Thursday, December 10, 2015

10% Happier, by Dan Harris, is a great report on meditation, and how it can actually be practiced without magical thinking, etc.  As a newsman, Mr. Harris is ever-skeptical, but his journey as described in this book is a very convincing endorsement for this practice.

Thankfully he reports scientific evidence, and interviews many practitioners of many faiths (debunking the mystical and religious association of "Enlightenment" as the goal) and really comes to describe a health measure of great benefit.  He even concludes the book with an appendix of no-nonsense guides to the practice, vetted by well-known meditation teachers.

The moral of this story is just to sit quietly and pay attention, to the breath, and to those thoughts that will arise, but not defeat us as we recognize them as just thoughts and part of our human "monkey minds" that are just going to think.  While Dan Harris explains how he began to tame his thinking patterns, and to derive greater focus, we also see how he can embrace this "peace-lovin' hippie" practice and not lose his edge as a successful and timely reporter, while gaining emotional resilience in light of the suffering of the world that it is his job to report.

I loved this book!  It was not annoying, and just funny at times and serious as well.  Although I do not try to convert folks to meditative practice, being not so good at it myself, I do believe that this is a right course for humanity as we all strive toward maturity and good sense.  Much gratitude to Dan Harris for writing this book, and for sharing an invaluable gift, without wrapping it up in a mysticism that detracts from this goal of simple self-care.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Read  a nice little book about unrequited love, An Unexpected Guest, by Anne Korkeakivi.  I just happened to see it on the book shelf at the library, and checked it out. 

Oh my goodness, if it is not satisfying to read about a love that meant so much, yet that those involved were able to move on and create meaningful lives despite the heartache.  Add to this the  intrigue of an ambassadorship and past political unrest, and there results a story that captures the attention as well as the heart.

Resolving the past is never an easy task, and this lovely story adorned with the pleasant details of arranging a state dinner, makes the journey a significant one.  Perhaps we are all this important, like statesmen and their families, as we create our lives that build upon the past by each meaningful day, with secret treasures of memory in our hearts.

This book does transition between past and present nicely, with all accompanying emotion.  The characters are interesting to say the least, and the involvement of the readers' emotions with the allure of mistakenly unrequited love is ever-entertaining, or at least I think so.  Some readers might not be interested, but I enjoyed it, and was glad to have read it.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Well, I finally read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, and I'm so glad that I did.  It is one of those books that is full of surprises, as characters grow and develop, and life is incredibly difficult, as it is.  Ms. Moyes does have such a way of creating characters for whom the reader becomes incredibly concerned and emotionally attached.

By no means do I want to make this book any less exciting by explaining why and how the characters do what they do, as the element of surprise is crucial to the oddly life-affirming story that is also quite heart-wrenching.

Have not yet read the sequel, but am so much looking forward to it.  While the emotional investment in her novels is quite high, this is probably what makes them so endearing.  I love the fact that she draws very real-seeming people very precisely and true to the form that she invents.

So, yes, I do love emotional "chick-lit" and think that everyone should read it to warm the heart and grow as a human!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Not reading thrillers makes my life much more complete.  I feel badly to be unusual in this way, but I just don't as much enjoy fast-paced books.  Oh well, I try to read a variety of stuff.

In order to satisfy my slowness and contemplative tastes, I recently read The Guest Cat, by Takashi Hiraide (translated by Eric Selland).  Of course I loved this book, particularly because of my affinity for cats, but it was just a lovely meditation on mortality and the precious, unique nature of life on earth. I'm thinking of offering this book for any guests in my home, though rarely do I have guests, and it does take a little while to read.  Who knows what the future holds, though, and it's good to always be prepared, right?  I do suspect that my cat has been seeing other families, so my appreciation of this book has been made all the more poignant and sweet for this reason.

This is such a pleasant read for any animal lover, and any lover of life.  Although there are sad parts, this volume does just warm the heart.  I want to lend it to my dearest ones, with a little piece of my affectionate heart included.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Another good book

I've been reading about religion recently, and selected a somewhat indescribable book that shows how modernity plays into religion, dentistry, and baseball.  The book is To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by Joshua Ferris.  Really, truly, this is not easily described, but is worth the read because of all the thought-provoking questions it raises and answers in a very sincere and loving way.  The angst of human existence is at the heart of this novel, recorded in the heart of a lovelorn dentist in search of answers when his identity is strategically stolen.

Because I can't really describe the nature or the meaning of this book, I can only advertise it as being a lot of fun.  The protagonist and narrator has a hilarious and sincere, though often puzzled, voice.  It becomes clear in the novel that our dear dentist struggles, and oftentimes unnecessarily.  The comedy is very entertaining, even though religion and dentistry and baseball are all very serious subjects.

