A None's Story: Searching for Meaning Inside Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Corinna Nicolaou, author of A None’s Story: Searching for Meaning Inside Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam (to be published by Columbia University Press in April), was raised with absolutely no religion whatsoever. As an adult she remains a “none,” as in, “religious affiliation: none.” She is the spiritual equivalent of a political undecided, and a member of an ever-growing group in our society.

Take note: nones are not necessarily atheist or agnostic. Perhaps as a result of her lack of religious upbringing, Nicolaou is refreshingly curious about spirituality and faith. She incorporates spiritual practice into her life deliberately - from all four of the traditions mentioned in her subtitle.

An experienced journalist and writer, Nicolaou began the project that became her book in the wake of the events of 9/11. Her old private personal pain, in the context of this new social turmoil, created in her a deep need for healing, clarity, and understanding. She turned to religion, partly to understand her new husband’s Jewish background. But in reading widely on the subject of religion, she was surprised by how little she found that satisfied her need for objective, factual guidance and comparison. Very few accepted “experts” on religion seem to have made an effort to actually try any of them out. Nicolaou bravely steps into this breach.

Published by an academic press, A None’s Story is intelligent and well-researched but has no academic pretensions whatsoever. First and foremost a memoir, Nicolaou's quest to find inner peace through in-depth participation in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam is not only informative in a remarkably even-handed and clear-headed way, but also compelling, inspiring, insightful, moving, and often funny.

For a stranger, entering into an established group for the purpose of worshipping God demands a lot of inner strength. So it is hard to imagine that Nicolaou, a bright spark of a writer, could ever have personal demons to overcome. How wonderful for us that she tames them by writing a book that could, I think, heal almost the entire world, if only the entire world could read it.

— Carol Spurling (Feb. 2016)


The rising population known as "nones" for its members' lack of religious affiliation is changing American society, politics, and culture. Many nones believe in God and even visit places of worship, but they do not identify with a specific faith or belong to a spiritual community. Corinna Nicolaou is a none, and in this layered narrative, she describes what it is like for her and thousands of others to live without religion or to be spiritual without committing to a specific faith.

Nicolaou tours America's major traditional religions to see what, if anything, one might lack without God. She moves through Christianity's denominations, learning their tenets and worshiping alongside their followers. She travels to Los Angeles to immerse herself in Judaism, Berkeley to educate herself about Buddhism, and Dallas and Washington, D.C., to familiarize herself with Islam. She explores what light they can shed on the fears and failings of her past, and these encounters prove the significant role religion still plays in modern life. They also exemplify the vibrant relationship between religion and American culture and the enduring value it provides to immigrants and outsiders. Though she remains a devout none, Nicolaou's experiences reveal points of contact between the religious and the unaffiliated, suggesting that nones may be radically revising the practice of faith in contemporary times.

About the Author

Corinna Nicolaou is a writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Texas Observer, Salon, and Narrative Magazine, among other publications. Her commentaries have aired on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and her writing can be found on her blog, One None Gets Some: Looking at Life Through the Lens of Faith.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780231173940
ISBN-10: 0231173946
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication Date: March 29th, 2016
Pages: 312
Language: English