Sunday, January 22, 2017

Books and Poems That Have Helped - As of January 22, 2017

I have found solace in many types of books: those written for survivors of suicide, for parents who have lost a child, for those who look to writing as a way of coping, memoirs and even fiction.  The number in parenthesis is the rating given to the book.  I use the GoodReads system.

1 - didn't like it
2 - it was ok
3 - liked it
4 - really liked it
5 - it was amazing


List of books on Josh's blog with short reviews.

Survivors of Suicide
  1. No Time to Say Good Bye by Carla Fine (5)
  2. My Son, My Son by Iris Bolton (3)
  3. Take the Dimness of My Soul Away by William Ritter (3)
  4. When Suicide Comes Home: A Father's Diary and Comments by Paul Cox (4)
  5. Grieving the Unexpected - the Suicide of a Son by Gary LeBlanc (3)
  6. Grieving A Suicide, A Loved One's Search of Comfort, Answers and Hope by Albert Hsu (5)
  7. Those They Left Behind by Karen M. Bryson (4)
  8. Aftershock by David Cox and Candy Arrington (5)
  9. Surviving Suicide: Help to Heal Your Heart by Heather Hayes (4)
  10. Dying To be Free: A Healing Guide for Families After A Suicide by Jean Larch and Beverly Cobain (4)
  11. The Empty Chair by Beryl Glover (3)
  12. Silent Grief: Living in the Wake of Suicide by Christopher Lucas (2)
  13. After Suicide by John Hewett (2)
  14. History of a Suicide by Jill Bialosky (4)
  15. His Bright Light: The Story of Nick Traina by Danielle Steel (3)
Parental Bereavement
  1. Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff (5)
  2. The Worst Loss: How Families Heal From the Death of A Child by Barbara Rosof (4)
  3. After the Death of a Child: Living With the Loss Through the Years by Ann Finkbeiner (4)
  4. Life After the Death of My Son by Dennis Apple (4)
  5. The Grieving Garden: Living With the Death Of a Child by Suzanne Redfern and Susan Gilbert (4)
  6. Beyond Tears by Ellen Mitchell (4)
  7. Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt (4)
  8. Gabriel By Edward Hirsch (5)
On Death, Dying, Grief
  1. On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
  2. On Grief and Grieving by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler
  3. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (5)

Journaling/Writing
  1. Writing Through the Darkness by Elizabeth Maynard Schaefer (5)
  2. Writing As a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo (5)
  3. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (5)
  4. Journal to The Self: 22 Paths to Personal Growth by Kathleen Adams (4)
  5. Bird by Bird by Anne LaMott (5)
  6. The New Diary by Tristine Rainer (4)
  7. On Keeping a Journal: Leaving a Trace by Alexandra Johnson (4)
  8. The Writer's Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long (5)
  9. Writers and Their Notebooks by Diana Raab (4)
  10. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf (4)
  11. The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron (5)
  12. Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing by Margaret Atwood (4)
Memoirs
  1. Lucky by Alice Sebold (5)
  2. Paula by Isabel Allende (4)
  3. The Suicide Index by Joan Wickersham (5)
  4. The Sum of Our Days by Isabel Allende (4)
  5. An Unquiet Mind by Kay Jamison (2)
  6. The Journal Keeper by Phyllis Theroux (4)
  7. I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (4)
  8. How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen (4)
  9. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis (4)
  10. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (4)
  11. A Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates (4) 
  12. Darkness Visible by William Styron (5)
  13. Reading My Father by Alexandra Styron (4)
  14. Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett (4)
  15. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy (4)
  16. Blue Nights by Joan Didion (3)
  17. My Brother by Jamaica Kincaid (4)
  18. Nothing Was the Same by Kay Redfield Jamison (4)
  19. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (5)
  20. Half a Life by Darin Strauss (4)
  21. Wild by Cheryl Strayed (5)
  22. Searching for Mercy Street by Linda Gray Sexton (5)
  23. Half in Love by Linda Gray Sexton (4)
  24. Heaven's Coast by Mark Doty (5)
  25. When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (5)
  26. H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald (4)
  27. After A Funeral by Diana Athill (2)
  28. Memory Slips: A Memoir of Music and Healing by Linda K. Cutting (4)
  29. The Los Angeles Diaries by James Brown (4)
  30. A Buddhist Grief Observed by Guy Newland (5)
On Suicide
  1. By Their Own Hand: Deliberate Self-Harm and Suicidal Ideas in Adolescents by Keith Rodham
Poetry
  1. In Memoriam A.H.H. by Lord Alfred Tennyson - post on Josh's blog
  2. The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief & Healing - posts on Josh's blog;   "The Dead by Billy Collins
  3. Monthly poetry posts:  January,  February,  
  4. Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins - posts on Josh's blog 1) Grave and 2) Horoscopes for the Dead
  5. Remember by Christina Rossetti - post on Josh's blog
  6. Poetry as Survival by Gregory Orr (5) - see post
  7. Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood (5)
  8. The Works of Anne Bradstreet (5)
    Original Poetry - written in memory of Josh (click here)

