The best books used in writing about death, religion, and spirituality

Who am I?

Our history is spoken through the voice of the conqueror – notably white male. My work seeks to balance our narratives through insight from women’s perspectives. I support my creative writing with extensive research in history, archeology, and myths, and include in situ interpretations of the relevant landscape. There are many truths to be told, not simply one ordained story and I wish to shine the light on stories that have been hidden and/or silenced. The themed series title, Women Unveiled, pertains to this.

I wrote...

The Bringer of Happiness

By Karen Martin,

Book cover of The Bringer of Happiness

What is my book about?

“I should have assumed with parents known to the world as Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ, I would be different.”

It is not her lineage that makes Sara different. It is her ability to time travel forward into other people’s bodies. Sara, whose Aramaic name means ‘bringer of happiness,’ travels into Sarah-Marie, a young Cathar from Montségur. Sara is determined to save her from the 13th Century siege. The Bringer of Happiness is a compelling (almost) true tale comprised of history, myth, and imagination. Our histories are becoming unstuck. The patterns of power through religion are shifting, making way for new narratives. This book is part of this process.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Lost Art of Resurrection: Initiation, secret chambers and the quest for the Otherworld

Karen Martin Why did I love this book?

I chose this book for its interesting exploration of spiritual resurrections that were common throughout ancient civilizations including the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greek, Persian, and Indians. Silva says these mystical rituals lead initiates (including Plato and Socrates) onto a path of self-empowerment and spiritual awakening. Silva includes the gnostic teachings practiced by the Cathars, who claimed the literal resurrection of Jesus was a lie, and were persecuted by the Church to suppress such gospel teachings by Mary Magdalene and Phillip.

By Freddy Silva,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lost Art of Resurrection as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Those who say they will die first and then rise are in error,” states the once banned Gospel of Philip. For centuries, every esoteric and Gnostic sect was aware that the literal interpretation of the resurrection of Christ promoted by the Church was a fraud. And with good reason: thousands of years before Jesus, initiates from Egypt and China to Celtic Britain and North America practiced a mystical ritual, and its adepts — from Zoroaster to Plato —regarded the experience as the pinnacle of spiritual development: a life-altering awakening that disclosed insights into the nature of reality and the self.…

Book cover of Holy Blood, Holy Grail

Karen Martin Why did I love this book?

I first read this book while at university. I re-read it after touring the Langue d’Òc region of France focusing on the folklore surrounding Mary Magdalene. This book advances the hypothesis that the historical Jesus married Mary Magdalene and travelled to the south of France, where their children married into nobility and established what became known as the Merovingian dynasty. This book provided a source of information as well as support, given my subject matter and the two entwining histories: the biblical era of Jesus and the 13th C siege of Montsegur. Its extensive bibliography provided a rich source of research, including academic articles, essays, and books.

By Henry Lincoln, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Holy Blood, Holy Grail as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Is the traditional, accepted view of the life of Christ in some way incomplete?

• Is it possible Christ did not die on the cross?
• Is it possible Jesus was married, a father, and that his bloodline still exists?
• Is it possible that parchments found in the South of France a century ago reveal one of the best-kept secrets of Christendom?
• Is it possible that these parchments contain the very heart of the mystery of the Holy Grail?

According to the authors of this extraordinarily provocative, meticulously researched book, not only are these things possible — they…

Book cover of The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity

Karen Martin Why did I love this book?

Mary Magdalene is a central character in my novel. Aside from researching the folklore in the south of France and reading Mary’s Gospel discovered at Nag Hammadi, I needed to delve into contemporary writings of this historical and maligned woman.

I read many academic articles, essays, and books on Mary Magdalene, notably Karen King’s book The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, which could have just as easily been my third pick. I selected Cynthia Boudreault’s book as I appreciated the application of her reasoning and intuition. Her writing was accessible without being laden with religious overtones.

