Novels Recommended by Noted Contemporary Spiritual Figures

be not inhositable to strangersI sent off an email to various friends who I think of as prominent in our contemporary spiritual scene, asking if they would be willing to share five titles of novels that they consider “spiritual.” I avoided defining spiritual. Sixteen responded with lists. Some gave five, others did not. (And, okay, I threw in my own five titles.)

For those interested in counts. Fyodor Dostovyski’s Brothers Karamozov appears three times. Shuzaku Endo’s Silence, appeared twice. As did Neil Gaman’s American Gods appeared twice. As did Mary Russell’s The Sparrow, Zhuangzi’s, Zhuangzi, Frederick Buechner’s Godric, Yann Martell’s Life of Pi, and Nikos Kazantzakis’s Last Temptation of Christ plus another for his Odyssey: A Modern Sequel) Virginia Woolf appears three times, twice with To the Lighthouse, once with Mrs Dalloway. Octavia Butler appears twice, once with Lilith’s Brood and once with Parable of the Sower. as does Isaac Singer, once with the Magician and once with Satan in Goray. While C. S. Lewis showed up three times with The Great Divorce, Voyage of the Dawn Trader, and the Narnia Chronicles.

 

Stephen Batchelor

Shuzaku Endo, Silence
Somerset Maugham, The Razor’s Edge
Soseki Natsume, Mon (the Gate)
Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Melissa Myozen Blacker

Edward Abbot, Flatland
Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
Robert Hellenga, The Fall of a Sparrow
Laurie King, Folly
Walter Miller, A Canticel for Liebowitz

(and then two more)

C. S. Lewis, the Narnia Chronicles
Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass

Phaedra Bonewits

Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mists of Avalon
Dion Fortune, Sea Priestess
Neil Gaiman, American Gods
Mary Renault, pretty much any of her books

James Ishmael Ford

Frederick Buechner, Godric/em>
Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory
Herman Hesse, Journey to the East
Nikos Kazantzakis, Last Temptation of Christ
Zhuangzi, Zhuanzi Inner Chapters

Ann Gleig

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Brothers Karamozov
Anne Michaels. Fugitive Pieces
David Mitchell, Ghostwritten
Haruki Murakami, The Wind Up Bird Chronicle
Jeanette Winterson, The Passion

Mushim Patricia Ikeda

Octavia Butler, Lilith’s Brood
E. M. Forster, Passage to India
Ursula LeGuin, Left Hand of Darkness
Ranier Maria Rilke, Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway

Kat Liu

Book of Job (yes, the Biblical text)
Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower
Neil Gaiman, American Gods
Terry Pratchett, The Hogfather
Maria Doria Russell, The Sparrow/Children of God

Liz Lerner Maclay (and now senior minister at the First Unitarian Church of Providence, in Rhode Island)

Julian Barnes, History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters
A.S. Byatt, Possession
Lawrence Durrell, Alexandrian Quartet
Kazuo Isiguro, Remains of the Day
Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces
Mary Renault, Charioteer

Carl McColman

Fyodor Dosoevsky. The Brothers Karamazov
C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
C.S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader
J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings
Virgina Woolf, To the Lighthouse

(And two not read but strongly recommended by friends and on the bed side stack)

Shusako Endo, Silence
Mary Russell, the Sparrow

Richard Bryan McDaniel

Robertson Davies, Fifth Business
William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom
Nikos Kazantzakis, the Odyssey: a Modern Sequel
Ursula LeGuin, Left Hand of Darkness
Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
Charles Williams, All Hallow’s Eve
Charles Williams, Descent into Hell

Barry Magid

Wendell Berry, The Memory of Old Jack
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Brothers Karamozov
George Eliot, Middlemarch
Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer (if only for the first page)
Norman Rush, Mating

Rafe Martin

Frederick Buechner, Godric
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
I. B. Singer, The Magician
Lama Yongden, Mipam
Frank Waters, The Man Who Killed the Deer

Mark Morrison-Reed

Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Yann Martel, The Life of Pi
Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm
Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Myotai Treace

Edward Abbey. Desert Solitarire (okay not a novel…)
Nora Callagher, Changing Light
Carlos Casteneda, The Teachings of Don Juan (generally categorized as nonfiction)
Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook
Marge Piercy. Woman on the Edge of Time
Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men
Margery Williams, Velveteen Rabbit
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Mark Unno

David Chadwick, Crooked Cucumber (nonfiction)
Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (nonfiction)
Toni Morrison, Beloved
Alice Walker, The Color Purple
Zhuangzi, Zhuangzi

Chris Walton

Albert Camus, The Plague
Lois Lowry, The Giver
Hisako Matsubara, Cranes at Dusk
Chaim Potok, My Name Is Asher Lev
Jose Saramago, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ

(If the list were longer)

Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop
Marc Estrin, Insect Dreams: The Half Life of Gregor Samsa
Nikos Kazantzakis, Last Temptation of Christ
Yann Martel, Life of Pi
Levi Peterson, Night Soil (Best of the literary world of my Mormon youth)
Isaac Bashevis Singer, Satan in Goray

Brad Warner

Philip K Dick, UBIK, the Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich, Valis, the Transmigration of Timothy Archer, Radio Free Albemuth, Time Out of Joint (basically any of his books)

Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

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