When I undertook to teach a course on spiritual direction in 1976 I discovered that there were practically no books in English available on the subject. John McNeill's classic work in comparative history had been reprinted. Merton's little essay, already fifteen years old and more monastic in approach than was suitable for my students was still available. Jean Laplace's substantively excellent, but somewhat old-fashioned and clerical, treatment of the subject had just been translated from the French. With these exceptions, almost all useful material on the topic of spiritual direction was in the form of articles on specific aspects of this ministry appearing with increasing frequency in periodicals devoted to spirituality and religious life.
With the appearance the following year of Kenneth Leech's very fine study, Soul Friend, perhaps still the best overall treatment available, a veritable publishing phenomenon began. In the last five years dozens of full-length books and a number of long essays as well as various collections of articles on spiritual direction have appeared. In what follows I will attempt to describe and evaluate this phenomenon by briefly commenting on a number of recent books on the subject of spiritual direction.