A “Best Spiritual Book of the Year.”
Spirituality & Practice

Spiritual Leaders Who Changed the World: The Essential Handbook to the Past Century of Religion

This book is an authoritative guide to the most creative spiritual ideas and actions of the past century—a challenge for us today.

Ira Rifkin and the Editors at SkyLight Paths
Foreword by Dr. Robert Coles, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

6 x 9, 304 pp | 15+ b/w photos | 978-1-59473-241-6

Click below to purchase


  • Amazon
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Indie Bound


  • kindle
  • nook
  • itunes

Large Print edition available from ReadHowYouWant.com

Who Were the Most Innovative Spiritual Leaders  of the Past Century?

Fascinating profiles of the most important spiritual leaders of the past one hundred years. An invaluable reference of twentieth-century religion and an inspiring resource for spiritual challenge today.

Black Elk, H. H. the Dalai Lama, Mary Baker Eddy, Abraham Joshua Heschel, J. Krishnamurti, C. S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, Elijah Muhammad, Meher Baba, Joseph Campbell, Simone Weil, Pope John XXIII, Shunryu Suzuki, Aimee Semple McPherson, Billy Graham, Dorothy Day, Thich Nhat Hanh, Martin Luther King, Jr. … these are just some of the spiritual leaders who have changed our world.

The result of a nationwide survey of experts in leading universities and seminaries, as well as leading representatives of dozens of religious traditions and spiritual persuasions, this authoritative list of seventy-five includes martyrs and mystics, intellectuals and charismatics from East and West. Their lives and wisdom are now easily accessible in this inspiring volume.

A celebration of the human spirit, ideal for both seekers and believers, the curious and the passionate, thinkers and doers, this book is an authoritative guide to the most creative spiritual ideas and actions of the past century—a challenge for us today.

“Here are individuals who affirmed in their daily lives what truly matters. Thereby, they touch us, inspire us, and stir us to take stock of this earthly existence: collectively, a large gift, indeed, from them to so many, the readers of this book included.”

Dr. Robert Coles

“A wonderful, provocative collection…. The short profiles make interesting reading—and, often, discovery—and the quotations and bibliographies following each profile make this an even more valuable resource. It’s an admiring and instructive survey …  I found it fascinating to read, and I learned a lot.”

Bob Abernethy, executive editor and host, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, PBS

“Provocative ... a fascinating guide to the men and women of many religious and philosophical traditions.... Highly recommended.”

MultiCultural Review

“Marked by the impressive ecumenism that readers expect from SkyLight Paths publications.... An inspirational, agreeable read.”

Publishers Weekly

“Spiritual seekers, especially those at the beginning of their quest, will welcome this chance to get acquainted with seventy-five spiritual leaders who have helped to change the religious climate of our time.”

Roy Larson, director, Garrett-Medill Center for Religion and the News Media

“This is a powerful and inspiring gathering of voices that need to be heard now. Please read this wonderful book.”

Joan Halifax Roshi, head teacher, Upaya Zen Center

“A fascinating and richly rewarding ‘encyclopedia’ of people who have shaped the religious landscape over the last century.”

Marcus Borg, author, bestsellers Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time and Reading the Bible Again for the First Time

“Highlights a bright galaxy of stellar sages, activists, and intellectuals who have moved the world and inspires us by revealing what each of us can be. I recommend it to anyone who, like myself, wants to transform oneself and transform the world.”

Lama Surya Das, author, Awakening the Buddha Within;  founder, Western Buddhist Teachers Network and the Dzochen Center

“Invites more than a quick look-see at the honored and the unconventional.”

John Dart, former Los Angeles Times religion writer