11.20.2014

Recent Reads




10% Happier, by Dan Harris

Harris is a Nightline news anchor who suffered a panic attack on live TV, which subsequently propelled him into the world of meditation and mindfulness.  Harris studies Eckhart Tolle, works with a prominent psychiatrist well-versed in Buddhism, encounters the Dalai Lama, and attends a 10 day meditation retreat. He begins to understand and observe the frenetic way his mind works, and calm the disparaging, ragingly insecure voice that runs constantly inside him.

The book is incredibly well written. I loved watching the struggle- we see him start out hating anything spiritual, thinking mediation is for goons, and ultimately wind up benefitting from it and preaching its cause to anyone who will listen. It reminds me of the way I think God works in most of our lives, putting struggles in our path to continually improve and change us, challenging us to open our minds and embrace things we once rejected. 

The book is not a “how to” on meditation, though you can gain lots of tips and insight by reading it. Harris formally includes some notes and resources in the appendix, but my favorite were the little nuggets of wisdom I picked up throughout:

“When a big wave is coming at you, the best way not to get pummeled is to dive right in.”

“You may find that it’s not the pain that is intolerable, but instead your resistance to it.”
 
“How often are we waiting for the next pleasant hit of ...whatever? The next meal or the next relationship or the next latte?”
 
Simple and maybe even obvious, but so many of us, especially myself, live our lives on the exact opposite way. 
 
I didn’t devour this in a day like I do with a good fiction novel, and I admit I don’t find Harris to be the most likable person in the world, but it was definitely a worthwhile read, and has, of course, inspired me to meditate. 
 
Some Luck, by Jane Smiley
 
Loved this book. The novel starts in 1920 with newly married couple Rosanna and Walter Langdon, living on a farm in Iowa.  Each chapter spans a year, ending in 1953. I loved the format of the novel; it moved quickly and mimics life- first you have a newly married couple, primitively without electricity, and all of a sudden their children are grown up with kids and adventures of their own.  The story has births, deaths, love, and family, set against historical backdrops of the Great Depression, World War 2, and the McCarthy era. A sweeping, fascinating portrait of American family life. Loved it.
 
Boy, was this a weird one.  The book explores the friendship between two opposites: Mia, the “bad girl,” and Lorrie Ann, “the good one,” and what happens when their fortunes change. A string of bad decisions and bad circumstances catapult Lorrie into a dark, depressing path. Mia watches from afar and attempts to reach out, but their friendship falters over issues like illness, death, drugs, and parenting. The novel explores the bonds between friends. Though compelling, I ultimately found this one unnecessarily dark with a depressing ending. 
 
Evergreen, by Rebecca Rasmussen
Okay, I have to admit the cover art drew me in, even though I read by Kindle.  This one’s a bit similar to Some Luck, in that it involves a couple in the earlier part of the 1900s living off the land. Eveline and her husband, Emil, live in a small cottage in the woods.  They raise one small boy, but one day when Emil is off at war, Eveline is raped and conceives a daughter. She  never tells her family about this event, or the daughter, whom she gives up, but after her death her son Hux finds out, and seeks to find his sister.  The novel is an easy read, touching on themes of loss, regret, love, and what might have been. Enjoyable, fast paced, and interesting.

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