Inspirational / Spiritual
Acts of Compassion: Bringing Love and Caring Back into Your Lifeby Linda Spangle, RN, MA
Plot/Idea: In a world plagued by acts of anger and violence, the authors show that compassion is a panacea that can literally change lives. The work's uplifting message is powerful and much-needed.
Prose: The authors are talented writers, able to convey their ideas clearly and succinctly, citing evidence to document their claims.
Originality: Acts of Compassion provides a fresh perspective on how small acts of kindness can have profound impacts on our communities.
Character/Execution: The authors stay true to their key messages and theme as they address the positive change that results from acting compassionately toward others.
Blurb: For those looking to improve their own lives as well as that of others, Acts of Compassion is the perfect starting point. Compassion can literally change the world!
Endless Awakening: Time, Paradox, and the Path to Enlightenmentby Patrick Paul Garlinger
Plot: Garlinger’s ideas prove unique and eye-opening here. Readers will benefit from Garlinger’s thoughts about time, self-awareness, perspective, and healing.
Prose: Despite the weighty topics at hand, Garlinger writes with a conversational, even tone. His compassion shines through his enlightening words; the examples presented are relatable, and the writing is clear and concise.
Originality: Garlinger has a unique perspective regarding his experience recovering from trauma. His insights will provide guidance and solace to readers on their own quests for meaning and understanding.
Character/Execution: The book is well-organized and anchored in its intentions. The author conveys potentially abstract concepts in a manner that will resonate with and inspire readers.
The Atheist and The Afterlife: An Autobiographyby Ray Catania
Plot/Idea: The author does a fine job detailing his life story, warts (and there are many) and all. He makes no apologies for the road rage that almost costs him his life, and manages to derive meaning from tragedy. Overall, he recounts an absorbing story that holds the reader's interest.
Prose: Catania is a very good writer who at times gives too much unnecessary detail but still manages to thoroughly engage the reader. The writing is clear, if not concise, and direct.
Originality: This is a wholly original story of the author's personal journey.
Character/Execution: While there are others described in the book, the main focus is the author himself. His tale comes across as honest and insightful, and as his life settles down, the reader fully comes to understand the turmoil that rages within him.
The Ongo Book 2.0: Everyday Nonviolenceby Catherine Cadden and Jesse Wiens Chu
Plot/Idea: A useful guide brimming with profound spiritual practice techniques, The Ongo Book 2.0 categorizes three types of spiritual practice—individual, paired, and group—and offers a weekly plan to help readers internalize spiritual principles based primarily on Buddhism. Cadden and Chu are detailed in the presentation and outline their basic principles remarkably well.
Prose: Clear, digestible prose bolsters the text, with a structured repetition of certain activities to help readers implement the guide’s recommendations.
Originality: Cadden and Chu delve into insightful topics, in the context of a well-organized, spiritual practices planner. The guide’s utility is a highlight, as is the addition of adapting the information to contemporary audiences.
Character/Execution: The book’s execution is solid, and Cadden and Chu spend time reviewing their main concepts while broadening them for different audiences.
Resurrection Lily: The BRCA Gene, Hereditary Cancer & Lifesaving Whispers from the Grandmother I Never Knewby Amy Byer Shainman
Plot: Shainman successfully details her family history and her journey as an advocate for BRCA mutation education/awareness. Her story unfolds logically and at a steady pace and easily holds the reader's interest.
Prose: The author is a capable writer and able to tell her tale, which is medically-focused, in an accessible way. Readers will feel like passengers in the car along for the journey. Others may be mid-process themselves, or have been in a similar situation before, and the perspective here will feel enlightening.
Originality: This is the author's personal story and, as a result, it is unique and highly original even though her situation is one that many women would be able to relate to.
Character/Execution: There are two main focuses here—BRCA and the author herself. Both are well-defined, and the changes the author undergoes throughout the novel are meticulously shown.
Simon vs. Simon: The Saint and the Sorcererby Edward N Brown
Plot/Idea: This work offers a complex storyline with prominent figures and histories rooted in the Bible. The author demonstrates a thorough and deep understanding of Biblical stories and for those adequately knowledgeable, there is much here to savor.
