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Season of the Witch

Perhaps it's true of any generation, but those of us who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s tend to romanticize the past. We remember the good times - the good sex, the good drugs and the good rock 'n' roll. David Talbot, the San Francisco journalist and founder of Salon, has issued a gritty corrective to our rosy memories in "Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love."
Sunday, May 6, 2012
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The Grace of Everyday Saints
One of the signs that it's time for a reporter to get out of the newspaper business is when he finds himself harrumphing and saying, with ever-increasing frequency, "I did that story 10 years ago!"

I must confess that was my response when one of my former colleagues at The Chronicle, Julian Guthrie, walked up to my desk in 2005 all excited about a die-hard band of believers from St. Brigid parish. For years, they'd refused to stop fighting a 1993 reorganization of the San Francisco Archdiocese that sought to close 13 city parishes, including theirs.

At the time, I was on my way out the door, ending almost three decades of work at The Chronicle and the old Examiners, the final two of them covering religion.I vaguely recall rolling my eyes at Guthrie and saying something like, "You go for it, girl." Sunday, August 14, 2011
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Spiritual Envy
An Agnostic's Quest

In the beginning, Michael Krasny tells us that his new book is "for seekers who long for answers." In the end, he confesses that he began working on "Spiritual Envy: An Agnostic's Quest" not knowing what he believed. He hoped that writing the book would finally allow him "to make sense out of my personal lifetime of questioning."

Questioning is, of course, what Krasny does best. As the longtime host of KQED radio's popular morning talk show, "Forum," he has shown his Northern California listeners that there's room on the radio for thoughtful, respectful dialogue on the issues of the day.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
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Writer seeks to restore
Bible's Jewish roots

restored new testimant
It's the day after Thanksgiving in the bustling kitchen of Willis Barnstone's book-filled home in Oakland's Piedmont Avenue neighborhood. The 82-year-old poet, translator and literary critic has just typed out a poem about what happened the day before yesterday - when he tripped at the Chinese restaurant just down the street from City Lights bookstore in North Beach, bumping his head and nearly knocking out his lights.
Friday, December 25, 2009
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The Case for God

the case for god
Armstrong has written another big book about the various ways people throughout history and across cultures envision and explain what they can neither see nor understand.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
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Waiting for the Apocalypse:
A Memoir of Faith and Family

waiting book reviewKids who grow up in ultra religious families often have great tales to tell, but the stories of Veronica Chater make you shake your head, laugh out loud and joyfully turn the page. Chater, who lives in Berkeley, was raised in a large, traditionalist Catholic family in San Jose and Pleasant Hill.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
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Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics
It was something I noticed back in the early 1980s, when I was working as a newspaper reporter and interviewing longtime members of San Francisco Zen Center. I’d ask them how they got interested in Buddhism, and I’d keep hearing about “the long, strange trip.”

“Well,” the answer would go,
“I guess you could say it started with that first acid trip back
in 1965.”

This fall marks the 50th anniversary of the first San Francisco “Acid Test,” when a promising young writer named Ken Kesey gathered the infamous band of Merry Pranksters and spiked the
Kool-Aid. It was 1965, the
same year that another early psychedelic explorer, ousted Harvard psychology professor Richard Alpert, headed out to San Francisco, the first stop on his pilgrimage to India, where he’d be reincarnated as
Baba Ram Dass.

Today, psychedelics (and Kesey’s house band, the Grateful Dead) are very much back in the news, and so is the debate about how and whether getting high on psychoactive substances should be part of the Buddhist path.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
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The Sins of Brother Curtis

During my final years covering the religion beat for The Chronicle, there were months when I felt more like the paper's court reporter, or perhaps its sex crimes correspondent. The story of the child abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church had all the elements of sensational journalism - sexual perversion, spiritual hypocrisy and a shameless abuse of power. But in the end, the story wasn't as much about the crimes of pedophile priests as it was about the attempted cover-up by church leaders.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
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God and His Demons
god and his demons book reviewThere is so much religious hypocrisy in the world today, so much violence committed in the name of the God. So let us give thanks for the few shining lights we have had on the public stage - people like Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama.

