Tuesday, 31 January 2017

What I've Been Reading lately

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Wndow and Disappeared. by Jonas Jonasson
This 2010 novel is hard to categorise: comedy? historical novel? farce? All of the above? The complex plot meanders, Forest Gump style, through the history of the 20th Century. It's very funny in parts, but is either not spectacularly well written, or not well translated from the original Swedish, or both. The complicated and inventive plot kept me persevering far past the point where the literary critic in me was screaming give up now, there are a dozen far better things waiting for you on your to be read shelf . It has been made into a variably reviewed Swedish movie, and is crying out for Hollywood to take notice.


Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children/ Hollow City / Library of Souls. by Ransom Riggs.
I saw the movie Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children on a plane a few weeks back, and on the strength of that bought the boxed set of 3 novels by Ransom Riggs.  The movie was OK, but seriously compromised by being given a craptastic Hollywood action ending. The books are wonderful. The boxed set, containing three hardback books and a small envelope of photographs,  is beautifully produced. The books are so exquisitely written that Ransom Riggs can make quite believable his simply preposterous premise of a subculture of peculiar people: people who are invisible; who can set fire to or freeze things with their bare hands; who can predict the future or animate inanimate objects; who have bees living in their stomachs and a score  of others besides. His fanciful plot seemed to be always one step ahead of my ability to second guess him, and his two principal characters, Jacob and Emma are both believable and likeable. These are "young adult" novels, but they kept this 65 year old riveted.

 Talking Pictures by Ransom Riggs
Part of the charm of the Miss Peregrine novels is the way some genuine antique photos have been worked into the plot. This is a separate collection of old pictures, rescued from yard sales, each selected because it bears an inscription of some sort. They are beautiful and powerful, with the pictures and the words of the original owner combining to give an extraordinary insight into long forgotten lives.

Waking, Dreaming, Being by Evan Thompson
Evan Thompson is a cognitive scientist who collaborated with the great Francisco Varela on a book which was powerfully important to me a few years back, The Embodied Mind. Waking Dreaming Being compares the philosophy of mind found in the Upanishads, Buddhism and contemporary brain science. It is profound, well informed and enlightening. It manages the difficult balance of being faithful to its academic sources while remaining accessible to lay people. This is a book I read slowly and which will, I think, still be feeding me many years from now.

The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes
The title says it all, really. Well written, well researched, fair. And convincing enough that I immediately cut sugar out of my diet and, without making any other changes,  immediately lost 3 kg.

The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three by Cynthia Bourgeault
Cynthia Bourgeault is an Episcopalian Priest and a fairly well known teacher of  and writer about meditation. This book examines the doctrine of the Trinity in the light of the works of Gurdjieff, and in doing so traverses some of the same ground explored in a more orthodox framework by Sarah Coakley of the Trinity as a process or a relationship.

The Heart of Centering Prayer by Cynthia Bourgeault
After Thomas Keating, no one has had a greater influence on my personal spiritual practice over the past few years, than Cynthia Bourgeault. This book is an argument for seeing Centering Prayer as a pioneering development in distinctively Christian meditation. It combines a clear, practical guide to Centering Prayer with an analysis of the psychology of meditative practice and an exposition of its undergirding theology.

 



1 comment:

Alden Smith said...

Coincidentally Cynthia Bourgeaults book 'The Heart of Centering Prayer' is winging its way from A.Dot.Com to NZ and according to the Tracking info should arrive Thursday - I am very much looking forward to reading it.