In trying times, our spirituality can equip us to look for the beautiful moments—and look past the ugly ones. And regardless of whether your spirituality is rooted in organized religion or simply in the natural world around us, there’s always something that helps us get through it all.
The books below paint a colorful tapestry of how spirituality manifests in our lives, telling the personal stories of humanitarians, poets, Christians, Buddhists, and the classic fictional—but no less powerful—stories of characters who turned to their faith to find meaning in their lives. Read on for 15 inspiring spiritual books to help you live with mindfulness, peacefulness, and positivity.
Fiction Spiritual Books
It would be an incredible oversight to skip The Alchemist on a list of spiritual books. In this international bestseller, Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd, travels to Egypt in search of a worldly treasure. On his journey he encounters many fascinating people who guide him along in his quest, including a Gypsy woman and a man who calls himself king.
However, in search of this mysterious treasure, Santiago finds himself discovering far more beyond physical rewards, undertaking a transformative self-discovery. The Alchemist is an exceptional story about listening to our hearts and the power of following our dreams.
Feeling disconnected from her roots and desperate for a sense of belonging, Nancy searches for an outlet for religious fulfillment. Unfortunately, Nancy can’t seem to find anyone who is happy with their spiritual connections. She first encounters a Hasidic man who embarks on becoming a monk after becoming disillusioned with Judaism. She then stumbles across a Catholic boy who regards the Church as a suffocating influence.
When Nancy enters a marriage with a man she believes to have like-minded beliefs, she thinks that her spiritual yearning is over. But a higher satisfaction is not so easy to slip into, and Nancy has a longer journey of identity and self-discovery ahead of her than she ever anticipated.
Siddhartha, born a privileged Brahmin immersed in the teachings of Buddha, casts the comforts of life aside to pursue a deeper spiritual fulfillment. The only thing Siddhartha hasn’t left behind is his best friend Govinda, but as the two embark on their journeys of spiritual discovery, their paths abruptly diverge.
While Govinda finds himself wholly re-dedicated to Buddhism, Siddhartha branches out to find himself on a rapidly expanding path of self-realization. Siddhartha explores Eastern religions, Western individualism, and a wide breadth of philosophies, bringing readers on a quest for the true meaning of life and spirituality.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven
A tragic accident befalls an amusement park repairman, Eddie, as he attempts to rescue a young girl from a falling ride. On his 83rd birthday, he arrives in Heaven, which he discovers is less of a place and more an exploration of meaning. Eddie has spent his years believing he lived an inconsequential and unremarkable life, but as he encounters five people in Heaven who trace back their connections to him, he sees that perhaps his existence was meaningful after all.
The Keys of the Kingdom
Francis Chisholm is a Scottish priest who is looked down upon by his fellow clergy members. When the kind-hearted man takes a position in China, he leaves to oversee a mission plagued by destitution, war, and sickness. In a land so unlike his own, Father Chisholm is regarded by the locals with distrust and resistance. However, Father Chisholm overcomes his great obstacles to bring help to the suffering people of China.
Cronin’s story tells a tale of goodness that transcends organized religion, and speaks to the truth that humanity is a cause worth overcoming differences for.
Non-Fiction Spiritual Books
Letters from the Farm
Becca Stevens is a lot of things: author, motivational speaker, a “CNN Hero” and a White House honoree; but preceding these accomplishments was a long-standing desire to serve and lead. In 1997, she founded Thistle Tree Farms—America's largest community for female survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. Letters from the Farm recounts decades worth of her experiences as a humanitarian and devout Christian, demonstrating how love can heal even the most broken souls.
Echo of the Soul
For thousands of years, many Christians have argued that there is a separation between the human body and the soul. Poet-slash-minister J. Philip Newell is here to offer a different perspective, stating that our bodies are actually deeply linked to our inner selves and spirituality. Citing misinterpreted ancient texts, prominent writers, and Biblical and Kabbalistic teachings, his book reveals how our humanness is not a hindrance to spiritual enlightenment—but a crucial means of attaining it
Simpler Living, Compassionate Life
In a world of gadgets and gizmos, we often equate happiness with owning the latest, flashiest tech toy. But while we’re consuming more than ever, overall levels of happiness haven’t increased. Simpler Living, Compassionate Life analyzes this dissonance in a collection of thoughtful essays.
Twenty-three spiritual thought leaders, including Wendell Berry and Terry Tempest Williams, guide readers towards replacing our hollow, materialistic joys with a more sustainable, self-generated happiness.
The Solace of Open Spaces
Though we often turn to our churches, synagogues, and temples, spiritual guidance can also be found in the world around us. As Gretel Ehrlich meditates on life in the American West, she provides a stirring example of how embracing the universe’s natural wonders—from majestic Wyoming vistas to the changing of seasons—can deepen our spiritual lives and connections.
Long Quiet Highway
In the fashion of Anne Lamott or Doris Grumbach, Natalie Goldberg examines her past through the prism of her faith and love for writing. Beyond chronicling her experiences as a child, author, and Zen Buddhist, she describes her own spiritual practices. The effect is an inspiring—and often hilarious—memoir about self-discovery and living every day to the fullest.
The Irrational Season
Madeleine L’Engle is most well known for her children’s classic, A Wrinkle in Time, which poses questions about the intersection between religion and science. It’s a theme that extends to many of L’Engle’s other works—including The Irrational Season.
Written over the course of one liturgical year, this third installment in her autobiographical series reflects on the joys and difficulties of keeping faith in our changing, contradictory world.
A Smile in the Mind's Eye
In his memoir, award-winning author Lawrence Durrell focuses on his friendship with a respected Taoist philosopher. The pair met during Durrell’s visit at a French monastery, and their shared interests sparked a lasting relationship. A Smile in the Mind’s Eye follows Durrell’s study of Zen philosophy and spirituality, as he and his friend ruminate on everything from diet and sex to art and Nietzsche.
Help, Thanks, Wow
Since penning bestsellers like Bird by Bird and Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott has become a go-to source for accessible, approachable spirituality. Naturally, Help, Thanks, Wow continues in this vein, drawing a DIY roadmap towards confronting our demons through simplified "prayer."
Never preachy, but always poignant, it’s a must-read for anyone needing spiritual guidance—regardless if that spirituality is based in religion or not.
After distancing herself from the Christian church, bestselling author Kathleen Norris eventually returned years later—only to struggle with many of its beliefs. How, she wondered, could ancient dogma have a place in the modern world? At once a compelling narrative and an exploration of theology, Norris’ acclaimed memoir Amazing Grace celebrates her tumultuous homecoming to the faith she feared but longed for.
How to Meditate
Pema Chodron, the author of When Things Fall Apart, has become an icon of compassion, understanding, and healthy spiritualism. Here, she lends her wisdom to teaching beginning meditative practices. For Pema, meditation plays a crucial role in cultivating an inner peace—and thus, a bountiful spiritual life that opens our hearts and minds to the world around us.
Featured Photo: frank mckenna / Unsplash