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The GOOD books

An excerpt from Lamentations reads: “Let us examine our ways, and test them, and let us return to the Lord.”

Examinations of faith through the lens of oneself and others form the foundation of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette‘s selection of book recommendations for holiday gift-giving this year.

Multidenominational and suggested for readers of all faiths, the remaining titles will conclude our list next week.

River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey, by Sister Helen Prejean, (Random House, $27)

The Roman Catholic nun, anti-death penalty activist and author of the best-selling book, Dead Man Walking, is back with a prequel to the book that was made into the 1995 movie of the same name, starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon as Prejean.

River of Fire chronicles Prejean’s earlier life and entry into the convent, through when she was asked to correspond with Louisiana death-row inmate Patrick Sonnier, and the book is as much a memoir of her own spiritual awakening during that time.

Prejean’s writing is straightforward, which lends a stark quality to what she witnesses in society as a nun with newly taken vows in the 1960s, but the book is also well tempered with lighthearted moments. (It turns out being a nun can get you out of a ticket.)

Prejean said in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in March that the book was about “waking up” to faith, racism and “my own white privilege.”

“I was in my little bubble of the suburbs and just not connected to what was going on in the inner city, not connected with the struggles of poor people and the racial struggles that people had,” Prejean said. “It’s about waking up, so I’m going to take [readers] with me on that journey.”

Prejean’s awakening to faith is gradual and comes with its own hard knocks, but readers should see the river flow almost

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