Seeking Enlightenment....Hat by Hat: A Skeptic's Path to Religion


A refreshingly honest spiritual exploration from the New York Times bestselling author of the Anna Pigeon novels.

Actor, adventuress, seeker of truth, and author of the New York Times bestselling Anna Pigeon mystery series, Nevada Barr beckons readers to share her spiritual search for meaning in life.

Hat by hat, step by step, Barr leads readers down her path to enlightenment by sharing personal episodes, some of them funny and revealing, ...

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Seeking Enlightenment....Hat by Hat: A Skeptic's Path to Religion

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A refreshingly honest spiritual exploration from the New York Times bestselling author of the Anna Pigeon novels.

Actor, adventuress, seeker of truth, and author of the New York Times bestselling Anna Pigeon mystery series, Nevada Barr beckons readers to share her spiritual search for meaning in life.

Hat by hat, step by step, Barr leads readers down her path to enlightenment by sharing personal episodes, some of them funny and revealing, others painfully honest. Each chapter offers a truth or an answer forged through experience and deep reflection, and a nugget of insight certain to encourage thought and discussion among readers, who may, in turn, find their own spiritual language.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
As Barr puts it, "I more or less ran into God at the bottom of a barrel." In this quirky memoir, we follow her into church, along the way learning her thoughts on younger men, Halloween and kittens, not to mention salvation and forgiveness and gratitude. — Lauren F. Winner
Plain Dealer
There is much to be considered in her observations, in an engaging style that is a joy to read.
Publishers Weekly
"A life ago," Barr writes, "I was depressed, broke, homeless, unemployed and divorced." One evening she wandered into an Episcopal church, primarily because it was unlocked. Desperation, not interest in religion, had brought her there, but warmly accepting parishioners kept her, and soon she wanted to be confirmed. "I went to the priest and asked him if it would be okay considering I didn't accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior, didn't believe the Bible was divinely inspired and wasn't entirely sure about the whole God thing. Fortunately Father Andrew had been tending his flock long enough to recognize a lost lamb when one came bleating into his office and put no obstacles in my way." It was a turning point for Barr, who here describes the resulting changes in her life and thinking over the last six years. Readers of Barr's bestselling mystery series featuring park ranger Anna Pigeon might have hoped for a whole book full of enlightenment about Anna's creator. However, apart from the introduction and occasional anecdotes throughout, her first nonfiction work is more a collection of personal essays than spiritual memoir. In more than 40 short chapters, she looks at topics as varied as forgiveness, girlfriends, being ordinary, Halloween and of course hats, usually saying more about how she thinks life should be lived than about how she actually lives hers. Nevertheless, Barr's sassy style, self-deprecating sense of humor and trenchant observations make for a good-and, yes, enlightening-read. (June) Forecast: Barr's 11th Anna Pigeon mystery was published earlier this year and has been a PW and New York Times bestseller. This memoirish spirituality title should ensure that the multi-talented writer Barr will never be, well, pigeonholed solely in the mystery category. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Reading the book jacket, one might well think, "Oh, great, another celebrity's version of a spiritual awakening where she discovered that we shouldn't cut down a tree because it might be the embodiment of dear, departed Aunt Martha." Read on. Barr, best known as the author of 11 mysteries (e.g., Deep South), has apparently experienced a true journey from atheism to faith. Barr grew up in a family with a disdain for organized religion that she carried into adulthood; subsequently, she survived a terrible marriage, an unpleasant divorce, and mental illness. Happily remarried, Barr now lives in Mississippi and attends an Episcopal Church simply because when she was at rock bottom she walked into one conveniently close by. "Had the Elks been meeting on the block that night and accidentally left their door unlocked, I expect my life would have taken a very different direction." This volume is a collection of more than 40 essays on a variety of topics that delineate Barr's still-ongoing faith journey. (One explains the "hat by hat" reference.) She now chooses to believe in God because it seems to make sense, and the ritual and traditions of the Episcopal Church provide a feeling of community. Recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/03.]-Mary Prokop, Savannah Country Day Sch., GA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425196038
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/1/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 685,003
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Nevada  Barr

Nevada Barr is a New York Times bestselling author as well as the winner of the Anthony and Agatha Awards.

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    1. Hometown:
      Clinton, Mississippi
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 1, 1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      Yerington, Nevada
    1. Education:
      B.A., Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, 1974; M.A., University of California at Irvine, 1977
    2. Website:

Table of Contents

Introduction 9
On getting into heaven 26
Forgiveness 31
Gratitude 34
Sin 39
Addiction 44
Justification 49
Judgment 53
Turning the other cheek 59
Prayer 63
Fear 67
Stillness 73
Humility 79
Spiders and old men 84
Marriage 89
Lies 94
Religion 99
Vanity 104
Betrayal 112
An argument for life after death 120
Things 126
Sex 132
Guilt 144
The word 150
Things that go bump in the night 154
Children of god 160
Do animals have souls? 165
Darlin' 168
Faith 174
Flip-flops, girlfriends, and levi jackets 179
Salvation 187
An ordinary life 192
Pain 196
Taking shit 201
Service 206
Seeing 210
Church 215
Repentance 220
Bits of string 223
Evil 228
Commitment 232
Alternate lives 235
What if 238
Seeking enlightenment hat by hat 245
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2003

    An offbeat incisive spirituality

    We know Barr from a series of pretty nifty mystery stories which take place in various national parks, in which a female park ranger is the main character. Barr herself has been a law enforcement officer for the NPS, among other ¿hats.¿ The book is divided into many short snippets. There is no narrative, and although our library has it classified as biography it¿s really not quite that. The subtitle is ¿A Skeptic¿s Path to Religion.¿ The book is a personal testimony to an offbeat faith that has found a home among Mississippi Episcopalians, and offers reflections that are remarkably incisive for one with no theological or philosophical training ¿ and certainly, certainly, well expressed, punctuated with arresting insights. It¿s not quite the same genre as Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, but if you like Annie Dillard you¿ll probably like this.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer


    This interesting biography showcases Nevada Barr's quest for knowledge of much that seems untenable and dependent on belief. The author, renowned for her Anna Pigeon mysteries, explains that as she worked through numerous jobs like acting and writing, she grew up as an contemptuous atheist who deep down inside wanted to believe, but needed proof. She read everything she could and entered discussions in her search for empirical evidence for something to believe in greater than her short life.<P> SEEKING ENLIGHTENMENT HAT BY HAT is targeted for a limited audience. This obvious labor of love is aimed at the most devout fans of the author or exterior cynics seeking enlightenment of the existence of a greater presence. Those casual fans of the author's mysteries will want to pass to avoid feeling like a pigeon. The writer states her external searches proved futile in terms of concrete confirmation, but when she began to look at the inner essence of Nevada Barr she began to feel a sense of being part of a greater universe than just herself. One hat at a time, Ms. Barr provides a deep, humorous look at how she found her spiritual path that she ironically (in light of her honest admittance that her research into other writings failed to answer her questions) hopes encourages others to do likewise.<P> Harriet Klausner

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