The most noteworthy books by women whose spiritual understanding is deepening and enlightening

Christina St. Clair Author Of Naomi and Ruth: Loyalty Among Women
By Christina St. Clair

Who am I?

One Christmas Eve many years ago when I was a little girl, I was too excited to sleep. I prayed to the baby Jesus whom I’d heard about in carols. I felt wrapped in love and woke up well-rested on Christmas morning. I’ve always believed life is a spiritual journey: I respect and learn from many religious and secular traditions. After I joined a church, I became a spiritual director. When I was sixty, I earned an MA in pastoral ministry and women’s studies. I have pastored two churches and also became a preacher—something I could not imagine I’d ever be able to do. It’s never too late!


I wrote...

Naomi and Ruth: Loyalty Among Women

By Christina St. Clair,

Book cover of Naomi and Ruth: Loyalty Among Women

What is my book about?

This is a novel that seeks to resolve some of the unexplained situations in the biblical book of Ruth: How did Naomi's husband and sons die? How did Naomi manage in a foreign land as a single mother? Why did Naomi develop deep feelings for Ruth? What made Naomi seek a marriage between Ruth and Boaz? This historically accurate novel is a work of fiction that Jewish readers might consider a midrash, but it is intended for women of all religious persuasions or none.

The study guide, with questions for reflection for each chapter, will be helpful to individuals and also to small groups for Bible study and in book clubs.

The books I picked & why

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Why I Wake Early: New Poems

By Mary Oliver,

Book cover of Why I Wake Early: New Poems

Why this book?

Mary’s Oliver’s nature poems are like psalms: full of beauty, wisdom, and spirituality that touch my heart. I read her poems over and over again.

In particular, during a silent retreat I attended near Gloucester, Massachusetts where scripture is assigned for reflection, her poems became my meditations. Every morning in the dining room overlooking the sea, I watched the sun rise, glowing across the waves and rocks. “Hello, sun in my face…” Oliver writes and ends with, “Watch, now, how I start the day / in happiness, in kindness.”

Why I Wake Early: New Poems

By Mary Oliver,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why I Wake Early as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The forty-seven new works in this volume include poems on crickets, toads, trout lilies, black snakes, goldenrod, bears, greeting the morning, watching the deer, and, finally, lingering in happiness. Each poem is imbued with the extraordinary perceptions of a poet who considers the everyday in our lives and the natural world around us and finds a multitude of reasons to wake early.


The Hiding Place

By Corrie Ten Boom, Elizabeth Sherrill, John Sherrill, Tim Foley (illustrator)

Book cover of The Hiding Place

Why this book?

This book made me cry. Corrie Ten Boom and her family hid Jews during the Nazi occupation of Holland. They were betrayed, and Corrie and her sister Betsy ended up in a concentration camp in filthy overcrowded barracks, filled with fleas and vermin.

And yet Corrie’s and Betsy’s faith kept them going. They’d smuggled a small Bible into the camp which the sisters used to help bring peace to other suffering women. Betsy died in a cruel infirmary, but Corrie survived to become an acclaimed evangelist.

The Hiding Place

By Corrie Ten Boom, Elizabeth Sherrill, John Sherrill, Tim Foley (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Hiding Place as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The True Story of a Real-Life Hero

It's World War II. Darkness has fallen over Europe as the Nazis spread hatred, fear and war across the globe. But on a quiet city corner in the Netherlands, one woman fights against the darkness.

In her quiet watchmaking shop, she and her family risk their lives to hide Jews, and others hunted by the Nazis, in a secret room, a "hiding place" that they built in the old building.

One day, however, Corrie and her family are betrayed. They're captured and sent to the notorious Nazi concentration camps to die. Yet even…


Revelation Of Love

By Julian of Norwich, John Skinner (translator),

Book cover of Revelation Of Love

Why this book?

Because I am also English and became a minister when women were not readily accepted in this profession, this 14th-century English mystic, Julian of Norwich, felt like a friend. She was able to thrive in a male-dominated world. She taught about God-imagery that included not only the divine father but also the divine mother. She spoke and wrote about her revelations from Jesus that, unlike the fear-based religious teaching of her day, were about God’s love for all people. I cherish her well-known words: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”

Revelation Of Love

By Julian of Norwich, John Skinner (translator),

Why should I read it?

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


Reading Ruth: Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story

By Judith A. Kates (editor), Gail Twersky Reimer (editor),

Book cover of Reading Ruth: Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story

Why this book?

This somewhat academic collection of articles, essays, and poems began in a Boston living room when a group of Jewish women recognized that traditional Jewish study was invariably seen through the lens of men. These women had formerly dismissed the Book of Ruth as irrelevant to them, nothing more than a tale about an old man marrying a younger woman.

They decided to compile a commentary about the Book of Ruth using female voices. These writings encouraged me to compile my own midrash (interpretation) and deeply impressed me with their understanding that this Biblical story is relevant for women today to explore powerlessness, vulnerability, loss, women mourning and rejoicing, and relationships.

Reading Ruth: Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story

By Judith A. Kates (editor), Gail Twersky Reimer (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The Book of Ruth is one of Western civilization's great narratives of women's relationships. This collection of modern-day interpretations brings together the wisdom, sensitivity, and spirituality of the biblical story with the struggles and insights of contemporary women. Readers will be moved and inspired by these essays."
--Susannah Heschel
Editor of On Being a Jewish Feminist
With Reading Ruth, two creative scholars have brought together an amazingly eclectic group of Jewish novelists, essayists, poets, rabbis, psychologists, and scholars--including Cynthia Ozick, Marge Piercy, Francine Klagsbrun, and Nessa Rapoport--to explore one of the most beloved stories in the Bible. In lively essays,…


Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope

By Joan D. Chittister,

Book cover of Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope

Why this book?

A friend once asked to whom I’d most want to be apprenticed. I thought about it for a while and answered, “Joan Chittister.” She invariably speaks deeply from a spirituality not limited to her Catholic orthodoxy, but inclusive of many other religious traditions. I never stop learning from her wisdom which often arises from her own experience.

In Chittister’s chapter about endurance, I am reminded of my own struggles as a writer and as a minister and how these struggles have deepened my spiritual understanding. Her words always give me hope and help me to persevere.

Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope

By Joan D. Chittister,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Everyone goes through times of pain and sorrow, depression and darkness, stress and suffering. It is in the necessary struggles of life, however, that we stretch our souls and gain new insights enabling us to go on.

Building on the biblical story of Jacob wrestling with God and on the story of her own battle with life-changing disappointment, Sister Joan Chittister deftly explores the landscape of suffering and hope, considering along the way such wide-ranging topics as consumerism, technology, grief, the role of women in the Catholic Church, and the events of September 11, 2001. We struggle, she says, against…


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