Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Reading > Books on My Shelf

For the most part, I’m a quick reader and am generally able to whip through books like water. However this summer I’m having trouble starting and finishing the books I have in Hawaii. Perhaps I’m in a season of a mental hiatus (resting my brain) where it's physical activity that seems to be life giving at this time > golf, hula, yoga, running at the beach. Or perhaps I simply chose mediocre books this summer. While I've started some, I haven’t finished any. Here’s what on my shelf:

“Three Cups of Tea” (Greg Mortenson and David Relin) – A mountain climber returns to Pakistan to build a school, leading to development of 55 schools for young women. #1 on New York Times bestseller list, and the most promising read of the summer. The only book I haven’t cracked open, but looking forward to turning the first page.
“Mennonite in a Little Black Dress” (Rhoda Janzen) – Memoir of a 40 year old female English professor who moves back to her parents home and hometown, a Mennonite community, after her husband of 15 years leaves her for…another man. Shortly thereafter Janzen gets in a serious car accident and after some recovery finds a way to move forward in life > she cleverly finds a way to go shopping with friends, for example, ingeniously using Velcro to strap her urine bag unto her leg as a way to hide her medical reprecussions under a long flowing skirt. The book is about Janzen's personal journey returning "home" and one I find only somewhat humorous--trying too hard perhaps, to be in the likes of “Eat, Pray, Love” (Elizabeth Gilbert). Janzen’s text, however, is more crass, the writing isn’t nearly as pithy, and by page 5 it’s clear that the prose is written for a limited female audience. Finding it hard to get through Janzen’s book, I am not sure that I will finish it…unless I am stranded at the airport or stranded on this island due to an unexpected natural disaster. Okay, I'm overexaggerating here. In all honesty, I think I just fell for good marketing--I liked the title and book cover.

“Committed” (Elizabeth Gilbert) – After the success of “Eat, Pray, Love” Gilbert tries her hand at round two…which struggles to stay afloat. This book is a cultural, almost anthropological, study of marriage in different parts of the world. How do women in Southeast Asia understand and make sense of gender roles, division of labor, love, independence, submission and ceremony? Gilbert tries to make her findings witty, humorous and engaging, but I find that I learn more about Gilbert’s own cultural stereotypes and perspectives of Asian women than I do about the exploration of marriage. She writes from a position of privilege, almost voyeuristic, clearly from the perspective of a well to do white woman from a first world nation (the United States). Thank goodness I bought the book with a 40% coupon! (“Eat, Pray, Love” junkies > the Julia Roberts film (Eat, Pray, Love) is due to open very soon! )

“Waking the Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive” (John Eldredge) A book about waking up one’s heart and reclaiming a life lived fully, the promise of the Christian faith as the key to helping all of us be set free, made whole, and be fully restored. I’m not fully captivated by Eldredge’s writing (despite his popular following of “Wild at Heart” among Christian men) but know that I will eventually finish this book. It was highly recommended for me and the themes and topics of the book seem a worthwhile read. I’m told that there is an underlying spiritual warfare theme to the book--a battle over our hearts.

“The Art of Power” (Thich Nhat Hanh) – Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (by my hero Martin Luther King Jr), Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist Zen master, poet, political activist and author. In this book he argues that “power” is generally perceived to be something that affords us freedom, security and happiness, but is in actuality an illusion that traps us, drains us, and strains our relationships. True power, he suggests in zen master fashion, lies in being happy in the present moment. Another New York Times bestseller, this book explores how to cultivate, unleash, and handle power at home, work and in the global marketplace. It’s a tad repetitive, but good and helpful to understand how a Buddhist activist conceptualizes an integration of peace and power. (He has a new book, “Savor,” on healthy eating/food/politics which I find to be a interesting way of marketing the subject matter and/or Hanh himself.)

“The Power of Now” (Eckhart Tolle) I was listening to a really mind blowing lecture by a Catholic priest on my drive home from a monastery in Montecito (Santa Barbara). The talk discussed the humanity and divinity of the historical Jesus and divine Christ, and our position as children of God to likewise embrace the embodiments of our own humanity and divine nature (i.e. life via the holy spirit). Anyway, I’m not one who is prone to reading pop metaphysical literature, but this Catholic priest kept referencing Eckhart Tolle as an expert on “living in the present moment”(Oprah herself is a fan and make him an overnight national phenomena). So, I became curious as to what this guy has to say. I may or may not agree with his ideas (we’ll see) but I think it’s still good to be knowledgeable and conversational about Tolle. So far the books seems to suggest that the everyday act of thinking keeps us grounded and stuck in a living a provincial life (which we call reality) which is simply a limited level of spiritual awareness; the busyness in our minds, acquired through the act of thinking, prevents us from obtaining true freedom and enlightenment (i.e. living at a higher level of consciousness). Tolle discusses topics of fear, the ego’s search for wholeness, notions of time, happiness , relationships, the body, addictions, surrender, and choice. Will be an interesting read.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i've been reading your blog!
i enjoy it!

i'm glad you are reading Tolle!
i read "Power of Now", but think "A New Earth" is better!

Also, "Tao of Pooh" by Benjamin Hoff is great!
I just finished it!

And if you are more interested in Eastern thought....
The Dali Lama's "Art of Happiness" is great!!!