Recommended Reading

These are the books that best amplify, illuminate, and extend the points Secular Wholeness tries to make. If you decide to purchase one of these books, you can do so by clicking the rather garish "buy" button to the right of the description. This slight convenience costs you nothing, but earns a few pennies toward an Amazon gift certificate for me. ($6.41 in 2002 -- deepest thanks to each & every one!)

Chapter 1: Benefits of Religious Experience
William James's Varieties of Religious Experience is essential to anyone who wants to understand the range of meanings that religion can have. It is written in graceful, 19th-century prose, and full of first-person experiences as well as wise commentary by James. The full text can be read online but a bound copy is a better way to enjoy this classic.
Michael Shermer's. How We Believe: The search for god in the age of science is a careful examination of the reasons people give for their religious beliefs.
Aaron Lynch's Thought Contagion is a wide-ranging review of the possible applications of the concept of the meme, packed full of intriguing ideas, many highly debatable. Yes, I am aware that Richard Brodie has done a better job of promoting himself as "Mister Meme" but Lynch was first, and I think still provides a better introduction.
Chapter 2: Finding Validity
Ursula Goodenough's The Sacred Depths of Nature is a thoughtful, lyrical, highly readable reflection on the depth and wonder to be found in the world through science.
The Fermenting Universe by J. McKim Malville, a cooler, more abstract examination of the self-justifying universe than Goodenough's, is out of print but can be ordered used.
Kenneth Miller's Finding Darwin's God presents detailed arguments against Creationism in all its various forms, but Miller goes on to attempt to show how the splendor of an evolved world is compatible with religious belief.
Daniel Dennet is an enthusiastic explainer of ideas, especially Darwin's. Darwin's Dangerous Idea is an exhaustive (some might say, exhausting) tour of the breadth of the idea so simply expressed as “evolution by natural selection” — a phrase that rivals E=MC2 for the compression of the greatest meaning into the fewest symbols.
Tom Paine's Age of Reason is a mordant critique of organized religion and an exposition of Deism by one of the greatest writers in an age of great writers. When you feel deeply alienated by the treacly flood of American religiosity, you can gain heart from reading Paine’s thunderous prose, preferably aloud. Read it online here or here or here (among others), get it the library, or buy a copy.
Chapter 3: Finding Community
Edward M. Hallowell's Connect is a therapist’s eloquent explanation of why human connections are so important to mental and physical health.
Like Hallowell, Dean Ornish in Love & Survival enthusiastically makes the case that connections to other people are essential to physical health.
Chapter 4: Practicing Contemplation and Tranquility
Mindfulness in Plain English by the Venerable Henepola Gunaratana is a detailed, practical introduction to mindfulness meditation, without any trace of supernaturalism. An earlier edition can be read online, but when used as a guide to a beginning meditation practice, a hardcopy rewards careful and frequent study.
Jon Kabat-Zinn's Full Catastrophe Living describes the use of meditation in a clinical setting, for pain and stress relief, with examples and exercises.
Sharon Salzberg in A Heart as Wide as the World goes into detail on the methods and benefits of metta practice, the Buddhist method of reprogramming yourself toward attitudes of compassion and generosity.
Chapter 5: Using Ritual
Susan Lieberman's New Traditions is a wonderful compilation of the experiences of real people who invented traditions to serve the needs of singles, families, single parents and neighborhoods.
Robert Fulghum's From Beginning to End is a warm and folksy study of ritual in daily life, and very good on wedding rituals.
The Joy of Ritual by Barbara Biziou contains some new-age flakiness, but it also has good ideas for designing rituals.
Chapter 6: Pursuing Bliss
James Austin's Zen and the Brain contains several good books interwoven: One is a detailed, well-written tour of the brain and what is known of the function of each of its parts; another is a layman’s study of Zen meditative practices; a third is a doctor’s survey of different methods of Bliss induction, with special attention to the use of mind-altering drugs.
The Mystical Mind by d’Aquili and Newberg presents a detailed, credible model for how religious belief and the Bliss experience might work, based in neuroanatomy. (Andrew Newberg continued the theme of "neurotheology" in Why God Won't Go Away.)
Chapter 7: Inspiring Self-Transcendence
Marjorie N. Allen's What Are Little Girls Made Of contains capsule reviews of many current and classic children’s books provide a useful resource for any parent who wants to build up a stock of hero material.
Moira Reynolds' Immigrant American Women Role Models has short biographies of fifteen interesting women, clearly written in matter-of-fact style.
Shambhala by the late Chogyam Trungpa is an inspiring, poetic, yet purely secular invocation to reach for the best you can find within yourself. It calls you to be a “warrior,” in the sense of one who fears nothing and acts with decision and forethought. Check the reader reviews on their number and passion show that this is an extraordinary book.
Chapter 8: Articulating Your Ethics
Ethics for the New Millennium by His Holiness the Dalai Lama is an eloquent argument for the need of a secular ethical system that can be respected world-wide. It explores the highly practical reasons why ethics cannot be separated from the need to rid oneself of anger and replace it with compassion.
Chapter 9: Dancing with Mr. D.
Living Through Personal Crisis by Ann Kaiser Stearns is a deservedly popular manual on the experience of bereavement. Don’t give a copy to a bereaved person; the bereaved lack the patience to read. Read it yourself in order to get practical knowledge on how to be truly helpful.
Andrea Sankar's Dying at Home is a comprehensive guidebook for home care of the dying.
R. E. Markin's The Affordable Funeral is a detailed consumer’s guide to purchasing funerary services. Markin explains industry jargon and reveals the marketing tricks. For a sample of his style (crisp, bordering on irascible) check his web site.
In Estate Planning Basics Denis Clifford explains in lucid and reassuring style the options of preserving and passing on an estate.
Chapter 10: Being Happy
The Pursuit of Happiness by David G. Myers is a readable, entertaining survey of the research on happiness.
In Learned Optimism Martin Seligman went at length into the many effects that cognitive style (optimistic versus pessimistic outlooks) have on every part of life.
A Guide to Personal Happiness by Albert Ellis is a brisk introduction to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, a therapeutic method that promises a short route to the removal of learned pessimism.