It’s that time of year again: Time every blogger, journalist, and essayist on the planet thinks the rest of the world is just yearning to hear what the top-ten of everything was. The top ten movies. The top ten novels. The top ten fashion faux pas.
Always one to do my part, here is my list. Not a top ten, just a top four: What I consider the four best books on writing and spirituality published in 2012, in no particular order.
The Wise Earth Speaks to Your Spirit by Janelle Moon
This book combines three of my favorite things: spiritual exploration, environmental awareness, and writing. The Wise Earth Speaks to Your Spirit offers a year—52 weeks—of essays and exercises focusing on the natural world. Laced with folklore, myth, and inspiring quotes from well-known writers—Gertrude Stein, E.B. White, and Ursula K. LeGuin among them—this book by hypnotherapist and poet Janell Moon is both charming and practical.
Why it works: Where else can you explore questions like “How do you envision holding ‘mud knowledge’ as you develop on your spiritual path”?
Acceptable Words: Prayers for the Writer edited by Gary Schmidge and Elizabeth Stickney
For any writer who needs a prayer—and who doesn’t?—this volume offers an “important and wise appreciation of the keenly relational, essentially dialogic practice that is the writer's life,” in the words of Scott Cairns.The collection includes prayers created by writers of vastly different styles and sensibilities and can be read and enjoyed even by those of us who don't pray, but could use a little inspiration and comfort from time to time.
Why it works: Prayers of petition. Prayers of praise. Prayers of gratitude, lamentation, and offering. In other words, it encompasses all aspects of the writer’s experience.
The Artist’s Torah by David Harris Ebenbach
This unique and important contribution to the growing body of work on the arts and spirituality by the author of Between Camelots and Into the Wilderness is organized around Jewish scripture: specifically the Torah, or first five books of the Hebrew Bible. The freshness of Ebenbach’s approach is set off by his meticulous scholarship and depth of analysis, and by his clean, sure writing style.
Why it works: The connections Ebenbach draws between scripture and the artist’s life are both surprising and spot-on. Plus, in the sea of Buddhist, Christian, New Age, and Yoga-inspired books on writing, it’s the only one I’m aware of that draws directly on the Jewish tradition.
The Best Spiritual Writing 2013 by Philip Zaleski and Stephen Prothero
Strictly speaking, this isn’t a book about spirituality and writing. There’s no writing guidance here, no instruction—just example after example of sharp, profound, and compelling writing about spiritual experience. Drawn from publications as diverse as The Antioch Review, The New Yorker, Tikkun, and Shambhala Sun, this collection of poetry and prose includes works by Coleman Barks, Linda Heuman, Melissa Range, Algis Valiunas, and many others.
Why it works: For the spiritual seeker, this book offers insights, challenges, and inspiration. For the essayist or poet, it provides enough models of excellent spiritual writing to keep us motivated for the whole of 2013.
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...