Tuesday, May 5, 2015

TWOsday books ~ two by two

TWO historical novels

Jazz ~ by Toni Morrison, 1992
In the winter of 1926, when everybody everywhere sees nothing but good things ahead, Joe Trace, middle-aged door-to-door salesman of Cleopatra beauty products, shoots his teenage lover to death.  At the funeral, Joe’s wife, Violet, attacks the girl’s corpse.  This passionate, profound story of love and obsession brings us back and forth in time, as a narrative is assembled from the emotions, hopes, fears, and deep realities of black urban life.  The novel forms the second part of Morrison's Dantesque trilogy on African American history, beginning with Beloved (1987) and ending with Paradise (1997).
The Dante Club ~ by Matthew Pearl, 2003
1865 Boston, a small group of literary geniuses puts the finishing touches on America’s first translation of The Divine Comedy and prepares to unveil the remarkable visions of Dante to the New World.  The powerful old guard of Harvard College wants to keep Dante out — believing that the infiltration of such foreign superstitions onto our bookshelves would prove as corrupting as the foreign immigrants invading Boston harbor.  The members of the Dante Club — poets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and publisher J. T. Fields — endure the intimidation of their fellow Boston Brahmins for a sacred literary cause, an endeavor that has sustained Longfellow in the hellish aftermath of his wife’s tragic death by fire.  But the plans of the Dante Club come to a screeching halt when a series of murders erupts through Boston and Cambridge. Only the members of the Dante Club realize that the style and form of the killings are stolen directly from Dante’s Inferno and its singular account of Hell’s punishments. With the police baffled, lives endangered and Dante’s literary future at stake, the Dante Club must shed its sheltered literary existence and find a way to stop the killer.
TWO Star Trek books

Star Trek: The Motion Picture ~ by Gene Roddenberry, 1979
The writer-producer — who created Mr. Spock and all the other Star Trek characters, who invented the Starship Enterprise, who gave the show its look and its ideals — put it all together in his first Star Trek novel.  Their historic five-year mission is over.  Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and all the crew have scattered to other jobs or other lives.  Now, they are back together again on a fabulously refitted U.S.S. Enterprise as an incredibly destructive power threatens earth and the human race.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock ~ by Vonda N. McIntyre, 1984
No one on the Enterprise can believe that Mr. Spock is gone.  As the crew grieves for Mr. Spock, the awesome Genesis Device, now controlled by the Federation, has transformed an inert nebula into a new planet teeming with life.  But Genesis can also destroy existing worlds.  The creators of the Device want it given freely to the Galaxy.  But Starfleet Command fears that it will become a force for evil.  And the enemies of the Federation will not rest until they seize it — as their most powerful weapon in the battle to conquer the Galaxy.
TWO mind and body books

The Te of Piglet ~ by Benjamin Hoff, 1992
In which a good deal of Taoist wisdom is revealed through the character and actions of A. A. Milne's Piglet.  Piglet?  Yes, Piglet.  Tigger is impulsive, Eeyore is gloomy, Owl is intellectual, and Pooh is lovable, but it's Piglet who here demonstrates a very important principle of Taoism:  The Te — a Chinese word meaning Virtue — of the Small.  In other words, the author and the characters from the Pooh books engage in dialogue elucidating the Taoist principle of Te, the Way of the Small.
Perfect Weight: The Complete Mind/Body Program for Achieving and Maintaining Your Ideal Weight ~ by Deepak Chopra, 1994
One of the two launch titles in the Perfect Health Library series by bestselling author Dr. Deepak Chopra, Perfect Weight focuses on Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of life, to help readers conquer their weight problems.  Looking through the book, I found several charts, including one showing "all six tastes" (pp. 106-111):  bitter, astringent, pungent, sweet, sour, salty.
TWO books on death

