Monday, December 26, 2011

25 Books Those We Interviewed Loved....

25 Books They Loved:

Our list of interviews this year included a fine host of folks, and here are 25 of their favorite books (with more books to come!)


Women  by Charles Bukowski

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Seat of the Soulby Gary Zukav

I Had It All The Timeby Alan Cohen

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram
The Nativity, Julie Vivas
The Holy Bible

A Wolf Story by Jes Byron Huggins

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari:A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams & Reaching Your Destiny by Robin Sharma

A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

Quantum Healing:

Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine by Deepak Chopra

Sailing Alone Around the Room: Collected Poems by Billy Collins

The 1928 Book of Common Prayer by Oxford University Press

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson

The Isaiah Effect by Gregg Braden

The Way of the Wizard by Deepak Chopra

Thank you: Phil, Cash, Elizabeth, Daniel, Karen, Amy Julia (she blogs here at Patheos at Thin Places),Graham, Diana, P. V., Bob, Sharmen, Peter Michael, Brent

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The fabulous Gretchen Rubin's 7 books that changed her life

Gretchen Rubin
If you don't know Gretchen Rubin, if she's not a household name to you, well, you've been missing something, or rather someone, namely Gretchen.
Gretchen has been on a great journey, one that has lessons for everyone, about what makes us happy, what does not, and how to let go.
She has a monthly newsletter which is always good food for thought. In her recent newsletter, she mentioned her short list of

7 Books That Changed The Way I See the World

We got her permission to share her list and comments with you here:

1. Christopher Alexander, A Pattern Language. I've never been interested in interior design or architecture, but this book taught me how to be aware of why certain spaces are pleasing -- or not. I think about it all the time.
2. Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics. I've never been interested in comics, and reading this book didn't give me an interest in comics -- but it's a fascinating analysis of art and visual communication, and is itself a perfect illustration of the arguments it's making. Hmmm...this description makes it sound boring, but believe me, it isn't.
3. Virginia Woolf, The Waves. This is not a book for everyone. It is demanding. I find it overpoweringly beautiful -- really. I love it, but it makes my head explode to the extent that I can scarcely read it.
4. Edward Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. I know, with that title, who wants to pick it up? But this book is brilliant and thought-provoking, and made me understand, for the first time, the power of graphs, charts, and the like.
5. Wayne Koestenbaum, Jackie Under My Skin: Interpreting an Icon. This book revolutionized my understanding of how a writer could approach a biographical subject.
6. Mark Kurlansky, Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. I remember picking this up in a bookstore and thinking, wow, you can really do some crazy things with non-fiction. It helped me understand that I could be a writer without being a novelist or a journalist. This sounds obvious, now, but it was a huge realization for me.
7. J. M. Barrie, The Boy Castaways of Black Lake Island.  A story from which almost everything has been eliminated. Crazy genius.
Looking at this list, I'm fascinated to notice a pattern that I've never picked up before: in all these books, a great deal has been cut out. This is interesting to me, because as a writer, I struggle with the persistent impulse to eliminate, to find structures that permit radical excision. In fact, The Happiness Project is the first major thing I've written that doesn't do this. What's the lesson there? I'm not sure.
While you're checking out those books, you can also consider....The Happiness Project! (Can't resist mentioning: #1 New York Times bestseller).
Order your copy. Read sample chapters. Watch the one-minute book video. Listen to a sample of the audiobook.
Among other things, Gretchen is also the author of three other books.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What Meredith's Reading....

Meredith Gould, whose blog you may already be following, or maybe you're following her on "The Twitter?"

Here's what she's reading this summer:

The Liturgical Mysteries by Mark Schweizer*.  Laugh out loud funny, especially for those who have been in or around music ministry. They're on Kindle for $0.99!  So far I've read, The Alto Wore Tweed and The Baritone Wore Chiffon.  I'm currently enjoying The Dead Saintby Marilyn Brown Oden, which is a Bishop Lynn Peterson mystery that I also snagged on Kindle for free or near-free.  

