A religion book recommendation: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2dyhTUG.
These are flaws, but not fatal ones. For the most part, “The Wonder” is a fine, fact-based historical novel, an old-school page turner (I use the phrase without shame).
Book description from Google Books:
Named a Notable Book of 2016 by the Washington Post, one of Kirkus Reviews’ “Best 100 Fiction Books of 2016,” and one of Fresh Air’s Maureen Corrigan’s 10 Best Books of 2016*The latest masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room* In the latest masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child’s life.Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.Written with all the propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels–a tale of two strangers who transform each other’s lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil. ACCLAIM FOR THE WONDER: “Deliciously gothic…. Dark and vivid, with complicated characters, this is a novel that lodges itself deep” (USA Today, 3/4 stars); “Heartbreaking and transcendent” (New York Times); “A fable as lean and discomfiting as Anna’s dwindling body…. Donoghue keeps us riveted” (Chicago Tribune); “Donoghue poses powerful questions about faith and belief” (Newsday)
The book is rated 3.66/5 at goodreads.com, from 30112 ratings. See 4378 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2dyiVQn.
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A religion book recommendation: The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine by Ben Ehrenreich

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2atSs1P.
…Ehrenreich’s haunting, poignant and memorable stories add up to a weighty contribution to the Palestinian side of the scales of history.
Book description from Google Books:
From an award-winning journalist, a brave and necessary immersion into the everyday struggles of Palestinian life  Over the past three years, American writer Ben Ehrenreich has been traveling to and living in the West Bank, staying with Palestinian families in its largest cities and its smallest villages. Along the way he has written major stories for American outlets, including a remarkable New York Times Magazine cover story. Now comes the powerful new work that has always been his ultimate goal, The Way to the Spring. We are familiar with brave journalists who travel to bleak or war-torn places on a mission to listen and understand, to gather the stories of people suffering from extremes of oppression and want: Katherine Boo, Ryszard Kapuściński, Ted Conover, and Philip Gourevitch among them. Palestine is, by any measure, whatever one’s politics, one such place. Ruled by the Israeli military, set upon and harassed constantly by Israeli settlers who admit unapologetically to wanting to drive them from the land, forced to negotiate an ever more elaborate and more suffocating series of fences, checkpoints, and barriers that have sundered home from field, home from home, this is a population whose living conditions are unique, and indeed hard to imagine. In a great act of bravery, empathy and understanding, Ben Ehrenreich, by placing us in the footsteps of ordinary Palestinians and telling their story with surpassing literary power and grace, makes it impossible for us to turn away.
The book is rated 4.23/5 at goodreads.com, from 194 ratings. See 40 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2atS2Za.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2tlzd4E.

A religion book recommendation: The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine by Ben Ehrenreich

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2atSs1P.
…Ehrenreich’s haunting, poignant and memorable stories add up to a weighty contribution to the Palestinian side of the scales of history.
Book description from Google Books:
From an award-winning journalist, a brave and necessary immersion into the everyday struggles of Palestinian life  Over the past three years, American writer Ben Ehrenreich has been traveling to and living in the West Bank, staying with Palestinian families in its largest cities and its smallest villages. Along the way he has written major stories for American outlets, including a remarkable New York Times Magazine cover story. Now comes the powerful new work that has always been his ultimate goal, The Way to the Spring. We are familiar with brave journalists who travel to bleak or war-torn places on a mission to listen and understand, to gather the stories of people suffering from extremes of oppression and want: Katherine Boo, Ryszard Kapuściński, Ted Conover, and Philip Gourevitch among them. Palestine is, by any measure, whatever one’s politics, one such place. Ruled by the Israeli military, set upon and harassed constantly by Israeli settlers who admit unapologetically to wanting to drive them from the land, forced to negotiate an ever more elaborate and more suffocating series of fences, checkpoints, and barriers that have sundered home from field, home from home, this is a population whose living conditions are unique, and indeed hard to imagine. In a great act of bravery, empathy and understanding, Ben Ehrenreich, by placing us in the footsteps of ordinary Palestinians and telling their story with surpassing literary power and grace, makes it impossible for us to turn away.
The book is rated 4.23/5 at goodreads.com, from 194 ratings. See 40 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2atS2Za.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2tlzd4E.

