Back in January, I spent some time reflecting and creating a list of the 24 Wisdom Teachers Who Have Changed My Life. Since then, I’ve received even more questions about which books to pick up that might help people engage an embodied and contemplative spirituality.
While what worked for me might not work for you, I did come up with a quick list of books that have shaped, and continue to shape, my spiritual worldview. If any of them sound compelling or challenging for you, I invite you to grab a copy, either through the links or through your local library!
This post contains links to several book recommendations that have made a large impact on me; if you end up buying any of them, I’ll get a small commission from Amazon for sharing them.
This book…this book is amazing. It is life-changing. Or, at least, it certainly has been for me. After years of examining and deconstructing my experience of God as a white, male, Zeus-like figure, Mirabai’s words in this book helped me to finally put words to my actual experience of the Divine. She helped me create space for my own story and invited me to engage it. Highly recommend picking up Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics.
(Fun fact: Amazon happily reminded me that I’ve now purchased this book four times because I keep giving it away – it’s THAT good.)
Immortal Diamond – Richard Rohr
Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self was one of the first books I ever read from Richard and it has never left my psyche. In this book, he dives deep into our internal workings and helps us to reconnect with the core of our being, our True Self, the part of us that lives beneath all the happenings of our lives and the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.
In many ways, this book serves as a guidebook and as a conversation with an elder, gently passing along their wisdom.
In Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation, Rev. angel is joined by Lama Rod Owens and Jasmine Syedullah in a truly powerful conversation about all things spiritual. Coming from a Buddhist lens, they discuss the connection between spirituality and activism, harm caused by spiritual communities, and the importance of these spiritual communities in engaging healing and providing communal space for the collective work of liberation.
This book pushed me – it challenged me to lean into spiritual practice as activist in nature – and I hope it’s equally challenging for you.
Did I mention I love Mirabai Starr? She’s not only an amazing writer, she’s an amazing translator. In this translation of St. Teresa of Ávila’s spiritual classic, The Interior Castle, Mirabai helps Teresa’s five-hundred-year-old teachings come alive in a new and ancient way. On page 45, Teresa describes the interior journey like a fruit: “layer upon layer must be peeled away to reach the tasty part in the middle.” Easy to read, this translation is a guidebook for inner work – the unpeeling – one that I still use today.
And when I say I still use it, I really do. In April, I’ll be hosting a free evening of guided journaling based on the teachings found in this book. If you’d like to attend, check it out here!
When I was in college, I worked in the financial aid office for my work-study gig. I remember the week I first read this book: I would file all the documents I needed to and then silently read until I heard my supervisor coming from around the corner. I just couldn’t put it down for long.
In Thich Nhat Hanh’s Living Buddha, Living Christ, he explores the connection between Christianity and Buddhiusm, focusing in on the contemplative and mystical hearts of both traditions. It is a masterclass in spirituality and ultimately, for me, this book made me a better human – it’s that simple.
The only book on this list that is not explicitly spiritual in nature, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies is undoubtedly a spiritual book. If an engaged spirituality is all about developing the capacity to see Reality/What is Real/the Divine more clearly, this book is a wisdom-filled guide in just that.
Resmaa Menakem provides narrative, powerful questions, and body-based practices to help people examine and reveal how white supremacy exists in our bodies; for white Christians in particular, it is a beginning place – a guide to start with – for how to remove the log of racism and white supremacy from our collective eyes.
The title of this book makes me wince every time. To this day, I have a hard time openly talking about Jesus and I certainly don’t feel like I’ve had a “personal relationship with him” – whatever that means for some people. It’s just not part of my spirituality. (And the thought of walking around publicly with a book titled “Wisdom Jesus” isn’t exactly my idea of a good time.)
That said, get this book. If you are in the midst of doubt or questioning, re-negotiating or reconstructing your Christian faith, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind – A New Perspective on Christ and His Message provides a retelling of familiar stories, a new image of Jesus that is extremely compelling. Even for someone as Jesus-averse as I am – the way Cynthia talks about him and his teachings has me listening.
What books have impacted your spirituality the most? Leave your recommendations in the comments!