By Cynthia Bourgeault,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Meaning of Mary Magdalene as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The author of The Wisdom Jesus takes readers on a journey to discover the real Mary Magdalene—and finds a powerful, ancient model for 21st-century spirituality
Mary Magdalene is one of the most influential symbols in the history of Christianity—yet, if you look in the Bible, you’ll find only a handful of verses that speak of her. How did she become such a compelling saint in the face of such paltry evidence?
In her effort to answer that question, Cynthia Bourgeault examines the Bible, church tradition, art, legend, and newly discovered texts to see what’s there. She then applies her own…

Book cover of The Search for the Beloved: Journeys in Mythology & Sacred Psychology

Karen Martin Why did I love this book?

The Gospel of Mary is often interpreted as a Gnostic text. Gnosis is mystical and esoteric and refers to knowledge based on personal experience with the divine. It is an inward ‘knowing,’ and I was interested in interweaving a psychological approach. This book dived into spiritual aspects in an exploration of the soul’s journey and the spiritual heights attained from a psychological position and was instrumental in some components of Sara’s personal development. My character Sara is a messenger for Persephone, and I used this book to examine the deeper, mythical meanings of how our wounds can become the source of spiritual grace. 

By Jean Houston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Search for the Beloved as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Search for the Beloved, one of the most important books written on the creative and inventive mind, explains the theories that helped form the foundation of the human potential movement. In what has been called “an intellectual and spiritual feast,” Jean Houston explores the nature of spiritual yearning and teaches readers how to facilitate a personal quest by focusing on the four aspects of Sacred Psychology—the Great Wound, the Mythic Journey of Transformation, the Discovery of the Larger Story, and the Union with the Beloved of the Soul.

W. B. Yeats wrote, “There is but one history and that…

Book cover of Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman

Karen Martin Why did I love this book?

This book provided a great opportunity for me to step outside of my entitled white Caucasian colonial skin and read the lived experience of someone who was treated as an ‘Other’ and who, when returning to his community, undertook and shared (through his book) his Initiations. I incorporated aspects of his shamanic experience with books on the Eleusian Mysteries (rituals for Demeter and Persephone), as well as interviews with women who had undergone shamanic experiences – both here in Australia with Indigenous elders and in South America.

By Malidoma Patrice Some,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Maliodoma Patrice Some was born in a Dagara Village, however he was soon to be abducted to a Jesuit school, where he remained for the next fifteen years, being harshly indoctrinated into european ways of thought and worship. The story tells of his return to his people, his hard initiation back into those people, which lead to his desire to convey their knowledge to the world. Of Water and the Spirit is the result of that desire; it is a sharing of living African traditions, offered in compassion for those struggling with our contemporary crisis of the spirit.

You might also like...

Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

By Christina Ward,

Book cover of Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

Christina Ward Author Of Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

New book alert!

Who am I?

For me, history is always about individuals; what they think and believe and how those ideas motivate their actions. By relegating our past to official histories or staid academic tellings we deprive ourselves of the humanity of our shared experiences. As a “popular historian” I use food to tell all the many ways we attempt to “be” American. History is for everyone, and my self-appointed mission is to bring more stories to readers! These recommendations are a few stand-out titles from the hundreds of books that inform my current work on how food and religion converge in America. You’ll have to wait for Holy Food to find out what I’ve discovered.

Christina's book list on the hidden history of America

What is my book about?

Does God have a recipe? Independent food historian Christina Ward’s highly anticipated Holy Food explores the influence of mainstream to fringe religious beliefs on modern American food culture.

Author Christina Ward unravels how religious beliefs intersect with politics, economics, and, of course, food to tell a different story of America. It's the story of true believers and charlatans, of idealists and visionaries, and of the everyday people who followed them—often at their peril.

Holy Food explains how faith pioneers used societal woes and cultural trends to create new pathways of belief and reveals the interconnectivity between sects and their leaders.

Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

By Christina Ward,

What is this book about?

Does God have a recipe?

"Holy Food is a titanic feat of research and a fascinating exploration of American faith and culinary rites. Christina Ward is the perfect guide – generous, wise, and ecumenical." — Adam Chandler, author of Drive-Thru Dreams

"Holy Food doesn't just trace the influence that preachers, gurus, and cult leaders have had on American cuisine. It offers a unique look at the ways spirituality—whether in the form of fringe cults or major religions—has shaped our culture. Christina Ward has gone spelunking into some very odd corners of American history to unearth this fascinating collection of stories…

  • Coming soon!

5 book lists we think you will like!

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