January 2, 2000Top Spiritual
Writings Span Beliefs
Cathy Lynn Grossman
Things are looking up in the centennial list-making stampede.
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
-- 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
-- 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."