Secular devotional books

Back in my evangelical youth group days, we were encouraged to “do devotions,” which consisted in reading short meditations paired with biblical passages. This paradigm has stuck with me. When I was studying German, for instance, I used Benjamin’s “Theses on the Philosophy of History” as my reading text for a while, and I referred to my method — reading over one “thesis” per day and going through it several times until I didn’t have to look up words and could get the sensation of “just reading” — as a “devotional” method.

It seems to me that there are some boks that one might call secular or philosophical “devotional books.” Some that leap to mind are Adorno’s Minima Moralia and Agamben’s Coming Community or Idea of Prose. Can we think of any others? (Perhaps some of Nietzsche’s more aphoristic works, for instance.)

22 thoughts on “Secular devotional books

  1. Twice daily I used to read “Morning and Evening”, a collection of Chuck Spurgeon devotions. In terms of treating a book as devotional post-sanity, Spinoza’s Ethics.

  2. You seem to be thinking strictly of philosophy, here, but lots and lots of poetry is read as a secular devotionals. Some poets, this happens to such an extent it’s almost hard to imagine their work being in print if it weren’t read that way (e.g. Mary Oliver).

  3. I have used both Nietzsche’s Zarathustra and Kahlil Gibran’s The Propet this way. Those readings eventually informed my wedding vows, along with The Satanic Bible. (Does the Satanic Bible count as secular? Discuss.)

  4. I am going to steal your Benjamin idea when I work on learning German next summer. I was actually emailing Dan a few days ago and used the term scripture to describe Minima Moralia.

    Poetry fits well–an obvious one that comes to mind is Rilke.

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