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Book Review: Grateful

The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks

by Diana Butler BassHarperone
reviewed by Kathryn Drury Wagner
Grateful book cover

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IT HAD BEEN ONE of those weeks: yet another horrific school shooting on the news; two electricians ripping out wiring downstairs to figure out why our power kept conking out; and the cherry on top—a note home from the teacher, warning of lice. I sank, defeated, into a hot bath, clutching the new book Grateful like a life preserver. “Tell me something good, Diana Butler Bass,” I said aloud. “Because I need it.”

She delivered. Bass is the author of 10 books on religion, politics, and culture, and has a PhD in religious studies from Duke University. She is a historian and progressive Christian who has penned best-sellers such as Grounded. Her writing makes reference to Christian wisdom, as well as perspectives from many eras and faiths, while doing so a lively manner. She writes, for example, that forced gratitude expression at Thanksgiving dinner “feels more like a turkey hostage situation than a spiritual exercise in grace.” 



In her latest book, she examines gratitude, or “how to understand thanks and how to practice it,” as she puts it. But she isn’t offering shorter-term fixes or how-tos, such as starting a gratitude journal—though this can be helpful in changing a person’s habits. It’s about reflections on gratitude on many levels—the personal, the public, the political. It’s about how we can create a grateful society. “To choose gratitude is not an act of dogged determination,” Bass writes. “To choose gratitude is to hear an inner urging toward thanks, to see the grace in life, and to respond.”

If the world has you feeling a little down, I urge you to read this book and enjoy its invitation to a deeper, richer life. 

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