Recommended books

A Passion for Life

by Pablo Neruda

Link: A Passion for Life

Tradition: None

· poetry · book · life

Books by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Women who run with the wolves – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

This classic book has inspired many women to discover their inner wild self – the self that instinctively knows how to sense danger, to protect itself, to be nourished by stories and wilderness. The book is structured around several classic folktales, including the story of the Selkie (retold by the author as Sealskin, Soulskin), the Inuit story of Sedna, the story of the girl with the red shoes, the handless girl, and many other stories which teach people how to follow their instincts and listen to their hearts. Following each tale is a section explaining what it means and offering spiritual practices for everyday life. The wolf metaphor runs throughout the book, as the wild instincts of wolves are key to understanding how to be in touch with your own deepest instincts.

The Faithful Gardener – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

This is an interwoven collection of stories about life, from the author of Women who run with the wolves. The book begins with the story of the author’s uncle being collected from the railway station in Chicago amidst the arrivals of hundreds of other displaced people arriving in America from war-torn Europe. The heart of the book is the story of that which never dies – the spirit which moves from life to life through various transformations.

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· books · Clarissa Pinkola Estes · everyday spirituality · spiritual practices

Her Words: An Anthology of Poetry about the Great Goddess

by Burleigh Muten (ed)

Tradition: Eclectic Pagan

· poetry · book · Goddess · Mother · Pagan

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

by Richard Bach

Tradition: New Age

· Messiah · book · story · life · journey

More spiritual books for kids

Here are some more suggestions for introducing children to inclusive and non-dogmatic spirituality.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This is a story of an orphaned girl who discovers the beauty of the Yorkshire Moors, the value of friendship, and the magic of gardening. The main characters - Mary, the protagonist, Dickon the child of Nature, and Colin the intellectual are unforgettable; and the minor characters such as Ben the gruff gardener and Dickon's mother, are beautifully drawn too.

The Moomin series by Tove Jansson

Moominvalley is located on the edge of the Gulf of Finland, and the creatures that live there include Moomins, Hemulens, Fillyjonks and their friends. They have a series of adventures; the stories mostly focus on Moomintroll and his friendship with Snufkin, who is a wanderer who doesn't like to have too many possessions, and is almost Zen Buddhist in his thinking. The whole series has a wistful and charming tone, a keen observation of Nature, and the books are beautifully illustrated.

The Iron Wolf by Richard Adams

This is a collection of folktales from all around the world, rewritten for children. One of my favourites is an Italian story about how the birds got their colours, but all the stories are well-written and enjoyable.

'Authors need folk-tales,' Richard Adams says, 'in the same way as composers need folk-song. They're the headspring of the narrator's art, where the story stands forth at its simple, irreducible best. They don't date, any more than dreams, for they are the collective dreams of humanity.'

Watership Down by Richard Adams

The gripping story of the journey of five rabbits who escape the destruction of their home warren after Fiver (a shaman-rabbit) has a vision of its impending doom. The friendship of the rabbits, the visionary experiences of Fiver, and the legends of El-Ahrairah, the trickster rabbit hero (who bears more than a passing resemblance to human trickster gods), make this a magical and unforgettable story.

Strandloper by Alan Garner

The story opens with a group of people holding a curiously pagan folk ritual in a church. One of them, William Buckley, has learnt to read, which is regarded as a subversive crime; and he is transported to Australia for blasphemy, where he escapes from the penal colony and goes to live with Aborigines. This is a very evocative look at the similarities and differences between English folk mythology and Australian Aborigine mythology, and the differences between folk religion and revealed religion. The English section of the story is based fairly closely on the facts.

Hide and Seek with God by Mary Ann Moore, Skinner House, 1994

- 29 enchanting tales for four- to eight-year-olds.
- For today's children, a religious vision that is multicultural and non-sexist.
- Includes suggestions for talking about God with children without using dogma
- God comes to life as many things — transcendent mystery, spiritual force, the mother and father of life, peace, and silence, and lightness and darkness.

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· children · spirituality · kids · Nature · friendship

On Forgiveness

by Richard Holloway

Tradition: Christianity

· book · Christianity · agnosticism · doubt · faith · love · forgiveness

Spiritual books for kids

Do you ever wonder how to introduce your kids to spirituality without pushing it on them? Of course, they'll quite probably discover it for themselves, but maybe they won't mind a helping hand.

