Sunday, March 25, 2012

An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor

An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor

Rating: G; 4 stars

Summary: An Altar in the World is a book celebrating religion and spirituality for the rest of us. In short chapters, it discusses how the divine can be encountered everywhere in life, from prayer, to Sabbath, to pain, to work. Taylor makes use of both personal anecdotes and cultural expectations to get her point across. She focuses on details and paying attention to the world around us, and shows that little things can achieve big results.

Opinions: So I had to read this book for a class I took this past January, called “Spirituality for Busy People.” The goal of the class was very similar to the goal of this book: to find the spiritual in all aspects of life, and to learn to take the time to notice the divine in the world around us. I feel that this book is the perfect companion to the that class and to trying to live a more spiritual life in general.

Something that really appealed to me about this book was the intimate nature of it. An Altar in the World read like a combination between a memoir and a self-help book. It had the personal examples and anecdotes of memoir, but also still had the intimacy and personalization of a self-help book.

I'm going to come right out and say that I didn't agree with everything Taylor said in this book. Some of it just didn't seem to ring true for me. However, Taylor writes in such a way that even when I disagree, I can definitely see and appreciate where she's coming from. Spirituality is a deeply personal thing, and so it's inevitable that not everything will work for everyone. I think Taylor did an excellent job in mixing general and specific topics and examples so that so much of it can be true for different people in different ways. Based on class discussions, I'd say that the majority of the students in my class found truth within this book, but I bet that if you polled students on how it affected them, there would be an incredibly wide variety of responses.

I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in religion or spirituality, but I think it is especially suited to those who say they are “spiritual but not religious.” In my opinion, An Altar in the World bridges that gap quite nicely. This is a nice, easy read that promotes some soul-searching, but only in a good way. The book inspired me to take some action back in January, and perhaps it is time for me to re-read it, so that I can add some energy to my spiritual side.

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