge seems to offer an excuse for recklessness, but ultimately he believes God alone gives men the answer to their true identity, and he points to the Bible to support his idea of masculinity. Many men (and women) will relate to his anecdotes, but readers shouldn't expect more than fleeting inspiration. (224 pp.) By Christian Scripter

3. Everyday Grace, 9.95

by Marianne Williamson

Riverhead Books, $1

Available on tape

It is not enough to recognize God's grace in daily life; you must also respond to and express it. This is what Marianne Williamson's book seeks to equip the reader to do. The first of her three parts presents a series of 'Wands' to help reclaim a latent sense of wonder and mysticism. The second features chapters corresponding to hours of the day (a not-quite-successful device that nevertheless yields some good advice). And the last tackles how to approach life with compassion and grace. A radical quest, but one that could transform our global community. (252 pp.) By Leigh Montgomery

4. The Prayer of Jabez

by Bruce Wilkinson

Multnomah, $9.99

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 Christian, that is. Found in I Chronicles, the prayer of Jabez is brief, but Wilkinson believes that when used daily, it opens the doors to God's blessings. Although his book glimmers with moments of inspiration and even aspiration for humanity, 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

5. Abraham

by Bruce Feiler

William Morrow, $23.95

Available on tape

When he began his study of Abraham - the one man to whom Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all trace their roots - Feiler was hoping to find a character of the sacred texts who could serve as a bridge for all the faithful. Instead, he encountered a multitude of Abrahams as the interpretative works of each religion over four millenniums reshaped and often made more exclusive the story of this remarkable figure. His wonderfully readable book inspires, and its realistic understanding provides a basis for genuine communication. (224 pp.) ( Reviewed Oct. 17 ) By Jane Lampman

6. I Hope You Dance

by Tia Sillers

Rutledge Hill Press, Inc., $13.99

Available on tape

Two summers ago, if you were listening to the radio at all, chances are you heard "I Hope You Dance," the hit song by Lee Ann Womack. Now the writers of the song have put the CD single in a gift book, which breaks the song apart, lyric by lyric, adding photos and text. Although the treatment risks overexposure, it is an inspiring song, sung from the point of view of someone who loves you and wants you to overcome every obstacle in your way. A little sappy, but it could still make a good gift. (62 pp.) By Christy Ellington

7. Bringing Up Boys

by James C. Dobson

Tyndale, $22.99

Available on tape

Dobson promotes traditional masculinity with a highly readable mix of physiology and folksy storytelling. For Dobson, boys' energy needs to be properly channeled by strong parents - particularly fathers. Chief among his solutions: emphasize gender differences, combat media messages, and make more time. Dobson has both a PhD in child development and a successful Christian Right publishing empire. This creates some tensions: He tells parents to trust professionals on ADHD, but urges distrust of psychologists on homosexuality. (284 pp.) By Ben Arnoldy

8. Let's Roll

by Lisa Beamer

Tyndale, $24.99

America's most famous 9/11 widow offers this heartfelt account of her previously unremarkable life with Todd Beamer, who became a hero when he said, "Let's roll" and stormed the cockpit of his hijacked plane. But only your eyes will roll as you wade through his wife's cheesy foreshadowing and clichéd generalizations. Sadly, such writing weighs down her descriptions of their deep religious faith. In his final moments, Mr. Beamer prayed with a phone operator. That same faith helped his wife survive the loss of both her father and husband. (280 pp.) By Seth Stern

9. Traveling Light

by Max Lucado

W Publishing Group, $21.99

Meditating on the 23rd Psalm, Max Lucado leads readers on a journey of spiritual enlightenment. This prolific author's latest work aims to help ordinary people drop the emotional baggage that prevents them from living fulfilled lives. Through quirky anecdotes - from a pro golfer losing his lead in the British Open to "a woolly bunch of bobbing heads" following their shepherd in ancient Palestine - Lucado largely succeeds in conveying a sense of relief. Among the burdens he addresses are shame, grief, guilt, hopelessness, and self-reliance. (220 pp.) By Steven Savides

10. The Remnant

by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins

Tyndale, $24.99

Available on tape

In the 10th volume of the formulaic but phenomenally successful Left Behind series on the End Times, the battle between forces of good and evil reaches the brink of Armageddon. With the earth "a wasted shell of its former beauty," the Antichrist unleashes bombs on the remnant of believers gathered in the ancient city of Petra. God's judgment rains plagues on unbelievers and affords miraculous escapes for Tribulation Force members. The book's second half oddly loses punch after the heart-thumping, spirit-stirring events of earlier pages. (432 pp.) By Jane Lampman

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