Religion is one of the most important topics in the world. Religion is often what makes people believe in themselves and others. It shapes their lives. Without religion, no one knows what happens after death. Religion explains the good and bad in life. It explains a person’s purpose, and why they were put on earth. There are over 4,000 religions in the world, and they are all right. By believing in something, people take their life to a heightened level. But, there are religions that have the sole purpose of not believing in anything: atheism. That’s okay, too. No one has the answers. What matters is that religions respect each other, and understand that they have no way of knowing they are right.
What are the Best Books on World Religions to read?
Religion contributes to society just as much as it does to the community. There are traditions and ways of living that are defined by religion. It is easy to view the world of religion through the narrow view of one’s own beliefs. Everyone should have respect and try to understand the beliefs of others. For those who actually want to do this, the 20 books below are a great start. They discuss religions, religious tradtions, the contoversies religions face, and so much more.
Best Books on World Religions: Our Top 19 Picks
Here are some of the best books on world religions that you can consider to expand your knowledge on the subject:
1. The Religions Book: Big Ideas, Simply Explained
There is a lot to learn about every religion in the world– and there are over 4,000 of them. It’s difficult enough to comprehend the beliefs of the major 12 religions. The Religions Book: Big Ideas, Simply Explained by DK seeks to help readers understand the big complicated information that religion has to offer. The book is a straight-foward guide to understanding many religions of the world. DK discusses the philosophy and practice of religions. He does this by using many examples. He uses diagrams, flow charts, illustrations, and artwork to help readers get to know religion in a more succinct way. This is a simple text, and it is great for readers of all ages and levels. This is a wonderful introduction to religion that isn’t difficult to understand. It’s a fun read with lots of great information.
- Authors: DK (Author)
- Publisher: DK; Illustrated Edition (November 13, 2018)
- Pages: 352 pages
2. World Religions: The Great Faiths Explored and Explained
There are many religions in the world, and various ways to practice them. World Religions: The Great Faiths Explored and Explained by John Bowkers is an introduction to the different faiths of the world. This book tackles information regarding the religions in the world in a non-biased way. Bowker explains the distinguishing features of religion, and where each one came from. The major faiths covered in this book are: Judaism, Christianity, Sikhism, Islam, Buddhism, and Janisim. The information is this book is based on facts and history. Examples of each religion are shared through sacred texts and religious artifacts. This is a great book for understanding the many religions of the world and what they believe in. It is a simple read that is engaging and thoughtful. It provides no judgement for or against any of the religions.
- Authors: John Bowker (Author)
- Publisher: DK; Illustrated Edition (February 20, 2006)
- Pages: 216 pages
3. 12 Major World Religions: The Beliefs, Rituals, and Traditions of Humanity’s Most Influential Faiths
There are over 4000 religions in the world, and the number grows every day. Of these 4000 religions, there are 12 major ones. 12 Major World Religions: The Beliefs, Rituals, and Traditions of Humanity’s Most Influential Faiths by Jason Boyett names the 12 major religions, and what they believe in. This book definitely discusses the world religions and traditions, but it also discusses how they intersect with one another. Religions are often taken for granted or misunderstood. Boyett explains why certain religions have negative connotations. The knowledge in this book is based on facts. It delves into what makes up a religion, why they are the most popular religions in the world, and how they often intersect. This is a great book for understanding the major religions in a non-biased way.
- Authors: Jason Boyett (Author)
- Publisher: Zephyros Press (August 30, 2016)
- Pages: 302 pages
4. Experiencing the World’s Religions: Tradition, Challenge, and Change, 5th Edition
Experiencing the World’s Religions: Tradition, Challenge, and Change by Michael Molloy analyzes every aspect of religion. The book discusses the traditions religions have, and they affect their community. He discusses how every religion faces different challenges. These could be racial challenges, religious challenges, or simply challenges with themselves. Sometimes these challenges are a direct result of something another religion has done. Because this is such a wide topic, it has to constantly be updated. That is why this book is on its fifth edition.
This fifth edition seeks to make religion more personal. Molloy uses pedagogy, source excerpts, and religious controversies to help readers understand just how important religion is to the world, and how it is constantly evolving. Religion is used in a number of practices; it is used through clothing, art, food, pilgrimage, and more. This book provides an in-depth look to all kinds of details of religions.
