A religion book recommendation: This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2ixpunU.
As a writer her informal, chatty style engenders a kinship with both her struggles and triumphs. She speaks directly to the reader and welcomes them in to her private thoughts and dreams.
Book description from Google Books:
The Oscar-nominated Precious star and Empire actress delivers a much-awaited memoir–wise, complex, smart, funny–a version of the American experience different from anything we’ve read Gabourey Sidibe–“Gabby” to her legion of fans–skyrocketed to international fame in 2009 when she played the leading role in Lee Daniels’s acclaimed movie Precious. In This Is Just My Face, she shares a one-of-a-kind life story in a voice as fresh and challenging as many of the unique characters she’s played onscreen. With full-throttle honesty, Sidibe paints her Bed-Stuy/Harlem family life with a polygamous father and a gifted mother who supports her two children by singing in the subway. Sidibe tells the engrossing, inspiring story of her first job as a phone sex “talker.” And she shares her unconventional (of course!) rise to fame as a movie star, alongside “a superstar cast of rich people who lived in mansions and had their own private islands and amazing careers while I lived in my mom’s apartment.”    Sidibe’s memoir hits hard with self-knowing dispatches on friendship, depression, celebrity, haters, fashion, race, and weight (“If I could just get the world to see me the way I see myself,” she writes, “would my body still be a thing you walked away thinking about?”). Irreverent, hilarious, and untraditional, This Is Just My Face will resonate with anyone who has ever felt different, and with anyone who has ever felt inspired to make a dream come true. 
The book is rated 4.02/5 at goodreads.com, from 2469 ratings. See 439 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2izvnAC.
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A religion book recommendation: Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment by Robert Wright

A critic review (source NPR) can be read at: http://n.pr/2izghLs.
Wright’s insight on this point is just one of the many truths in his delightfully personal, yet broadly important, new book Why Buddhism Is True.
Book description from Google Books:
New York Times Bestseller From one of America’s greatest minds, a journey through psychology, philosophy, and lots of meditation to show how Buddhism holds the key to moral clarity and enduring happiness.Robert Wright famously explained in The Moral Animal how evolution shaped the human brain. The mind is designed to often delude us, he argued, about ourselves and about the world. And it is designed to make happiness hard to sustain. But if we know our minds are rigged for anxiety, depression, anger, and greed, what do we do? Wright locates the answer in Buddhism, which figured out thousands of years ago what scientists are only discovering now. Buddhism holds that human suffering is a result of not seeing the world clearly—and proposes that seeing the world more clearly, through meditation, will make us better, happier people. In Why Buddhism is True, Wright leads readers on a journey through psychology, philosophy, and a great many silent retreats to show how and why meditation can serve as the foundation for a spiritual life in a secular age. At once excitingly ambitious and wittily accessible, this is the first book to combine evolutionary psychology with cutting-edge neuroscience to defend the radical claims at the heart of Buddhist philosophy. With bracing honesty and fierce wisdom, it will persuade you not just that Buddhism is true—which is to say, a way out of our delusion—but that it can ultimately save us from ourselves, as individuals and as a species.
The book is rated 4.07/5 at goodreads.com, from 1162 ratings. See 170 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h5LUfz.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2h7rgf9.
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A religion book recommendation: The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors by Dan Jones

