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Religion Bestsellers

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Welcome to a new Monitor feature, reviews of the best-selling books on religion. This page, which will appear quarterly, offers readers a one-stop opportunity to sample popular works that reflect the resurgent interest in things religious and spiritual. Such books, numbering in the thousands, are a recent publishing phenomenon. Unlike our best-selling fiction and nonfiction pages, this list does not include ratings of the books.

PAPERBACK

1. CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL, Health Communications, $12

Best swallowed in small doses, this collection of sometimes moving stories by Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen illustrates how human optimism, goodness, and love can make bad situations better, and occasionally even heal them. These anecdotal tales will give those hopeful about the human race a sense of vindication and may even make the hearts of a few skeptics melt. This book is well-meaning and well-executed. Most readers will be lifted by some of its content, and some by most of it. Others will consider that it attributes too much power to positive thinking and will look in vain for a theology behind these carefully crafted stories. By Tony Lobl.

2. 2ND HELPING OF CHICKEN SOUP...Health Communications, $12

Those who savored the ingredients that made up the first serving of "Chicken Soup for the Soul," will be glad to know this collection, edited by Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen, is true to its title. It is a second helping of the same kind of storytelling that lauds goodness instead of selfishness and a positive, loving outlook even in the face of adversity. Others, who enjoyed the first collection but felt ready to move on and explore deeper questions, will find this isn't that next course on the "soul" menu. Some stories contain details of medical conditions and treatments. By Tony Lobl.

3. ILLUMINATA, by Marianne Williamson, Riverhead Books, $12.

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