Beliefnet
Snow Snow
by Orhan Pamuk

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Turkish novelist Pamuk's "Snow" is a tour of the conflicting forces whirling through a small city in modern Turkey: secularism and religious Islam, commitment and freedom, tradition and modernity, ambition and poverty, belief and non-belief, life and death. Ka, a poet, visits the city of Kars to investigate a rash of suicides among teenage girls after the secular government has banned headscarves in schools. Ka befriends everyone of importance in the city, from a renowned fundamentalist to a boy who yearns to be the world's first Islamist science fiction writer. Pamuk offers a compassionate depiction of a town trying to find its way, rise up from poverty, preserve its heritage, and embrace the future. For its beautiful language; its completely realized, likeable, characters, both funny and tragic; its delicate treatment of the tension between faith and doubt; and its humanity, "Snow" is Beliefnet's 2004 book of the year.


Our Book of the Year finalists:
American Judaism American Judaism
by Jonathan Sarna

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Sarna's comprehensive and highly readable history of American Judaism was released the same year Jews throughout the country were celebrating the 350th anniversary of their arrival on American soil. Sarna's book is distinguished from other histories of the Jews in America for its focus on the religion itself and not only on the people or cultural aspects. The author, a Brandeis University historian, skillfully traces the development of the unique forms of American Judaism--its denominations and rituals, as well as the changes wrought by its close proximity to diverse Protestant denominations from colonial times to the present day.
Gilead Gilead
by Marilynne Robinson

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Robinson's long-awaited follow-up to her 1981 novel "Housekeeping" takes the form of a letter from a 76-year-old Congregationalist minister to his 7-year-old son (the result of his late marriage to a much younger woman). Set in a small town in Iowa in 1956, the narrator John Ames describes his daily life, family history, and ministerial conflicts over the years, while at the same time slowly unveiling the details of his mysterious dislike for his closest friend's son, who has just returned to town. The writing is spare and simple, yet page after page is filled with the narrator's--and Robinson's--subtle, sincere, and loving religious passion and deep spiritual wisdom, which are rooted in Christianity but will move readers of any faith.
Father Joe Father Joe
by Tony Hendra

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This memoir by satirist Tony Hendra is funny, moving, and infuriating all at once. Subtitled "The man who saved my soul," "Father Joe" is a paean to the British monk who mentored Hendra in his moments of crisis, from the age of 14 on. As Hendra grows older, struggles with his faith, and falters, first as a student, then as a husband,and father, it’s his relationship with Father Joe that keeps him spiritually grounded. But Hendra's flaws help give the book its realism, and make both the author and Father Joe characters easy to relate to and appreciate.
Dark Nights of the Soul Dark Nights of the Soul
by Thomas Moore

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St. John of the Cross, the 16th-century Spanish mystic, originated the phrase "dark night of the soul," which resonates so strongly in our era of depression and doubt. In his modern evocation, Thomas Moore, a psychologist and former monk, encourages readers not to solve periods of depression, loss, illness, pain, or other low moments, but instead to embrace them and use them as catalysts for change. Beautifully written and drawing from sources of spiritual wisdom that include the Bible, Buddhism, Greek mythology, and thinkers like St. Thomas More and C.G. Jung, Moore offers solace and hope for anyone experiencing a dark period, or just trying to understand the dualities inherent in life.
Speaking My Mind Speaking My Mind
by Tony Campolo

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Evangelical preacher and professor Campolo explores the nature of contemporary evangelicalism, its success as a cultural and political force, and its growth compared to the decline in Mainline Protestantism. In this provocative and biblically-grounded book, Campolo defends evangelicalism and his place in the Christian fold, while he simultaneously attempts to broaden the evangelical agenda to include better care for the poor, a clearer understanding of homosexuality and science, and more support for liberal politics.
The Plot Against America The Plot Against America
by Philip Roth

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This much-heralded novel by the bard of American Jewish writing reimagines the wartime 1940 presidential election and the consequences for Jews had Charles Lindbergh, the renowned aviator who was also an anti-Semite and isolationist, become president and commander-in-chief. Told through the eyes of a seven-year-old narrator named Philip Roth, the book chronicles the journey from a seemingly idyllic life and sense of complacency for a young boy--and by extension, the Jewish community as a whole--to a crushed sense of insecurity and mounting fear.
Infinite Life Infinite Life
by Robert Thurman

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In "Infinite Life," Buddhist professor Thurman explores the interconnectedness of human experience. Focusing on the virtues of wisdom, justice, patience, generosity, and creativity, he encourages readers to understand how our actions have unintended and unforeseen impact on others and the world, and how our lives can have meaning far beyond the present moment.
The Case for a Creator The Case for a Creator
by Lee Strobel

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In "The Case for a Creator," the best-selling author of "The Case for Christ" turns his journalistic eye to the interplay of science and religion. Strobel's account of his struggle with Darwinism, his attempt to reconcile his faith with his interest in scientific inquiry, and his support for intelligent design theories--while it may not convince skeptics--is gripping and passionately argued.
Positive Energy Positive Energy
by Judith Orloff

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The latest from UCLA psychiatrist and medical intuitive Judith Orloff, M.D., offers a menu of self-help exercises, meditations, and other practices that can tangibly help readers revitalize their lives. Orloff's ten "prescriptions for transforming fatigue, stress and fear" into better relationships, better sex, and more creative, fulfilling lives are useful and also fun. She has a clear, down-to-earth, and caring way of explaining how to recognize the forces in the world that sap your energy--and what to do about them.

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