- Authors: Michael Molloy (Author)
- Publisher: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages; 5th Edition (October 29, 2009)
- Pages: 624 pages
5. The Kids Book of World Religions
There are so many religions in the world, and so many people who have religious beliefs. Religious people can be of all different races, they can be from different places, and they can be different ages. This includes kids. Kids often practice religion, too, although it’s usually the same religion as their parents. The Kids Book of World Religion by Jennifer Glossop introduces kids to the world of religion in an easy, fun way. Glossop discusses culture and beliefs in a kid-friendly way. She uses illustrations, simple language, and examples to engage kids and get them thinking about religion. This book discusses the history of various religious places of worship, gods and major festivals, and the major religious leaders of these religions. Kids will learn a lot from this book. By reading this book, they’ll gain a better outlook on the rest of the world, and who all is out there.
- Authors: Jennifer Glossop (Author), John Mantha (Illustrator)
- Publisher: Kids Can Press; Reprint Edition (March 1, 2013)
- Pages: 64 pages
6. The Compact Guide to World Religions
Christianity may be one of the most well-known religions, but it is not the only one. The Compact Guide to World Religions by Dean Halverson is a book that compares Christianity to other religions of the world. The purpose of the book is to get Christians to recognize their religious neighbors, and understand what they are going through. The book is an easy guide and introduction to some of the other popular religions of the world. Each chapter discusses the origins of a religion, its basic beliefs, and it has charts on those religions. This is a very quick read. It scratches the surface of a few key religions in the world. That being said, it is still worth the read. This text does not take up too much time, and it will help Christians and other religions alike understand each other and the experiences the other faces.
- Authors: Dean Halverson (Editor)
- Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (March 1, 1996)
- Pages: 272 pages
7. The Norton Anthology of World Religions: Volume 1: Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism; Volume 2: Judaism, Christianity, Islam
The Norton Anthology of World Religions includes two different volumes. The first volume covers three religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism. The second edition covers three more relgions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This anthology has many different texts that will help readers understand each of these six religions. Books included in this anthology are: the Bible, the Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Daodejing. This is a comprehensive text based on its information and organization. There are introductions to the religions, headnotes, glossaries, maps, illustrations, photographs, annotations, and chronologies. These volumes cover every little detail of their religion they are discussing. They have many examples and use physical evidence to help readers grasp the meaning of each religion, and why people believe in them.
- Authors: Jack Miles (Editor), Wendy Doniger (Editor), Donald S. Lopez Jr. (Editor), James Robson (Editor), David Biale (Editor), Lawrence S. Cunningham (Editor), Jane Dammen McAuliffe (Editor)
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Illustrated Edition (November 3, 2014)
- Pages: 4448 pages
8. World Religions Today
Religion is an important part of history, and an important part of modern day society. World Religions Today by John L. Esposito, Darrell J. Fasching, and Todd T. Lewis explores how religion affects the world today. This book is essential; it is currently on its sixth edition. The authors of this book argue that religion is important, and necessary, in the world today.
The book analyzes major religious traditions from a number of religions: Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and more. The authors say that these religions have “radically changed the world.” They explain how they did that through a number of examples: timeliness, maps, illustrations, text boxes, questions and answers, a glossary, and photographs. This is a comprehensive guide to knowing and understanding religions today, and how their histories have impacted the life of the world.
- Authors: John L. Esposito (Author), Darrell J. Fasching (Author), Todd T. Lewis (Author)
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 6th Edition (September 27, 2017)
- Pages: 600 pages
9. Invitation to World Religions
The second edition of Invitation to World Religions by Jeffrey Boyd, Layne Little, Brad Nystrom, Robert Platzner, Richard Shek, and Erin Stiles explores the great religions in the world, both from the past and the present. This book isn’t entirely up to date (it has a third edition,) but it still has loads of quality information that is worth reading about. This is a wonderful guide for teaching students about the religions of the world. This book helps readers navigate all kinds of religions, and what they believe in. The essential features of many religions are discussed in this book. Students and teachers can easily compare and contrast religions in this book. The book analyzes what the religions are like now, but also how they have changed over the years to adapt to their community’s needs. This is a great introduction to world religion.
