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in religion and spirituality

A New Earth

by Eckhart Tolle (Plume, $14)

Oprah Winfrey’s guru of the moment “writes the kind of New Age quasi-mysticism that you would have hoped had died out” in the 1960s,

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said John Crace in the London Guardian. Winfrey has helped turn Eckhart Tolle’s latest into a household name. But A New Earth is a “virtually unreadable” blend of “numbingly dull parables” and warnings against egoistic thinking. “Are you ready to be awakened to the Random use of capital Letters?” Then join the bandwagon.

The Reason for God

by Timothy Keller (Dutton, $25)

Presbyterian minister Tim Keller has built a Manhattan megachurch by being a thoughtful champion for orthodox Christian faith, said Lisa Miller in Newsweek. With his “high-minded” first book, he’s positioning himself “as a C.S. Lewis for the 21st century,” an apologist for belief who’s not afraid to wrestle with doubt. Unfortunately, The Reason for God disappoints. Its pages “lack the charisma and conviction so evident in the man.”

God’s Problem

by Bart Ehrman (HarperOne, $26)

Biblical expertise served Bart Ehrman well two years ago, when his Misquoting Jesus explored how layers of mistranslations distort the messages of Christianity’s holy book, said David Van Biema in Time. This time the former Baptist minister sticks too closely to biblical teaching as he explains how the existence of suffering caused him to lose faith in a loving, omnipotent God. “A more useful book” also would have confronted the many Christian thinkers who have wrestled with the same problem.

What the Gospels Meant

by Garry Wills (Viking, $25)

Catholic scholar Garry Wills is untroubled by the possibility that the four Gospels are unreliable sources of historical truth, said Bruce Chilton in The New York Sun. Wills believes that the teachings in each were initially shaped by oral transmission, by communal dialogues about what Jesus’ life meant. His “poetic, penetrating, and moving” new work is mostly concerned with teasing out the varied purposes of those communities.

Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana

by Anne Rice (Knopf, $26)

Anne Rice’s second novel about the life of Jesus is “virtually surprise-free,” said Ron Charles in The Washington Post. Though the author of Interview With a Vampire has invented most of the book’s day-to-day action, she’s now too devoted to doctrinal Catholicism to expose her carpenter hero to unexpected spiritual challenges. Even the devil Jesus meets during his 40 days in the desert is “not much scarier than a salesman at Saks.”

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