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:
A 2016 Shirley Jackson Awards Finalist*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 3.65/5 at goodreads.com, from 34128 ratings. See 4840 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2dyiVQn.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2szbX2L.

A religion book recommendation: Once, in a Town Called Moth by Trilby Kent

A critic review (source Globe and Mail) can be read at: https://tgam.ca/2uwhMDh.
While these mysteries bubble beneath the surface, the beauty of this book rests in its contemplative, immersive portrayal of the newcomer experience.
Book description from Google Books:
Ana is not your typical teenager. She grew up in a tiny Mennonite colony in Bolivia, and her mother fled the colony when Ana was a young girl. Now Ana and her father have also fled, and Ana doesn’t know why. She only knows that something was amiss in their tight-knit community. Arriving in Toronto, Ana has to fend for herself in this alien environment, completely isolated in a big city with no help and no idea where to even begin. But begin she does: she makes a friend, then two. She goes to school and tries to understand the myriad unspoken codes and rules. She is befriended by a teacher. She goes to the library, the mall, parties. And all the while, she searches for the mother who left so long ago, and tries to understand her father — also a stranger in a strange land, with secrets of his own. This is a beautifully told story that will resonate with readers who have struggled with being new and unsure in a strange place, even if that place is in a classroom full of people they know. Ana’s story is unique but universal; strange but familiar; extraordinary but ordinary: a fish out of water tale that speaks to us all.
The book is rated 3.39/5 at goodreads.com, from 151 ratings. See 65 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2uODu0s.
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A religion book recommendation: Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary by Joe Jackson

A critic review (source Star Tribune) can be read at: http://strib.mn/2uymK2h.
Joe Jackson’s important biography of the visionary Black Elk is much more than the story of one man’s life. It is a sweeping, comprehensive, elegantly written history of white and Indian relations…
Book description from Google Books:
Winner of the Society of American Historians’ Francis Parkman PrizeWinner of the PEN / Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for BiographyBest Biography of 2016, True West magazine Winner of the Western Writers of America 2017 Spur Award, Best Western BiographyFinalist, National Book Critics Circle Award for BiographyOne of the Best Books of 2016, The Boston GlobeThe epic life story of the Native American holy man who has inspired millions around the worldBlack Elk, the Native American holy man, is known to millions of readers around the world from his 1932 testimonial Black Elk Speaks. Adapted by the poet John G. Neihardt from a series of interviews with Black Elk and other elders at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Black Elk Speaks is one of the most widely read and admired works of American Indian literature. Cryptic and deeply personal, it has been read as a spiritual guide, a philosophical manifesto, and a text to be deconstructed—while the historical Black Elk has faded from view.In this sweeping book, Joe Jackson provides the definitive biographical account of a figure whose dramatic life converged with some of the most momentous events in the history of the American West. Born in an era of rising violence between the Sioux, white settlers, and U.S. government troops, Black Elk killed his first man at the Little Bighorn, witnessed the death of his second cousin Crazy Horse, and traveled to Europe with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Upon his return, he was swept up in the traditionalist Ghost Dance movement and shaken by the Massacre at Wounded Knee. But Black Elk was not a warrior, instead accepting the path of a healer and holy man, motivated by a powerful prophetic vision that he struggled to understand. Although Black Elk embraced Catholicism in his later years, he continued to practice the old ways clandestinely and never refrained from seeking meaning in the visions that both haunted and inspired him.In Black Elk, Jackson has crafted a true American epic, restoring to its subject the richness of his times and gorgeously portraying a life of heroism and tragedy, adaptation and endurance, in an era of permanent crisis on the Great Plains.
The book is rated 4.32/5 at goodreads.com, from 108 ratings. See 32 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2uQoqQ1.
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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:
A 2016 Shirley Jackson Awards Finalist*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 3.65/5 at goodreads.com, from 33972 ratings. See 4819 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2dyiVQn.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2szbX2L.

