It’s been a busy year for reading, at least in my home. While on contract in the California high desert, I read a dozen or more books on my off hours. This blog is about those books and their titles but first comes my theory on how books come into my life and the function they play. Perhaps it works the same way for you.
Books come my way in the same way that smokers attract each other around an area designated for their smoking enjoyment. That is to say, when I find myself anywhere or with anyone, it is the most natural thing in the world for books to come up in conversation and to, in effect, gather around me. I respond by partaking of the pleasure in spending time within their pages.
It’s common for readers to read for a variety of reasons: pleasure, distraction, healing, knowledge, and occasionally, from boredom. It’s also common to read books that are in a similar genre. My predominant genres for the past six months included sci-fi novels, self-help (including those from my field of mental health), random-off-the-library-shelf-finds, and that unspecified genre of books that is generated by curiosity in what is occurring around me. Those books I’ve read recently also include a few books that I couldn’t get through. Regardless of those books coming from highly recommended sources, they acted as a literary Melatonin that inevitably put me to sleep.
I place great value on books coming to me spontaneously. What I watch for when a book comes to me are two things: first, in conversation, someone will say, “I’ve been reading…” and they give a passionate soliloquy about the book they’re presently immersed in. Second, a book will subtly alert itself to me, whether on someone’s kitchen countertop, at a café or in a restaurant, or on a stack of files in someone’s office. When, and if, that book is mentioned, I will ask a cursory question or two about it’s content, and more importantly, I will ask how the book has impacted the reader. Their comments often spark my interest in the book.
There is one additional thing I watch for when considering reading a book: I wait for a stirring within myself, a slight gesture from within that alerts me to “Read this one.” Once you begin paying attention to your awareness in this manner, it becomes a clear signpost and the book is a must read.
One more caveat before the list is presented. You might think that I have a stack of books ready for easy reading at home, but that’s not the case. Books that come to me appear to come at a pace that fits what is happening in my life at the moment it appears. They don’t crowd; they don’t line up to be read in the future; they don’t gather like a coming storm that builds eager anticipation.
Like breathing, books come automatically and evenly, without struggle, although with intent, as though they’re providing me with an essential element to keeping me alive—that’s because that’s exactly what they do: they allow me to take in the energetic equivalent of oxygen to keep me in a state of vitality, health, and well-being that feeds my heart, soul, and mind.
This is my book list for the second half of 2014. I will give you a sneak-peak of what’s in the book. Not a synopsis, but a quote or two, for that is how I remember the purpose for the book coming into my life at the moment it did: it had something to say to me.
Hopefully, the comments will pique your interest, perhaps not so much in reading the same book, but in paying attention to the pulse that books play in our individual lives to answer those issues that are most pertinent for us at the time they appear.
Please allow me to skip footnotes. Every book can be located on Amazon.com and can be easily purchased if the book calls you to be its’ next reader. In addition, I’ve listed the books in the approximate order that I read them; this is not a rank-ordered list from most-liked to lease-liked or any such similar categorization.
1. The Shock Doctrine The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein
Shock doctrine is what Naomi Klein calls “waiting for a major crisis, then selling off pieces of the state to private players while citizens were still reeling from the shock, then quickly making the ‘reforms’ permanent.” Milton Friedman, her antagonist throughout the 600 page expose, believed that “only a crisis actual or perceived—produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.”
After reading this book, I asked myself what beliefs I held that would inevitably uproot my world if they were to be changed and right on queue, believe it or not, there was a gargantuan one—and changing that belief rocked my existence this year!
2. The Antidote Happiness For People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman
“There is a happiness to be found in embracing failure as failure, not just as a path to success, that welcoming it might simply feel better than perpetually trying to avoid it.”
My favorite quote from this book: “Sometimes the most valuable of all talents is to be able not to seek resolution; to notice the craving for completeness or certainty or comfort, and not to feel compelled to follow where it leads.”
3. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
I wish that I had written this book! It is poignant, intuitive, and goes right to the heart of a dozen and more human issues. The movie, “Wild”, showing now in theatres, is based upon another book by this author.
“I’ve written often about how we have to reach hard in the direction of the lives we want, even if it’s difficult to do so.”
“Real change happens on the level of the gesture.”
“And then there is a deep longing to feel legitimate in the world, to feel that others hold us in regard.”
I love sentences that start with “And”; there is always a nugget of gold to be found within them.
4. The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene
My first read this year that I couldn’t get through, however, here’s a quote that stood out as I put the book down, “Understand: people are constantly giving out signals as to what they lack.”
While I read maybe 50 pages of this book, I observed that books do the same thing.
5. Censorship, A Threat to Reading, Learning, Thinking edited by John S. Simmons
“We’ve learned too well to become good theoreticians but have not learned to be good practitioners of what we preach.”
“Autonomy cannot be developed in children deprived of it.”
