The best books exploring the search for sanctuary

Judith Teitelman Author Of Guesthouse for Ganesha
By Judith Teitelman

Who am I?

I have always been a seeker, fascinated by all cultures, philosophies, and spiritual perspectives. Although the concept is often different—for some, it’s a place of refuge, feeling safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble; for others, it’s a state of being, an inner peace, I’ve found that the search for sanctuary—safe-haven—elsewhere—has ancient roots and contemporary reverberations. My novel, Guesthouse for Ganesha, further heightened my interest in this subject, for my protagonist, Esther Grünspan, both deeply wounded and unsafe, was compelled to seek sanctuary. As a first-time novelist with an 18-year journey to publication, I fully immersed myself in this topic’s study and comprehension.

I wrote...

Guesthouse for Ganesha

By Judith Teitelman,

Book cover of Guesthouse for Ganesha

What is my book about?

Weaving Eastern beliefs and perspectives with Western realities and pragmatism, Guesthouse for Ganesha is a tale of love, loss, and spirit reclaimed.

In 1923, 17-year-old Esther Grünspan arrives in Köln “with a hardened heart as her sole luggage,” Thus begins a 22-year journey, woven against the backdrops of the European Holocaust and Hindu Kali Yuga (“Age of Darkness”), in search of sanctuary. Throughout her travails, Esther relies on her masterful tailoring skills to help mask her Jewish heritage, navigate war-torn Europe, and emigrate to India. Her traveling companion and the novel’s narrator is Ganesha, the beloved elephant-headed Hindu God. Impressed by Esther’s fortitude and relentless determination, born of her deep―though unconscious―understanding of the meaning of love, Ganesha conveys her journey with compassion, insight, and poetry.

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The books I picked & why

Purple Lotus

By Veena Rao,

Book cover of Purple Lotus

Why did I love this book?

Veena Rao’s Purple Lotus is an inspiring story of one woman’s (Tara) search for and discovery of self-worth, self-determination, inner strength, and authenticity. I admired the author’s fine writing which powerfully captures the harsh realities of a young immigrant’s life in an abusive marriage in a new, foreign country, the pressures and expectations from her traditional family and community back in India, and, ultimately, Tara’s ability and courage to recognize that she is undeserving of such treatment. Concurrently, she realizes that her struggles are emblematic of broader, systemic issues, which Tara forthrightly and eloquently addresses head-on.

By Veena Rao,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Purple Lotus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


A 2021 Georgia Author of the Year Award Finalist
Award-Winning Finalist, Women's Fiction, 2021 International Book Awards
Award-Winning Finalist, Multicultural Fiction, 2021 International Book Awards

Featured in Travel + Leisure's "20 Most-anticipated Books for Fall"
"20 Classic and New Books About Feminism That Will Get You Thinking and Talking"

"A moving and polished novel that highlights Rao's literary promise."
Kirkus Reviews

"Rao's resonant novel is an ode to the value of personal dignity and the importance of being true to oneself that carries on long after the final chapter."
Newsweek magazine

"Purple Lotus is…

Book cover of Wild Boar in the Cane Field

Why did I love this book?

I love to travel—both physically around the world and throughout time and history through books. Anniqua Rana’s Wild Board in the Cane Field transported me elsewhere. It is a beautifully rendered and imaginatively descriptive tale that takes the reader to a place few have likely visited—the life and culture of rural Pakistan. It is also a magically realistic tale, a favorite genre of mine. While this poignant story centers on its teenage protagonist, I was immediately captivated by all the characters and their hopes, desires, challenges, and joys. 

By Anniqua Rana,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wild Boar in the Cane Field as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One day, a baby girl, Tara, is found, abandoned and covered in flies. She is raised by two mothers in a community rife with rituals and superstition. As she grows, Tara pursues acceptance at all costs. Saffiya, her adoptive mother, and Bhaggan, Saffiya's maidservant, are victims of the men in their community, and the two women, in turn, struggle and live short but complicated lives. The only way for the villagers to find solace is through the rituals of ancient belief systems.

Tara lives in a village that could be any village in South Asia, and she dies, like many…

Book cover of Finding Venerable Mother: A Daughter's Spiritual Quest to Thailand

Why did I love this book?

Writing a memoir is a brave act, especially one that shares a personal and spiritual exploration, and Cindy Rasicot’s engaging Finding Venerable Mother does just that. I applaud her honesty. Within these pages, I experienced, first, her encounter and then budding relationship with Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, Thailand’s first female Buddhist monk. Along the way, Ms. Rasicot frankly shares personal health challenges, obstacles she encountered living in a foreign country, and, ultimately, triumphs. It is a story of love and acceptance, healing and hope. 

By Cindy Rasicot,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Finding Venerable Mother as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Cindy moves to Thailand with her husband and teenage son, she finds herself strangely adrift in a foreign culture, unprepared for the challenges she encounters there. On an impulse she signs up for a conference where she unexpectedly meets a Thai Buddhist nun, Venerable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, who leads her on a spiritual journey from which there is no turning back. Along the way she discovers the beauty of the Thai people and culture.

This soulful and engaging memoir is the story of one woman's journey of physical, emotional, and spiritual healing through her connection to a loving Buddhist teacher…


By Debra Thomas,

Book cover of Luz

Why did I love this book?

In Debra Thomas’s compassionately rendered Luz, her protagonist’s (Alma) border crossing from Mexico into the United States is relayed in painful, harrowing, and often shocking detail. It is a powerful and, at times, difficult read. Yet an important one. I often forgot that this is a work of fiction, as the story Thomas so deftly portrays is all too common and all too real, especially for a resident of Southern California, which I am. However, it is one filled with hope and determination and the unwavering spirit of a young, passionate girl in search of answers.

By Debra Thomas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Luz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Alma Cruz wishes her willful teenage daughter, Luz, could know the truth about her past, but there are things Luz can never know about the journey Alma took to the US to find her missing father. In 2000-three years after the disappearance of her father, who left Oaxaca to work on farms in California-Alma sets out on a perilous trek north with her sister, Rosa. What happens once she reaches the US is a journey from despair to hope. Timeless in its depiction of the depths of family devotion and the blaze of first love, Luz conveys, with compassion and…

Book cover of The Book of Form and Emptiness

Why did I love this book?

Within these pages, Ruth Ozeki creates a world like no other. The Book of Form and Emptiness is thought-provoking, compelling, and thoroughly original. This story took me places I’ve never been before, and I was awestruck throughout the journey. Exploring loss, bereavement, mental illness, and Zen Buddhism, this is a multi-layered, insightful, and deeply spiritual tale. One that is unforgettable. Significantly, it is also a novel that celebrates books and libraries, two of my favorite things, with the book itself as a protagonist. What could be better?

By Ruth Ozeki,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Book of Form and Emptiness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"No one writes like Ruth Ozeki-a triumph." -Matt Haig, New York Times bestselling author of The Midnight Library

"Inventive, vivid, and propelled by a sense of wonder." -TIME

"If you've lost your way with fiction over the last year or two, let The Book of Form and Emptiness light your way home." -David Mitchell, Booker Prize-finalist author of Cloud Atlas

Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction

A boy who hears the voices of objects all around him; a mother drowning in her possessions; and a Book that might hold the secret to saving them both-the brilliantly inventive new novel…

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