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2h5ce9y.
…fast-paced narrative history depicted with irresistible verve, bloody battle scenes and moments of laugh-out-loud wit.
Book description from Google Books:
An instant bestseller, this major new history of the knights Templar is “a fresh, muscular and compelling history of the ultimate military-religious crusading order, combining sensible scholarship with narrative swagger” – Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Jerusalem   A faltering war in the middle east. A band of elite warriors determined to fight to the death to protect Christianity’s holiest sites. A global financial network unaccountable to any government. A sinister plot founded on a web of lies.Jerusalem 1119. A small group of knights seeking a purpose in the violent aftermath of the First Crusade decides to set up a new order. These are the first Knights Templar, a band of elite warriors prepared to give their lives to protect Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. Over the next two hundred years, the Templars would become the most powerful religious order of the medieval world. Their legend has inspired fervent speculation ever since.  In this groundbreaking narrative history, Dan Jones tells the true story of the Templars for the first time in a generation, drawing on extensive original sources to build a gripping account of these Christian holy warriors whose heroism and alleged depravity have been shrouded in myth. The Templars were protected by the pope and sworn to strict vows of celibacy. They fought the forces of Islam in hand-to-hand combat on the sun-baked hills where Jesus lived and died, finding their nemesis in Saladin, who vowed to drive all Christians from the lands of Islam. Experts at channeling money across borders, they established the medieval world’s banking network and waged private wars against anyone who threatened their interests. A vindictive King of France set his sights on their fortune. He instructed his lawyers to mount a damning case against them, built on deliberate lies and false testimony. Then on Friday October 13, 1307, hundreds of brothers were arrested, imprisoned and tortured, and the order was disbanded amid lurid accusations of sexual misconduct and heresy. They were tried by the Pope in secret proceedings and publicly humiliated. But were they heretics or victims of a ruthlessly repressive state? Dan Jones goes back to the sources tobring their dramatic tale, so relevant to our own times, in a book that is at once authoritative and compulsively readable.
The book is rated 3.84/5 at goodreads.com, from 231 ratings. See 44 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h5ci9i.
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A religion book recommendation: Priestdaddy: A Memoir by Patricia Lockwood

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2yxVsJH.
Priestdaddy is a haphazard coming-of-age story, but also an account of a writer forming a highly individual worldview, and finding an audience.
Book description from Google Books:
“Consistently alive with feeling. . . Lockwood’s prose is cute and dirty and innocent and experienced, Betty Boop in a pas de deux with David Sedaris.” –The New York Times “You’ll be wowed by Patricia Lockwood’s darkly profane and poetic memoir Priestdaddy.” –Elle Magazine From Patricia Lockwood–a writer acclaimed for her wildly original voice–a vivid, heartbreakingly funny memoir about balancing identity with family and tradition. Father Greg Lockwood is unlike any Catholic priest you have ever met–a man who lounges in boxer shorts, loves action movies, and whose constant jamming on the guitar reverberates “like a whole band dying in a plane crash in 1972.” His daughter is an irreverent poet who long ago left the Church’s country. When an unexpected crisis leads her and her husband to move back into her parents’ rectory, their two worlds collide. In Priestdaddy, Lockwood interweaves emblematic moments from her childhood and adolescence–from an ill-fated family hunting trip and an abortion clinic sit-in where her father was arrested to her involvement in a cultlike Catholic youth group–with scenes that chronicle the eight-month adventure she and her husband had in her parents’ household after a decade of living on their own. Lockwood details her education of a seminarian who is also living at the rectory, tries to explain Catholicism to her husband, who is mystified by its bloodthirstiness and arcane laws, and encounters a mysterious substance on a hotel bed with her mother. Lockwood pivots from the raunchy to the sublime, from the comic to the deeply serious, exploring issues of belief, belonging, and personhood. Priestdaddy is an entertaining, unforgettable portrait of a deeply odd religious upbringing, and how one balances a hard-won identity with the weight of family and tradition.
The book is rated 3.87/5 at goodreads.com, from 2103 ratings. See 397 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2yy4OFv.
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A religion book recommendation: Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation by Peter Marshall

A critic review (source The Economist) can be read at: http://econ.st/2yuGrbH.
Whig histories typically focus on the progress that the state and evangelicals made in forging a Church of England: a history of the winners. Mr Marshall’s contribution is a riveting account of the losers as well…
Book description from Google Books:
A sumptuously written people’s history and a major retelling and reinterpretation of the story of the English Reformation Centuries on, what the Reformation was and what it accomplished remain deeply contentious. Peter Marshall’s sweeping new history–the first major overview for general readers in a generation–argues that sixteenth-century England was a society neither desperate for nor allergic to change, but one open to ideas of “reform” in various competing guises. King Henry VIII wanted an orderly, uniform Reformation, but his actions opened a Pandora’s Box from which pluralism and diversity flowed and rooted themselves in English life.   With sensitivity to individual experience as well as masterfully synthesizing historical and institutional developments, Marshall frames the perceptions and actions of people great and small, from monarchs and bishops to ordinary families and ecclesiastics, against a backdrop of profound change that altered the meanings of “religion” itself. This engaging history reveals what was really at stake in the overthrow of Catholic culture and the reshaping of the English Church.
The book is rated 4.18/5 at goodreads.com, from 11 ratings. See 3 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2xKZxqc.
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A religion book recommendation: The First Love Story: Adam, Eve, and Us by Bruce Feiler

