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Exploration of what it means to be human

“Becoming Wise”

By Krista Tippett

The Penguin Press (288 pages, $28)

Most of us can only dream of the dinner parties Krista Tippett could put together. We’re lucky, then, that her new book is the next best thing to an invitation to sit down, make ourselves at home and prepare for a mind-expanding exploration of what it means to be human.

With “Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living,” Tippett expands on interviews that became fascinating fodder for her award-winning NPR program and podcast, “On Being.”

The reader (at least this reader) cannot help but become a grateful voyeur, as Tippett prods and dives into robust exchanges with physician Rachel Naomi Remen, scientist Jon Kabat-Zinn, essayist Pico Iyer and countless other big thinkers.

Divided into five chapters -- words, the body, love, faith and hope -- these conversations reveal the dilemma of a complex and increasingly crass world that begs to be better.

Getting to that place is not a mystery, Tippett says. It will happen when we choose to truly listen to one another, especially to those with whom we virulently disagree.

“The crack in the middle where people on both sides absolutely refuse to see the other as evil,” Tippett writes, “this is where I want to live and what I want to widen.”

Not light reading, but inspiring reading, for those willing to pull up a chair. (TNS)