In this anthology editor Philip Zaleski gathers together another year's crop of essays and poems from most major faith traditions, written by novelists, poets, journalists, clergymen and former President Jimmy Carter. A few pieces address political themes like the senselessness of war or the danger of unbridled consumerism in an overpopulated world, but most plumb once again the traditional wellsprings of spiritual inspiration-nature, works of art, the suffering of innocents and the death of loved ones.

The goal of spiritual writing seems to be to approach the sublime through the mundane. Unfortunately, that usually means that somewhere along the way specificity and discernment-the hallmarks of good writing-are thrown over for vaporous abstractions and oceanic mood, in which God is the sum of all being, or the coming together of contradictions, or the mystery we invoke when contradictions refuse to come together. The best of these pieces, like Mary Gordon's prayers asking God to shower His blessings on liars, sex addicts, spendthrifts and mediocrities, take an opposite tack; they lead us from the sublime to the mundane.

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