The Best Spiritual Writing 1999
Edited by Philip Zaleski
(HarperSanFrancisco, $16.00)

Kathleen Norris, in an introduction well worth the price of the book, describes The Best Spiritual Writing 1999 as an anthology for those who frankly "don't know" and who consider themselves "the hoi polloi of the spirit." Many of the outstanding writers in this collection apparently count themselves among "the hoi polloi" as well, for they humbly scavenge for the sacred in the most ordinary, even grubby, places.

Lousie Rifkin, for example, seeks enlightenment by way of the broom, scrub brush, and toilet bowl. Ptolemy Tompkins discusses the importance of mud--yes, mud--in Taoist thought. Tracy Cochran goes off to a Buddhist retreat only to be distracted and embarrassed by her noisy seven-year-old daughter's concerns.("Mommy, is that Thich Nhat Hanh a man? Like, does he have a penis?") Toddlers eating handfuls of dirt teach Brian Doyle something about our dust-to-dust human condition. And Tom Junod, while interviewing Mr. Rogers, learns the importance of prayer, of gratitude, of grace--and his longest childhood toy, Old Rabbit.

If you are willing to explore the religious character of ordinary experience, this superb anthology will reward you in far-from-ordinary ways. And if you find The Best Spiritual Writing 1999 taking up permanent residence on your bedside table, I guarantee that constant usage will keep this remarkably down-to-earth book dust free.

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