Whether you are heading to the beach this month or enjoying the sun at home, August is the perfect time to nestle down with a few good summer reads. These suggestions for spiritually oriented beach books--which include a dark novel about a psychic medium, a new entry in the world of Christian chick-lit, and a tour of American bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah traditions--are all about journeys, the perfect summertime topic, whether it's physical travel or a personal spiritual quest. Grab a copy of one of these books and start your own journey now.

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Beyond Black
by Hilary Mantel

In English writer Mantel's newest novel, a psychic medium, her loyal business manager, and her menacing spirit guide combine to provide an entertaining and unusual summer read. Medium Alison is gifted at figuring out what worries her many clients and resolving their fears, but she herself is still haunted by her disturbing childhood. Her manager Colette coddles her every whim, until the demons that visit Alison become too much for her to bear once they move into a new house together. Mantel's novel is at once full of comedy and despair, and offers a unique look at the life of a medium tormented by her gift.
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The History of Love: A Novel
by Nicole Krauss

Krauss's second novel intertwines two stories: that of Holocaust survivor Leo Gursky, a locksmith still haunted by a pre-war love affair, and that of 14-year-old Alma Singer, a smart and scheming teenager who desperately wants to make her mother happy following the death of her father. Unbeknownst to them, the two are connected by a novel, also called "The History of Love." The novel is seemingly written by Zvi Litvinoff, a Latin American writer who, like Leo, is a native of Poland, but readers find it really has more mysterious origins. The individual depictions of Leo and Alma's lives, and the tale of their journey to find each other make "The History of Love" a powerful novel about love and loss. Buy it

Maps for Lost Lovers
by Nadeem Aslam

In "Maps," the mysterious disappearance of a Muslim couple living together out of wedlock creates a stir in a tight-knit Pakistani community in England. In this gripping novel, Aslam creates a compelling and believable vision of the community and his characters' concerns: struggles of faith, the challenges of intermarriage, feelings of disconnection from home and from the outside culture, and the changing meaning of family in immigrant circles. Buy it

A Month Of Sundays
by Julie Mars

"A Month of Sundays" chronicles author Julie Mars' eight-month experiment with faith following the death of her sister Shirley from pancreatic cancer. An agnostic confused by her sister's embracing of Catholicism on her deathbed, Mars decides to visit a new church every Sunday for 31 weeks in an attempt to discover what appealed to her sister, and to find healing for herself. The result of Mars's mornings at places of worship of all stripes, ranging from a storefront angels church to a church of Religious Science to a Spiritualist church to the Salvation Army is a moving meditation on faith, love, and death.
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Prayer Is a Place
by Phyllis Tickle

Religion writer Tickle has long charmed readers with her accounts of how faith is lived in America and her collections of fixed-hour prayers. Now she turns her pen to her own experiences as an observer. Tickle takes readers along as she remembers the most important moments of her travels in the religion world. Where this world can often seem scholarly and of interest only to insiders, Tickle's account opens it up to other observers. It's a sharp and interesting look at American religion and the way faith has shaped our culture for the past few decades.
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