Years ago a popular idiom in the church community stated, “Walk your talk.” The authors in this edited work aptly decry an educational system that teaches our children and youth a similar value that screams disingenuous ways of being: “Think only what we tell you to think.” A good read on reading, learning, and thinking.
6. The Vortex Where the Law of Attraction Assembles All Cooperative Relationships by Esther and Jerry Hicks
“Attempting to guide yourself through the approval of others is futile and painful.”
“There is no greater driving force in the Universe than the force of wellbeing and self value.”
“You cannot find the solution to any problem when the problem is the most active energy within you.”
7. Pale Zenith by Wendy Rathbone
Science fiction written by a poet: that’s how this book impressed me. The author is a wordsmyth and her skill is evident as she unveils her sci-fi plot with uncommon beauty. At the same time, the plot is sinister with twists and turns enveloped in the human capacity for evil. Don’t let that stop you from reading it. Here’s a snippet of its beauty.
“The sky looked melted, six o’clock and almost summer. She could actually smell the colors: wintergreen, orange blossom, cinnamon. The clouds were wolves of gold, circling. The sun was the heart. Everything had a heart. Even the sky. The sun pumped molten slag through its ventricles, venting radiation. The sun seemed as angry as Lacy inside. She wasn’t sure why.”
8. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
“Styopa, his eyes bulging, saw a small table and a tray, covered with sliced white bread, pressed caviar in a glass bowl, white marinated mushrooms on a plate, something in a saucepan and finally, vodka in a mammoth decanter that had belonged to the jeweller’s wife. Sytopa was particularly struck by the fact that the decanter was sweating with frost, which was understandable since it had been placed in a shallow bowl packed with ice. In a word, the table was set flawlessly, impeccably.”
I am a sucker for descriptions of meals and food in books. I love them! Alas, the remainder of the book was too full of the devil and thus became the second book that I couldn’t muster enough perseverance to read through.
9. The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton
“In this book I will draw the proverbial line in the sand. On one side of the line is a world defined by neo-Darwinism, which casts life as an unending war among battling, biochemical robots. On the other side of the line is the “New Biology,” which casts life as a cooperative journey among powerful individuals who can program themselves to create joy-filled lives. When we cross that line and truly understand the New Biology, we will no longer fractiously debate the role of nurture and nature, because we will realize that the fully conscious mind trumps both nature and nurture. And I believe we will also experience as profound a paradigmatic change to humanity as when a round-world reality was introduced to a flat-world civilization.”
He had me at “the proverbial line in the sand”, a challenging declaration of “Hear ye, hear ye!” He also cinched my interest in reading the book with the last sentence in the above paragraph, starting with another proverbial favorite: “And…” Oh! There’s more, much more! To think, this book was published ten years ago!
10. The Dosadi Experiment by Frank Herbert
I read Frank Herbert’s Dune thirty years ago, absolutely fell in love with the story, and hadn’t read anything from him since. While rummaging through books at a second-hand store, I found The Dosadi Experiment. Without a modicum of exaggeration, I say that it is even better than Dune! I know, strong words, if you’re a follower of his Dune series! However, I have not one quote because I put the book in the mail to a friend—someone I knew would enjoy reading it as much as I did.
11. The Queen’s Code by Alison Armstrong
“A person who is determined to be self-sufficient has to keep his or her life and their goals small enough to manage single-handedly. To make sure they never need help.”
Alison’s novel is full to the brim with the wisdom of how men and women relate to each other in a paradigm encapsulated by her title. The novel reads pedantic rather than artful but there is no denying her 20+ years of expertise on how relationships work for the wellbeing of men and women.
12. The Mirror Effect How Celebrity Narcissism is Endangering our Families by Dr. Drew Pinsky
“We can only truly find ourselves through interaction with others in a social context.”
“The capacity to access and express emotions, to trust that the person you’re sharing with is present and available, and to accept their appreciation of your experience: these things, taken together, are transformative.”
It’s been a transformative year for me in regards to connecting and communicating with family, friends, and co-workers. Dr. Pinsky helped to define the social and psychological experience of narcissism and its’ impact on our relationships. It’s safe to say that narcissism’s slick, manipulative, albeit mesmerizing, impact has touched many of us throughout our lives.
13. Carry the Rock An Apprentice Journey by Jessica Rzeszewski
How could I not add my own book to the list? For this author, as I suspect for other authors, it is a unique pleasure to see the finished product of their labor, often after years of composition. And if an author is really lucky, they’re able to read their book as though it comes from another writer. In this way, they take in their labor as though seated before a fine meal, with a warm fire in the hearth, and all the time in the world to indulge.
“The Nagual’s blue eyes were sharp, a knife puncturing a sausage, innards oozing through the slice in the membrane. ‘My spirit helper was the bat,’ she countered. Our eyes locked. Hers spoke volumes. We held the tension, two wrestlers in a lockout, sweaty, fierce, muscles strained to their maximum.”