The benefits of flossing are demonstrated and frequently promoted in such a kind manner that one's heart does go out to our dentist friend with the existential and theological questions.  Because I always let you know if a book is going to leave you with a heavy heart, I can only say that this one does have a satisfying conclusion, like a good teeth-cleaning or religious service, and in a similarly disciplined way. 

See, I told you it was hard to describe, and I didn't even touch the significance of baseball.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Oh, man, The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins.  This is a fast paced thriller that keeps you guessing until the end, unless, of course, you are more clever than I, and you probably are!

Of course, many of the characters in this novel are disagreeable, but sympathies are regained by the end of the novel.  If you are really not keen on alcoholism, you might not enjoy this book, but if you  have an amount of compassion, I think that you just might muddle through.  It's written so cleverly that you really can't put it down.

What I appreciated about this novel are the women's issues of  marital infidelity, infertility and its emotional repercussions, and flat out emotional abuse in a marriage.  Of course, the women in the novel did not exactly behave very well, and actually, pretty much most of the characters were flat out nasty quite frequently.  But then again, I did feel for them by the end, after having gone through so much.

 I'm really hoping that everybody gets the help that they need!  Characters and readers, alike.  I pretty much always hope for this. :)

Monday, July 27, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, is a great book, because it describes a hideous time of life for the world, in the terms of two individual adolescents, with very different perspectives.  Although it is a painful book to read at times, it is true that the reader is left with some sense of hope for humanity, however dim at times that might be.

Because I read this book set in WWII, after recently having read A God In Ruins, by Kate Atkinson, I'm taking a break from this subject, while earnestly praying for peace.  Atkinson's book was also good to read for the amount of resolution it provides in the conclusion for the endeavor of writing about WWII, a horrible challenge for anyone.

So with the promise of hope, I've also been reading about neuroplasticity.  Bound and determined to stay healthy, I'll admit that I'm charmed by this premise.  Perhaps as an individual person I can rewire my brain around hard subjects, guided by great novelists and artists who can find the beauty in what may not be easily seen.

And, yes, I'm learning the skill of taking breaks from books, without actually forgetting necessary details for comprehension.  Of course, my break from War and Peace went on for way too long, and maybe I'm not the only one currently rewiring.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

So I finally did finish The Last Temptation of Christ, and am really just glad that I did.  I started it in 1993 or 4, so finally, it's done.  And the last temptation is precisely what I had expected it to be.  Last time I spoke more kindly about the book, because when I finished I just felt weird.  Oh well.  It's nice to have completed it.

So another weird book, in a different way was 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.  This was also oddly religious, and strange, but incredibly compelling.  I did want to see how this big book ended, for sure.
I really don't know how to describe it, as it was very unusual.  I guess I'll leave it at that.  It did have a really unusual love story, with, you guessed it, a happy ending after all.  You know that I love a happy ending.

I don't know what will be the future of this poorly tended blog, but thankfully, there are so many books to read that I guess I'll keep checking in. 

Oh my goodness, now here's a good book: The Last Letter from Your Lover, by Jojo Moyes.  I did not believe how much I enjoyed this.  Not that I'm into infidelity, but this was so well written that I could hardly put it down.  And yes, a happy ending, after much heartache and remorse.  I know that I look forward to reading more by Jojo Moyes!

Happy Summer!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

I read a fun book that was a quick read, but a really nice one.  The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is an endearing tale of a socially awkward yet super smart scientist, who effectively learns how to navigate his way in the world through falling in love unexpectedly.  I'm looking forward to reading its sequel, The  Rosie Effect.  I'm really interested in seeing how the romance progresses, in that inescapable journey of marriage.

In a slightly more serious and seasonal move, I'm also reading The Last Temptation of Christ.  I've started this book several times, but I feel this is the season that I'll actually finish it.  I cannot fully describe how this work has changed me, and enhanced my faith.  It's kind of funny because I had the soundtrack from the movie a long time ago, and loved it, but yet never watched the film, and only started the book so long ago, until my recent, devoted attempt.

I don't know how much I'll keep up with this blog, obviously, but I'm so glad that I caught up with my faithful reader, my sister-in-law.  She did not even give me a hard time about not keeping up with this.  In any case, I'm feeling much better about my reading currently, and am so excited about the many books.

Oh yeah, enjoyed a great book by Daniel Silva,  The English Girl.  This was rather engrossing and suspenseful novel, and I love the idea of reading about spies and foreign intrigue.  I doubt that I will read books like this exclusively, but this was interesting to me, and had some fine wisdom in it.

Well, that's all for today.  Happy Easter!