My Holy War: Dispatches From the Home Front
By Jonathan Raban.
Since 9/11, Raban has emerged as one of the more enlightened observers of 21st-century fanatical religiosity. In this “irregular personal diary,” the New York Review of Books essayist reflects on the connection between the Iraq war and the legacy of American Puritanism as well as on the religious fervor that impels believers to kill and die. These pieces offer an insightful, if alarming, guide to “our new era of religious ferocity.” – Julian Brookes
The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam From the Extremists
By Khaled Abou El Fadl.
Law professor and Islamic jurist Abou El Fadl’s prescription for “reviving the soul of Islam” and opposing violent fundamentalism is groundbreaking in the clarity of its ideas and refreshing for its lack of cant. Mother Jones and the National Review rarely see eye-to-eye, but we both agree on this essential title. – Marc Herman
Not in Kansas Anymore: A Curious Tale of How Magic Is Transforming America
By Christine Wicker.
Wicker explores Americans’ search for alternative spirituality in its many forms, from online hoodoo classes to parties for self-described vampires. Though her tongue is never far from her cheek, she concludes it’s worth paying close attention to a trend followed by millions that “most of us don’t even know [is] happening.” – April Dembosky
What God Has Joined Together? A Christian Case for Gay Marriage
By David G. Myers and Letha Dawson Scanzoni.
This treatise sometimes comes across as an argument for why marriage would be good for gays, rather than vice versa. But it’s a nice intro to progressive Christian perspectives on why “reparative therapy” doesn’t work, why the Bible isn’t as antigay as Pat Robertson would have us believe, and why “gay Christian” isn’t an oxymoron. – Peter Meredith
Untouchables: My Family’s Triumphant Journey Out of the Caste System in Modern India
By Narendra Jadhav.
Born at the bottom of India’s social hierarchy, Jadhav was destined for a life of poverty and menial labor. But his parents fought back, helping him rise to become a world-class economist and an eloquent champion of full equality for 165 million “untouchables,” one-sixth of all Indians. His memoir is an inspiring page-turner about taking on 3,500 years of Hindu tradition. – Dave Gilson
Buddha (Volumes 1-8)
By Osamu Tezuka.
Finally available in English, this 3,000-page masterpiece by the godfather of Japanese comic books isn’t Siddhartha with speech bubbles, but a high-spirited, elaborately scripted melodrama starring a nonviolent superhero who takes the occasional meditative pause. And at 25 bucks per beautifully packaged volume, Buddha—like its namesake—will challenge you to curb your desire for worldly goods. – Dave Gilson