    Plays
    1. Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth by William Shakespeare - see two posts (teenage suicide ideation and grieving parents)
    2. Hamlet by William Shakespeare - see Death, Grief and Suicide Part I and Part II
    Fiction
    1. The Pact: A Love Story by Jodi Picoult (4)
    2. Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (5)
    3. The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffengger (5)
    4. Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber (4)
    5. Ordinary People by Judith Guest (5)
    6. Beach Music by Pat Conroy (2)
    7. Legend of A Suicide by David Vann (3)
    8. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (2)
    9. Sea Change by Jeremy Page (3)
    10. The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow (4)
    11. The Hours by Michael Cunningham (5)
    12. The Catcher In the Rye by J. D. Salinger (4)
    13. The Memoir Club by Laura Kalpakian (2)
    14. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (5) - see post
    15. The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold (5)
    16. Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (4)
    17. Moby Dick by Herman Melville (5)
    18. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (4)
    19. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes (5)
    20. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (5)
    21. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (4)
    Afterlife
    1. Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eban Alexander (4) - see post
    2. My Son and the Afterlife by Dr. Elisa Medus (4) - see post
    3. Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives by Dr. Brian Weiss (3.5) - see post
    4. on Life After Death by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (4) - see post
    5. Life After Death by Deepak Chopra (4) - see post
    6. Bridges to Heaven: True Stories of Loved Ones on the Other Side by Sue Frederick (4) - see post
    7. Return from Tomorrow by George Ritchie with Elizabeth Sherrill (5) - see post
    8. Heaven is For Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back By Todd Burpo with Lynne Vincent (3)
    9. The Hand on the Mirror: A True Story Of Live Beyond Death by Janis Heaphy Durham (3)
    10. Finding Peter by William Blatty (2)
    11. The Map of Heaven by Dr. Eban Alexander (5)
    Spirituality
    1. Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra (4) - see post
    2. Power of the Soul: Inside Wisdom for an Outside World (3) - see post
    3. Warrior Pose: How Yoga (Literally) Saved My Life by Brad Willis (5) - see post
    4. The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer (5) - see post
    5. Kripalu Yoga by Richard Faulds (5) - see post
    6. Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul by Deepak Chopra (4)
    7. True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart by Tara Brach (5)
    8. To Bless the Space Between Us by John O'Donohue (5)
    9. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckart Tolle (4)
    10. No Mud, No Lotus by Thich Nhat Hanh (5)
    11. Tao Te Ching translated by Stephen Mitchell (5)
    12. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (5)
    13. Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World by John O'Donohue (5)
    14. The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh (5)
    15. How To Meditate by Pema Chodron (5)
    16. Looking at Mindfulness: Twenty-Five Paintings to Change the Way You Live by Christophe Andre (5)
    17. Mindfulness is Better than Chocolate: A Practical Guide to Enhanced Focus and Lasting Happiness in a World of Distractions by David Michie (5)
    18. Buddhism for Busy People: Finding Happiness in an Uncertain World by David Michie (5)
    Philosophy
    1. The Apology of Socrates by Plate (5)
    2. Aristotle for Everybody by Mortimer Adler (5)
    Science/Nature
    1. Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves by Sharon Begley (4)

    A list of recommended books for survivors of suicide from the American Association of Suicidology. 

