Perhaps the mostly widely read book this year on a religious subject, it's arguable that The Da Vinci Code, was also the most influential, spawning new considerations of Mary Magdalene on the covers of at least one newsweekly and in an ABC primetime special.

Jon Krakauer turned from socialites climbing Mount Everest in "Into Thin Air" to maverick polygamist Mormons in ""Under the Banner of Heaven." His popularity made this examination of how religion can violently twist human affairs into an unlikely best seller about a sect that one normally hears about only when an isolated extremist is hauled up on polygamy charges.

Bangkok 8, John Burdett's sinuous, noir-ish tour through the title city's underworld is steeped in Buddhist ideas about honor and forgiveness.

One of the singular achievements of late Renaissance England was the King James Bible, a translation many Christians still regard as the only authoritative one. Adam Nicolson's best selling God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible tells the story of the scholars who balanced political, theological and ecclesiastical sensitivities to produce a work of beauty at once rich and austere.

The dazzling diversity and puzzling identity of Judaism is the subject of Frederic Brenner's massive "Diaspora," a collection of photographs of Jewish communities across the globe.

Finally, Luke Timothy Johnson's "The Creed" takes up the Nicene Creed line by line, revealing the history and theological background of the tenets Christians recite in church each Sunday, and also affirming the necessity of common belief for any religion.

While many Christians take it as a matter of faith that belief in the tenets of the Nicene Creed is essential to salvation, James Mulholland and Philip Gulley explain why they believe that God will save every person in "If Grace Is True."

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