This is Mitch Albom’s second nonfiction book since Tuesdays with Morrie. If you enjoyed that one, I think you’ll enjoy Have a Little Faith, possibly even more. It is heartwarming, inspirational, thought-provoking, and, at times, humorous.
Albom’s hometown rabbi asks Albom to deliver his eulogy when he dies. On his quest to learn more about this man, he encounters an African American pastor who, despite a past as a drug dealer and convict, is leading a Christian ministry serving the poor and homeless in Detroit’s inner city. The book alternates between these two very different men, religions, and their worlds. In the process, you learn valuable lessons about the power of faith to bring people together to accomplish great things. Great read for a book club.
For many years, authors have written about Jesus of Nazareth using the Christian Bible, historical works and their imagination. Recognized history outside of the Bible has little to say about Jesus (he was a Jew who was crucified under Roman authority) but much to say about his effect on western culture and civilization. Now in Zealot, Reza Aslan writes a description of Palestine at the time of Jesus to show how the man from the Gospels may have fit into that tumultuous time when our calendar began.
Aslan, a well-educated scholar of Christianity and other religions, writes to define Jesus as a special man much like other Zealots of his time but one whose miracles are not questioned through later centuries of controversy about his birth, divinity, and resurrection. Aslan emphasizes the confrontational aspects of encounters and parables in the Gospels to paint Jesus as a revolutionary against the Roman and Jewish temple authorities.
After the destruction of Jerusalem, Aslan believes Christian writers moderated the zealous teaching of Jesus from a revolutionary stance to one of a Kingdom beyond this world with mercy, justice and peace as its goals. Zealotry, that is excessive zeal and fanaticism, was seen to endanger the early Christian community by inviting violent repression from Roman authority. Aslan doesn’t give much value to the 2000 years of witnesses beginning with the Apostle Paul viewing Jesus as the Son of God. Christians may not find this work a best choice for Christmas reading.
The story of the Biblical figure Samson is told in a humanizing and darkly humorous way. Samson himself is a womanizing violent religious fanatic, but still manages to be a sympathetic character through his straightforward narration.
Check the catalog for The Book of Samson or for other books by David Maine.
Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom (2009)
Mitch Albom, who hasn’t been to a church since he was young, is moved by the deep faith of two very different men, an elderly and spirited rabbi who wants Mitch to give his eulogy when he dies, and an ex-con turned minister to the poor and homeless. The book is touching and entertaining and just might get us thinking about our faith and the place God has in our life. Listen to Albom talk about his book. Also check out the author’s interview on Good Morning America, read reviews at Amazon.com and visit his website.
Mistaken Identity by Van Ryn and Cerak Families (2008)
This book was written by the families involved in the much-publicized, tragic incident in which two college students involved in a car accident were mistakenly identified for one another. One girl was killed in the accident; the other survived, but was in a coma for many weeks. For five weeks, one family kept a constant vigil at their daughter’s bedside, only to discover that she was not, in fact, their daughter. The other family memorialized, buried, and grieved for their daughter, then learned five weeks later that she was alive.
Both families tell of the incredible outpouring of love, support and prayer that family, friends, and strangers provided. Their deep faith and trust in God enable them to gracefully cope with these almost unimaginable events. The grace with which these families deal with this tragedy is truly awe-inspiring.
Read an excerpt, watch a video clip, or listen to an audio clip at the publisher’s website; read reviews at Amazon.com.
The Faith Club by Ranya Idliby (2006)
Three women: a Muslim, Jew, and Episcopalian, begin an interfaith dialogue. Their intention is to write a children’s book showing the interconnection of these Abrahamic traditions. In the process, each woman embarks on a journey of understanding and questioning her own spirituality as well as prejudices.
Visit the authors’ website for a reading group guide, information about the authors, interfaith links, and more.