- Authors: Jeffrey Brodd (Author), Layne Little (Author), Brad Nystrom (Author), Robert Platzner (Author), Richard Shek (Author), Erin Stiles (Author)
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2nd Edition (June 26, 2015)
- Pages: 648 pages
10. World Religions
A notable college course is that of world religions. This is an essential class for religious studies majors, but it’s also a great elective. World Religions by Warren Matthews is a go-to textbook for religion courses, particularly those that focus on all religions. The book is currently updated with all the new to know information on religion. This is because it recently released its 7th edition. In this edition, Matthews analyzes various religions and the similar themes they share. This is a textbook, but it doesn’t read like one. It’s intriguing and easy to read. There are many examples included in this book, like: road maps, photographs, timelines, sacred texts, photographs, and more. The traditions of religions all over the world are explored in this book, and explained in a fun, interesting way.
- Authors: Warren Matthews (Author)
- Publisher: Cengage Learning; 7th Edition (January 1, 2012)
- Pages: 464 pages
11. A Concise Introduction to World Religions
There are many religions in the world. People have to consciously consider what they are saying when they are discussing them. It is easy to appropriate a religion, or spread misinformation. A Concise Introduction to World Religions by Willard G. Oxtoby, Roy C. Amore, Amir Hussain, and Alan F. Segal is a book that makes a considerate effort to approach religion thoughtfully and truthfully. The authors intended for this book to be used in college courses, but it could be read on its own, to. Religions are examined in many ways in this book. They are examined through their traditions, how they interact with modern day society, and through their practices. Readers and students will gain a deeper understanding on a number of religions, and what makes a religion, from this book.
- Authors: Willard G. Oxtoby (Author), Roy C. Amore (Author), Amir Hussain (Author), Alan F. Segal (Author)
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 3rd Edition (March 26, 2015)
- Pages: 638 pages
12. Invitation to World Religions
Everyone should have a basic understanding of the religions in the world. Invitation to World Religions by Jeffrey Brodd, Layne Little, Bradley Nystrom, Robert Platzner, Richard Shek, and Erin Stiles is the perfect book for teaching and learning about the religions of the world. This an introduction to a number of religions from various experts and professors. The book delves into different elements of religion. Some of the topics in this book are: “Teachings,” “History,” and “Way of Life.” The book is on its third edition so it is up to date on all its findings. In addition to providing a lot of quality information, the authors explain why students should appreciate both their own religious beliefs, and those of others. They describe the beliefs of many religions, and what those beliefs mean to each religious community.
- Authors: Jeffrey Brodd (Author), Layne Little (Author), Bradley Nystrom (Author), Robert Platzner (Author), Richard Shek (Author), Erin Stiles (Author)
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 3rd Edition (July 2, 2018)
- Pages: 656 pages
13. The World’s Religions
The World’s Religions by William A. Young is on its fourth edition. In this edition, Young surveys the religions of the world and how they affect society. There are a number of ethical issues in the world that religions constantly have to confront. Young discusses this and more in this book. This is not a first-hand guide to religion. Those who read this book should have a decent understanding of the major religions and their beliefs. This book takes religion to a whole new level by analyzing how religious movements shape the world. By reading this book, students will improve their critical thinking, and understand just how religion makes an impact on every element of the world. This book can also be paired with a program online, MyReligionLab, which helps readers review the knowledge they have learned.
- Authors: William Young (Author)
- Publisher: Pearson; 4th Edition (January 2, 2013)
- Pages: 464 pages
14. World Religions in America
America is considered a melting pot. It has lots of diversity in the form of race, culture, and religion. World Religions in America by Jacob Neusner discusses these religions, and how they impact the United States. The book is based on facts, and is plenty updated; it is currently on its fourth edition. The chapters focus on a number of topics regarding important events and changes in America’s religious history, how America’s religious community came to be so diverse, and statistics and information on religion. This is an easy-to-read book because of its organization and examples. There are key timelines in books, sidebars on major movements, and personal stories. This book explains religion in a personal, thoughtful way. It is not biased, but it engages readers through real-life religious experiences.