    Thursday, January 19, 2017

    Books Read in 2016

    49 books read (2 of which were re-reads)
    4 plays
    1 poetry collection
    8 unfinished books
    2 essays

    The number in parenthesis is the rating given to the book:
    1 - didn't like it
    2 - it was OK
    3 - liked it
    4 - really liked it
    5 - amazing

    Similar to last year, reading has been varied and eclectic.
    • FINALLY - able to say that I have read Moby Dick (and a number of supplemental books), Charles Dickens and Plato (loved The Apology of Socrates).
    • After reading Kondo's two books, I have KonMaried my entire closet and dressers (oops, except for jewelry). This was 11 months ago and my closet is still tidy. 
    • Had planned to read entire Virginia Woolf's oeuvre in chronological order by following her well documented life in nephew Quentin Bell's biography but got bogged down and stopped.
    • I started and stopped  quite a few books - just lost interest or got distracted with another book. As my husband says, "it's a free country," meaning I can do whatever I want/need to do.
    • It was a book/movie year....either watching the movie first then racing through the book (The Big Short) or reading the book then watching the movie (Me Before You, Into Thin Air and The Secret Life of Bees).  Interestingly, I did not want to watch the movie after reading The Girl on the Train or In the Heart of the Sea.
    •  Books were connected to traveling this year.  For example, I picked up Gun, Germs and Steel at Reagan National Airport on the way to Costa Rica and read on the plane, even though I had brought plenty of other books to read....go figure. I bought Being Mortal while in Coronado, CA for work and read at the airport while waiting for my return flight, sobbing. I read Walden during summer vacation at Stratton Mountain, VT - on the deck of my brother's condo, surrounded by nature. Moby Dick came with me to the beach on Cape Cod.....perfection would've been if I were on Nantucket Island. 
    • Got back into poetry by reading the perfect anthology for a novice - 100 Classic Poems.  I especially liked poems from the Romantic poets. 
    • Based on my daughter's recommendation, I read and enjoyed Pierce Brown's trilogy - cross between Hunger Games and Ender's Game
    • Read one grief memoir which I did not like - at all. 
    • Have gotten in the habit of watching YouTube author interviews after I have finished the book. 
    • Finished the year back on the path of mindfulness and meditation - I fell off the wagon most of the year...not sure why. Time to get back on.
    January
    1. The Penguin History of the World by J.M. Roberts and O.A Westad (4 so far) - unfinished
    2. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (5+)
    3. Lysistrata by Aristophanes (4)
    4. Andromache by Euripides (4)
    5. Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World by John O'Donohue (5)
    February
    1. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (5)
    2. Spark Joy by Marie Kondo (5)
    3. The Big Short by Michael Lewis (4) after seeing movie
    4. When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (5)
    5. The Trojan Women by Euripides (4)
    6. Hecuba by Euripides (4)
    7. The Histories by Herodotus (4 so far) - unfinished
    March 2016
    1. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (5) saw movie afterwards
    2. Virginia Woolf: A Biography by Quentin Bell (4 so far) - unfinished
    3. H is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald (4)
    April 
    1. Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond (4)
    2. The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf (3+)
    3. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (4)
    May 
    1. Unnatural Causes by P.D. James (3+)
    2. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (5+)
    3. Shroud For A Nightingale by P.D. James
    4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (4+)
    5. The Secret History by Donna Tartt (4) 
    6. Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting and Living with Books by Michael Dirda (4)
    June
    1. Only Spring: On Mourning the Death of My Son by Gordon Livingston (1)
    2. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes (5) and movie
    3. The Vegetarian by Han Kang (3) 
    4. After You by JoJo Moyes (4)
    5. Night and Day by Virginia Woolf (4)
    6. Howard's End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home by Susan Hill (3)
    7. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (4)
    July
    1. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin (4) - reread
    2. Walden by Henry David Thoreau (4 so far) - unfinished
    3. A Hero of France by Alan Furst (3)
    4. Moby Dick by Herman Melville (5+)
    5. A Certain Justice by P.D. James (4)
    6. In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick (4)
    7. Paris Review Interviews Vol II (4)
    8. Melville in Love by Michael Sheldon (2)
    9. Paris Review Interviews Vol III (4)
    10. Why Read Moby Dick by Nathaniel Philbrick (4)
    11. Essay: How Should One Read a Book? by Virginia Woolf (5)
    12. Essay: Modern Fiction by Virginia Woolf (5)
    August
    1. The Apology of Socrates by Plato (5+)
    2. Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books by Nick Hornby (4)
    3. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (4)
    4. Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf (3)
    5. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (4)
    6. The Classic 100 Poems edited by William Harman (5)
    September
    1. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (5)
    2. Crusade in Europe by Dwight D. Eisenhower (4 so far) - unfinished
    3. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (5) and movie
    4. The Works of Anne Bradstreet (5)  poetry collection
    5. Various poems by Romantic poets: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, Keats
    October
    1. Don Juan by Lord Byron (4 so far) - unfinished
    2. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (5)
    3. Red Rising (#1 in trilogy) by Pierce Brown (4)
    November
    1. Golden Son (#2) by Pierce Brown (4)
    2. Morning Star (#3) by Pierce Brown (4)
    3. The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron (5 so far) - unfinished
    4. The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough (5)
    5. S.P.Q.R A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard (4 so far) - unfinished
    December
    1. Aristotle for Everyone by Mortimer Adler (5)
    2. The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh (5)
    3. How To Meditate by Pema Chodron (5) - reread

