Religion Bestsellers

Article excerpt

The Monitor's quarterly review of the best-selling books on religion offers readers a one-stop opportunity to sample popular works that reflect the resurgent interest in things religious and spiritual. Such books, numbering in the thousands, continue to be a recent publishing phenomenon. Unlike our best-selling fiction and nonfiction pages, this list does not include ratings of the books.

PAPERBACK

1. CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL, Health Communications, $12

Best swallowed in small doses, this collection of sometimes moving stories by Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen illustrates how human optimism, goodness, and love can make bad situations better, and occasionally even heal them. These anecdotal tales will give those hopeful about the human race a sense of vindication and may even make the hearts of a few skeptics melt. This book is well-meaning and well-executed. Most readers will be lifted by some of its content, and some by most of it. Others will consider that it attributes too much power to positive thinking and will look in vain for a theology behind these carefully crafted stories. By Tony Lobl

2. 2ND HELPING OF CHICKEN SOUP..., Health Communications, $12

Those who savored the ingredients that made up the first serving of "Chicken Soup for the Soul," will be glad to know this collection, edited by Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen, is true to its title. It is a second helping of the same kind of storytelling that lauds goodness instead of selfishness and a positive, loving outlook even in the face of adversity. Others, who enjoyed the first collection but felt ready to move on and explore deeper questions, will find this isn't that next course on the "soul" menu. Some stories contain details of medical conditions and treatments. By Tony Lobl

3.THE BEGINNING OF THE END, By John Hagee, Thomas Nelson, $10.99

Part of a a growing wave of "end of the world" books, this one by television evangelist John Hagee links today's headlines with what he views as "God's accelerating prophetic timetable for the world, Israel, and you." Opening with the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin on Nov. 4, 1995, and using Bible history and prophecy, Dr. Hagee carefully constructs an outline for the future as he sees it. While well-written, at times the book becomes a bit uneven as it moves back and forth from the Bible to predicted outcomes for Jews, Israel, and the world. Its popularity is clearly connected to growing interest in Christian prophecy. By W. Michael Born

4. ILLUMINATA, by Marianne Williamson, Riverhead Books, $12

A popular speaker on metaphysics and spirituality, Marianne Williamson has devoted her third book to prayer: praying daily about physical healing, relationships, work and creativity, and the world. More than just pages of pleas for God to change things, her prayers give insight into how things may have gone wrong in the first place. And many of her most heartfelt prayers spark deep hope while pointing out, often quite profoundly, some of the possibilities for healing and regeneration. This book will assist readers looking to explore a broad aggregation of prayers along with thoughts about what prayer can do. By Mark Swinney

5. MERE CHRISTIANITY, by C. S. Lewis, Macmillan, $3.95

Originally "informal" radio broadcasts during WWII, "Mere Christianity," is a classic of Christian apolgetics by one of this century's most renowned Anglo-Catholic writers. While bearing no denominational weight, it is widely recognized for its eloquent, analytic, utterly sincere, yet lyrical defense of the evangelizing force of Christianity in individual lives. Lewis convinces that the "still small voice" of God comes as a Christian presence and that no matter how subjective one may think his or her individual consciousness or experience is, at the center of each individual's being is an all-loving divine other. A book to be read throughout a lifetime. …