Unless you are Michael Parenti, who spares neither the late nun from Calcutta nor the spiritual leader of Tibet in his relentless diatribe against people of faith.
Monday, April 5, 2010
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What is God?

what is god?Coming of age in the 1950s and early 1960s, Jacob Needleman was part of a generation that spent much of their lives running away from God. Even people in the God business - priests, ministers and especially seminary professors -challenged traditional Judeo-Christian ideas about the nature of God.
Sunday, February 7, 2010

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Strength in What Remains

tracy kidder strenght Journalists and writers of narrative nonfiction have more or less the same job. They tell stories - true stories. Their importance in the scheme of things is to let us know what's really going on in the world. The best ones are great reporters and fine writers. Their job is to inform, entertain and enlighten. It comes as no surprise to fans of Tracy Kidder that the man does it all in his new book, “Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness.”
Sunday, October 4, 2009
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The Big Ideas Behind the
Institute of Big Sur

Photo by Kate Wade
Intellectual history of Esalen
explores creation of a place where spirituality, not religion, could flourish.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
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The Original Christian
Media Star

Photo courtesy USC
A pre-TV televa
McPherson was the original
Christian media star.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
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Nine Book Reviews, 2017-18

Click here to find Don Lattin’s page listing his reviews published by the New York Journal of Books.

Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs
By Dennis McKenna
July 5, 2018

How to Change Your Mind
By Michael Pollan
May 14, 2018

The Recovering
By Leslie Jamison
April 2, 2018

Art of the Northern Renaissance
By Stephanie Porras
February 19, 2018

The Monk of Mokha
By Dave Eggers
January 29, 2018

The Collected Letters of Alan Watts
By Alan Watts
January 22, 2018

Stop the Press
By James Ure
January 8, 2018

In the Beginning
By Serge Bloch
November 24, 2017

Secret Body
By Jeffrey Kripal
November 21, 2017

American Soul Rush

american soul rush book

Nearly half a century has passed since two Stanford University graduates, Michael Murphy and Dick Price, held their first series of seminars at an old hot springs resort on a cliff overlooking a spectacular stretch of the Big Sur coast. Their first brochure outlined a weekend devoted to "drug-induced mysticism" and a lecture by Gerald Heard, an influential but now largely forgotten Anglo-Irish mystic who was, along with writers Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood, part of a group that become known in the 1940s and 1950s as "the British mystical expatriates of Southern California.
Sunday, January 1, 2012

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Acid Christ and White
Hand Society

white hand society acid christ
It's hard to imagine the psychedelic '60s without Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey - the bicoastal ringmasters of a drug-fueled social movement that changed the way millions
of us define the very nature of reality.

Thursday, December 2, 2010
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New Translation of Dogen's
Zen Classic

Kazuaki Tanahashi was still in his 20s, a self-described "arrogant kid," when he showed up at the Soto Temple in Japantown where a Japanese Buddhist priest was offering meditation lessons to a small but intense band of beatniks.

Tanahashi, a Japanese artist on his first visit to the States, asked the priest why he wasn't telling his Western novices about Dogen Zenji, a 13th century monk and the founder of the Soto School of Zen Buddhism.
Friday, October 29, 2010
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Jesus Freak – Feeding,
Healing, Raising the Dead

jesus freaksSara Miles is out with a memoir about her life and ministry. It's titled "Jesus Freak: Feeding, Healing, Raising the Dead," and it
is a book that manages to be inspiring without sentimentality - serious and funny, sacred and profane.
Wednesday, March 17, 2009
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Practicing Catholic

James Carroll's new book, like the Roman Catholic Church and life tself, starts to get interesting in the early 1960s. In Rome, the winds of reform were sweeping through the Vatican as the world's bishops convened a
historic council to finally bring the church into the modern world. In Washington, D.C., a young, vibrant and downright sexy Roman Catholic had just been inaugurated - for the first (and still only) time - as president of the United States.
It was a time of hope for church and state.
Monday, May 11, 2009
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Fingerprints of God
The Search for the Science
of Spirituality

finger print of god
Religion is a collection of stories. Moses parted the Red Sea. Jesus rose from the dead. Muhammad recorded the final words of God.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
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