Hands up, all of you who ever had to write a book report in school. Yes, that would be most of us. I didn’t hate them, but I certainly could never foresee that I would be writing them voluntarily one day. As I mentioned in the previous post, I have a couple more books to share with you. I won’t say ‘recommend’, because I seldom do that with movies or books or music, given that we all have such varied tastes. I just like to make you aware of things and leave it to you to decide for yourself.
Early this year I learned that Elizabeth Gilbert had written a new book called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear . I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Her books have been quite varied, rather than all in one genre, the way many writers work. I recently heard her discuss this on a podcast, and it made great sense. She figures ‘I’ve done that‘ and so she doesn’t need to keep writing the same type of book repeatedly. In Big Magic, Elizabeth writes about the nature of creativity and in particular her own, which takes the form of writing. She expresses her experience in a way I had never previously considered. In particular she writes about a concept that I thought might be unique to her, but since reading it have also heard a very similar view expressed by conductor and composer, Alice Parker*. Elizabeth Gilbert feels the energy of an idea or project presents itself to a person who can express it on a level we humans can experience. But if you are not ready, or do not take up the expression of the idea, it will move on to someone else who will do it. It’s not nearly as magical as it sounds, and yet it is. The way she explains it seems perfectly plausible to me, but I am a believer that energy is everything. I’m not a writer per se, but I have followed a creative life since I can remember, and certainly ideas appear in my mind and if I don’t pursue them, I have seen them expressed by others. I’m sure there are other explanations for this phenomena but Elizabeth’s is expressed as clearly as something like creativity can be.
I found Big Magic very much to my liking, and I was sad when it finished. It is a book I will read again in the not too distant future, which I don’t often do.
I’m trepidatious about presenting this next book, because initially, it didn’t blow me away. It was much more of a slow burn. It is very highly rated on Amazon, but a lot of things I don’t like are highly rated in many places. I found the book from a blog post that published a list of ‘books that you may not have heard of, but you should read’. I wish I had saved the post or knew where I’d read it because even Mr Google can no longer help me find it.
The Surrender Experiment: my journey into Life’s perfection by Michael Singer is one of my top books for this year because it changed my life. The funny thing is, I nearly put it aside after about a quarter of the way into it. It is an autobiography, and frankly, I’d never heard of the author. What hooked me was my curiosity to know what happened. I’m hopelessly interested in why people make certain decisions in life.
It’s easy to read, but very factual and maybe a little dry–sorry Michael. What makes it remarkable, though, is Michael’s life. He comes from an ordinary beginning, has no specific aspirations, but a great work ethic, if that makes any sense. It turns out Michael was very instrumental in the early development of computers and software, and you know what that means, he made a packet of money. None of that was what motivated him, however, and that was what interested me. The changes this book inspired for me, were twofold.
First, it inspired me to meditate again, but more importantly, to see it from a different perspective than ever before. It is not a book about meditation at all, though he is a lifelong meditator and it is integral to the story. Somehow, I saw in his story, the reason to meditate is for the practice itself. The quiet, the calm, the awareness of the moment. We have all heard about the benefits of meditation, but that is not why it is a valuable practice. It is valuable because through stilling our mind, we uncover our own wisdom.
The second concept Michael modelled is ‘to do what is in front of you’. That was his work. What is presented to us in the form of life events, is Life saying…’here, this is what will give you the experience you need right now‘. What valuable lessons to receive from a book.
In the previous post I told you about the third book I found most worthwhile from my year of reading, so I will only mention it briefly again, Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. Truly, I would find it hard to say which of these books was my very favourite. There were takeaway lessons for me from all of them. That is something I crave when I read. I want something to take with me, to carry me forward to the next part of life and the next book.
If you want to share your favourite book from 2016, or from any year, for that matter, leave the title in the comments below and I will compile a list of them and publish them in an upcoming post. Include a small review as well if you want to, or just the title is fine.
(photos were taken during this wet week in Alice)
*Alice Parker is a 91 year old choral director, composer and writer. A new podcast series which I recently started listening to called On Being with Krista Tippett introduced me to Alice. If you are a lover of choral music or interested in creative process this is a very interesting interview. Full disclosure; this podcast has an underlying spiritual theme and so does the interview.