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 1239 ratings. See 175 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2af7M2c.
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A religion book recommendation: The Genius of Judaism by Bernard-Henri Lévy

A critic review (source National Post arts) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2uSETD3.
The Genius of Judaism, a smart, revealing and essential book for our times, is Lévy’s own private whale, and our treacherous world is his Nineveh.
Book description from Google Books:
From world-renowned public intellectual Bernard-Henri L�vy comes an incisive and provocative look at the heart of Judaism. “A smart, revealing, and essential book for our times.”–The Washington Post For more than four decades, Bernard-Henri L�vy has been a singular figure on the world stage–one of the great moral voices of our time. Now Europe’s foremost philosopher and activist confronts his spiritual roots and the religion that has always inspired and shaped him–but that he has never fully reckoned with. The Genius of Judaism is a breathtaking new vision and understanding of what it means to be a Jew, a vision quite different from the one we’re used to. It is rooted in the Talmudic traditions of argument and conflict, rather than biblical commandments, borne out in struggle and study, not in blind observance. At the very heart of the matter is an obligation to the other, to the dispossessed, and to the forgotten, an obligation that, as L�vy vividly recounts, he has sought to embody over decades of championing “lost causes,” from Bosnia to Africa’s forgotten wars, from Libya to the Kurdish Peshmerga’s desperate fight against the Islamic State, a battle raging as we speak. L�vy offers a fresh, surprising critique of a new and stealthy form of anti-Semitism on the rise as well as a provocative defense of Israel from the left. He reveals the overlooked Jewish roots of Western democratic ideals and confronts the current Islamist threat while intellectually dismantling it. Jews are not a “chosen people,” L�vy explains, but a “treasure” whose spirit must continue to inform moral thinking and courage today. L�vy’s most passionate book, and in many ways his most personal, The Genius of Judaism is a great, profound, and hypnotic intellectual reckoning–indeed a call to arms–by one of the keenest and most insightful writers in the world. Praise for The Genius of Judaism “In The Genius of Judaism, L�vy elaborates on his credo by rebutting the pernicious and false logic behind current anti-Semitism and defends Israel as the world’s most successful multi-ethnic democracy created from scratch. L�vy also makes the case for France’s Jews being integral to the establishment of the French nation, the French language, and French literature. And last, but certainly not least, he presents a striking interpretation of the Book of Jonah. . . . A tour de force.”–Forbes “Ardent . . . L�vy’s message is essentially uplifting: that the brilliant scholars of Judaism, the authors of the Talmud, provide elucidation into ‘the great questions that have stirred humanity since the dawn of time.’ . . . A philosophical celebration of Judaism.”–Kirkus Reviews “L�vy (Left in Dark Times), a prominent French journalist and politically engaged philosopher, turns his observations inward here, pondering the teachings of Judaism and the role they have played in contemporary European history as well as in his own life and intellectual inquiry. . . . [L�vy’s] musings on the meaning of the story of Jonah and the relevance of symbolic Ninevahs in our time are both original and poetic. . . . A welcome addition to his oeuvre.”–Publishers Weekly
The book is rated 4.00/5 at goodreads.com, from 1 ratings.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2uSeS78.

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 4.21/5 at goodreads.com, from 215 ratings. See 46 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2atS2Za.
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A religion book recommendation: The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking

A critic review (source Financial Times) can be read at: http://on.ft.com/2mVCZPw.
The thickly bound format is ideally read in bed. This is just the kind of book to shut out the world with a sense of Scandinavian comfort.
Book description from Google Books:
The Sunday Times bestseller The New York Times bestseller The Danish word hygge is one of those beautiful words that doesn’t directly translate into English, but it more or less means comfort, warmth or togetherness. Hygge is the feeling you get when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, in warm knitted socks, in front of the fire, when it is dark, cold and stormy outside. It that feeling when you are sharing good, comfort food with your closest friends, by candle light and exchanging easy conversation. It is those cold, crisp blue sky mornings when the light through your window is just right. Denmark is the happiest nation in the world and Meik puts this largely down to them living the hygge way. They focus on the small things that really matter, spend more quality time with friends and family and enjoy the good things in life. The Little Book of Hygge will give you practical steps and tips to become more hygge: how to pick the right lighting, organise a dinner party and even how to dress hygge, all backed up by Meik’s years’ of research at the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. This year live more like a Dane, embrace hygge and become happier.
The book is rated 3.72/5 at goodreads.com, from 13921 ratings. See 1638 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2mKHIa1.
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A religion book recommendation: Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet by Lyndal Roper

