Nothing says summer more than a trip to the beach; and nothing says beach more than a good book. The warm weather and calm splash of waves offers the perfect setting to settle down with a book that makes us think and realign with our spiritual core.
Author Anna Quindlen writes: "Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home."
Here are 15 spiritual books that will help you "come home" this summer and take your beach trips to the next level of enlightenment:
Herman Hesse's Siddhartha tells the story of the Buddha from youth to old age in his quest for enlightenment. From royalty to homelessness to materialism to mindfulness, Siddhartha explores the inner recesses of his being and confronts some of life's biggest questions.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is the fictional autobiography of Reverend John Ames, written for his young son who he fears might not remember him after his death. More than an account of events, the book is a reflection on life, morality and family from the perspective of a man nearing his end.
The Red Tent
Anita Diamant's The Red Tent is a creative retelling of the story of the Biblical Dinah. The sole daughter of Jacob, Dinah bears the weight of her divine path as she struggles to determine what her role in the larger narrative will be. Grief, disaster, love and spiritual reflection ensue.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig is the story of a father-son motorcycle trip across the U.S. The book is a meditation on life, values, fear, relationships and how to find meaning in a deeply confusing world. The protagonist's maintenance of his bike becomes a metaphor for the tweaking we all must do within ourselves to find this meaning.
Lord of the Rings Trilogy
J.R.R. Tolkien's classic Lord of the Rings trilogy follow the hobbit Frodo and a band of his friends and associates on the greatest adventure of their lives. Mythological themes and characters provide the backdrop for a story about courage, power, camaraderie and the fate of a world on the brink of disaster.
The Dharma Bums
The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac is a semi-autobiographical novel that describes the protagonist's exploration of Buddhism, mediation and larger spiritual themes. Through cross country travels, discussions with friends and inner reflections, the protagonist begins to develop a better understanding of himself and of his world.
Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist tells the story of Santiago, a young shepherd who goes on a sweeping journey in search of immense treasure. Along the way he learns the values of listening to our intuition and reading the signs that appear before us.
A Prayer for Owen Meany
A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving, is the story of two boys inextricably tied when one of the boys accidentally kills the other's mother. The boy responsible for the death comes to see himself as God's instrument -- which becomes more of a curse than a blessing.
The Mists of Avalon
Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon is a fictional retelling of the King Arthur legend through the eyes of Arthur's sister Morgaine. The novel explores the relationship between ancient paganism and emerging Christianity with Morgaine as a priestess caught in the middle.
Life of Pi
Yann Martel's Life of Pi tells the harrowing story of Pi Patel, the son of a zookeeper who gets trapped on a ship in the middle of the ocean. Suffice it to say, he has plenty of time to ponder existence, face his fear and consider the scope of his life.
Everything Is Illuminated
Jonathan Safran Foer's novel Everything Is Illuminated tells the story of a young man in search of the woman who may have saved his grandfather from the Nazis during the Holocaust. Through the journey he learns more about his family, himself and the unpredictable world in which he lives.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid brings home the reality of post-9/11 America for many Muslims. The protagonist tells his story of struggle and discrimination after the September 11 attacks .
Stranger in a Strange Land
Robert A. Heinlein's fantastical novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, puts readers in the shoes of a Martian man who arrives on Earth. Through this man the other characters learn "grokking", a process by which people come to know and love one another.
Creation by Gore Vidal takes readers on a sweeping tour of the ancient world. Protagonist Cyrus Spitama, the grandson of a prophet, meets with the likes of Buddha, Tao Master Li and Confucius, ultimately ending up in ancient Greece where he strives to answer some of life's big questions.
Letters to a Young Poet
Letters to a Young Poet is a collection of letters by poet Rainer Maria Rilke to Franz Xaver Kappus, a young military cadet. Rilke discusses the importance of developing a rich inner life to create compelling art.