Woods or beach? Camping or house share? Here's another key to knowing what kind of vacationer you are: Do you bring books as gauzy and light as summer fabrics? Or use the unbroken time to conquer a heady tome? Our list of spiritually oriented books for summer has plenty for both kinds of vacation readers--from the weighty but gripping to fluff with a few hard kernels to chew on.

Climbing Brandon
by Chet Raymo

This meditation on landscape is the perfect spiritual guide for a vacation in the woods. Raymo, a science professor and columnist for the Boston Globe, annotates his many trips up Mount Brandon, an ancient pilgrimage site in Ireland's desolate west, where, in Raymo's telling, polytheism and Christianity, natural history and religion have long rubbed elbows. Some have complained that Raymo's grasp of Catholic doctrine is shaky, but his lightly worn erudition and meditative style make this book read like an extended prayer. Buy it

by Marek Halter

Fans of "The Red Tent" will be back home in Marek Halter's "Sarah," a novel of the life of the biblical matriarch. After extensive research on ancient Sumeria, Halter, a Warsaw Ghetto survivor, renowned French writer, and Mideast peace activist, far outdoes Genesis for detail on the wife of Abraham, including her royal childhood in Ur, her first encounter with her husband-to-be, and her anguish over her childlessness. "Sarah" is the first in Halter's planned trilogy that will bring to life the less well-known Zipporah and Lilah. Buy it

The Case for a Creator
by Lee Strobel

Strobel, a former atheist and Chicago Tribune editor, pulls more punches in this book than in "The Case for Christ," his classic investigation into what Christians say is true. But Strobel's journalistic approach, this time turned on the eternal questions of the origins of our universe, is still compelling for doubters and uplifting for believers. Buy it

by Edward J. Larson

It's no wonder that Darwin's theory of natural selection began a controversy that continues to this day: As prize-winning science historian Edward J. Larson shows, Darwin's "dangerous idea" challenges our deepest beliefs about who we are. Larson introduces us to evolution's leading proponents and opponents, and chronicles its effect on culture, politics, and especially religion in 368 entirely readable pages. Buy it

The Dance of 17 Lives
by Mick Brown

The current, 17th Karmapa-the second-highest-ranking personage in Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama-was improbably discovered in remotest Tibet, was threatened by the Chinese, and eventually escaped to India. Part detective novel, part adventure, and part history, Brown's is the brightest of several biographies of the courageous teenage dignitary. Buy it

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