    Saturday, September 12, 2015

    Books Read in 2015

    43 books read - 2 of which were rereads
    4 plays
    1 poem
    1 poetry collection

    I plan to use this blog mainly as a place to keep track of the books read each year.  As seen from the list so far, my reading has been eclectic and varied.

    • New favorite female authors are Margaret Atwood and P.D. James. 
    • A number of books below, both old and new, reinforce my belief that death is not an end but rather a beginning to another type of existence. 
    • Read books by three poets who expressed their loss in different ways: Hirsch in a long poetic eulogy to his son; Doty in a prose memoir and Atwood in a collection of poems. 
    • Chipped away at my goal to read all the plays of the Greek tragedians (still have a few from Euripides left).
    • Finally read The Great Gatsby and did not like it at all.
    • Much to ponder from Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching, Tolle, Thich Nhat Hanh and Chodron. I regret not being interested in these teaching earlier in life. Why did it take a horrible tragedy to begin what I now see as a true awakening? 
    • Been listening to the BBC World Book Club podcasts in the car where authors read from their book and answer questions (would highly recommend). As a result, read Corban, Haddon, and P.D. James. 
    • Circling back to WWII by reading about GI Brides and an incredible horse. I plan to visit the Marine Corps Museum to see the statue of Sgt. Reckless. 
    • Indulged in brain candy (Kinsella)

    January

    • Bhagavad Gita translated by Stephen Mitchell (5)
    • 8 Limbs of Yoga by Bhava Ram (4)
    • The Forks Over Knives Plan by Drs. Alona Pulde and Matthew Lederman (4)
    February 
    • How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind by Pema Chodron (5)
    • I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb (4)
    March 
    • My Land and My People by Dalai Lama of Tibet (4)
    April
    • West With the Night by Beryl Markham (4)
    • Finding Peter by William Peter Blatty (3)
    May
    • Gabriel: A Poem by Edward Hirsch (4)
    • Heaven's Coast: A Memoir by Mark Doty (4)
    • The Hand on the Mirror: A True Story of Life Beyond Death by Janis Heaphy Durham (4)
    June 
    • A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich (4)
    • Phoenecian Women by  Euripides (4)
    • Orestes by Euripides (3)
    • Bacchae by Euripides (4)
    • No Mud, No Lotus by Thich Nhat Hanh (5)
    • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (3)
    • Going After Cacciato by Tim O'Brien (4)
    July 
    • Six Years by Harlan Coban (3.5)
    • A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle (4)
    • Blonde: A Novel by Joyce Carol Oates (5)
    • My Story by Marilyn Monroe with Ben Hecht (5)
    • The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (5)
    • The Map of Heaven by Eban Elexander with Ptolemy Tompkins (4)
    August 
    • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (5)
    • Tao Te Ching version by Stephen Mitchell (5)
    • Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (4)
    • GI Brides by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi (3.5)
    • Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing by Margaret Atwood (4)
    • Beowulf: A New Version by Seamus Heaney (4)
    • Morning in the Burned House: New Poems by Margaret Atwood (4)
    • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (5)
    • Death in the Holy Orders by P.D. James (4.5)
    September
    • Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (4)
    • Sgt. Reckless: America's War Horse by Robin Hutton (4)
    • I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella (3)
    • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (4)
    • The Incarnations by Susan Barker (4)
    October
    • The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz (1)
    • The Story of Art by E. H. Gombrich (5)
    • Marilyn Norma Jean by Gloria stenhem/George Barris (photos) (4)
    • An Army at Dawn (Vol I of Liberation Trilogy) by Rick Atkinson (4)
    • Re-read:  The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (5+)
    • Memoirs of the Second World War by Winston Churchill (4)
    • Re-read: The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (4)
    November
    • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (4+)
    December
    • Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes (5)
    • Play: Electra by Sophocles (4)
    • Play: Electra by Euripides (4) 
    • Inside Outside by Herman Wouk (4)


    Monday, January 5, 2015

    New Direction in 2015

    My grief journey has taken a definite turn towards inner contemplation, reflection, meditation and yoga. Inspired by my daughter becoming a yoga teacher, I am currently in a 200 hour RYT (registered yoga teacher) training at a wonderful studio called Beloved Yoga.  I have even stopped teaching my 3 indoor cycles classes so I could focus on this training.  

