The Best American Spiritual Writing: 2008
Edited by Philip Zaleski, with an Introduction by Jimmy Carter
Houghton Mifflin, 2008, $14.00
The topics in this tenth edition of the Best American Spiritual Writing series range wide, and reading them is delving into the company of those who have thought deeply about their subjects and have the skill to touch readers’ hearts. Included are writings by Pico Iyer, Natalie Goldberg, Robert Pinsky, John Updike, Wendell Berry, and others, whose thoughtful essays are, as Jimmy Carter says, “a way to explore the mysteries of the soul and the soul’s relationship to God.”
A highlight of the current edition is an essay so profound and beautiful that reading must stop, leaving one to sit quietly in the space of one’s heart and feel that space expanding, wordlessly, beyond normal confines into a luminous realm that is infinitely larger and more whole. Written by Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry magazine, “Love Bade Me Welcome” speaks of its author’s sense that he could “never feel quite at home in [his] life,” and of three events, each “shattering in its way,” including the diagnosis of an incurable illness, that brought him to immerse himself in the community of the living and its beauty, passion, joy, and suffering.