*Author and Composer Mark Schweizer is editor of St. James Music Press. He is the author of nine “Liturgical Mystery” novels, as well as several opera and musical librettos. His published musical compositions can be found in the catalogs of Concordia Publishing House, H.T. Fitzsimmons, Lorenz, Selah Publishing and St. James Music Press.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Your summer reading list? We want to hear!

Tell us your plans for summer reading,
we want to hear!

Send us your planned summer reading @
info at

Monday, March 28, 2011

2011 Spiritual Book Club list

Spiritual Book Club Reads for 2011 So Far:
December 2010 and January 2011, we read... The Revelation of the Magi by Brent Landau

For February and For March, Dr. Brenda Shoshanna's book Fearless: The Seven Principles of Peace of Mind See her interview on our blog)

For April, Living a Course in Miracles by Jon Mundy, PhD

For May, Heaven is for Real:A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo

Further suggested reading: 
Also Joan suggested: Surviving the Dragon: A Tibetan Lama's Account of 40 Years Under Chinese Rule by Arjia Rinpoche. Arjia Rinpoche started the Buddhist Center for Compassion and Wisdom in Mill Valley, CA, and is the director of the Tibetan Cultural Center.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spiritual Book Club Lists per year, welcome to our world :-)

Spiritual Book Club Lists Per Year

Spiritual Book Club List 1999
August Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
Sept.  Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
Oct.  Conversations with God by Neale David Walsch
Nov.  Conversations with God by Neale David Walsch
Dec.  How Good Do We Have to Be? By Rabbi Harold Kushner

Spiritual Book Club List 2000
Jan. 2000 A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Feb. The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama
March Encountering God by Diana L. Eck
April The Cup of Our Life: A guide for Spiritual Growth  by Joyce Rupp
May Everyday Simplicity: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Growth by Robert J. Wicks
June Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
July The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride
August God Stories edited by C. Michael Curtis
Sept. God Stories edited by C. Michael Curtis
Oct. A Reason for Hope by Jane Goodall
Nov. A Quaker Book of Wisdom:Life Lessons in Simplicity, Service, and Common Sense by Robert Lawrence Smith
Dec. The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

Spiritual Book Club List 2001
Jan. 2001 Life Lessons by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler
Feb. Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore
March Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore
April A Grace Disguised by Gerald Sittser
May Dance of the Spirit: Seven Steps of Women’s Spirituality by Maria Harris
June Dance of the Spirit: Seven Steps of Women’s Spirituality by Maria Harris
July God at the Edge: Searching for the Divine in Uncomfortable and Unexpected Places by Niles Elliot Goldstein
August Otherwise by Jane Kenyon, had a local poet come to talk about poetry and spirituality
Sept. Transitions by William Bridges
Oct. The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book by Don Miguel Ruiz
Nov. Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’ Donohue
Dec.    Also brought in objects that reminded us of God

Spiritual Book Club List 2002
January: The Eyes of the Heart by Frederick Buechner
February: The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hahn
March: The Essential Koran translated by Thomas Cleary,  guest speaker the Iman (prayer leader) from the local Islamic Center
April: The Essential Koran continued
May: The Way to Love by Anthony de Mello
June: Lying Awake by Mark Salzman
July: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
August: The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
September: The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell (continued)
October: God in the Dock by C.S. Lewis
November: When God is Silent by Barbara Brown Taylor
December: Skipping Christmas by John Gresham

Spiritual Book Club List 2003
January:  Will the Circle be Unbroken Studs Terkel
February: Will the Circle be Unbroken Studs Terkel
March: Traits of a Healthy Spirituality by Melannie Svoboda
April: The Sacrament of the Present Moment by Jean-Pierre de Caussade
May:  Powerful Prayers by Larry King
June: The Giver by Lois Lowry
July: Embraced by the Light by Betty J. Eadie
August: Your God is Too Small by J. B. Phillips
September: The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
October: Deposition: Poems by Katie Ford
November: Dear Heart, Come Home by Joyce Rupp
December: The Vigil by Wendy Wright

