I admit it, I am a fan of Joan Chittister. And I am a fan of my autographed copy of this book. It's on my night table right now, and I am in the midst of my 3rd read-through. Now that I've explained my own prejudices...
If one is looking for an in depth analysis of Benedictine spirituality (as some other reviewers seem to be) then this is not the book. However, there is value here. The book has 26 entries, an A-Z of monastic values, each a small perfect jewel in itself. One can pick up this book and spend just a few minutes reading in one area, then put the book down until the next time. If the next time is months later, nothing is lost in the interim. Each little essay can stand on its own. You don't need to read the whole book, all at once, and in linear progression. Pick one value, read the essay, meditate upon it, comtemplate it. A form of lectio is you will. Contemplate it for 5 minutes, 5 days or 5 months. Then move on to another. Jump around. Skip some. Stay with your top 5 favorites or do them all, one per 2 week period, and get through the book in a year.
The beauty of this format is that it is so easily accessible, accessible to ANY spiritual seeker. Joan Chittister's writing is eminently practical and down to earth. No scholarly analysis or 25 cent words to trip over. No esoteric concepts. This may be the plain bread and cheese at a table of gourmet delicacies... but sometimes you just want a grilled cheese sandwich.
I don't believe that the reviews here do justice to this profound work. I have read many books on the spiritual search and this is one of the best. I have lately been struggling with what prayer means and her chapter on prayer is the best I've ever read. It is a refreshing antidote to the books that say prayer, and God, for that matter, are a means to personal power and things going your way. Joan Chittister is a wise woman, steeped in years of the contemplative tradition, and in this book she shares the fruits of her wisdom. She illuminates all of us.