    One thing I've learned is that yoga is MUCH bigger than what is typically done in a yoga class. Poses are just the tip of the iceberg; the philosophy of yoga is a way of life. 

    Since I am a reader, the way I learn is through books. So after a binge ordering spree, the following 15 books have found their way to me. 

    Meditation
    Wherever You Go, There You Are by John Kabat-Zinn
    The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh

    Spirituality/Poetry
    Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World by John O'Donohue
    To Bless The Space Between Us by John O'Donohue
    No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh
    Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle
    The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
    Rumi's Little Book of Life by Rumi

    Yoga
    Light on Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar
    The 8 Limbs of Yoga: Pathway to Liberation by Bhava Ram 
    Deep Yoga: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times by Bhava Ram
    Yoga Sequencing by Mark Stephens
    Yoga Sequencing Deck by Jillian Bobowicz

    Memoir
    Heaven's Coast by Mark Doty
    Light on Life by B.K.S Iyengar

    I am not sure what, if any additional posts will show up on this blog.  It almost feels as though it has served its purpose and I am ready to move on.  We'll see what happens.... 


    Tuesday, November 25, 2014

    November 2014 Books



    Half in Love (surviving the legacy of suicide) by Linda Gray Sexton
    Published: 2010
    Rating: 4
    Goodreads
    Author web site

    Another brutally honest memoir from the daughter of Pulitzer Prize winning poet Anne Sexton who died by suicide when Linda was 21 years old.

    In her first memoir, Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to my Mother, Anne Sexton (1994), Linda examines the complicated relationship with her brilliant but mentally unstable mother. I read and reviewed this in August - see post.

    Years pass and Linda is now happily married with two boys. However the idyllic life ends as she spirals into deep depression/suicidal ideation resulting in three suicide attempts which tear her own family apart.

    For someone who seeks to understand the suicidal mind, I found this memoir to be very helpful - similar to William Styron's Darkness Visible - see post on Josh's blog for thoughts on his book.

    Takeaways:
    • Her description of depression is harrowing: a hungry monster, strong, insatiable, looking to devour.
    •  Love is not enough to prevent suicide - neither the love for others to stop oneself nor the love from others to prevent. 
    • To cope with her intense internal pain, she became a cutter. She describes in excruciating detail her thoughts and feelings while cutting and why it worked.
    • She exonerates her mother and herself by saying that the motivation for suicide was a way, albeit extreme and final, to end pain.
    • She recognizes that to live with someone who struggles with depression and suicidal ideation is tough. Her own husband, father and sister could not cope with her. 
    On a lighter note, she has written a third memoir called Besotted about living with Dalmations.


    Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
    Published: 2008
    Rating: 4
    Goodreads
    Author web site

    This historical WWII fiction is based on a diary of an East Prussian woman in which she chronicles her family's harrowing move west in 1945 - just ahead of the brutal Russian army.

    Bohjalian gives a list of books that helped in his research - I've only read two and am interested in the others.

    Non-fiction
    • Armageddon by Max Hastings
    • D-Day, June 6, 1944 by Stephen Ambrose (read)
    • Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland by Jan T. Gross
    • Hitler's Willing Executioners by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
    • On Hitler's Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of A Nazi Childhood by Irmgard A Hunt
    • What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany by Eric A. Johnson and Karl-Heinz Reuband
    • Sins of the Innocent: A Memoir by Mirelle Marokvia
    • The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn
    • German Boy: A Child in War by Wolfgang W. E. Samuel
    • The Holocaust: Personal Accounts edited by David Scrase and Wolfgang Mieder
    • All My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein
    Fiction
    • Wartime Lies by Loise Begley
    • Crabwalk by Gunter Grass
    • Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky (read)

    Euripides III:  Hecuba  translated by William Arrowsmith
    Published: 425-424 B.C
    Rating: 4
    Goodreads

    Tragedy upon tragedy and suffering upon suffering is this play's theme.

    Queen Hecuba is wife of defeated King Priam of Troy. She has lost everything: her husband, her children, her city, her title and now lives as a Greek slave. As a mother, she has seen her son Paris, start the Trojan War by abducting Helen; her first born Hector, die at the hands of Achilles; her daughter Cassandra taken by Agamemnon and now faces the death of two other children.