Spiritual Book Club List 2004
January  Just Another Spiritual Book by Bo Lozoff
February The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
March (First time, no book club this month due to poetry reading)
April The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
May Appetites: Why Women Want by Carolyn Knapp
June: Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton
July: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
August: Faith Stories: Short Fiction on theVarieties and Vagaries of Faith by C. Michael Curtis
September 12:
October 10:
November 14:

Spiritual Book Club List 2005: 
March The Mantram Handbook by Eknath Easwaran
April The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
May Anatomy of the Spirit by Carolyn Myss
June: Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott
July: The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toiban
August: Breakfast at the Victory: The Mysticism of Ordinary Experience by James P. Carse
September: The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People by Jonathon Schell
October: Hope Dies Last: Keeping the Faith in Troubled Times by Studs Terkle
November: Why by Michael Shermer
December: Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

Partial Spiritual Book Club List  2006
January: What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam by John Esposito. A local Muslim spokesperson Syed Tariq Gilani graciously accepted our invitation to join us in this discussion. Syed also recommends other books written by Esposito.
February: Pearl, a novel by Mary Gordon
March: Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, Shri will lead this discussion from his experiences with Hindu beliefs, life in India, etc.

(Will fill in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 soon)

Spiritual Book Club List 2011
January Fearless by Dr. Brenda Shoshanna
February Fearless by Dr. Brenda Shoshanna

    20 Questions for Spiritual Book Club Discussions
1. Who was really moved by this book? Who really liked it? Why?
2. Who really didn’t like this book? Why?
3. What do you think the author was trying to do with this book?
4. Would you have written the book differently? Why?
5. What character(s) in the book did you most identify with?
6. What page(s) are your favorites in the book?
7. Did this book change your thinking at all? Did it change your sense of spirituality?
8. Do you look at the world differently after reading this book? Why or why not?
9. Does this book remind you of any of the other books we’ve read?
10. What links do you see, from this book, to the other books we’ve read in this group?
11. Do you think the author has addressed her/his main topic deeply enough?
12. Was there anything missing in this book that you would have liked to have seen in here?
13. What would you like to ask the author, about this book?
14. Did this book prompt you to any new action or change in your life?
15. Would you recommend this book to anyone else?
16. Is the author of this book doing anything “new?”
17. In your opinion, is this author holding true to her/his faith tradition? Why or why not?
18. Is there a sense of grace or discernment in this author’s writing?
19. What currently feels like the biggest obstacle in your faith journey, or challenge you face?
20. Anything else?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Best Books They Read in 2010 by Marie-Susanne Langille & David Vayo

Catastrophe & Miracle:
Best Books 2010 by Photographer Marie-Susanne Langille and Composer David Vayo

Of Human Bondage (1915) by W. Somerset Maugham (djv pick).  In his vividly-recounted passage from youth to adulthood, Maugham’s protagonist evolves from an idealistic Bohemian artist to a practical rural physician.  At the end, the reader is left to wonder whether the young man’s decisions in love and career reflect mature realism or caving in to conformity, and Maugham wisely abstains from preaching to us from one side or the other.

The Road Home (2008) by Rose Tremain (msl pick).
This is the funny and touching story of immigrant life in London. Lev is a 42-year old widower and economic refugee from Eastern Europe who finds life in his new country much harder than expected. It’s not all struggle and homesickness, however. Tremain, in this her 14th book, builds fantastic comedic characters. My favorite is Rudi, Lev's friend back home, a taxi driver with a broken-down but cherished "Tchevi," symbol of another "promised land." This book is for anyone who feels the pull of two countries or who wonders about those who do. The ending is somewhat contrived, but I loved the book so much, all is forgiven.
Note that this is a courtesy I do not extend to Jonathan Franzen’s latest, Freedom, which I also read this year. The first ¾s of the book were fabulous however.