A religion book recommendation: The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2pLOiLM.
…my friend Rod Dreher, whose new book, “The Benedict Option,” is already the most discussed and most important religious book of the decade.
Book description from Google Books:
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER “Already the most discussed and most important religious book of the decade.” –David Brooks In this controversial bestseller, Rod Dreher calls on American Christians to prepare for the coming Dark Age by embracing an ancient Christian way of life.    From the inside, American churches have been hollowed out by the departure of young people and by an insipid pseudo-Christianity. From the outside, they are beset by challenges to religious liberty in a rapidly secularizing culture. Keeping Hillary Clinton out of the White House may have bought a brief reprieve from the state’s assault, but it will not stop the West’s slide into decadence and dissolution.   Rod Dreher argues that the way forward is actu�ally the way back–all the way to St. Benedict of Nur�sia. This sixth-century monk, horrified by the moral chaos following Rome’s fall, retreated to the forest and created a new way of life for Christians. He built enduring communities based on principles of order, hospitality, stability, and prayer. His spiritual centers of hope were strongholds of light throughout the Dark Ages, and saved not just Christianity but Western civilization.   Today, a new form of barbarism reigns. Many believers are blind to it, and their churches are too weak to resist. Politics offers little help in this spiritual crisis. What is needed is the Benedict Option, a strategy that draws on the authority of Scripture and the wisdom of the ancient church. The goal: to embrace exile from mainstream culture and construct a resilient counterculture.   The Benedict Option is both manifesto and rallying cry for Christians who, if they are not to be conquered, must learn how to fight on culture war battlefields like none the West has seen for fifteen hundred years. It’s for all mere Chris�tians–Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox–who can read the signs of the times. Neither false optimism nor fatalistic despair will do. Only faith, hope, and love, embodied in a renewed church, can sustain believers in the dark age that has overtaken us. These are the days for building strong arks for the long journey across a sea of night.
The book is rated 3.82/5 at goodreads.com, from 1022 ratings. See 255 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2pMxTsw.
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A religion book recommendation: Daredevils by Shawn Vestal

A critic review (source Financial Times) can be read at: http://on.ft.com/2akakfu.
In this riveting debut novel, Shawn Vestal takes his readers on an illuminating journey through the murky routes of American religion. Daredevils brims with extraordinary characters…
Book description from Google Books:
From the winner of 2014’s PEN Robert W. Bingham Prize, an unforgettable debut novel about Loretta, a teenager married off as a “sister wife,” who makes a break for freedom  At the heart of this exciting debut novel, set in Arizona and Idaho in the mid-1970s, is fifteen-year-old Loretta, who slips out of her bedroom every evening to meet her so-called gentile boyfriend. Her strict Mormon parents catch her returning one night, and promptly marry her off to Dean Harder, a devout yet materialistic fundamentalist who already has a wife and a brood of kids. The Harders relocate to his native Idaho, where Dean’s teenage nephew Jason falls hard for Loretta. A Zeppelin and Tolkien fan, Jason worships Evel Knievel and longs to leave his close-minded community. He and Loretta make a break for it. They drive all night, stay in hotels, and relish their dizzying burst of teenage freedom as they seek to recover Dean’s cache of “Mormon gold.” But someone Loretta left behind is on their trail…  A riveting story of desire and escape, Daredevils boasts memorable set pieces and a rich cast of secondary characters. There’s Dean’s other wife, Ruth, who as a child in the 1950s was separated from her parents during the notorious Short Creek raid, when federal agents descended on a Mormon fundamentalist community. There’s Jason’s best friend, Boyd, part Native American and caught up in the activist spirit of the time, who comes along for the ride, with disastrous results. And Vestal’s ultimate creation is a superbly sleazy chatterbox–a man who might or might not be Evel Knievel himself–who works his charms on Loretta at a casino in Elko, Nevada. A lifelong journalist whose Spokesman column is a fixture in Spokane, WA, Shawn has honed his fiction over many years, publishing in journals like McSweeney’s and Tin House. His stunning first collection, Godforsaken Idaho, burrowed into history as it engaged with masculinity and crime, faith and apostasy, and the West that he knows so well. Daredevils shows what he can do on a broader canvas–a fascinating, wide-angle portrait of a time and place that’s both a classic coming of age tale and a plunge into the myths of America, sacred and profane.
The book is rated 3.51/5 at goodreads.com, from 468 ratings. See 108 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2al3Wrp.
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A religion book recommendation: The Stress Test: How Pressure Can Make You Stronger and Sharper by Ian Robertson

