Saturday, May 29, 2010

Books, Part 3

In the first section of this post about books I mentioned the 15 Books That Changed the World. Part two is more about my own personal list of books (that changed my world). Books, Part 3 is everything else...

The rotation in my book reading works something like this: I read a spiritual book, a business/marketing book, (auto) biography, health and fitness, current events, poetry or classic literature, easy to read novel, then back to the beginning.

I try not to read too many of the same type of books in a row. In one of my fitness rotations I made the mistake of reading The Sugar Blues, How to Lick the Sugar Habit, and Fast Food Nation all back to back and I was angry for months. It took some time for me to climb back down off of my soap box.

In the first of these three posts on books, I listed some of my favorite novelists. If you decide to read any of those authors, try to start reading their earlier works first. Many of them have recurring characters.

Here are some other novelists on my bookshelves (not mentioned in section one): John Grisham, Clive Cussler, Tim Green, Kyle Mills and of course I have a Stephen King novel or two. If you like historical fiction that mixes real life characters from history into your novels, you may like Caleb Carr.

Some of the biography/autobiography/memoir genre include: Walt Disney, Galileo, Twyla Tharp and Doris Humphrey (the last two are dancers/choreographers), and several versions of Einstein and Ben Franklin. And just this week I picked up Jack Welch, Bill Gates and Tom Brokaw's books off the $1 wall at my local bargain book store!

The most recent biography (that I just finished) was Carol Burnett's This Time Together. It is a very funny account of how she broke into show business and some of the behind the scenes antics from her TV show and some other events in her life. You will certainly remember many of the names and events that she recounts. It is well written and you will likely read it in one or two sittings.

If you want ideas for your spiritual reading cue; you might try Gregg Braden (The Isaiah Effect, Walking Between the Worlds), Robert Fulgham (All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten), Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist), Daniel Quinn (Ishmael, My Ishmael), and of course Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance).

That is on top of the other authors I have mentioned in previous posts. Authors like Richard Bach, Dan Millman, Joseph Girzone, Thich Nhat Hahn and HH the DL. (For those of you not on such personal terms as I am, that is His Holiness the Dalai Lama...)

If I don't have any new spiritual books on hand to read there is the old standby. I may read a chapter or two of the bible. I have tried more than once to read the bible from Genesis to Revelations, but it is nearly impossible. Somewhere between Leviticus and Deuteronomy the words all start to blur.

If you are interested in making an attempt at bible reading but (like me) have had trouble trying to trudge through the old style terminology, I may have a possible solution for you. The NRSV. This version of the bible was suggested to me by my friend Father Bob (a.k.a. The Dancing Jesuit). He is the artistic director of Boston Liturgical Dance Ensemble (where I have danced for years). I could write a whole post on him... but let's get back to attempting to read the bible.

As you know there are many versions of the bible. The trick is to find a version that is easy to read (but not too colloquial in the translations). In the New Revised Standard Version you will find an easy to read version that has plenty of sidebars to fill you in on useful bits of information like who most likely wrote each chapter and when, what certain unfamiliar terms most likely mean, etc. And many times there are footnotes that compare terminology with other popular translations (like the King James Version).

Plus there are sidebars to discuss how a chapter might be relevant today. And plenty of maps to give you a visual of where things happened. If you decide to find this version for yourself, be sure to look inside the book before you buy it as they also make a version with the same translation but without all the side bars and info boxes.

Books on current events include, Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea about a guy who's failed attempt to climb K2 led him to become lost in a Pakistani village. It's the story of his bold promise to build a school for them and the obstacles he has to overcome to fulfill that promise. And Robert H. Frank's The Economic Naturalist-In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas.

Another author high on my list is Neil Postman. He wrote a book called Amusing Ourselves to Death-Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. It is about how our media is shaping our lives and what we can do to try to shape our media to serve us better. He also wrote a book on How to Watch TV News.

And of course I have Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. This is his entertaining account of his attempt at an Appalachian Trail hike. He also wrote A Brief History of Nearly Everything.

I also have a large selection of books on outdoor leadership, survival guides and all manner of books on day hikes (local or otherwise). I won't bore you with the titles of all of those, but if you are interested in a particular outdoor subject let me know and I will try to point you in the right direction.

