As announced yesterday in my Plans for 2023 post, I’m starting a new reading challenge — primarily for myself, but anyone who is interested is welcome to join. The Spiritual Memoir Challenge (also hosted on The StoryGraph) is intended to help us expand our inner world by reading about the spiritual journeys of others. Exploring the diversity of spiritual traditions and paths is encouraged, as well as finding spirit in some surprising or unexpected places.
What is a spiritual memoir? It’s up to you to decide what that means for you. To me the essence of spirit is freedom, so I am not going to define spirituality for you.
However, I’ll say that for me, the spiritual quest is that which leads us to go beyond mere physical survival and personal gratification, to look for something more, both within us and in the non-material world we experience through our minds and hearts. In a sense all memoirs are spiritual memoirs, perhaps, because any story that doesn’t include some element of that quest will be pretty boring. But I will define a spiritual memoir as one which engages with that “something more” in a purposeful and conscious way. This may mean engaging with one or more religious traditions; it also may mean rejecting religious traditions and seeking to make an independent relationship to moral or epistemological questions. It can also mean focusing on how the spirit approaches us through daily life, in our creative and scientific striving, or in our obstacles and challenges.
I’ve created twelve prompts, but you can also decide how many you want to complete to consider yourself sufficiently challenged, and there is no need to go through them in order. The focus is on true stories, but a bonus prompt has been added for outstanding fiction, as well as one for books about writing as a spiritual or healing practice. I’ll do a periodic check-in to share my own reading and see if there is anyone else who wants to share.
- To express your intention to join, just leave a comment below.
- The challenge runs through December 21, 2023.
- You can start any time during the year.
- You can read one or more books as part of the challenge, choosing from the prompts below..
- Share your posts or reviews in the quarterly check-in.
- In December, there may be some surprise offerings for those who have stuck with the journey!
- A book that engages with the Hindu tradition – example: Autobiography of a Yogi
- A book that engages with Buddhist tradition – example: The Snow Leopard
- A book that engages with Jewish tradition – example Slow Motion
- A book that engages with Christian tradition – example: The Dance of the Dissident Daughter
- A book that engages with Muslim tradition – example: Unashamed
- A book that engages with Native American tradition – example: The Way to Rainy Mountain
- A book about leaving one tradition (or none) for another (or none) – example: Leaving the Witness
- A book that engages with atheism or agnosticism – example: Faitheist
- A book that engages with spirituality through illness or trauma – example: Black Milk
- A book that engages with spirituality through science or nature – example: Reason for Hope
- A book that engages with the spiritual aspect of travel or journeying – example: Walking the Bible
- A book that draws on any spiritual tradition or experience – example: The Woman Warrior
- Bonus: A work of fiction that draws on any of the above themes – example: The Chosen
- Bonus: A book about the craft of writing spiritual memoir or writing as a healing practice – example: Memoir as Medicine