I’ve noticed that my bookshelf is full of spiritual journeys. Although I have a lot of books about religion and spirituality, most of the ones I’ve read and count as my favorites are the stories of hearts being converted. I love learning about a person’s journey of faith to new places in their soul that they didn’t even know existed. Here are some of my favorites, in order of how much they moved me:
1. The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
Merton’s autobiography recalls his early childhood in Europe, as he copes with his fractured family and moves to Long Island. As a young man at Columbia U., he was involved in the world of academia and literature. Over time, he feels the pull to explore prayer, Christian theology, and the Catholic Church. This autobiography was written relatively early in Merton’s life; after more life experience, he noted that he would have written it differently. Still, I found it very interesting and captivating to read about his interior conversations with God.
2. Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
The great C.S. Lewis was fascinated by the moments of pure joy that seemed to “stab” him when he least expected it. This memoir recounts his experiences, beginning in childhood, that ushered in joy to his consciousness. Just as with my own memory, the most nondescript occasions seem to be tenderly treasured years later. Joy encounters Lewis, urging him to revisit places in his heart that left an impression years later, eventually offering him the chance to take a second look at faith and Christianity.
3. Gift & Mystery by Pope John Paul II
Fifty years after being ordained to the priesthood, Pope John Paul II invites readers into personal memories and meditations. His spirituality and vocation developed both in tandem with and in spite of the horrors of the second world war. Here, he explains how his attitudes changed and how he learned to approach life in new ways as an underground seminarian and as a young priest under communism. This memoir also includes many meditations and reflections that Pope employed in his own prayer life.
4. Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller
As a young modern American man, Don Miller juggled his education, family, friends, and faith. His ups and downs of interest in his Christian faith are easy to relate to – who doesn’t have doubt and piety fighting somewhere in their heart? Don Miller attempts to make his memoir more accessible by approaching it in an “everyday” way. He doesn’t kick off with religious and moral topics; rather, they serve as a response to the human struggles, aches, and shortcomings that he experiences.
5. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
I haven’t read this since high school, but I remember it being an engrossing retelling of the story of the spiritual 180 of the man that became the Buddha. It is a short work (quick to read!) and is a classic.
6. Travels by Michael Crichton
Another high school read. The famous novelist explains why he decided not to pursue a physician’s career, after completing medical school. Then, he shows the reader the patchwork quilt that was his spiritual journey: from pseudo-psychic retreats to Asian brothels, and from the business world to yoga. Crichton’s technicolor experiences were definitely something different.
7. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I read this one very recently. True, it’s more of a travel memoir than a spiritual one, but it had its fair share of catharsis. We see the storyteller fall apart after a divorce, and gradually pick her self up again on a journey from Italy to India to Indonesia. Much of it was enjoyable, but there were some parts that will keep me from rereading it. This is a very popular book, and the movie version starring Julia Roberts will be coming out soon.
On my “to read” list:
Come Be My Light by Mother Teresa
Confessions by St. Augustine
Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross
Now it’s your turn! What books about spiritual journeys can you recommend? Please comment with your favorites or wanna-reads…thanks!