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2xLiF7u.
Feiler plunges into this thicket with verve, intelligence and style. He’s done a miraculous thing, the literary equivalent of breathing life into a figure made of clay — taken a story I’ve been hearing since services were held in the old sanctuary and made me experience it again as if for the first time.
Book description from Google Books:
From the New York Times bestselling author of Walking the Bible and Abraham comes a revelatory journey across four continents and 4,000 years exploring how Adam and Eve introduced the idea of love into the world, and how they continue to shape our deepest feelings about relationships, family, and togetherness. Since antiquity, one story has stood at the center of every conversation about men and women. One couple has been the battleground for human relationships and sexual identity. That couple is Adam and Eve. Yet instead of celebrating them, history has blamed them for bringing sin, deceit, and death into the world. In this fresh retelling of their story, New York Times columnist and PBS host Bruce Feiler travels from the Garden of Eden in Iraq to the Sistine Chapel in Rome, from John Milton’s London to Mae West’s Hollywood, discovering how Adam and Eve should be hailed as exemplars of a long-term, healthy, resilient relationship. At a time of discord and fear over the strength of our social fabric, Feiler shows how history’s first couple can again be role models for unity, forgiveness, and love. Containing all the humor, insight, and wisdom that have endeared Bruce Feiler to readers around the world, The First Love Story is an unforgettable journey that restores Adam and Eve to their rightful place as central figures in our culture’s imagination and reminds us that even our most familiar stories still have the ability to surprise, inspire, and guide us today.
The book is rated 3.93/5 at goodreads.com, from 207 ratings. See 54 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2yu9kVb.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2yuryWX.

A religion book recommendation: Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation by Peter Marshall

A critic review (source The Economist) can be read at: http://econ.st/2yuGrbH.
Whig histories typically focus on the progress that the state and evangelicals made in forging a Church of England: a history of the winners. Mr Marshall’s contribution is a riveting account of the losers as well…
Book description from Google Books:
A sumptuously written people’s history and a major retelling and reinterpretation of the story of the English Reformation Centuries on, what the Reformation was and what it accomplished remain deeply contentious. Peter Marshall’s sweeping new history–the first major overview for general readers in a generation–argues that sixteenth-century England was a society neither desperate for nor allergic to change, but one open to ideas of “reform” in various competing guises. King Henry VIII wanted an orderly, uniform Reformation, but his actions opened a Pandora’s Box from which pluralism and diversity flowed and rooted themselves in English life.   With sensitivity to individual experience as well as masterfully synthesizing historical and institutional developments, Marshall frames the perceptions and actions of people great and small, from monarchs and bishops to ordinary families and ecclesiastics, against a backdrop of profound change that altered the meanings of “religion” itself. This engaging history reveals what was really at stake in the overthrow of Catholic culture and the reshaping of the English Church.
The book is rated 4.50/5 at goodreads.com, from 10 ratings. See 3 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2xKZxqc.
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A religion book recommendation: The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims by Mustafa Akyol