Here are some of the books that I found inspiring as a child, and some that I have discovered since.

Illustrated books for younger children

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I love this book so much that I bought the French edition as well (it was originally written in French). It's a poignant story of how an aviator who has crashed in the desert meets a traveller from another planet - the little prince who lives on the asteroid B612. The little prince tells of his travels from one asteroid to another. The story is quirky and charming, but also sad and wistful.

Google Books · Wikipedia

The Whales' Song by Dyan Sheldon and Gary Blythe

This is a lovely book with beautiful illustrations and the evocative story of Lily, a small girl who lives with her grandmother. Her grandmother tells her stories about the whales, and how beautiful they are.

It is presumably meant to be read aloud to small children, but it is enjoyable for all ages.

Amazon.co.uk · GoodReads

Where is God? by Lawrence and Karen Kushner

A review by B Keeper on Amazon.com says it all really:

Kushner's Where Is God is a wonderful introduction to the concept that God's presence infuses nature and all human exchanges and experiences. I actually prefer this board book to the full-size, older-children's book it is drawn from (Because Nothing Looks Like God), because the board book forces one to linger on the poetry of the text and the tenderness of the cropped illustrations. I get choked up almost every time I read this little book to my two-year-old son, simply because it is so simple and so true, and because I feel it expresses exactly my belief about God's immanance and the joys of being human here on earth.

Lawrence Kushner is a Reform rabbi and currently the scholar-in-residence at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, California.

Amazon.co.uk · Lawrence Kushner


Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

An absolute classic ever since it was published, Jonathan Livingston Seagull is the story of a gull who is not like other gulls. He lives to fly rather than to eat. Eventually he is shunned by the other gulls, until some come to learn from him. This is a story of individuality and courage, beautifully illustrated with pictures of gulls in flight.

GoodReads says:
People who make their own rules when they know they're right...people who get a special pleasure out of doing something well (even if only for themselves)...people who know there's more to this whole living thing than meets the eye: they'll be with Jonathan Seagull all the way. Others may simply escape into a delightful adventure about freedom and flight.

 

Longer books for older children

The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin

 

This is a wonderful series of books on how to use magic responsibly, with unforgettable characters, beautiful seascapes, and an excellent style of writing. The author is a Taoist, and the philosophy of Taoism is evident in the unfolding of the story (but never in a heavy-handed way).

Ged, a mage from a remote island, goes to wizard school on Roke, but one day when he is showing off his powers to the other students, he brings a terrible thing into the world: a gebbeth. He must go on a quest to track it down. On his journey, he has wonderful adventures and meets a dragon and an unhappy priestess.

Amazon.co.uk · Fantasy Book Review · Ursula K Le Guin


Witch Child by Celia Rees

Aimed at teenagers, this is a story of a girl whose grandmother is hanged for witchcraft, and who must then make her own way in a world of fear and superstition. Celia Rees writes beautifully of landscapes and customs, but the book is gripping from start to finish.  There's also a sequel, Sorceress.

"compelling and convincing.Rees has become a major writer for teenage readers." Independent 
"every now and then one reads a book which stirs up the deepest of feelings and continues to cause ripples and this book is just such a one" School Librarian Journal

Amazon.co.uk · Celia Rees

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Lily is a lonely motherless girl who lives in South Carolina and is visited by bees. After her friend Rosaleen is beaten up for registering to vote, they run away and find happiness from an unexpected connection from the past.

This novel has also been made into a film directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood.

Amazon.co.uk · Sue Monk Kidd

 

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· books · children · spirituality · God · witchcraft · bees · Black spirituality · Nature

The Art of Conversation with the Genius Loci

by Barry Patterson

Tradition: Eclectic Pagan

· Pagan · shamanism · Earth · earth-centred spirituality · wonder · Nature

THE ART OF PILGRIMAGE: The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred

Geared toward modern-day pilgrims looking for inspiration and a few spiritual tools for the road, this book combines stories, myths, parables and quotes from famous travelers of the past (and insights from travel guru Cousineau) to help them focus on the purpose and intention at every stage of their journey. (Hardcover & paperback editions, Conari Press; Audio: Dove Audio; also available in Spanish, Portuguese and Korean editions.)