Prose: The author is a strong writer with a penchant for formality which gives the work an academic feel. Biblical scholars will find much to appreciate here.
Originality: Brown delivers a thorough and heartfelt exploration of the life of Saint Peter.
Character/Execution: The author does a fine job with characterization, particularly considering the significant number of individuals and backstories being established. Brown is a highly capable writer with a clear knowledge of his subject matter.
Fallen Star: A Return to Self through the Eight Limbs of Yogaby Molly Chanson
Plot: Chanson’s memoir is a testament to how yoga can allow a person to tap into intuition and introspection to come to terms with a personal misfortune. Mixing her testament with the yoga poses allows the reader to see the release of her stress and come to an understanding and solution to her difficult situation.
Prose: In this well-written book, the author successfully blends her testimony with the practice of yoga and is able to take a deep dive into the tenets and ancient practices of yoga in a way that is still easy to understand. Her honest approach to her story draws the audience in and allows the reader to see how she evolved as a person while overcoming her tragedies.
Originality: Chanson’s ability to blend her story with the elements and teachings of yoga and help the reader understand how to put it into practice is original. Using familiar poses, the reader will understand how to tap into individual intuition.
Character/Execution: Despite Chanson’s situation, she is honest and transparent, and her story is a good example of what it takes for someone to work through any challenging situation. There is no doubt that practicing yoga helped her, and her end goal is to help others as well.
Artist: Awakening the Spirit Withinby Jocelyn Jones
Plot: Jones has created an inventive and unorthodox premise that she semi-convincingly defends in Artist. While the author makes many valid claims, the foundation here, that actors hold the key to fixing society, may seem a bit of a stretch to some readers.
Prose: The author is a solid writer, able to express her ideas clearly and succinctly. Jones demonstrates effective and confident command of language and structure.
Originality: This is a highly original and unique work, that draws from a singular premise. Readers will find many of the arguments to be insightful and eye-opening.
Character/Execution: The central theme throughout this work centers on the belief that waking up the artist within will solve our collective ills. Jones makes a focused argument that remains center stage throughout.
Absolute Visionby Jo Pronger Faulkner
Plot: This is a wonderful collection of uplifting personal stories that will inspire and enlighten readers. Each chapter tells a different tale, all with a common theme of overcoming large obstacles and challenges in life.
Prose: While each chapter features a different author, the many parts coalesce into a satisfying and cohesive whole.
Originality: Collections of stories that aim to motivate and inspire readers are familiar, but the voices and narratives featured here are broad-ranging, surprising, and impactful.
Character/Execution: The main "character" thread through each story is perseverance. Each contributor faces their own challenge and charts a unique path forward. Collectively, the stories leave a memorable impression on readers.
To My Friend Who Left the Faith: A Letter to a Prodigal from a Prodigalby Wade Bearden
Plot: Bearden mixes his personal experiences, faith, and knowledge of Christianity to help readers grapple with tough questions. With a light touch, he honestly addresses skepticism and doubt while urging readers to find the strength to maintain faith even when it may seem unsustainable.
Prose: Bearden’s thoughtful and intentional tone rings true. The writing is genuine and charming, while Bearden’s ideas and experiences are enlightening and conversational.
Originality: Writing this manuscript as a letter is an effective technique. It makes the reader feel as though the advice is personalized and intimate.
Character/Execution: Bearden creates a story that is accessible and relatable. Whether for private reading or discussion within a church group, there's much to value in the author's exploration of faith, doubt, and inner healing.
Sparks of Wisdom from Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeshitzby Rabbi Yacov Barber
Plot/Idea: Barber uses inspiration from ancient writings of Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeshitz but takes them a step further. Barber’s work offers philosophical exploration, but also instructs readers on ways to apply the valuable ideas in daily life.
Prose: Even though the writing is based on teachings of the Torah, Barber’s explanations are easy to understand and broadly relatable. His tone and words are comforting and therapeutic to the reader.
Originality: Barber brings a fresh and unique perspective to the ancient texts and teachings he presents.
Character/Execution: Barber’s organization is spot on. He makes the text accessible by alphabetizing the entries according to topic; this enables readers to browse the teachings at their own pace.
