3 books about matters of faith

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Ten Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can't Because He Needs the Job)

The Rev. Oliver ''Buzz'' Thomas,

St. Martin's Press, $19.95

This book is for ''steeple dropouts'' and skeptical churchgoing Christians. In 10 concise, easy-to-read chapters, Thomas addresses controversies such as evolution vs. creationism, women in ordained ministry, homosexuality, end-times and the salvation of Muslim and Jewish people. His strength lies in helping the reader understand what he believes and why he believes it. He writes honestly about the need to elevate some portions of Scripture over other parts. For example, in his view, the principle of love is paramount.

- Jeff Zell,

Dallas Morning News

Jesus of Nazareth

Pope Benedict XVI,

Doubleday, $24.95

Benedict's new work, which he has described as a purely personal work on the life of Christ meant for general Catholic readers, is due in bookstores in May. In an excerpt published last week in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, he meditates on the parable of the Good Samaritan and the need to love one's neighbor, and says it has current applications. In his first book as pontiff, Benedict decried the spiritual and material ''plundering'' of Africa by the wealthy.

The wealthy, the excerpt said, have stripped the poor bare and have wounded them spiritually.

''Instead of giving them their God, the God that is close to us in Christ, and welcome from their traditions all that is dear and great . . . we brought them the cynicism of a world without God, in which only power and profit matters,'' Benedict said.

-The Associated Press

Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith

Anne Lamott,

Riverhead Books, $24.95

Lamott's quirky, intimate, outraged-liberal voice has been a breath of fresh air in the sometimes stuffy genre of modern Christian literature. And so fans of her wry, witty observations on faith and life will welcome her third faith-focused book, a collection of 23 essays. Lamott is gossipy, charmingly self-deprecating, given to eloquent if predictable rants about the Bush administration that skid into pithy, personal amens. But this collection doesn't work as well as its predecessors did. Case in point is an essay in which Lamott recollects reading in front of a group of old hippies that goes nowhere. That said, there's still some Lamott fizz here. Lamott's concept of radical grace continues to appeal to many Christians put off by rigid, unimaginative religious upbringings, and it is that group that will find this book most valuable.

-Pamela Miller,

Minneapolis Star Tribune