I love when reading helps me think and grow spiritually. So without further ado, here is my list of the top ten modern books for spiritual growth! Note: All these books are great, but I’ve tried to list them in order with my favorite first.
I just found this book browsing one day and I am so glad that I did. A true story. As a pastor working in a neighborhood with the highest concentration of murderous gang activity in Los Angeles, Gregory Boyle tells the stories of the gang members he met and the lessons he learned. You will laugh. You will cry. You will feel more love for your fellow beings than ever before. This book will change your life. (Also, the audio version is fantastic! Gregory Boyle narrates it himself and it’s great!)
Another browsing find. Author Benjamin Hoff shows that the philosophy of Winnie-the-Pooh is amazingly consistent with the principles of Taoism and demonstrates how you can use these principles in your daily life. Is there such a thing as a Western Taoist? Benjamin Hoff says there is, and this Taoist’s favorite food is honey. Traditional Taoism is not a religion, but rather a way of viewing the world and a code of action that emphasizes open-mindedness, peacefulness, and joy.
I think my mom gave me this one. Paulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its simplicity and wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert is search of treasure buried among the Pyramids. Along the way, he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, an Alchemist, and the forces of nature, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. Although this is fiction, the symbolism and spiritual messages translate easily to everyday life. The moral is: Who are you? What is your purpose? How do you know when you are on the right path?
I was assigned to read this in Jr. High; at the time, I totally didn’t get it. At all. But now I do! This is actually young-adult fiction. I normally don’t read (or re-read) young-adult books, but this one is fantastic for its genre. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica high are enchanted. Then they turn on her. This book is all about living authentically, being different from the crowd, even when it’s hard, and choosing to be more kind and compassionate at all times. It may be a young-adult book, but it’s full of great lessons for all ages.
My mom and brother recommended this one to me. Peck was a psychiatrist who wrote about mental illnesses and mental stress and their relationship to the spirit. Peck makes an excellent case for spiritual self-care and devotes many chapters to how exactly we can take better spiritual care of ourselves. It takes discipline, responsibility, and honesty to face what makes us unhappy. But by doing so, we can find true happiness and balance.
I picked this up one day waiting in line at Jamba Juice. That makes this book sound very “basic,” but it’s not! In The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. There are four basic tenets, which Ruiz expounds on in the book: (1) be impeccable with your word; (2) don’t take anything personally; (3) don’t make assumptions; and (4) always do your best. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, the Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.
I grabbed this off my mom’s shelf. Writer, artist, and philosopher Kahlil Gibran considered The Prophet to be his greatest achievement. First published in 1923, this collection of poetic essays on life and the human condition has been translated into more than 20 languages (and there’s also a movie). It has become one of the beloved classics of our time. The Prophet examines topics such as love, parenting, marriage, etc. in brief essays. Each essay contains nuggets of profound wisdom and Gibran’s words are universally inspiring.
I found this browsing one day. Hermann Hesse’s classic novel Siddhartha takes place in ancient India around the time of the Buddha (6th century B.C.). Siddhartha and his companion Govinda set out in search of enlightenment. Siddhartha goes through a series of changes and realizations as he attempts to achieve this goal. Siddhartha joins the ascetics, visits Gotama, embraces his earthly desires, and finally communes with nature, all in an attempt to attain Nirvana. This is fiction. The story is entertaining and full of little truths we can apply to our own lives.
Okay, this is not exactly modern. I have several versions. Some are modern translations though! The Tao Te Ching is a 2,500 year old Chinese classic compiled and partially written by Lao Tzu. Probably the most influential spiritual book in human history, the Tao Te Ching translates as The Classic of the Tao and its Power. A short book, it reveals a profound view of the Tao, a unique and satisfying way of life and nature. Traditional Taoism is not a religion, but rather a way of viewing the world and a code of action that emphasizes open-mindedness, peacefulness, and joy.
