"While we are reading, we are all Don Quixote." ~ Mason Cooley

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I Recommend....

"My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” 
                                                                                                                       Dr. Seuss     

In the last years of my mother's life, she often said that it seemed she was reading the Sunday paper every day, so quickly was time passing by.  I'm not quite at that point yet, but the quick passage of time has been brought home to me repeatedly in recent months...my 74th birthday, my "baby" brother's 70th, our 32nd wedding anniversary. the 40th birthday of a young man I would have sworn was only 25.  And returning to this blog to discover I haven't posted in almost a year to the day!

I have been reading, honestly!  In fact, two or three books some weeks.  Mystery, historical narrative, psychology, e-books, paperbacks.   Book club selections, books I've enjoyed, books I haven't finished - but none that I've felt compelled to share until recently.  None that I couldn't wait to recommend to friend, family, even strangers, until recently.

Therefore, after a longer hiatus than I had planned, here are four books that I have been recommending, even extolling whenever and wherever I've had the opportunity.

Flourish by Martin E. P. Seligman    NF c2013

Seligman, considered by some as the father of Positive Psychology, has continued his work on resiliency, learned optimism and most recently, what he refers to as well-being.  A champion of learning from what works and from healthy practices rather than illness and disease, Seligman combines research and application and presents his findings here with clarity and - optimism.

I almost cheered when I read that Seligman "detests" the word happiness because it's become so overused as to become meaningless...the way I also have come to feel about the word "deserve".

Focusing on well-being and its five pillars of positive emotion, engagement, positive relationship, meaning and accomplishment, Seligman asserts, is what makes for the good life.  And he supports his assertions with academic studies as well as anecdotal stories.

Not just another self-improvement book, not a simplistic feel-good, three easy step manual, Flourish is the latest chapter in the work of a respected scientist and practitioner who continues to question and explore and strive to improve the human condition.

Rules for Old Men Waiting by Peter Pouncey  F c2006   and Travels with Epicurus by Daniel Klein  NF c2012

These two books were recommended to me by my brother, a voracious reader.  Both deal with aging and I inhaled them within a week. 

Rules for Old Men Waiting is a tender tale, a beautifully written novel about a remarkable old man, an enduring marriage, the power of memory, and, for me, courage.

Robert MacIver, retired historian and recent widower, in the throes of wrenching grief, and facing impending death himself, creates 10 daily rules to guide him for whatever time he may have left.  His rules include eating at least one decent meal, listening to his favorite music, keeping himself and his environment clean, and working.

When pondering what that work should entail, he decides to write a novel about that which he knows best, World War I.  And what emerges is a rich story within a story.

I wasn't far into the book before it became clear why my brother had recommended it, why he loved it, why he was so taken with MacIver, calling him a noble man.  Though the plot line might be seen as potentially depressive, I did not find it so.  As the author said in an interview, "MacIver takes hold of his life and keeps hold of it with mental and spiritual vigor and bite to the very end".

As a final recommendation -  MacIver inspired me to compose my own Rules for an Old Woman Thriving!  

Although Travels with Epicurus  also deals with aging, and aging from a man's perspective, it does so more directly, philosophically, and with a good dose of humor. It was written as an outcome of the author's quest, at age 73, to figure out the most satisfying way to live his life as an old man.  

Armed with a "lean library of philosophy books" and a keen intellect, Klein decided to conduct his quest on the Greek island of Hydra, where in the past he had spent several extended periods and ob:served that old people there seemed uncommonly content with that stage in their lives.

What evolved is a series of observations and essays that, humorous at times, are always insightful.  A Harvard philosophy major, Klein used the ideas of various philosophers as springboards for topics that include fulfillment, boredom, play, reflection, sex, and mindfulness.

And though the intended audience is old men, this old woman got a lot to think about.  After all, I live with and love an old man!

And finally, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words by David White  NF c2015

There have been a few times in my life when I least expected it and was most ready for it that a special book has somehow found its way to me, seemed to call my name, contain a subliminal message - "read me, read me".  If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him,
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, A Simpler Way, Gift from the Sea, - to name a few.  So special that they sit side by side on a shelf in our den to remind me that they contain ideas and inspiration that have shaped the way I look at the world and myself within it.

Consolations has joined them.  Whyte, poet and philosopher, has compiled 52 short essays that invite "the reader into a poetic and thoughtful consideration of words whose meaning and interpretation influence the paths we choose and the way we traverse them throughout our life."  Or as Whyte writes in his dedication, " dedicated to Words and their beautiful hidden and beckoning uncertainty."  Words like alone, beauty, besieged, crisis, genius, 
haunted, heartbreak and my favorites, procrastination, regret, and vulnerability,

Whyte writes with a beauty and clarity that literally can take my breath away.  I don't know what moves me more - the depth of his thinking, both critical and creative, that demands the same of his readers, or the way he uses language, humbling and edifying at the same time.

Loved this book!!!!

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