- Authors: Jacob Neusner (Editor)
- Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press; 4th Edition (October 7, 2009)
- Pages: 462 pages
15. Exploring the Religions of Our World
Exploring the Religions of Our World by Nancy Clemmons is a great book for high schoolers wanting to learn about religion. Educators of high school level students can gain a lot from assigning this book. It is easy to comprehend, is unbiased, and has lots of great information. The book discusses important and major religious traditions, and what these traditions resulted in. The intersectionality of the major religions, like Christianity and Mormonism, is analyzed in this book.
In addition to discussing religion, this book also discusses science and its impact on religion. Clemmons tackles religion from every perspective to help deliver an unbiased guide on what religion is and how it affects the world. Students will be intrigued by the information in this book, and will be tempted to learn more about religions they find fascinating.
- Authors: Ave Maria Press (Author)
- Publisher: Ave Maria Press; Updated Edition (March 1, 2008)
- Pages: 416 pages
16. Experiencing the World’s Religions: Tradition, Challenge, and Change 2nd Edition
Behind every religion are experiences and stories, both bad and good. Experiencing the World’s Religions: Tradition, Challenge, and Change by Michael Molloy is on its second edition. This edition discusses what religious traditions mean, and the challenges communities face because of them. Molloy doesn’t just want readers to understand religion; he wants them to experience them. The book is factual, yes, but not boring. Molloy draws readers in with his simple, easy to read, writing style. When reading this book, it feels like Molloy is actually discussing the topic with the reader. After reading this, readers will have gained a better understanding and knowledge on common and uncommon religious traditions, and how they affect the world and religious communities.
- Authors: Michael Molloy (Author)
- Publisher: Mayfield Pub Co; 2nd Edition (July 1, 2001)
- Pages: 554 pages
17. World Religions: A Voyage of Discovery
World Religions: A Voyage of Discovery by Jeffrey Brod is a great religious text for younger audiences, like teens. The book is easy to read, informative, unbiased, and covers religion well. There are quality illustrations and pictures in this book that help readers understand religion better, and enjoy the book. This is a textbook, but that doesn’t mean it is boring. It is highly entertaining and has wonderful knowledge on the history of religions, and how that has shaped them to be what they are today. The book discusses people of major religions, their dimensions, and the principles of those religions. This is a great book for helping highschoolers understand religion, and build their own opinion on the various beliefs of the world, and how they contribute to it.
- Authors: Jeffrey Brodd (Author)
- Publisher: Saint Mary’s Press; 4th Edition (February 13, 2015)
- Pages: 320 pages
18. Anthology of World Religions: Sacred Texts and Contemporary Perspectives
Anthology of World Religions: Sacred Texts and Contemporary Perspectives by Lewis Vaughn is a text that explores the world’s many religions and their traditions. Every major religion is discussed in this anthology. This book discusses each religion’s history, teachings, leaders, founders, practices, and the factors of those religions that affect the world. Some of the factors discussed are: modernism, pluralism, secularism, science, the science of women, sectarian, and factional conflicts. This doesn’t so much explain religion, as it does explain how religion is constantly changing with the world. As the world grows, so does religion. This is an important topic that should be discussed in more religious books. This anthology has a unique perspective on religion that others should analyze, and discuss, more often.
- Authors: Lewis Vaughn (Author)
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st Edition (November 14, 2016)
- Pages: 560 pages
19. The World’s Religions
The World’s Religions by Huston Smith examines the essential elements of every religion. Each faith has something special about it. Smith wants to know what that is. He explains what each religion believes in, traditions they have, and how to teach religion. Some of the most notable religions discussed in this text, are: Buddhism, Hinduisum, Confusicsm, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and a number of others. Not only does Smith analyze these religions, he also examines why they hold such a deep place in the believer’s heart. This book is not biased, but it is not unbiased. It delves into religion from a personal standpoint. How people view and trust their religion is the main premise of the book, and one that should not be taken lightly.
- Authors: Huston Smith (Author), Sam Sloan (Introduction)
- Publisher: Ishi Press (March 31, 2017)
- Pages: 418 pages
Choosing the Best Books on World Religions
These are some of many great books on religion. They discuss the elements of many religions, as opposed the ones the authors feel most greatly about. Religion is a part of life. It should be discussed more, and taught more. No matter one’s beliefs, everyone should learn about the religions of the world, the traditions they have, and the impact they make on all of us. The world should respect each other’s beliefs, and learn as much as possible about each of them.