When bookstores like Barnes and Noble meet what would seem to be the same certain fate as record stores … and my beloved Tower Records … one of the things I will miss most is a Bargain Aisle Discovery. Oh, yes. I’ll miss wandering through the store, looking through the book categories … mysteries, literature, self-help, spirituality … waiting for a title to call my name. And I’ll miss the synchronicity of a title left out of place or on a table, a book that becomes a favorite, like The Artist’s Way did. But, oh, I will miss the the Bargain Aisle, where overstocks by well-known authors lie side-by-side with books by unknown authors whose first novels never quite took off. I find unusual biographies I’d never read like A Three Dog Life and My Stroke of Insight keeping the company of art and music instruction books at a price too low to resist. And then, there are the coffee table books full of glorious photography at a glorious discounts. Freakin’ nirvana. (more…)
Archive for the ‘books’ category
One of my favorite books when I was a youngster was Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl. I don’t remember exactly what age I was when I read it but I’m thinking I was in Junior High. In my mind’s eye I can picture a green public library binding with Kon-Tiki printed in blue across the back. The book is, of course, Heyerdahl’s retelling of his amazing trip across the Pacific on a primitive raft made of balsa logs. As a young anthropologist, he theorized that the Polynesian Islands were populated by peoples coming from South America, not from the west as was commonly believed. When others scorned his theory, he recruited a crew of five adventurers and built a raft in Peru using only ancient materials and techniques, funding it with loans, support of the Peruvian government and the contribution of some materials by the U.S. Navy. Leaving Peru on April 28, 1947, relying only on prevailing winds and currents, the raft, named the Kon-Tiki after a Polynesian sun god, arrived at the remote island of Raroia 101 days later. The harrowing adventure was perfect reading for a boy just beginning to contemplate his passage into adulthood.
In Stephen King’s latest novel, 11/23/63, Jake Epping, a Maine school teacher from the year 2011 travels back to 1958, where he lives for five years, waiting to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas. King’s novels have become more realistic with the terror coming more from his portrayal of the build up to the assassination and the odd coincidental events that conspire to keep Jake from changing past than from chilling villains like Annie Wilkes in Misery or Jack Torrance in The Shining. Still, there was the time travel to deal with and King did it with a time portal located in, of all places, in the pantry of a local diner. He spends no time on how it works or why it’s there … Jake takes the trip back and we learn the rules as he goes. This particular time portal always leads to the same time and place in Maine … and no matter how long you stay, only two minutes pass in 2011. Perhaps because it’s Stephen King, we buy it. But more likely, it’s because the story that develops is so good that we don’t question the science. (more…)
I mentioned in passing at the beginning of the year that I’d started using a new daily reader as part of my Morning Practice. More exactly, I should own up and say my Most Mornings Practice. Like many of the books that have had a significant effect on me, it was a random selection from a bookshelf full of similar books, this time at a Barnes and Noble in Arizona. That’s one of the reasons I still visit real bookstores … that sort synchronicity doesn’t seem to happen on Amazon. The book is The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Live by Mark Nepo. Yes, it’s about mindfulness, something my monkey mind (it swings from thought to thought, don’t you know) does not give into easily, which is why I study it frequently. Sometimes I wonder – when I study mindfulness, am I being mindful or am I looking ahead to the time when I will be? (more…)
It has become my habit over the last twenty years to carry with me several daily readers to use during my Morning Practice. There are probably several dozen others floating around my office and our bedroom. I was once talking to a younger friend about a particular book we both used. I had to put it a way for a while, he said. I know all the meditations by heart. I laughed. Wait until you’re sixty, I replied, then each year it will seem like a new book. My point is that I change my daily readers periodically not because of familiarity but because I find that the sort of inspiration I need changes from time to time. This year, I am a very up-to-date Older Eyes. My daily readers all reside in my Kindle, reducing the weight of my book bag by approximately 1.3 pounds. They are: 52 Weeks of Conscious Contact, Melodie Beattie’s tome on getting past everyday distraction to maintain conscious contact with a Higher Power; David Kuntz’s Awakened Mind: One Minute Wake Up Calls to a Bold and Mindful Life; and one I added while roaming a Barnes and Noble last week**, Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have. Nepo is a cancer survivor whose ordeal taught him the meaning of mindfulness. As you can see, there seems to be a theme. (more…)
I haven’t been reading enough. No, make that: I haven’t been reading at all … unless you count proof-reading my own posts. I haven’t been reading non-fiction. I haven’t been reading fiction. I haven’t been reading my favorite blogs. It would be understandable if I didn’t love to read but I do. It would be understandable if I was working fifty-something hours a week but I’m working about ten. Of course, I’m posting every day, doing Morning Pages, enjoying a happy marriage, attending 12-Step meetings and sponsoring half-a-dozen guys, doing volunteer service … well, you get the point. Who knew (semi-) retirement would be so busy?