The Veil of Entanglementby T.J. Nicholson
Plot/Idea: Nicholson offers a handbook for readers who feel caught up in the toils of modern life and disconnected from their fundamental existence. The author provides clear, calm guidance for achieving a greater state of awareness within a busy, chaotic world.
Prose: Nicholson's prose is warm and expressive, while also authoritative and erudite in its presentation.
Originality: Drawing from ancient traditions and philosophies, Nicholson integrates familiar practices of meditation and mindfulness. However, Nicholson's informed commentary and guidance provide readers with a broader understanding of what it means to achieve a state of liberation.
Character/Execution: Nicholson blends thought-provoking content and practical guidance for readers looking to free their minds and bodies from life's entanglements.
Angel of the Garbage Dump: How Hanley Denning Changed the World, One Child at a Timeby Jacob Wheeler
Plot/Idea: Wheeler relays the story of Hanley Denning and an inspiring legacy that deserves to be told. The author shares the highlight reel as well as the many bleak challenges of Denning's mission. Wheeler uncovers every stone and leaves readers with a message of hope.
Prose: Wheeler writes movingly of Hanley Denning and her quest to assist others to escape dehumanizing circumstances.
Originality: This is an inspiring and unusual story of one individual's dedication and diligence.
Character Development/Execution: While Wheeler's storytelling is thorough and vivid, the narrative would benefit from additional finessing. Abrupt transitions and repetition can distract from the otherwise fully engaging reading experience.
A Piece of Me: An Arrangement of Words to Inspire Reflectionby Arif Ahmad
Plot/Idea: Ahmad, a practicing cardiologist, expresses his experience as a Pakistani immigrant who has come to the United States. His honest, free verse entries are each introduced by a time period giving the reader a reference point. Writing on a variety of topics, Ahmad has a powerful message about acceptance, isolation, and belonging.
Prose: With a poetic sensibility, Ahmad offers an honest portrayal of what it is like to be a Muslim in America during times of political uncertainty and turmoil.
Originality: This work is unique in its approach to storytelling. Anchored in contemporary times and circumstances, it offers lyricism and thoughtful exploration of culture, xenophobia, and identity.
Character/Execution: Ahmad’s writing and ideas are rich and alluring. He makes a strong statement for equality for all people.
Youby Pnei Hashem
Plot: Hashem admirably uses this book to make the detailed and esoteric teachings in the Torah palatable for and interesting to an everyday audience. The frequent repetition of the book's main theses, phrased as questions, helps to reinforce the book's ideas, yet it will most likely resonate with those who are already exploring religion or looking for spiritual guidance.
Prose: The conversational style of the prose is perfect for this subject matter—it's a balanced, tonal mix of educator and expert. While the frequent repetition of the main points of Hashem's thesis are helpful in reinforcing the plentiful and detailed ideas, the moments of etymological asides can sometimes interrupt the flow.
Originality: Hashem does an admirable job of crafting a nonfiction book that makes dense concepts and text accessible to many readers. The author's optimistic, calm, and educated tone will absolutely draw readers in to the existential thoughts and may encourage them to read even more about it.
Character/Execution: As created through text, the "author as teacher" figure in this nonfiction book is an understanding, knowledgeable, and hopeful educator. This characterization reflects the good, kind, and decent God that is discussed.
The Truth of the Kingdom: Red Letter Editionby Mikah
Plot: Mikah perpetuates the idea of divine guidance when analyzing Christian constructs, sharing their own unique perspective and inspiration for the writing, and the text’s research is meticulously notated. The breadth of ideas is extensive—at times, overwhelming—but the book’s vast knowledge base is clear from the start, and Mikah’s willingness to challenge conventional religious beliefs is intriguing.
Prose: The prose is incisive, with powerful statements that will engage readers. Though much of the style leans more toward didactic passages, and the narrative could benefit from streamlining the cited religious resources, the range of information Mikah presents gives readers a springboard for further study.
Originality: Mikah’s combination of in-depth religious study and painstaking research is admirable, and the provocative theories explored in the book add to the innovation.
Character/Execution: The book is loosely organized, with a few choppy transitions; however, Mikah offers readers a sweeping review and analysis of religious texts that will spark thought-provoking assessment.