Summer Reading (part II)

Well! I’m reading up a storm this summer, I must say! (& simultaneously not setting the world on fire. Suffering a serious case of very low energy, unfortunately. Oh well. Thank Goddess/the Universe for our world’s profusion of libraries & great books!!)

Memoirs: Since I posted Summer Reading (part I), I finished reading Stones into Schools – Promoting Peace with Books, not Bombs, In Afghanistan and Pakistan, by Greg Mortenson – his follow-up to Three Cups of Tea – One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time (co-authored with David Oliver Relin). If ever there was a human being to personify the word inspiring, Greg Mortenson gets my vote!! His Central Asia Institute has built more than 130 schools in remote (really remote) parts of Pakistan & Afghanistan (do read Three Cups of Tea for the whole story!). Stones into Schools brings you up-to-date & includes the amazing tale of how Mortenson (& his equally inspiring cohorts – what a crew he works with! Hooey!) have even cooperated with the U.S. military along the way in their work to make literacy & education available to thousands & thousands of people & communities that would otherwise have to accept the …hmmm…. rather dubious overtures of the Taliban. This man is a hero – no question whatsoever about that. He & his colleagues in Afghanistan & Pakistan work long hours, sleep & eat very little, tackle bureaucracy & corrupt & violent police fearlessly – or perhaps I should say courageously… Mortenson is surely more than deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize. His book made me both laugh & cry & inspired me beyond mere words. Please read it!!

I just re-read Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes – A Memoir. I marvel at this man’s memory & his brilliant rendering of an incredibly poverty & disaster-stricken childhood in Ireland. His detail! His honesty! Above all else, the strength of his spirit! I spent many years supposing that if there were ever an “I come from a more dysfunctional family than you” contest, I’d win hands down. Hah! My family wouldn’t even make the cut. Bless this man for sheer guts! Like Jeannette Walls (in her memoir The Glass Castle), McCourt is living proof that for some quite special people graced with miraculously strong characters, the “childhood from Hell” can become fodder for fierce strength & motivation in adulthood. (I’ve worked in both psychiatric & correctional fields, btw, & as I’ve grown ever older &, one hopes, a little wiser, I’ve also gained more & more compassion. We mustn’t ever expect all those who survive brutal childhoods to become such marvels – but it certainly is a wondrous inspiration when some do!)

Fiction: I re-read Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride (yes, it isn’t new; it was published in 1993), & was again reminded (if I needed to be) of Ms. Atwood’s fierce intelligence, incisive wit, piercing insight into human foibles (in this case reminding readers of the sometimes altogether nasty possible side to female nature, Ahem) – & her humour! Atwood has always been able to make me laugh, bless her! (She is also a supporter of Elizabeth May, my favourite Canadian politician – or maybe my favourite politician, period?? Both of these women have the intelligence (& integrity) of at least 3 of most mere mortals one generally encounters). Very glad I re-read this novel; Atwood is always a delight…

Psychology/Healing: In the pile on the coffee table is a book called Healing the Shame That Binds You, by John Bradshaw. I read this one years ago & took it out of the library just recently, having realized some months ago that I’ve been carrying around some “toxic shame” all my life, as so many of us apparently have, & do. I haven’t gotten far in the book currently, because I seem to be being pulled more to the other 10 or 12 books in the pile. I mention it in case any readers find the title intriguing…

I’m making my way slowly through Awakening Intuition – Using Your Mind-Body Network for Insight & Healing. It’s another I’ve read before, but current life circumstances have drawn me back to it. Author Mona Lisa Schulz is a medical intuitive, M.D. & neuropsychiatrist (yes, she has an M.D. from the Boston University of Science & Medicine, & a Ph.D. from its department of Behavioral Neurosciences). Her understanding of human psychology & brain physiology & human nature & the nature of intuition are…breathtaking. I’ve been wondering lately about my own health (that serious energy deficit), so I’m greatly enjoying Dr. Schulz’s knowledge & insights. I’d recommend this book to any living, breathing human being on the planet. Yup…

Another book in that big pile is neuropsychologist Dr. Paul Pearsall’s Making Miracles – A scientist’s journey to death and back reveals the powerful hidden order behind life’s chaos, crises and coincidences. Seems a lot of people I know are dealing with a variety of challenging medical situations at the moment. Miracles sound pretty appealing right now. I do recall from when I first read this book (10 or so years ago, I think) that Dr. Pearsall has some pretty interesting things to say…

As an environmental activist super-concerned about climate change, I recently picked up a copy of Eaarth – Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, by environmental super-hero Bill McKibben. McKibben outlines the full depth & breadth of the climate change crisis. Since I haven’t yet read the whole book, it’s too soon for me to give it the full treatment here (I’ll likely soon devote a full blog post to it), but please go right on out & buy yourself a copy!! (or borrow it from your local library, &/or donate a copy to your favourite library). This one is for sure on the list of 2010 must-reads. For everyone & her/his cousin.

Janet

P.S. I’m also still making my way ever-so-slowly through Philip Simmons’s lovely Learning to Fall – The Blessings of an Imperfect Life, savouring it a chapter at a time. Simmons was living with/dying of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, when he wrote this lovely, honest book about how we are surely all learning to fall in this life, & how we might all learn to do so with insight, joy & grace. I’ll be reading & re-reading this book for a long while to come, no doubt! I recommend it highly