There’s a solution I’ve used in the past. Mr. King. Stephen King. My favorite author. So this week, I downloaded the Kindle Ap onto my new Android phone and bought Duma Key, the Stephen King novel that many critics consider his best. Friday afternoon, after finishing a little work and some chores, I settled into the chaise lounge in our backyard (something else I don’t do often enough) and put on my headphones: Amazon mp3 player, Best of the Eroica Trio, then opened the Kindle Ap. Mr. King is on his game. Listen to this. (more…)
When it comes to non-fiction, I almost always have multiple books going at once. Four or five isn’t unheard of. Partly, that’s because of the kind of non-fiction I read … inspirational … psychology … self-help … spirituality. These genres seem to go one way or another. In some, the author latches onto a few useful principles for making life better then expands them into a book though repetition and anecdotes. I hate repetition and if I wanted stories, I’d be reading fiction, so I take breaks. On the other hand, some of these books require so much heavy lifting that I need breaks. Yes, I also have a limited attention span. Yes, I also leave my books wherever I happen to be reading and forget about them until I pass that way again. (more…)
In my vocation (engineering) and my avocation (writing), thinking is a highly prized ability. On the spiritual side of my life, it gets mixed reviews. There are people who believe thinking gets in the way of grasping the 12 Steps. I’ve been told I think too much and said it about myself. I have a friend who says, I know I’m in trouble when I start thinking. I wonder, Didn’t you have to think to come to that conclusion? Others say, My best thinking got me here and My head is a dangerous place to be alone. Yet in Al-Anon literature, I can find the single word slogan … Think. (more…)
Saturday night, I finished Irreplaceable, the first novel by Stephen Lovely. I was about one hundred pages into the book Saturday morning when the story captured me and the fact that I stayed up until 1:30 am to finish it tells you how good it was. Irreplaceable is the story of two families brought together by tragedy, one dealing with the grief of loss and another with the consequences of redemption. Janet Corcoran, mother of two, has a failing heart and awaits a transplant. When botanist Isabelle Voormann, the life love of her husband, Alex, is killed by a reckless driver, Janet gets her heart. It is an extremely moving book, complex in it’s handling of grief and the trauma (both physical and emotional) of receiving a heart. The book is extremely well-researched and detailed in its depiction of the effects of heart transplants on the family of the recipient. The events of Irreplaceable are told from the point of view of four different characters, an approach in which I have more than casual interest. I would say that with the losses in my circle of family and friends over the last few years, Irreplaceable was a difficult read emotionally but probably worth the effort, though I wouldn’t recommend it to the recently grieving. (more…)
When I was kid we liked Funny Books. That meant comic books just as it meant the Sunday comics when we said we wanted to read the Funny Papers. Comic books weren’t out and out banned in our house but their presence was discouraged. If you want to read, read a real book, I seem to remember hearing, probably from my Dad. My favorite comic book was Archie. I could never understand why he didn’t just go steady with Betty, who was cuter than the somewhat stuck up Veronica and seemed to really love him. He must have liked brunettes. But this post isn’t about comic books. (more…)