Reading is my great love, matched only by sharing these books, whether it’s by passing them on to others or telling friends about the stories I’ve read. I’m curious about so much in life and reading both satisfies and fuels this curiosity.
Perhaps that’s why my taste is so eclectic – it’s a response to the messiness of life. I pivot equally to fiction and non-fiction in both wanting to answer the ‘why’s and ‘how’s as much as wanting to be entranced by a story well told. I’m drawn to the feeling of being carried away and I also love standing on the shoulders of giants, figuratively speaking, and appreciating new perspectives on the world. And of course being up close and personal with others whose view is from the ground or from the margins.
What I’ve Been Reading In May
Here are this month’s highlights …
Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs by Samuel Kipp and Nathan Storring (eds) Jane Jacobs is a rock star for her writings on urban justice, most especially for her works, The Death and Life of Great American Cities and The Economy of Cities. This book captures some of Jacob’s lesser known writings that cover the course of her career. Standout pieces for me were ‘A City Naturalist’ ‘How New Work Begins’ and ‘The Unfinished Business of Jane Jacobs’. With issues of mass migration, rising inequality, climate change impact playing out in cities across the globe Jacob’s creative take on urban issues is timely and important. Hopefully it inspires a new generation of Janes.
First Snow by Bomi Park Those who know me know of my love of snow. So it won’t surprise you to know that I was drawn to the illustrations in this book- and also because they reminded me of my friend, Juniper. In this story, a young girl experiences snow falling for the first time. Soft flurrying snow. There’s ritual in this girl’s wordless encounter with snow, which she experiences with a young puppy friend. We see them rolling snowballs under a yellow streetlamp, and under a bright moon. Later, they’re joined by other children as they create giant balls and snow people. The scenes move from the universal to the particular – from giant snow creations to this girl’s first taste of snow as she sticks out her tongue to catch the flakes. It’s a joy to turn the pages of this book by Bomi Park’s, her excellent debut.
The Revolution Will Not be Funded by Incite Women of Color Against Violence (ed)
I was drawn to the title of this book and thought initially it was about corporate appropriation of social change however it’s about the role of non-government organizations (NGOs). The book’s fierce stand is for movement building and activism that’s led by people and not appropriated by NGOs. First published in XXX, the editors make a strong case for grass roots activism that’s not blunted to accommodate funders or organizational goals. With seemingly more people than ever taking to the streets locally and globally to claim their human rights this is an important read. It’s also a reminder that those who manage to transform systems, power and social norms have been willing to risk everything.
The Little Prince I bought at a bookshop in Bangkok. It gave me that same bolt feel of magic as when I first read it.
The Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects by Alexandra David-Neel I remember reading my first Alexandra David-Neel book before I took my first overseas trip in 1990 – to Tibet. That book, XXXX was a discovery and an enchantment. This book, found at a second-hand bookshop in Florence, Massachusetts, is an explanation of the Madhyamika (Middle Way) school of Buddhism that was developed by the great Indian teacher Nagarjuna. These clear and present teachings are easy to follow and valuable as a life practice.
For those unfamiliar with her life, Alexandra David-Neel was born in 1868 in Paris. After incendiary anarchist essays and a potential career as an opera singer, Davis-Neel decided to devote her life to exploration and the study of world religions, including Buddhist philosophy. She traveled extensively to Central Asia and the Far East, where she learned several Asian languages, including Tibetan. In 1914, she met Lama Yongden, who became her adopted son, teacher, and companion. In 1923, at the age of fifty-five, she disguised herself as a pilgrim and journeyed to Tibet, where she was the first European woman to enter the capital, Lhasa, which was closed to foreigners at the time. In her late seventies, she settled in the south of France, where she lived until her death at 101 in 1969.
How to eat in the Woods: A Complete Guide to Foraging, Trapping, Fishing, and Finding Sustenance in the Wild by Bradford Angier I saw this edition on a bookshelf above where I sat when I went to a candlelit reading at one of my favorite bookshops, Point Reyes Books. I finally got to read it, or at least skim read it as I was intrigued by the title. In fact, it seemed to have an unearthly glow about it in the shop although the book itself is anything but – very much grounded in earthly realities. The author, Bradford Angier, was known as a wilderness survivalist and it’s like entering new territory, reading this book and learning about recognizing edible plants, nuts, berries, fruit, preparing food without utensils, finding potable water and building a decent fire. I must admit the title captured me more than the level of detail in the book however for those thinking of living off the land or going bush, this book’s a keeper.
Just starting to read: The Moth Presents: All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown Edited by Catherine Bur (the 20th anniversary of this storytelling tradition)