The books we read matter: my 2015 literary highlights

Dear fellow book lover,

I’m one of those people who is usually reading a half-dozen books at the same time, jumping from chapter to chapter, readings parts, coming back to titles later than planned or never at all.  You’ve likely met a few of my breed before :-) So, while 2015 has been a transformative and unique year…it has also been special in that I have actually started and finished a few great books! Some are novels, some are spiritual, some are from the realm of awakening coaching and others are in a class I have yet to define.  Each one comes with a unique story about the how and why the book came into my life, so in sharing these titles with you, I can also share some of 2015. Enjoy!

lenigmeduretourBefore the year began, I had returned to Haiti with an audiobook version of Dany Lafarrière’s “l’Énigme du retour“. This favourite Haitian-Canadian author shares his own experiences returning to his home country after many years of exile.  He describes Haiti and its colours, odours and experiences so perfectly.  As an immigrant he understands in full this incredible pull to that place where we come from and to which we no longer belong.  I started this book while leaving my own ancestral land, that place called Poland, after a half-year return of my own after many, many years of living elsewhere (see: “la polonaise-canadienne“).

agroforestryguideThe Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Islands” by Craig R. Elevitch and Kim M. Wilkinson was my Permaculture and polyculture guide for learning about useful plants, herbs, trees and companion planting in the tropics. Reference books are never read cover to cover (are they?) but rather skimmed for the useful bits…plenty of which are found in this incredible volume.

wholesomefearTaking a look at “Wholesome Fear: Transforming Your Anxiety About Impermanence and Death” by Lama Zoma Rinpoche and Kathleen McDonald was inspired by a desire for a deepening on the meditations on death and impermanence found in McDonald’s book “How to Meditate” that I have been using as my main meditation guide for the past several years. I love the meditations on death and impermanence because they always change my perspective on my own struggles and bigger questions by making me refocus on my priorities. As the book description states: “With the right perspective, our anxiety around sickness, old age, and death can be a “wholesome fear”–a fear with a positive quality that ultimately enriches and nourishes our lives.” I enjoy the authors’ compassionate sincerity and simple, clear messages in this book.

theprophetI am still flabbergasted that it took me nearly a quarter of a century to discover Kahlil Gibran and his incredible book “The Prophet“.  Thank you Osiris for this introduction! It’s only after reading it, that I learned it is in fact a very famous book.  Perhaps that is why it felt so special in the first place; I thought I had unearthed a gem few had ever seen before. ;-) As it turns out the pure love and wisdom that flows here is of the life essence itself and absolutely to be shared by as many as possible! If you have not read this yet, treat yourself to heart-healing-by-poetry right away. My favourite chapters are those on Love, Work, Marriage and Friendship. I continue to read and re-read them. I remember sitting by the water in Fort-Liberté with friends and reading bit of it to each other out loud : )

bettersexNext on the list is Arjuna Ardagh’s “Better than Sex” a mandatory (ah, should all new chapters in life come with a mandatory book this good!!) read for beginning my education in awakening coaching.  If you are curious about what on this blessed Earth could actually be better than sex… this short, sweet and direct book will quench your curiosity right away. Highly, highly recommend!

tomsawyerAs chance would have it this past spring, I also meandered over to the municipalhobbit library in Fort-Liberté, essentially one big room with a lot of books in many languages piled sky high with little order to them, and found Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer” lying there.  A needle in a haystack would have amazed me less than these two, classic novels (in English!) found in a library in a small city in very-far-away-from-anywhere Haiti.  That circumstance alone made these two great titles all the greater for it.  I had forgotten how quaint “The Hobbit” really is. I think it was my first time reading “Tom Sawyer”. Yes, yes… that last comment deserves almost the same level of flabbergastedness as with Gibran :-)

thehelpSince we’re on the novel train, I absolutely need to mention “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. Thank you Sarah for this recommendation! It’s a tale about the making of a powerful and well-told tale, and it’s set in small-town Mississippi in the 1960s in the midst of the civil rights movement.  There is a good movie based on the book too!  Two thumbs up for sure.

leaplookSometime in the early summer, “Leap before you look” came to me as a holiday read between awakening coaching classes.  The practices in this little book are magical, sometimes daring and always guaranteed to snap you out of your mind and right into the present moment.  This is my current go-to book when I’m looking to get un-stuck about something in my life.