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2aBOBQp.
Stress is the psychological pandemic of our age, so it’s easy to forget that its modern use originated as a metaphor…This is all elegantly and clearly explained. Robertson introduces his themes with vivid stories…
Book description from Google Books:
From one of the world’s most respected neuroscientists, an eye-opening study of why we react to pressure in the way we do and how to be energized rather than defeated by stress.Why is it that some people react to seemingly trivial emotional upsets–like failing an unimportant exam or tackling a difficult project at work–with distress, while others power through life-changing tragedies showing barely any emotional upset whatsoever? How do some people shine brilliantly at public speaking while others stumble with their words and seem on the verge of an anxiety attack? Why do some people sink into all-consuming depression when life has dealt them a poor hand, while in others it merely increases their resilience?The difference between too much pressure and too little can result in either debilitating stress or lack of motivation in extreme situations. However, the right level of challenge and stress can help people flourish and achieve more than they ever thought possible.In THE STRESS TEST, clinical psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist Ian Robertson, armed with over four decades of research, reveals how we can shape our brain’s response to pressure and how stress actually can be a good thing. THE STRESS TEST is a revelatory study of how and why we react to pressure as we do, and how we can change our response to stress to our benefit.
The book is rated 3.96/5 at goodreads.com, from 46 ratings. See 9 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2aBP0SK.
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A religion book recommendation: Oneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-Set Table by Ellen Wayland-Smith

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2aCYiRJ.
No longer tied to its religious roots, Oneida caved into a greater god: capitalism. Wayland-Smith provides a detailed, riveting account of yet another form of the American tragedy.
Book description from Google Books:
A fascinating and unusual chapter in American history about a religious community that held radical notions of equality, sex, and religion—only to transform itself, at the beginning of the twentieth century, into a successful silverware company and a model of buttoned-down corporate propriety.In the early nineteenth century, many Americans were looking for an alternative to the Puritanism that had been the foundation of the new country. Amid the fervor of the religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening, John Humphrey Noyes, a spirited but socially awkward young man, attracted a group of devoted followers with his fiery sermons about creating Jesus’ millennial kingdom here on Earth. Noyes established a revolutionary community in rural New York centered around achieving a life free of sin through God’s grace, while also espousing equality of the sexes and “complex marriage,” a system of free love where sexual relations with multiple partners was encouraged. Noyes’s belief in the perfectibility of human nature eventually inspired him to institute a program of eugenics, known as stirpiculture, that resulted in a new generation of Oneidans who, when the Community disbanded in 1880, sought to exorcise the ghost of their fathers’ disreputable sexual theories. Converted into a joint-stock company, Oneida Community, Limited, would go on to become one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of silverware, and their brand a coveted mark of middle-class respectability in pre- and post-WWII America.Told by a descendant of one of the Community’s original families, Ellen Wayland-Smith’s Oneida is a captivating story that straddles two centuries to reveal how a radical, free-love sect, turning its back on its own ideals, transformed into a purveyor of the white-picket-fence American dream.
The book is rated 3.44/5 at goodreads.com, from 136 ratings. See 33 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2aBVdOq.
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A religion book recommendation: Solar Bones by Mike McCormack

