Books for your spiritual journey (my top 5 picks from 2010)

I've put together a list of books that rocked my world in 2010. Here they are: Lit, by Mary Karr. A gritty, heartbreakingly honest account of Karr's descent into alcoholism. This books breaks you before it heals you. Karr's poetic language, probing insights and unflinching examination of her self-destructive choices, depression, stint in a mental hospital and eventual surrender to God will keep you riveted. I've read and re-read this book numerous times this past year and each time, I glean some new nugget of truth. It's become one of my most favorite books of all time. A definite MUST read.

A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken. This book unfurls slowly and with precise eloquence into one of the most lovely, soul-mingling love stories you'll ever read. The depth of emotion these two lovers experience toward each other is simply unsurpassed. It is the quintessential articulation of the pinnacle of human love, made all the more poignant by its devastating loss. This is a book to enjoy in sips, to savor and reflect, to marinate in. Just knowing this kind of love exists and to enjoy it vicariously through this book is a treasure.

Mary, Mother of the Son, by Mark Shea. This book answered every question, problem, misunderstanding and misconception I had about the Virgin Mary. Using humor, historical evidence and the writings of the Early Church Fathers, Mark Shea candidly addresses the controversies, fallacies and cultural misunderstanding that often surround the Blessed Mother. I laughed with relief and recognition, underlined, highlighted and dog-eared many of the pages. It was nothing short of good, proper, corrective medicine for the false ideas I had believed for so long. Highly recommend (especially if you were raised with a negative view of Mary).

The Naked Now, by Richard Rohr. Written from the perspective of a Christian mystic, Richard Rohr's insights into "how" we see the world, God, prayer and our relationships is intriguing. This is a dense, epiphany-laden book best read in small doses. There is something intrinsically freeing about Rohr's way of seeing. I found myself feeling released the tangles that often ensnare my way of thinking and keep me from communion with God. It's a challenging and yet deeply refreshing book that I think will resonate with all spiritual pilgrims.

The Seven Storey Mountain, by Thomas Merton. This autobiographical account details how an "intensely passionate and brilliant man found that nothing in his worldly life assuaged a growing restlessness" (from the book cover). Thomas Merton's spiritual journey into a Trappist monastery and a life of contemplation and prayer might seem esoteric, but it's actually truly accessible to anyone who has grappled with the meaning of life. I found great comfort and hope in his story. His keen observation of the world and how it works and the crushing despair that threatens to overwhelm us is strikingly satisfying.