"I am convinced that pilgrimage is still a bona fide spirit-renewing ritual. But I also believe in pilgrimage as a powerful metaphor for any journey with the purpose of finding something that matters deeply to the traveler. With a deepening of focus, keen prepartion, attention to the path below our feet, and respect for the destination at hand, it is possible to transform, even the most ordinary journey into a sacred journey, a pligrimage."


--Phil Cousineau, from THE ART OF PILGRIMAGE

by Phil Cousineau

Link: Phil Cousineau

Tradition: Eclectic spirituality

· Phil Cousineau · pilgrimage · book · travel · journey

The Art of Travel

Few things are as exciting as the idea of travelling somewhere else. But the reality of travel seldom matches our daydreams. The tragi-comic disappointments are well-known: the disorientation, the mid-afternoon despair, the lethargy before ancient ruins. And yet the reasons behind such disappointments are rarely explored.

We are inundated with advice on where to travel to; we hear little of why we should go and how we could be more fulfilled doing so. The Art of Travel  is a philosophical look at the ubiquitous but peculiar activity of travelling ‘for pleasure’, with thoughts on airports, landscapes, museums, holiday romances, photographs, exotic carpets and the contents of hotel mini-bars. The book mixes personal thought with insights drawn from some of the great figures of the past. Unlike existing guidebooks on travel, it dares to ask what the point of travel might be - and modestly suggests how we could learn to be less silently and guiltily miserable on our journeys.
 

by Alain de Botton

Link: Alain de Botton

Tradition: Other

· philosophy · Alain de Botton · travel · journey · art

The Book of Atheist Spirituality

by Andr? de Comte-Sponville

Tradition: Atheist spirituality

· atheist · spirituality · book · philosophy · morality · ethics

The Consolations of Philosophy

In Ancient Greece or Rome, philosophers were seen as natural authorities on the most pressing questions. However, since then, the idea of finding wisdom from philosophy has come to seem bizarre. Enter a university department today and ask to study wisdom, and you will politely but firmly be shown the door. The Consolations of Philosophy sets out to refute the notion that good philosophy must be irrelevant and gathers together six great philosophers who were convinced of the power of philosophical insight to work a practical effect on our lives.

Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche are read for the light their work can shine on certain great universal problems, among them, unpopularity, poverty, inadequacy, lovelessness and timidity. The book amounts to a guide to wisdom - as well as to the practical utility of philosophy. 

by Alain de Botton

Link: Alain de Botton

Tradition: Other

· philosophy · Alain de Botton · Socrates · Epicurus · Seneca · Montaigne · Schopenhauer · Nietzsche

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

This seminal work has influenced millions of readers since it was originally published in 1949, bringing the insights of modern psychology together with Campbell's revolutionary understanding of comparative mythology. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell formulated the dual schemas of the Hero's Journey, a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through all of humanity's mythic traditions, and of the Cosmogonic Cycle, the stories of world-creation and -dissolution that have marked cultures around the world and across the centuries.

Translated into over twenty languages, The Hero with a Thousand Faces has sold well over a million copies and continues to find new audiences among professors and students in fields ranging from the history of religion and anthropology to literature and film studies; among creative artists including authors, filmmakers, game designers and song writers; and among all of those interested in the basic human impulse to tell stories. 

by Joseph Campbell

Link: Joseph Campbell Foundation

Tradition: Eclectic spirituality

· Joseph Campbell · myth · mythology · book · hero journey · journey

The Inner Reaches of Outer Space

This collection of three essays explores the relevance of new discoveries about the immensity of the universe to mythology, demonstrates that metaphor is the language of art, and summarizes Campbell's work in mythology and comparative religion.

by Joseph Campbell

Link: Joseph Campbell Foundation

Tradition: Eclectic spirituality

· Joseph Campbell · myth · mythology · metaphor · inner life

The Penultimate Truth and Other Incitements

by Bill Darlison

Tradition: Unitarian

· meditations · reflections · essays · Unitarian · Bill Darlison

The Prophet

by Kahlil Gibran

Tradition: Christianity

· poem · poetry · Kahlil Gibran · meditations · reflections · philosophy

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