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Chris Faatz has been a bookseller his entire adult life. "Ardent bibliophile" goes only part way in describing him, the other half of his resume being filled by the title "doting father." He plays that role with his exceptionally opinionated and beautiful three year old daughter, Emma.
As Maimonides has written, "contentment, a modest occupation, and time to study Torah" are what make up a good life. Substitute "books" for Torah, and you have the making of this Faatz's world.
Philip Levine is one of the great poets of our time. Beholden to no particular
school or institution, teaching at a small college in Fresno, his is a refreshingly
straightforward and independent voice. While he won the 1991 National Book Award
Work Is, I'd argue that New
Selected Poems collects much of his finest work. Well worth checking out
is the long poem, "A Walk With Tom Jefferson," which deals with the stories
that make up life in a semi-abandoned area of Detroit. Exquisite and haunting.
Jane Kenyon lived a tragic life with a quiet heroism unthinkable to most of
us. A lifelong sufferer from debilitating depression, she died of leukemia at
a relatively early age. The author of four books of poetry and a book of translations
of Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, her work is quiet and refreshing, full of insight
and tingling with the minutiae of observation. She truly paid attention to her
world and her life, and rendered it in the imagination as music. Otherwise
collects much of her best writing from her four collections of poems.
Hey, Oprah liked Bernhard Schlink's The Reader, and so did I. Immensely.
The novel deals with a young man who falls in love with an older woman, only
to find out that she is an ex-guard in a concentration camp. The novel moves
back and forth between an almost clinical observation of the day-to-day movement
of his life in relationship to her, and impassioned philosophical exploration
of guilt and innocence in the context of the greatest crime of the twentieth
century. You'll hate it or love it, but it won't fail to move you.
This Boy's Life, by Tobias Wolff, is a longtime winner that I've only
recently read. And, it has conquered my heart utterly. It's the autobiography
of a fairly ordinary boy growing up in the mountains of Washington state, of
his adventures with his mother, and of his nefarious scheming and plotting to
better his lot in life. From almost shooting his teacher with an arrow to faking
his way into a nationally prominent prep school, you're bound to love this young
fellow and to cheer him on in his one-sided battles with the world.
Going Solo, the second part of Roald Dahl's autobiography, is one great,
rip-roaring, unstoppable read. In this book, which begins in the 1930s, Dahl's
been stationed by Shell Oil in East Africa. The story's beginning is filled
with lions and evil snakes, with detailed descriptions of what the English colonialists
had for breakfast, and of how Dahl captured the entire German community of Dar
es Salaam upon the declaration of war. The book goes on to share Dahl's experiences
as an RAF pilot flying against the Germans in Greece during the war, and of
his eventual discharge for injuries. A really, really great, very entertaining
Penelope Fitzgerald, winner of England's prestigious Booker
Prize, has also only recently come to my attention, and I have to say that
I'm thoroughly delighted. I've read three of her novels funny, wise,
and quirky and I'm raring up to read all the rest. Fitzgerald writes
of ordinary people in ordinary times, dealing with their lives in an extraordinary,
and thoroughly human, fashion. The
Bookshop deals with the repercussions of a woman's decision to open a bookshop
in a small town; Offshore,
the Booker Prize winner, deals with a group of people all of whom live on ancient
barges on the Thames river in London; Human
Voices examines the lives of employees of the BBC during the first days
of the war. Highly recommended.
MysticismA Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly
There are lots of books on mysticism on the market, but few of them go so deep
as the Thomas Kelly's Quaker classic, A Testament of Devotion. First
published in 1941, this short book gives instruction on how to connect with
the Divine within, on how the faith community can and should support and affirm
one in one's search, and of the impact of a truly religious life on the world
around you. A real piece of spiritual dynamite.
The Rule of St. Benedict is available in multifarious forms, and any and all
of them are worth reading. Why? Why and how should the discipline of a monastic
life have any relevance to the busy life of an ordinary person in today's harried
world? Because, The Rule is much more than just a discipline, it's a
succinct and direct invitation to turn one's life over to God, and it offers
direct and succinct and, incidentally, quite beautiful ways in
way such a decision might be embarked upon. If nothing else, it's a heck of
a devotional guide!
In Buddhism Without Beliefs, author and teacher Stephen Batchelor offers
us just that: an approach to Buddhist practice shed of mummery, superstition,
and the kind of hyper-inflated pseudo-sanctified jargon with which most any
religion becomes burdened after the days of heroes and founders. The core of
Buddhism is to pay attention, to practice kindness, and to recognize the impact
of all of one's actions on the world in which we live. It deals with the questions
of death and pain, and their conquest. And, in Batchelor's marvelous book, a
door is opened for us to explore it in all its magnificence.
One MoreBipolar Disorder by Francis Mondimore
Two to three percent of people in the United States suffer from a mood disorder.
Bipolar Disorder is one of the most frequently diagnosed, and most potentially
devastating, of these. Francis Mondimore's Bipolar Disorder is a learned
discussion of the history, physiology, and treatment of this still mysterious
ailment, and is written in a style accessible to all. A must for anyone whose
life has been impacted by this dreadful disease.