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Inspirational / Spiritual

  • Finalist

    Plot/Idea: The Hijacked Conscience is an essential resource which successfully aims to help promote awareness of Religious Scrupulosity OCD. Peck's struggles with this condition inform this thoughtful and helpful book as she details her lifelong, lonely, and personal battle.

    Prose: Peck's text is detailed and compelling, insightfully revealing the many factors that contribute to Religious Scrupulosity OCD. She presents an astonishing account of the oppressive and paralyzing nature of the condition in a profound and absorbing narrative.

    Originality: The Hijacked Conscience is an essential guide for pastors, those affected by religious scrupulosity, or mental health professionals. Peck's candid reflections manage to effectively transmit the desperation and desolation she feels, brilliantly highlighting a condition that is not widely recognized or talked about.

    Character/Execution: Peck neatly weaves her personal story and relationship with the church along with detailed theological analysis. She bravely shares her battles with Religious Scrupulosity OCD, her life-changing spiritual encounters, and effectively transmits the desperation, loneliness and intensity of this little-known condition.

    Blurb: An eye-opening insight into Religious Scrupulosity OCD.

  • Semi Finalist

    Plot/Idea: Rasmussen takes a complex idea and successfully simplifies it. The author, who grapples with anxiety and perfectionism early in life, shares the benefits of having discovered not only faith but also a sense of calm and tranquility. He portrays his idea of true education while also describing the history and meaning behind the Yin Yang symbol for all readers to understand.

    Prose: Rasmussen’s tone is soothing and easy to follow despite the weighty topic. The author maintains a positive outlook but remains authentic and honest, speaking volumes while remaining concise. Rasmussen’s focus on the writing stands so powerfully on its own, that the insets of pictures and a bonus section of the book may strike readers as unnecessary.

    Originality: This work stands apart from other titles focused on spirituality and meditation through its added focus on social issues, relationships, and work/life balance. His deep dive into the Yin Yang symbology and its real-life applications is both compelling and inspiring.

    Character/Execution: Rasmussen ultimately delivers an empathetic, well-informed guide to achieving balance and peace, and reclaiming hope in trying times.






  • Semi Finalist

    U Dream, Inc.

    by Vlado Rahal, Ph.D.

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot/Idea: U Dream, Inc. is an immersive and multilayered work of philosophy and spirituality. Comprised of parable-like stories, Rahal introduces often archetypal characters and voices that contemplate no less than the very meaning of existence.

    Prose: Rahal's prose is dense, lyrical, and contains numerous arresting passages.

    Originality: Rahal is a highly inventive and skilled writer. U Dream, Inc. is a book of ideas that, via succinct, standalone vignettes, addresses humanity's place within the universe, death, technology, and the possibility of a higher power, among other weighty topics. Readers may interpret the text as the author's path from uncertainty and skepticism to a place of security and faith, though the work raises more questions than it does answers.

    Character/Execution: Readers with a strong interest in philosophy and humanity's place within the universe will find much to contemplate in U Dream, Inc.  This said, Rahal provides little definitive contextual anchor, leaving readers to swim through the often nebulous contemplations he presents. 

  • Semi Finalist

    Plot/Idea: Swan has created a striking guide to self-awareness and spiritual freedom, drawing from Vedic teachings. Her knowledge of Eastern spirituality will expand readers’ minds and assist them along their own journeys toward healing.

    Prose: Swan’s calm tone will appeal to readers, as will her ability to convey complex topics in a manner that is understandable and personally relevant. Swan’s inner peace rings through her words, which will keep readers wanting more.

    Originality: While similar to other spiritual guides, Swan’s is a step above as she has practiced Eastern spirituality and relates her experience with knowledge and ease.

    Character/Execution: Swan provides clear and approachable examples to assist in understanding Eastern teachings, along with valuable exercises and actionable steps to implement her ideas.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Roaming the Land


    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: Reczek delivers a stunning homage to New England landscape and seasons, organized by each month of the year, through dramatic, expressive photography. He offers readers compact descriptions of the backdrop to each photograph, covering the wildlife, people, and lifestyles of the region.

    Prose: The prose is natural and free flowing as Reczek describes the distinctive settings in each photograph. His stories of the local people, businesses, and way of life unique to New England are well-crafted and striking.

    Originality: A patchwork of stark photography and absorbing storytelling, Reczek’s book will transfix readers. The snippets he includes for background on each photograph contain their own unique storylines and anchor the visuals in time and place. 

    Character/Execution: This is an arresting portrait of New England living, brimming with history and personality. Reczek’s photography sparks conflicting emotions in several renderings—the solemn alongside the awe-inspiring, the poignant juxtaposed with the lively—that give it an almost otherworldly feel at times. 

  • Quarter Finalist

    Spiritually Parented

    by Meg Gibbs

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: Spiritually Parented provides an engaging recounting of the author's life with a heavy focus on her upbringing and how it shaped her. Readers will discover a unique and often fascinating perspective on self and spirituality that doesn't demand strict adherence to a single set of beliefs.

    Prose: The author is a strong writer whose words are not only informative but soothing. She gently invites readers to open their minds to possibilities without indoctrination or platitudes. 

    Originality: Gibbs's experiences and perspective are decidedly unique. Readers will glean powerful insights both into the outer world and their inner journeys.

    Character/Execution: Gibbs effectively stays on topic, while also providing rich autobiographical content. Readers will appreciate her affirming and unconventional point of view.


