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Inspirational / Spiritual

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 Sorcerer

    by Edward N Brown

    Rating: 8.75

    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. 

  • 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.

  • Sparks of Wisdom from Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeshitz

    by Rabbi Yacov Barber

    Rating: 8.00

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 



  • You

    by Pnei Hashem

    Rating: 7.25

    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.

  • Plot/Idea: Branch’s self-reflections evolve throughout time, demonstrating his growth and understanding of the philosophies to which he has ascribed. Each chapter is compact and focuses on something Branch has learned from his worldview and life experience.

    Prose: In the format of one-way emails, Branch summarizes what he has learned from several philosophers, including George Gurdjieff, Eckhart Tolle, and Socrates, among others, and uses substantial quotations from others’ writings.

    Originality: Those familiar with existential philosophy and books on the art of self-reflection will find Branch’s exploration familiar, but the concise format and highly digestible chapters are fresh and accessible.

    Character/Execution: Branch’s story, which unfolds over a 10-year span, is brimming with questions, reflections, and meaningful personal development.