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The Green Life: Book Review Wednesday: Nature and Spirituality

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June 29, 2011

Book Review Wednesday: Nature and Spirituality

Book reviews Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. Today we're recommending books that explore the interaction between nature and spirituality. 

Sacred Natural Sites: Conserving Nature and Culture (by Bas Verschuuren et al., $50, Earthscan, 2010): This comprehensive examination of sacred natural sites and the cultures that revere them draws on the diverse scientific backgrounds of its authors for strength. Part literature review, part policy analysis, and part critical discussion of conservation, the book's overarching focus on the ways in which sacred sites help to maintain biological diversity is clear and convincing. A tome worth owning for those already interested in the subject.

GreenDeen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet  (by Ibhrahim Abdul-Matin, $17, Berett-Koehler 2010): With a straightforward, analytical tone, Abdul-Matin frames personal anecdotes and current environmental issues within the tenets of Islam. GreenDeen succeeds in loosely relating scripture, society, and environmental policy without making its subject seem like a square-peg, round-hole issue. By incorporating more general themes, such as "stewardship of the earth," GreenDeen's message is relevant to secular readers as well. 

A Child's Book of Animal Poems and Blessings (collected by Eliza Blanchard, illustration by Joyce Hesselberth, $12, Skinner House, 2010): This gorgeously illustrated collection of poems aims to instill a sense of thankfulness in young readers for all animals. With vibrantly colored geometric illustrations of "blessed" creatures alongside the works of William Wordsworth, African pygmies, and Blanchard herself, A Child's Book is appropriate for parents looking to add a Christian message to their daily bedtime-story recital. 

Like a Tree: How Trees, Women, and Tree People Can Save the Planet (by Jean Shinoda Bolen, $24, Conari, 2011): Bolen's informed, briskly spiritual tone makes for a comfortable and engaging reading experience. The book relies on the simile that human development (in this case, especially for women) is like the physical and spiritual growth of a tree in order to tie together a great diversity of topics. Touching on biology, psychology, policy, feminism, and shamanic spirituality, Like a Tree is equally compelling when considered in parts rather than as a concise thesis. 

The Raven's Gift: A Scientist, a Shaman, and Their Remarkable Journey Through the Siberian Wilderness (by John Turk, $17, St. Martin's Griffin, 2011): Turk's antagonistic pitting of science against spirituality both within himself and in the world at large drives this fascinating tale of the author's trek across Siberia with a mystic named Moolynaut. Turk's musings on the spiritual state of the Western World and the sheer beauty of his narrative make The Raven's Gift a exciting and meditative read. 

--Colin Griffin


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