Wartime (1990) by Paul Fussell.
I (djv) was strongly moved by literary historian Fussell’s WWI study, The Great War and Modern Memory, and so eagerly opened this volume, which deals with the twentieth century’s second cataclysmic conflict.  Fussell’s book is a bitter but necessary pill, an antidote in superbly-minted prose to the shining myths of patriotism and moral rectitude that begin and perpetuate armed conflict.  Concentrating on the troops and home fronts of Great Britain and the US, and supporting every point with abundant evidence, Fussell digs deeply into topics like self-inflicted disaster inflicted by fear run amok, the crushing privation of civilians at home, the relentless petty power plays inflicted on servicemen by higher (often just barely)-ranking officers, and the virtually total ignorance among the troops as to why the war was being fought.  Tellingly, Fussell does not discuss or debate the rightness of the anti-Axis cause.  The point of his book, which if I were king would be required reading for every high-school student on earth, is that War is Hell.  Period. Period. Period.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2007) by Michael Pollan
I (msl) downloaded this book from three years ago, and I only just got around to listening to it recently. I was putting it off because I thought it might be too educational (i.e. not enjoyable). It was definitely educational but Pollan is a lively enough writer to make it entertaining – especially when he decides that if he is going to be able to eat meat (one of my struggles), he should know what it is like to kill an animal, in this particular instance he goes hunting for wild boar in California with a Sicilian immigrant friend.
I learned a lot from Pollan about corn and how much of our food is made out of it, directly or indirectly. One shocking factoid is that cows can’t digest corn properly (we all know they are meant to eat grass) so the beef industry has to give them antibiotics (pharmaceuticals profit) to prevent them getting sick. A cow on a corn diet without drugs would only survive for a 150 days before the acid generated would destroy their rumen, a digestive organ specially designed for grass not corn.
Right after reading this book I started buying our meat from a local farmer. David is already largely vegetarian, so it was my small step towards cleaning up our diet.

Cien Años de Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude)(1967) by Gabriel García Márquez (djv pick).
To get my linguistic self back in gear before a trip to Mexico City last summer, I (djv) read this masterpiece in the original Spanish.  The gradual decay and collapse of a remote Colombian village and its most prominent family is brilliantly told by García Márquez, in a book filled with vivid characters and the depredations of time, politics, human relations, weather, pride, folly, and prophecy.  The last scene is a hair-raising literary vortex.  (And by the way, I found that the novel’s opening sentence, perhaps literature’s most famous after those of the Bible and Moby Dick, does not point to the outcome I thought it would.)

Curry (2006) by Lizzie Collingham (djv pick).
A cultural history of Indian cuisine on the subcontinent and in the diaspora, this book is full of surprises.  A few: vindaloo, the name of a famous curry dish, is a corruption of the Portuguese vinho e alho, meaning “wine and garlic.”  The concept of curry as India’s national dish was a creation of British colonizers.  Virtually all of the pioneering Indian restaurants in Great Britain, as well as in New York City’s famous Curry Row, were founded by men belonging to a particular class of riverboat workers in Bangladesh.  A number of recipes are a nice bonus.

The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (2008) by Alex Ross.
I (djv) read the second half of this recent book by Ross, the New Yorker’s classical-music critic and arguably the finest musical journalist in the world today, to help refresh my upcoming class on concert music since World War II.  I know a lot about that realm of music, since I’m a composer myself, have taught that class many times, and deeply love many pieces and composers from the past 65 years.  So I was pleasantly surprised at all of the new, and significant, material that Ross had either unearthed or pulled together in illuminating ways.  Indeed, I was so impressed that I then read the first half.  Ross’s book is for anyone, musician or otherwise, wanting to see how the social , political and aesthetic currents of the times can be reflected in one of its most important art forms, and in the myriad fascinating ways in which the art of sound has been re-examined in recent history.  Ross has a gift for describing music that gives the reader a vivid sense of its sonic and expressive essence, even when one hasn’t heard a note.

The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want (2007) by Sonja Lyubomirsky
I (msl) have long been fascinated by the question of why some people seem better at happiness than others. This book answers that question, and yes, some of us are more genetically predisposed to happiness and some of us have had better happiness role models growing up than others. That’s our 50% set point. One’s circumstances (like unemployment and illness versus fulfilling well-compensated work and good health) also detract from or contribute to our happiness level (10%) but at least 40% of our mental well-being is within our control. The techniques and strategies described in this book by University of California professor of psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky are applicable to any life stage or circumstance.