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An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor (thoughts on rereading)

February 9, 2012

I read An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor for the first time last year and quickly fell in love. So when I was feeling at a bit of a loss, I decided to revisit it and see if I found it just as inspiring this time around. I definitely did; in fact, most of the chapters had at least one moment that brought tears to my eyes. Brown Taylor is a former Episcopal priest and current professor of religious studies, so she has a lifetime’s worth of thinking about and connecting with God. This book is about finding spiritual moments in everyday life, outside of organised religion. Really, it’s about valuing the simple things and taking the time to notice that which moves you. As someone who lives a small, simple life, I found this whole book full of wonderful ideas; it reinforced some of the ways I approach life and gave me new approaches to find meaning and wonder every day.

That being said, I find it a bit difficult to blog about this, since I’m so close to the subject matter. Imagine having tea with a smart and strong older woman, one who’s happy to discuss religion and spirituality and life’s ‘big questions’ but never descends into trite, empty generalisations. That’s what reading An Altar in the World is like, and I plan to get a personal copy soon so that I can revisit parts of it whenever I’m in need of a lift. Needless to say, I highly recommend it.

Suggested Companion Reads

  • The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift (I’m currently in the middle of this, and it’s another beautiful memoir by a middle-aged woman with a strong connection to nature and spirituality.)
  • The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg (The book that convinced me I should give Christianity another try…granted, I’ve taken more of a baby-step approach.)
  • Taking Back God by Leora Tanenbaum (A very enjoyable look at how women in the US are melding their various religious beliefs/traditions with feminist awareness.)
10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 9, 2012 8:54 am

    Here’s my review of An Altar in the World, along with photos of the labyrinth I walked because of this book:

    Here’s a link to what I wrote about The Heart of Christianity, including a quote about Borg from Barbara Brown Taylor:

    If you are giving Christianity another try, see if you can find someone whose approach is closer to Borg’s or Taylor’s. If you get in with those whose practices are at the other end of the spectrum, you will only be more frustrated. Sometimes it’s hard to find such people.

    • March 2, 2012 7:52 pm

      I’m sorry Bonnie: your comment got caught in my spam filter! But thanks for taking the time to leave it. :) I’ve found a church that’s definitely on the progressive end; it even has a labyrinth! So hopefully it’ll work out.

  2. February 9, 2012 10:51 am

    When you read this last year I wasn’t entirely sure if it was my sort of book, but reading your thoughts now I have added it to my wish list. :)

  3. Mirjam permalink
    February 9, 2012 2:11 pm

    Sounds fascinating. I guess you would also like (or even love) “The Spiral Staircase” by Karen Armstrong, which is her autobiography. She used to be a nun (I guess you know that) and also after leaving the convent she continued to be fascinated by religion and spirituality.

  4. February 9, 2012 9:27 pm

    I’ve been wanting to read this forever I feel like I should make it more of a priority. :)

  5. ana permalink
    February 10, 2012 12:04 am

    Let me second Mirjam’s recommendation of The Spiral Staircase. It was one of the truly unexpected TOP reads of my life. Just so engrossing and unforgettable.

    Your review of An Altar in the World is most tempting.. thank you!!

    No way is your life “small”, your influence is far greater than you think!! Your writing is gift to so many of us!!

  6. February 10, 2012 7:39 pm

    I’ve dipped in and out of this book last year but never completed it. Now I want to re-read it from start to finish. Thanks for posting about this.

  7. February 16, 2012 1:33 pm

    Thanks for this post, this is exactly the type of books I’m looking for right now.


  1. The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift (thoughts) « A Striped Armchair
  2. The Preaching Life by Barbara Brown Taylor (thoughts) | A Striped Armchair

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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