I was assigned to read this in a college literature class. The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life is about how to restore the heart and soul of work, home, and creative endeavors through a radical, fresh return to ancient ways of living a soulful life. Moore focuses on helping readers to find meaning and purpose by reintroducing some mysticism and rituals into their lives. For some inexplicable reason, putting aside our cynicism and adding a little magic and ritual back into our lives helps us to shed our grumpy, adult selves and become more childlike and more joyful. This one’s a little out there, but I loved it.
To make up for #9, here’s a #11! I found this on an online book list that had a lot of my other favorites on it, so I figured I could trust it. From an ancient Peruvian manuscript, the Nine Insights to life were first revealed in the phenomenal best seller The Celestine Prophecy. Each human being would grasp the Nine Insights in time, predicted the text from the thick of the rain forest. But in an era of spiritual reawakening, author James Redfield brought these understandings to the forefront of modern thought. This is also fiction. The story follows a main character who travels to Peru to discovery what the nine insights are. He is pursued by some bad guys that want to stop the world’s spiritual awakening, so there’s a little action. Honestly, the insights are revealed in kind of a forced way throughout the story, but all in all the insights ring true and the fiction is entertaining.
- The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer about how mindfulness and consciousness lead to happiness and self-realization. My sister gave me a copy.
- The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner about mindfulness. I found this browsing.
- Field Notes and Crossing Open Ground by Barry Lopez. These are beautiful, poetic essays about nature touching on our role as humans in relation to animals and the environment. I was assigned to read Barry Lopez in college and he’ll be a favorite forevermore.
- The Book of Mormon, translated by Joseph Smith. Super interesting. Written a bit like the Bible, this book tells the story of an ancient race of people traveling from Jerusalem to the Americas and their encounters with God and Jesus Christ along the way. If you can get through the Biblical language, whether you consider it fact or fiction, this book contains many beautiful, spiritual principles about peace and happiness. Mom gave me a copy.
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed. A true story about a woman who backpacks the Pacific Crest Trail and finds herself along the way. Mom gave me a copy.
- Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist. A memoir about a woman finding herself and learning to enjoy life to the fullest. (Note: don’t get the audio version. She narrated it herself and it’s much better in print.) Actually, I found this one on Facebook when I saw this excellent quote:
What spiritual books am I currently reading?
- Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke. Although this is totally a birthing prep. book (I’m due in six months), so far it’s mostly about meditation and would be applicable to anyone (pregnant or not, male or female). Drawing on groundbreaking research in neuroscience, mindfulness meditation, and mind/body medicine, Bardacke offers practices that will help you find calm and ease during this life-changing time, providing lifelong skills for healthy living and wise parenting. I found this one browsing.
- Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn. I haven’t started this one yet, but I’ll repeat what the jacket says: “Ishmael is an utterly unique and captivating spiritual adventure which redefines what it is to be human. We are introduced to Ishmael, a creature of immense wisdom. He has a story to tell, one that no human being has ever heard before. It is the story of man’s place in the grand scheme, and it begins at the birth of time… Sly, witty, and profound, Ishmael is a tour de force of the mind and spirit, an extraordinary intellectual adventure that listeners will never forget.” Sounds promising! I’m excited to read it! This was on a book list that had lots of other books I love listed too.
- The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin. I found this listed as a book about good vs. evil on several spiritual book lists. Honestly, though, the jacket makes it sound like that cartoon movie Rock-A-Doodle. “Walter Wangerin’s profound fantasy concerns a time when the sun turned around the earth and the animals could speak, when Chauntecleer the Rooster ruled over a more or less peaceful kingdom. What the animals did not know was that they were the Keepers of Wyrm, monsters of evil long imprisoned beneath the earth… and Wyrm, sub terra, was breaking free.” How is that a spiritual book? I have no idea. The jury’s out on this one. We will see. But I usually like books about animals, like Watership Down and Animal Farm, so that’s a plus!
Tell me what spiritual books you love in the comments below! I’m always looking for recommendations!