USA Today
January 2, 2000

Top Spiritual Writings Span Beliefs
Cathy Lynn Grossman

Things are looking up in the centennial list-making stampede. Way up.

Religion publisher HarperSanFrancisco Thursday releases its 100 Best Spiritual Books of the Century, nominated by 16 writers and thinkers from a worldwide range of beliefs.

Philip Zaleski, editor of the publisher's annual anthology of spiritual writing, says people won't be surprised to see Pope John Paul II, William James, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. on the list.

But they may do a double take at J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, "although he writes about good and evil as well as anyone has ever done it," or at the controversial Autobiography of Malcolm X.

"We were looking for books that seemed exceptional in their literary quality and their religious or spiritual profundity. Most are intensely personal," Zaleski says.

Zaleski, head of the nominating committee, gives his own (unranked) Top 10:

-- Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks - "A vivid description of the Sioux Indian religious universe."

-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison - "A beautiful work on Christian faith, suffering for one's beliefs, religious courage and conviction."

-- Martin Buber, I and Thou - "About the infinite mystery and beauty in our relationship with God."

-- G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy - "An argument for tradition full of soaring metaphors, puns and paradoxes."

-- T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets - "The greatest religious poetry of the century."

-- Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath - "Goes immediately to the heart: Why set aside one day for God?"

-- Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind - "A primer to Buddhist practice a call to an open, fresh and receptive mind."

-- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man - "A Catholic priest/paleontologist looks toward the human race's ultimate uniting with Christ."

-- St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul - "A radiant, deep, immensely appealing vision of God by a young girl."

-- Simone Weil, Waiting for God - "Essays by a staggeringly brilliant thinker on sufferings in the world."