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2aGBPTM.
The magnificent song that is Solar Bones possesses such peculiar depth, such consonances and dissonances that it is a reminder that a writer of talent can seemingly take any place, any set of characters, any situation and create from them a total vision of the reality.
Book description from Google Books:
Once a year, on All Souls’ Day, it is said in Ireland that the dead may return. ‘Solar Bones’ is the story of one such visit. Marcus Conway, a middle-aged engineer, turns up one afternoon at his kitchen table and considers the events that took him away and then brought him home again. Funny and strange, McCormack’s ambitious and other-worldly novel plays with form and defies convention. This profound work is by one of Ireland’s most important contemporary novelists. A beautiful and haunting elegy, this story of order and chaos, love and loss captures how minor decisions ripple into waves and test our integrity every day.
The book is rated 4.11/5 at goodreads.com, from 349 ratings. See 69 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2aGBMY3.
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A religion book recommendation: The Terror Years: From al-Qaeda to the Islamic State by Lawrence Wright

A critic review (source Star Tribune) can be read at: http://strib.mn/2fuGxro.
If the state of international affairs continues to falter, we should hear more from Wright in the future. For now, we have “The Terror Years” to lay out the complex background to help us understand today’s situation.
Book description from Google Books:
With the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright became generally acknowledged as one of our major journalists writing on terrorism in the Middle East. Here, in ten powerful pieces first published in The New Yorker, he recalls the path that terror in the Middle East has taken, from the rise of al-Qaeda in the 1990s to the recent beheadings of reporters and aid workers by ISIS. The Terror Years draws on several articles he wrote while researching The Looming Tower, as well as many that he’s written since, following where and how al-Qaeda and its core cultlike beliefs have morphed and spread. They include a portrait of the “man behind bin Laden,” Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the tumultuous Egypt he helped spawn; an indelible impression of Saudi Arabia, a kingdom of silence under the control of the religious police; the Syrian film industry, at the time compliant at the edges but already exuding a feeling of the barely masked fury that erupted into civil war; the 2006-11 Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza, a study in the disparate value of human lives. Other chapters examine al-Qaeda as it forms a master plan for its future, experiences a rebellion from within the organization, and spins off a growing web of worldwide terror. The American response is covered in profiles of two FBI agents and the head of the intelligence community. The book ends with a devastating piece about the capture and slaying by ISIS of four American journalists and aid workers, and our government’s failed response.   On the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, The Terror Years is at once a unifying recollection of the roots of contemporary Middle Eastern terrorism, a study of how it has grown and metastasized, and, in the scary and moving epilogue, a cautionary tale of where terrorism might take us yet. 
The book is rated 4.13/5 at goodreads.com, from 397 ratings. See 62 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2fuKj3U.
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A religion book recommendation: The Girl Who Beat Isis by Farida Abbas

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2cMGYxz.
Even after months of beatings, she is still fighting and encouraging her friends to look for ways to escape. A catalogue of horror is made bearable only by her extraordinary courage, and the solidarity among girls who literally keep one another alive.
Book description from Google Books:
The astonishing true story of a heroic young woman’s capture and eventual escape from ISIS. In August 2014, Farida Abbas was just a normal Yazidi girl, living in a village high in the mountains of northern Iraq. Then her village was attacked and swiftly taken by ISIS fighters, and her whole world changed. The jihadists murdered the men and the boys of her village, including her father and brothers, before taking Farida prisoner along with the rest of the women. This is the story of what happened to Farida after she was captured: the beatings, the rapes, the markets where ISIS sold their female prisoners like cattle, and Farida’s realisation that the more difficult and resistant she became, the harder it was for her captors to continue their atrocities against her. So she struggled, she bit, she kicked, she accused her captors of going against their religion, and then, one day, the door to her room was left unlocked. She took her chance along with 5 other women, and set out across the Syrian desert. This is a story of incredible courage in the face of unthinkable atrocity. As the battle against ISIS continues to ravage the Middle East, The Girl Who Beat Isis provides an astonishing perspective on this very terrifying global threat.
The book is rated 4.39/5 at goodreads.com, from 944 ratings. See 153 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2af7M2c.
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