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2fysNK6.
That’s about as interfaith as you can get. And whatever quibbles one might have with Akyol’s reasoning, it’s a welcome expansion of the fragile territory known as common ground.
Book description from Google Books:
“A welcome expansion of the fragile territory known as common ground.” —The New York TimesWhen Reza Aslan’s bestseller Zealot came out in 2013, there was criticism that he hadn’t addressed his Muslim faith while writing the origin story of Christianity. In fact, Ross Douthat of The New York Times wrote that “if Aslan had actually written in defense of the Islamic view of Jesus, that would have been something provocative and new.” Mustafa Akyol’s The Islamic Jesus is that book.The Islamic Jesus reveals startling new truths about Islam in the context of the first Muslims and the early origins of Christianity. Muslims and the first Christians—the Jewish followers of Jesus—saw Jesus as not divine but rather as a prophet and human Messiah and that salvation comes from faith and good works, not merely as faith, as Christians would later emphasize. What Akyol seeks to reveal are how these core beliefs of Jewish Christianity, which got lost in history as a heresy, emerged in a new religion born in 7th Arabia: Islam.Akyol exposes this extraordinary historical connection between Judaism, Jewish Christianity and Islam—a major mystery unexplored by academia. From Jesus’ Jewish followers to the Nazarenes and Ebionites to the Qu’ran’s stories of Mary and Jesus, The Islamic Jesus will reveal links between religions that seem so contrary today. It will also call on Muslims to discover their own Jesus, at a time when they are troubled by their own Pharisees and Zealots.
The book is rated 4.14/5 at goodreads.com, from 129 ratings. See 27 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2xLUUj9.
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A religion book recommendation: Ninety-Nine Stories of God by Joy Williams

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2d8ZQlQ.
Chains of association appeared and disappeared like currents in a swift-flowing stream. Some stories were arresting or impressive on first read, while others required more time and attention to blossom in my understanding.
Book description from Google Books:
Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist Joy Williams has a one-of-a-kind gift for capturing both the absurdity and the darkness of everyday life. In Ninety-Nine Stories of God, she takes on one of mankind’s most confounding preoccupations: the Supreme Being. This series of short, fictional vignettes explores our day-to-day interactions with an ever-elusive and arbitrary God. It’s the Book of Common Prayer as seen through a looking glass—a powerfully vivid collection of seemingly random life moments. The figures that haunt these stories range from Kafka (talking to a fish) to the Aztecs, Tolstoy to Abraham and Sarah, O. J. Simpson to a pack of wolves. Most of Williams’s characters, however, are like the rest of us: anonymous strivers and bumblers who brush up against God in the least expected places or go searching for Him when He’s standing right there. The Lord shows up at a hot-dog-eating contest, a demolition derby, a formal gala, and a drugstore, where he’s in line to get a shingles vaccination. At turns comic and yearning, lyric and aphoristic, Ninety-Nine Stories of God serves as a pure distillation of one of our great artists.
The book is rated 3.63/5 at goodreads.com, from 1137 ratings. See 251 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2d9168z.
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A religion book recommendation: Haunted: On Ghosts, Witches, Vampires, Zombies, and Other Monsters of the Natural and Supernatural Worlds by Leo Braudy

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2s2CWqx.
My worries about following Braudy’s arguments proved unfounded. If this scholar writes densely, he also has a kangaroo capacity for crossing huge distances at a bound, moving with equal zest and confidence among biblical, classical, medieval, Enlightenment and Hollywood figures and conceits.
Book description from Google Books:
An award-winning scholar and author charts four hundred years of monsters and how they reflect the culture that created them Leo Braudy, a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, has won accolades for revealing the complex and constantly shifting history behind seemingly unchanging ideas of fame, war, and masculinity.   Continuing his interest in the history of emotion, this book explores how fear has been shaped into images of monsters and monstrosity. From the Protestant Reformation to contemporary horror films and fiction, he explores four major types: the monster from nature (King Kong), the created monster (Frankenstein), the monster from within (Mr. Hyde), and the monster from the past (Dracula). Drawing upon deep historical and literary research, Braudy discusses the lasting presence of fearful imaginings in an age of scientific progress, viewing the detective genre as a rational riposte to the irrational world of the monstrous. Haunted is a compelling and incisive work by a writer at the height of his powers.
The book is rated 3.54/5 at goodreads.com, from 37 ratings. See 16 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2qIN6Zn.
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