Mortality ~ by Christopher Hitchens, 2012
On June 8, 2010, while on a book tour for his bestselling memoir, Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens was stricken in his New York hotel room with excruciating pain in his chest and thorax.  As he would later write in the first of a series of award-winning columns for Vanity Fair, he suddenly found himself being deported "from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady."  Over the next eighteen months, until his death in Houston on December 15, 2011, he wrote constantly and brilliantly on politics and culture, astonishing readers with his capacity for superior work even in extremis.  Throughout the course of his ordeal battling esophageal cancer, Hitchens adamantly and bravely refused the solace of religion, preferring to confront death with both eyes open.  In this riveting account of his affliction, Hitchens poignantly describes the torments of illness, discusses its taboos, and explores how disease transforms experience and changes our relationship to the world around us.
Beyond Birth and Death ~ by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, 1979
Is there life after death?  India's most renowned Vedic authority presents startling evidence of the soul's incredible journey after death.  Srila Prabhupada tells how the soul travels from body to body, and how we can end the cycle of birth and death by reaching Lord Sri Krishna's ultimate abode.  An excerpt:  "The simple process of chanting the names of Krishna will reveal what one is, what God is, what the material and spiritual universes are, why we are conditioned, how we can get out of that conditioning — and everything else, step by step."
TWO books on Buddhism

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind ~ by Shunryu Suzuki, 1970
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."  So begins this most beloved of all American Zen books.  In a single stroke, the simple sentence cuts through the pervasive tendency students have of getting so close to Zen as to completely miss what it's all about.  An instant teaching on the first page.  In the forty years since its original publication, this book has become one of the great modern spiritual classics, much beloved, much reread, and much recommended as the best first book to read on Zen.  Suzuki Roshi presents the basics — from the details of posture and breathing in zazen to the perception of nonduality — in a way that is not only remarkably clear, but that also resonates with the joy of insight from the first to the last page.
Wake Up Now: A Guide to the Journey of Spiritual Awakening ~ by Stephan Bodian, 2008
Bodian, nationally recognized expert on meditation and spirituality and former editor-in-chief of Yoga Journal, reveals that spiritual awakening is not some faraway dream — or overly complicated to achieve — but an ever-present reality that is always available here and now.  Based on his own experience and over 30 years of teaching the direct approach to spiritual awakening, Bodian has broken down the awakening process into five overlapping, loosely sequential stages:  seeking, awakening, deepening and clarifying, embodying, and living the awakened life.  This book guides you through every stage of the journey, from the process of seeking through the often prolonged and challenging process of integrating the awakening into everyday life.
TWO "why?" books

Why Worry? : Stop Coping and Start Living ~ by Kathryn Tristan, 2012
Kathryn Tristan’s hands-on, solution-oriented book empowers you to break free from constant fear, worry, and anxiety.  She shows how to eliminate automatic doomsday thinking and take back control of your own life.  This no-nonsense approach draws from a variety of disciplines to offer a comprehensive guide for rewiring your brain that includes restructuring how you think, easy relaxation exercises, simple lifestyle changes, and transformative spiritual practices.  Through personal anecdotes and inspiring true stories, including self-assessment quizzes and the latest science, you’ll discover the secrets to a worry-free existence, including how to:
• recognize and eliminate inner trash talk and negative thinking;
• create outlook makeovers to slash stress and worry;
• master sure-fire worry busters;
• and discover calm during chaos.
Why Faith Makes Sense: Reasons You Can Believe God Is Real ~ by Will Davis, Jr., 2008
While the Bible declares, "The fool has said in his heart that there is no God," our culture has turned that statement on its head.  The mantra of today's intellectual crowd is that the fool is the one who believes in God.  Sadly, some Christians are starting to believe this, too.  Will Davis Jr. says this is nonsense.  You don't have to stop thinking to be a Christian.  In fact, faith is the logical, natural progression of good reasoning, and it is less foolish to believe in God than not to believe.
I was going through several big boxes of books someone discarded, to be donated to a book sale if we couldn't use them in our small library in the retirement center where I live.  These are a few of the books I had to decide whether to put on the shelves, whether anyone here would likely want to read any of these or whether we should let them go because we don't have shelf space.  Some of the books were too old, some were too torn up, and some were not likely to find readers, since most of the elderly residents who check out our books prefer novels and memoirs.  The shelves in this photo are the whole library.  At most, we have a shelf and a half.

What would you recommend about any of these books, if you were doing my job?  Which should I shelve?  Which should I toss aside?  And please tell me WHY you would make that choice.

Later, I'll tell you in the comments which ones we put on our shelves and why we didn't keep the others.

1 comment:

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Donna commented on Facebook: "I would choose The Dante Club and The Te of Piglet." Since Donna is the "real" librarian, I'll go with those two books.