feedingdemonsNext, and very importantly, I dove into Lama Tsultrim Allione’s “Feeding your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict“.  This title I turned to out of need in a time when I felt that my own inner battles needed to be addressed using a fresh approach and new tools.  I found an excellent tool here.  It is a meditation and visualization practice that uncovers and addresses a practitioner’s demon’s needs directly – thus ‘feeding’ the demon (and preserving the practitioner from being ‘fed on’ unconsciously). The author herself explains “that if we fight our demons, they only grow stronger. But if we feed them, nurture them, we can free ourselves from the battle.” I think this book has been my initiation into recognizing and accepting the darker parts of myself.

languageemotionsThe “Language of Emotions” by Karla McLaren has also been a very important title for me this year. I’m very grateful to my sister for recommending both this title and “Feeding your demons” to me.  In “Language of Emotions” the focus is on understanding what our different emotions are trying to tell us.  The truth is, anger, fear, confusion, grief, joy and so many of our other emotions, whether we think they are good, bad or we try not to think about them at all, carry important messages to us all the time.  The book description starts with: “Your emotions contain brilliant information. When you learn to welcome them as your allies, they can reveal creative solutions to any situation.” Currently, I’m using this as something of a go-to book as well in situations when I’m confused about why I’m feeling what I’m feeling. Ah, the learning continues! :-)

endpovertySwitching gears somewhat, I certainly enjoyed Jeffrey Sachs’ “The End of Poverty:Economic possibilities of our Time” especially in its excellent and summary of world history and the different geo-political divisions present today. There certainly are economic concepts here that are over my head, and so I’ll be happy to go back and re-read some sections soon.

diamondcutterMeanwhile, the “Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on managing your business and your life” by Geshe Michael Roach came into my willing heart while staying with friend Ania in Cabarete.  I took it out for a first, evening read on the grass by the beach and knew that we would be friends for life.  When spirituality meets business, I’m very satisfied :-) This is an excellent book full of Buddhist wisdom intertwined with really interesting stories of the diamond industry. “Geshe Michael gives fresh insight into ancient wisdom by using examples from his own experience as one of the founders of the Andin International Diamond Corporation, which was started with capital of fifty thousand dollars and which today has annual sales in excess of one hundred million dollars. Much of the success of Andin has come from applying the business strategies presented in The Diamond Cutter. Geshe Michael’s easy style and spiritual understanding make this work of timeless wisdom an invaluable source for those already familiar with, and those unfamiliar with, Tibetan Buddhism.” Highly recommend!

desiremapShortly after, a new genius entered my life of the name of Danielle Laporte and her book “The Desire Map“.  Why a genius, you may ask? Because the concept is so simple and so right that it has stuck to me like glue.  Laporte argues that in our intentions and goal-setting we are not actually chasing the outcome or the thing itself: the better relationships, bigger businesses or new houses.  We are actually pursuing the feeling that we think we will feel once we have these things. Truth bomb. So, the book walks you gracefully through identifying what it is that you want to be feeling. We call these core desired feelings. This book and method speak to me in a big way. Thank you, sister!

alchemistA few weeks ago, Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist“, this time in French, found its way unto my lap. I loved this the first time through, and it’s even better the second time around. This is also a big bestseller, if you haven’t boarded the alchemist or the Paulo Coelho bandwagon yet… there is still time! :-)

ciderhouseOh, the power of the written word. I also decided to dabble in John Irving for the first time with “The Cider House Rules“.  The writing style amazes me; it is craftsmanship absolutely worthy of praise. The topic is… heavy. We’re talking about a story about an orphanage and about the abortion debate for goodness sakes.  This novel is to me like the jaw-dropping admiration of an incredible art piece in a gallery – an art piece that is quite sinister and makes me feel uncomfortable, so that I am certain I would never, ever hang it in my house.  I did not finish this novel; I left it half done.

There have also been parts read and re-read of “The Transluscent Revolution” also by Arjuna Ardagh that are inspiring with their clarity, as always.

Rumi has also entered my life although in sections and chapters and never yet a full book in one go. I am so happy to welcome poetry into myself… I am in good company with Gibran and Rumi!

For all of these incredible books and time spent in reader’s paradise I have to thank my sister, Osiris, Ania, Florence, Alex, Adèle, Sarah and of course Arjuna and all the authors. It’s good to know that all the wisdom is within me and reassuring to be able to reach for a great book, poem or a story when I need someone else to spell out that wisdom letter-by-letter to me :-)

Well it has been a beautiful year, and one for which I am filled with gratitude.

What about you? What have been your favourite books, poems and stories this year? How did these authors come into your life? From one reader to another, I am eager to hear about your own literary pearls of wisdom!

With warm wishes,

Kasia

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