Books that expanded me in 2011

Though this post isn’t in completely in keeping with my health update posts, it feels appropriate for me to look back at the books that sustained me in the last calendar year.  Even before my breast cancer diagnosis, my reading has mostly been in the realm of the spiritual.  Here are some of the books that have given me solace and/or helped me grow.  I read them either on my iPad or in the traditional paper medium.  The iPad makes it easier for me to review what I found most helpful about each book, though.

  • Falling Upward:  A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr.  This book is the one I have recommended most and quoted the most in the past year.  I started reading it just before my cancer diagnosis, and it resonated deeply with me.  Rohr presents the two halves of life and how our focus is different when we are young and in the first half and then when we are middle-aged and older and are in the second half.  I especially appreciate his description of the “stumbling stone” and the “necessary suffering” that we must encounter in the second half of life.  I am a big Richard Rohr fan, having read several of his books, and this one might well be my favorite.
  • My Grandfather’s Blessings:  Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.  My friend Susan gave me this book in November at my last chemo of that round.  I had read this author’s Kitchen Table Wisdom a few years ago but hadn’t read this one yet.  I love her format of short pieces, the longest being perhaps four pages, because I can read it at doctor’s appointments when I might be interrupted at any time or at times when I only have a few minutes to read.  She expresses deep wisdom in a variety of situations, many of which are medical ones.  Many of the pieces touch me deeply, and more than once a doctor or nurse has come in to find me wiping tears away.
  • Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.  I’ve read this book probably 10 times, and it was a good friend to me this year just after my cancer diagnosis.  As fall approaches each year, I want to reread this book, and this year that time coincided with the first steps of my dealing with cancer.  Inman’s difficult journey home and Ada’s discovering a new way of living and Ruby’s deep wisdom as manifested in the natural world all paralleled the changes in my life.  How can one book metaphorically reflect my experiences year after year?  I don’t exactly understand how, but I’m grateful that it does.
  • Nightwoods by Charles Frazier.  Rhonda knew that I loved Cold Mountain, so she and Toni gave me this new book by Frazier.  Friends have asked me if it’s good, and I’m not quite sure how to answer.  It’s a story of people who don’t fit in, and I think that always touches the parts of us that we feel don’t fit in.  It’s a book that stayed with me and seemes to express something that I don’t quite understand and that I find inexpressible.  The book doesn’t explain it but looks at the mystery that is the misfit within each of us.
  • The Twelfth Insight:  The Hour of Decision by James Redfield.  I’ve read all of Redfield’s Celestine Prophecy books, and I liked this one just as much as the others.  Though I’m not a big fan of his presentation of these spiritual concepts in the spy thriller format, I do realize that using that format makes the ideas more accessible for many.  I especially resonated with his description of using intuition as direct guidance.  I’ve had that experience before, so I actively tried it several days and had quite amazing experiences.  This is one of the books that I have already reread.
  • The Soul of Leadership:  Unlocking Your Potential for Greatness by Deepak Chopra.  Though I don’t aspire to leadership, I’ve always found effective, inspiring leaders to be fascinating.  The qualities that this book presents are qualities that will enrich all of us, leaders or not.  It is really about soul wisdom.
  • Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul:  How to Create a New You  by Deepak Chopra.  I read this in the spring, before my cancer diagnosis, and I plan to reread it soon.  I found a great deal of wisdom in it before, but I predict I find more in it on the rereading.  As you can tell, I’m a Deepak Chopra fan.  I’ve read and reread many of his books.  He is certainly one of our society’s wisdom teachers.
  • The Four Agreements:  A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz and The Fifth Agreement:  A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery by Don Miguel Ruiz, Don Jose Ruiz, and Janet Mills.  I’ve seen these books on bookshelves for years and have actually picked them up and considered buying them.  But the time wasn’t right – until now. These are wisdom books that have the same lessons I read in other wisdom books, but the expression is slightly different.  I’m just beginning to understand these lessons.  In the past when I was younger, my brain would understand them, but they didn’t seep into my heart and my being.  Now that’s starting to happen, and my having cancer is precipitating that deeper knowing.
  • Spiritual Partnership:  The Journey to Authentic Power by Gary Zukav.   Zukav, a physicist, says that we are evolving from people who experience the world through the five senses to people who experience the world in a multisensory way, and that way includes intuition.  During my 23-year teaching career, I did indeed see a change in how intuitive my students were, and I agree with Zukav that we as human beings are evolving into a more intuitive people.  This fits well with what Redfield presents in The Twelfth Insight.
  • My Antonia by Willa Cather.  I read this book a long time ago and decided to reread it because I wanted a good book of fiction, and also I’ve been to Red Cloud, Nebraska (the setting of the book) since I read it the first time.  I love Cather’s writing style – it makes me feel calm and present to what she’s describing.  I especially love the first of the book when the narrator is living in the prairie because there’s something about the prairie that touches my soul.

Though these 11 books weren’t all I read in 2011, they’re the ones that have stayed with me.   Books are always a part of my journey, and when I follow my intuition, the right ones present themselves at the right time.  These are the ones in my past year that have done just that.


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