For motivational books, anything by Tony Robbins is a safe bet. But there is also Dale Carnegie, Og Mandino, Brian Tracy and pretty much anything by Eckhart Tolle.

Most of the poetry books that I read, I get from the library. Poets are not like novelists... Just because you like one poem by a particular poet, it doesn't necessarily mean you will like all of their work. It takes a lot of sifting through to find the poems you might like (or find meaningful). And the range of work by poets is wide. I think that is because they write when inspiration strikes them. So depending on the mood they are in when they write, the mood from poem to poem can be radically different.

Every once in a while I like to throw in a classic, but I really have to be in the mood for that because it reminds me of required reading in school. For example, I picked up Moby Dick over a year ago (again for cheap at the bargain bookstore), but have not been able to bring myself to read it yet. Maybe because it seems like required reading or maybe for the same reason I never went to the theater to see the movie Titanic-- I already know the ending! Spoiler alert... the boat sinks. I've been told it's still worth the reading, but it will have to wait. I have too many other books on my current 'to read' list.

I also have a space on my bookshelves reserved for books written by authors I know personally. For example, a great book on recovery and getting your life back together called Suffering~A Path of Awakening by Shellee Rae. She is now on a book signing tour. If you see that she is coming to your area I strongly recommend taking her workshop. She will likely be writing a sequel and doing more workshops.

And there are others like Color is Good Medicine by Ellyn Epstein (on color therapy). Faces in Time (the poetry of Ray Bentley). We used some of Ray's work one year in a dance concert at Windhover. And of course, the book about Windhover by Ina Hahn titled Windhover... a person... a place... a dream.

Courting Equality by Patricia Gozemba and Karen Kahn with photos by Marilyn Humphries is a book documenting the legal battle of same-sex marriage. And Angry Ghosts by an up and coming novelist Alan Farnham.

Who knows, one of these days there may be a featured spot for one of my own books on the shelf!

This post would not be complete without a mention of my favorite philosopher - Dr. Seuss. He has a way of taking serious subject matter such as war, the environment and life choices and turning them into children's books (The Butter Battle Book, The Lorax, and Oh, The Places You'll Go!)

I am of course using the term children's books very loosely. These books are for children of all ages. And I have many of his books (and am actively in the process of acquiring the rest of the collection). I have a few anthology books on TG and his life before becoming the good doctor. Did you know that he used to draw political cartoons in the newspaper during WWII? It is quite a fascinating life. I even have the book his wife edited on Seuss-isms.

It has been said that "We are the sum total of the books we read, the people we associate with and the thoughts we hold in our mind." I'm not sure who said that but the quote stuck with me (and I know I didn't make that up...) If you think about it, there are many things in life that we do not have control over, but these particular three things are among the few that we do have control over. We become who we are by maintaining control over these things. We should do our best to become who we really want to be.

I often feel badly for under-educated children. It makes me sad to think that they don't have much control over the education that is thrust upon them. I am less sympathetic however for under-educated adults. At some point we need to take control over our own lives (including our own education).

Some will argue that the cost of higher education is prohibitive, but I am a firm believer in borrowing books from the library for FREE!! You may not get a degree to hang on your wall, but I believe that reading thought provoking books leads to independent (critical) thinking. And independent thinking is something we need a little more of in the world today.

Now that the nice weather is here, this is a great time to sit at the beach or on the back porch with a book. I like to take a little hike (up Mt. Monadnock for example) and when I reach the summit take some time to eat lunch (possibly take some photographs) and then sit and read for a while before I head back down the mountain. I usually carry a paperback to keep the pack light. But now with the modern technology you can easily download your books on an iPad, Nook, Kindle or other device. Or you can listen to an audiobook on your iPod. It doesn't get much lighter than that (and you don't even have to read, just listen)!

Also, audiobooks are a great way to read books for people who don't have 'time' to read. If you drive to work everyday, your commute is the perfect opportunity to listen to all those books you've been meaning to read. Plus it will keep you from getting road rage!

Happy Reading...

Peace and Love,