With a lot of free time these days, since I’ve taken a break from traveling and am now in between movements, I’ve been reading. And the way I read usually is to have a couple different books going at the same time. But my new-found interest in being more focused and one-task oriented, I’ve been trying to just read one book at a time. It’s not that easy.
In no particular order…
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
I had no idea what to expect when I started this book. I hadn’t seen any previews for the movie that came out in the winter (because I had no access to TV for the months that I was traveling), and I hadn’t read any reviews for the book or the movie. So I went in with no expectation of what I would encounter. And what a story! I’m used to reading books that are about everyday life with everyday occurrences, and this was definitely not that. This was a fantastical account of a young man’s half year spent as a castaway on a lifeboat with a tiger. Or so it seems. Martel captures this story with such beautiful language and imagery. I’m curious to see if Ang Lee was able to encapsulate even a bit of Martel’s story onto the silver screen.
The book took a bit of time to get into because it seems like he’s rambling at first. But once the boy Pi encounters the capsizing of his ship, I was hooked.
Here’s an excerpt, demonstrating Martel’s beautiful use of language:
There were many skies. The sky was invaded by great white clouds, flat on the bottom but round and billowy on top The sky was completely cloudless, of a blue quite shattering to the senses. The sky was a heavy, suffocating blanket of grey cloud, but without promise of rain. The sky was thinly overcast. The sky was dappled with small, white, fleecy clouds. The sky was streaked with high, thin clouds that looked like a cotton ball stretched apart. The sky was a featureless milky haze. The sky was a density of dark and blustery rain clouds that passed by without delivering rain. The sky was painted with a small number of flat clouds that looked like sandbars. The sky was a mere block to allow a visual effect on the horizon: sunlight flooding the ocean, the vertical edges between light and shadow perfectly distinct… (p.215)
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
I started reading this book at the yoga teacher training I was at in January. It’s a simply written account of one man’s journey to becoming a yogi. It has had more meaning for me having gone through the yoga training and studied more on yogic philosophy and Hindu practices. I’ve come across many quotations that present lessons in plainspeak. It reminds me of the book Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, an account of the journey of the man who became Buddha.
Here are a few learnings I have highlighted in my e-book:
Attachment is blinding; it lends an imaginary halo of attractiveness to the object of desire.
Do not fix your spiritual ideal on a small mountain, but hitch it to the star of unqualified divine attainment. If you work hard, you will get there.
Thought is a force, even as electricity or gravitation. The human mind is a spark of the almighty consciousness of God. I could show you that whatever your powerful mind believes very intensely would instantly come to pass.
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Another beautifully written book, this time not just because of the writer’s language but because of the content. Diamant tells the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob, granddaughter of Isaac, great-granddaughter of Abram, all important figures in the Old Testament of the Bible. I grew up Catholic and don’t remember the story of Dinah, so it’s interesting reading this book which covers some of those biblical stories from a female and secular point of view.
What I like about this book are the women and the community that develops from within the red tent, which I understand to be a literal red tent where women go when it is their time of the month, to give birth, and for other womanly activity.
Here’s an example of character development in describing Leah, Dinah’s mother, first wife of Jacob:
But my mother’s eyes were not weak, or sick, or rheumy. The truth is, her eyes made others weak and most people looked away rather than face them– one blue as lapis, the other green as Egyptian grass…
Leah’s eyes never faded in color– as some of the women predicted and hoped– but became brighter in their difference and even more pronounced in their strangeness when her lashes failed to grow… Even her most loving glance felt a bit like the stare of a snake, and few could stand to look her straight in the eye.
I’ve also been dabbling in some other books:
- Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living by Rachel Kaplan with Ruby Blume
- Later the Same Day by Grace Paley
- Inside the Yoga Sutras by Reverend Jaganath Carrera
Not doing such a great job with uni-tasking, am I? It’s hard to break old habits.
I haven’t read any literary criticism on any of these books, so these opinions are completely based on my own reading and my writing-style/story-type preferences. I like books with good characters, good writing, and some kind of meaningful message.
Any suggestions of good books, both fiction and nonfiction, that you’ve read?