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2acz2OU.
Roper’s biography, distinguished by the excellence of its writing and research, is the beginning of wisdom in all things Reformation, anti-Roman and, alas, proto-Hitlerite. Rarely has a church reformer presented such a dubious side.
Book description from Google Books:
This definitive biography reveals the complicated inner life of the founding father of the Protestant Reformation, whose intellectual assault on Catholicism ushered in a century of upheaval that transformed Christianity and changed the course of world history. On October 31, 1517, so the story goes, a shy monk named Martin Luther nailed a piece of paper to the door of the Castle Church in the university town of Wittenberg. The ideas contained in these Ninety-five Theses, which boldly challenged the Catholic Church, spread like wildfire. Within two months, they were known all over Germany. So powerful were Martin Luther’s broadsides against papal authority that they polarized a continent and tore apart the very foundation of Western Christendom. Luther’s ideas inspired upheavals whose consequences we live with today. But who was the man behind the Ninety-five Theses? Lyndal Roper’s magisterial new biography goes beyond Luther’s theology to investigate the inner life of the religious reformer who has been called “the last medieval man and the first modern one.” Here is a full-blooded portrait of a revolutionary thinker who was, at his core, deeply flawed and full of contradictions. Luther was a brilliant writer whose biblical translations had a lasting impact on the German language. Yet he was also a strident fundamentalist whose scathing rhetorical attacks threatened to alienate those he might persuade. He had a colorful, even impish personality, and when he left the monastery to get married (“to spite the Devil,” he explained), he wooed and wed an ex-nun. But he had an ugly side too. When German peasants rose up against the nobility, Luther urged the aristocracy to slaughter them. He was a ferocious anti-Semite and a virulent misogynist, even as he argued for liberated human sexuality within marriage. A distinguished historian of early modern Europe, Lyndal Roper looks deep inside the heart of this singularly complex figure. The force of Luther’s personality, she argues, had enormous historical effects–both good and ill. By bringing us closer than ever to the man himself, she opens up a new vision of the Reformation and the world it created and draws a fully three-dimensional portrait of its founder. Praise for Martin Luther “A smart, accessible, authoritative biography of one of the most dynamic figures in European history . . . Here he stands: never more vocal, more controversial, more compelling.”–Hilary Mantel “[Luther] leaps off the page in a vivid array of colours. . . . The work of one of the most imaginative and pioneering historians of our generation.”–The Guardian “It’s difficult to see how anyone could improve on this superb life of Luther. Lyndal Roper, Regius professor of history at Oxford University, has an extraordinary talent for making complex theological issues not just clear but entertaining. Luther jumps from these pages with immense vitality, as if his exploits occurred last week. Theological history often seems monochrome. This is Luther in colour.”–The Times “Enlightening . . . [a] formidably learned biography . . . [Roper’s] approach is avowedly new.”–The Sunday Times “Beautifully written . . . It is certainly among the most interesting, provocative, and original biographies of Luther to appear in recent years–one that tackles head on the challenge of entering into and exploring the interior life of its subject. . . . Anyone seriously interested in one of the most influential figures of the last half-millennium will need to make time to read this one.”–Literary Review
The book is rated 3.89/5 at goodreads.com, from 198 ratings. See 43 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2acyKHC.
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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 4.11/5 at goodreads.com, from 441 ratings. See 67 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2fuKj3U.
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