good books to help you start learning about the bahá’í faith

People often come to visit /r/bahai (Reddit’s Bahá’í group) to ask questions. Every now and then, people drop by with the question: “Where do I start learning about the Bahá’í Faith?”. Here’s my answer to a recent thread, specifically asking for books to read to get a good overview of the Bahá’í Faith.

A good place to start if you’re looking for Baha’i books is the Baha’i Reference Library, which has a number of authoritative Baha’i texts. You can also find all of these for purchase at the Baha’i Bookstore online, and for free in e-book form.

The order you read them in kind of depends on your own background and what you’re interested in, but a good place to start is with Bahá’u’lláh’s Hidden Words, which is like a distillation of the spiritual teachings that lie at the core of all of the world’s great religions.

If you have a strong mystical bent, you might want to follow that up with Bahá’u’lláh’s Seven Valleys and Four Valleys, or Gems of Divine Mysteries. Both of these are essentially letters to individuals who had asked about certain spiritual truths, such as the path taken by a soul on its spiritual journey.

If you’re really interested in Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings on the evolution of religion throughout history, and His interpretation of past religious prophecies, you should definitely read the Book of Certitude, aka the Kitáb-i-Íqán. I’ve known a lot of people who’ve started learning about the Bahá’í Faith through this book; it really delivers some penetrating spiritual insights.

There are also more general introductory books about the Bahá’í Faith that are available. Two commonly recommended books for those interested in reading about the Bahá’í Faith are A Short History of the Bahá’í Faith by Peter Smith, and A Short Introduction to the Bahá’í Faith by Moojan Momen. If you want a very quick foretaste of both books, you can check out this combined review. Smith has also published a newer book, An Introduction to the Baha’i Faith, which you might want to consider as well.

blogging, writing, artistic expression, etc

I’m not much of a writer. Some people will readily attest to that (sometimes without even being asked). I actually get a lot more out of visual art and music than writing. My dad’s the writer in the family. He started blogging recently, and even had several blogs on the go until he got tired of it. For the longest time he had piles and piles of books lining his bedroom walls: books by Joyce, Faulkner, Nash, Vonnegut, and probably, um, thousands of other people I’ve never even heard of. Apparently he cleaned out a whole lot of them. I got some of his extra copies. Books like The Return of the Native, Jane Eyre, The Turn of the Screw, The Stone Angel. I’ve heard horror stories about that last one, from traumatized students who had to read it in twelfth-grade English class. Apparently it’s real depressing. I think in twelfth-grade English, I was reading The Glass Menagerie. Not to mention making home movies about it, complete with car stunts and death metal (and pinch harmonics – thanks Brandon). Ahhh, Tennessee Williams. As if I wasn’t insane enough already.

Anyway, all that to say that I’m not much of a writer (except for writing the odd piece of poetry). I read books, sure, but I have trouble finishing them. I get bored easily when books don’t move along fast enough. Some books are better for this than others.