  • Quarter Finalist

    Death's Garden Revisited

    by Loren Rhoads

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot/Idea: This collection showcases a varied but equally arresting array of essays on visiting and appreciating cemeteries. While at first glance, this may seem like a macabre topic, and some pieces certainly frame it in that light, in other hands, the perspective is legitimately and movingly life-affirming. 

    Prose: Despite the multiple contributors here, the writing is clear, concise, and engaging.

    Originality: While cemeteries feature prominently in every essay, each contributor offers a different perspective, from childhood memories, to a graveyard tour guide, to cemetery administration, and more. Collectively, these pieces celebrate and honor the dead, their legacies, and burial traditions.

    Character/Execution: This is a wonderfully distinctive and memorable collection that, despite its focus, contains surprisingly uplifting moments and a deep reverence for the final resting places described. Accompanying photos, though varying in quality, provide an appealing visual element.

  • Quarter Finalist

    The Gang of Three: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle

    by Neel Burton

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot/Idea: Burton covers considerable ground in this expository offering, effectively illustrating the work of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle—and clarifying their relevance today.  Even readers unfamiliar with the trio's philosophy will find much to learn amid Burton's historical context, elaboration on philosophical themes, and musings on how their wisdom continues to fuel enlightenment.

    Prose: The material is heavy, but Burton writes clearly and logically, capturing the importance and impact of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle's work.

    Originality: Burton's writing offers contemporary readers abundant insights to ponder, and he effectively connects the work of three famous philosophers to the struggles of modern day readers.

    Character/Execution: Burton's ideas are well-executed and structured, starting with an historical perspective and ending with the relevance of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle to today’s society. This contemplative work will capture the interest of philosophy students and readers intrigued by life's mysteries alike.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Plot/Idea: Corcoran’s work is a dual examination of grief and the healing power of physical exertion, in which he plumbs the pain of his father’s death alongside his belief that physically challenging himself is the answer to recovering from his loss. 

    Prose: Smoothly written in conversational prose and organized in a logical structure, Corcoran’s narrative is easy to follow and flows casually throughout. 

    Originality: Corcoran’s story is honest, raw, and powerful in his recollections of both his grief from the loss of his father and his courage in working through crushing emotions. 

    Character/Execution: Corcoran’s experiences come to life in his writing, and his dedication to stretching his limits is palpable, offering readers a wealth of motivation to absorb into their own lives.

  • You Are Still Alive, Now Act Like It

    by Ray Catania

    Rating: 7.25

    Plot/Idea: Catania demystifies the concept of how universal laws apply to personal achievement, belonging, and self-fulfillment. The material is wide ranging, covering topics such as body frequencies, higher consciousness, and dark energy, among others, offering readers several strategies—including meditation and thought correction—to help implement Catania’s ideas.

    Prose: The material is complex, but Catania includes personal reflections and journal entries to assist readers in unraveling the guide’s theories. For such complexity, the prose is surprisingly readable and effortless.

    Originality: Catania’s infusion of personal insight gives the guide a deeper meaning, allowing readers to see its concepts played out in real life.

    Character/Execution: Catania takes the time to clarify concepts that would otherwise be dense to wade through, making this book graspable and easy to follow. The message stays clear throughout, and the guide strikes an easy balance of abstract and straightforward. 

  • Plot/Idea: A Perspective on the Signs of Al Quran is a thoughtful, in-depth exploration of the Quaran from, as Malik says in his introduction, "merely one perspective from the moving train of life."

    Prose: Malik's work is thoughtful, informative, and well-researched. Scholarly in tone, the work is clearly not meant for a casual readership, but will be most appreciated by those already somewhat well-versed in the text and its meanings.

    Originality: Though somewhat lacking in approachability, this work is admirable and remarkable in its depth.

    Character/Execution: Malik invites readers to dive deeply into the Quran and provides ample guidance. The scholarly (yet spiritual) approach seems especially well-aimed toward religious scholars looking for alternate readings (and meanings) behind the sacred text--regardless of religion.





  • Torch Time Tales: Volume One

    by Joni L. Whitmore

    Rating: 7.00

    Plot/Idea: Torch Time Tales is an ambitious work that marries components of memoir, family saga, genealogy, and philosophical/spiritual manifesto. 

    Prose: The author shows a clear knack for storytelling and has a fascinating family history. The conversations between Aunt Joni and the narrator, however, can come across as contrived.

    Originality: Torch Time Tales takes a highly unique approach to memoir. However, the long-winded, detailed family history may not fully engross an outside reader.

    Character/Execution: Whitmore introduces many fascinating characters from her family's history, and the conceptual framework for the memoir is a novel one. The work is initially confusing, however; readers may struggle to parse out whose story is truly being told and by whom. While the many threads fall somewhat short of full cohesion, readers will admire Whitmore's narrative prowess and vision.







  • Where Dandelions Grow

    by Maya Delaney

    Rating: 6.75

    Plot/Idea: Delaney endeavors to differentiate justified belief from opinion as a self-styled student of epistemology in this conceptual medley of poetry, research, and conviction. She touches on a mélange of topics, ranging from chakras to grief to self-love, offering readers a multilayered perspective on spirituality. 

    Prose: Where Dandelions Grow reads similar to an intimate journal as Delaney studies a broad collection of ideas and beliefs. The prose borders on didactic at times but avoids condescension, and the writing is steeped in metaphysical symbolism and design.

    Originality: Delaney explores the impact that epistemology has had on her thought patterns and life in general, introducing a multitude of visionary ideas for a broad range of believers.

    Character/Execution: The immensity of the book's range causes it to lack unity and flow, but Delaney's thoughts are clear and her points engrossing. She provides ample research to back her ideas while drawing conclusions that will leave readers deeply contemplating their own views.