The Jesus Prayer: The Ancient Desert Prayer That Tunes the Heart to God
Frederica Mathewes-Green (Paraclete)

Even if you don't believe that Paul's admonition to "pray without ceasing" or "pray constantly" was meant to be taken literally, you'll find much to ponder in this lucid account of the history, the meaning, and—especially—the practice of the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me." Most of the exposition is in a reader-friendly question-and-answer format.

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Faith at the Edge: A Book for Doubters
Robert N. Wennberg (Eerdmans)

Don't miss the dedication page. It reads, "For fellow members of the Dislocated Thigh Club." Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Westmont College, Wennberg writes here for the general reader, not for his academic peers, but he does so, blessedly, without dumbing down or adopting a flippant, chummy tone. The result is a serious but far from humorless wrestling with the perennial question of doubt, grounded in faith yet unafraid to acknowledge mystery.

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The Tanners
Robert Walser (New Directions)

What a strange life the Swiss-German writer Robert Walser led. Born in 1878, he began publishing poems and fiction as a very young man. His idiosyncratic way of seeing the world won him many distinguished admirers (Franz Kafka, for one) but little commercial success. From 1933 until his death in 1956, he was in a home for the mentally ill. Slowly thereafter, the full scope of his work came to be known, some of it deciphered from microscript penciled on discarded envelopes and such. The Tanners, a family tale, is the last of his novels to appear in English translation, and it comes with a superb tribute by the late W. G. Sebald, who describes Walser as "an author who was so beset by shadows and who, nonetheless, illumined every page with the most genial light."

Related Elsewhere:

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John Wilson is editor of Books & Culture, a Christianity Today sister publication.

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