    I can relate to her willingness to die in place of her daughter, Polyxena:
    Let me take her place upon the tomb;
    kill me, be merciless to me, not her.
    And when she sees the body of her son, Polydorus:
    O Gods in heaven, let me die!
     What amazes me in reading the Greek tragedians are the timeless truths written centuries ago:
    That man is happiest
    who lives from day to day and asks no more,
    garnering the simple goodness of  a life.

    That no man on earth is truly free.
    All are slaves of money or necessity,
    Public opinion or fear of prosecution,
    forces each one, against his conscience, to conform.

    The Blessing: A Memoir by  Gregory Orr
    Published: 2002
    Rating: 4
    Goodreads

    I ordered this memoir after reading his Poetry as Survival and read it in two days.

    He begins with a question that can only be asked years removed from the trauma: "Do I dare to say my brother's death was a blessing?"

    I cannot imagine how hard it was for him to drudge up memories and feelings of the time leading up to the moment when he accidentally shot his brother.  While reading, all I could do was write OMG in the margins over and over. He was only twelve years old - just beginning adolescence. His dysfunctional family offered no solace or comfort. Then his mother died two years later. How could this kid survive? Through the power of poetry.

    My memories of the horrible day when I found Josh are millisecond snapshots that sometimes pop up in my head. When certain images threaten to linger, I shut them down.

    Next up - read his poetry.

    Song of Myself in Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
    Published 1855 (1st edition) and 1892 ("death-bed" edition)
    Rating: 5
    Goodreads






    Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
    Published: 2004 (posthumously)
    Rating: 4
    Goodreads

    I bought this book a while ago and decided to read after seeing it in Bohjalian's list of books that inspired his Skeletons at the Feast. 

    The story of how this book was published reminds me of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. It is a miracle that both manuscripts survived WWII.

    A French novelist from Jewish descent had a vision of writing an epic, five-part novel in the same vein as Tolstoy's War and Peace.  She began feverishly writing the first two parts while living in occupied France in 1941-1942, instinctively knowing that time was short.

    She was arrested and deported in July 1942, leaving her husband and two young daughters. She died in Auschwitz the following month. Her husband was arrested a few months later and before leaving, entrusted their oldest daughter Denise, with Irene's unfinished manuscript. He also perished in Auschwitz.

    Serendipitously the girls and manuscript survived but it wasn't until decades later that Denise finally decided to read what she thought was her mother's journal. As she read, Denise realized that her mother had written a powerful novel of life in occupied France.

    She painstakingly deciphered her mother's teeny handwriting and took it to a publisher who recognized the historical significance of the novel. Published over sixty years after Irene's death, Suite Francaise became an instant bestseller.    

    To learn more, read these articles from the NY Times and the Telegraph.


    Americans In Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation by Charles Glass
    Published: 2011
    Rating: 4
    Goodreads








    All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
    Published: 2014
    Rating: 4
    Goodreads




    Wednesday, October 15, 2014

    October 2014 Books



    Edge of Eternity (Century Trilogy # 3) by Ken Follett
    Published: 2014
    Rating: 4
    Author web site
    Goodreads

    Two years ago, I read the first two books in Follett's Century Trilogy (see post) which began a love for historical fiction and initiated a reading spree of World War II that continues to this day; also spawning interest in the subsequent Korean and Vietnam Wars.

    I pre-ordered the book and began reading upon receipt.  Follett begins the narrative in 1961 and continues to follow the same families (American, British, German and Russian) introduced in the first two books.

    In this lengthy book (1,098 pages), I was disappointed that the Korean War was completely skipped, but that is just par for the course - another example of how it is truly the "Forgotten War."  That said, Follett did not focus on the Vietnam War either, rather turning his attention to the Civil Rights movement in American and the Cold War with Russia, specifically the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Very gripping reading - I did not realize how close we were to a nuclear war which could've wiped us out.

    The book ends with the events that led to the demise of communism in Eastern Europe, culminating in the dramatic fall of the Berlin Wall.

    I found this particular quote of a semi-retired CIA officer as he watched the fall of the Berlin Wall on television - very telling of our foreign policy decisions:
    Everything we did was completely ineffective. Despite all our efforts Vietnam, Cuba, and Nicaragua became Communist countries. Look at other places where we tried to prevent Communism: Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Cambodia, Laos….None of them does us much credit. And now Eastern Europe is abandoning Communism with no help from us.
    To say the twentieth century was tumultuous is an understatement,  Follett has done a great job bringing it to life and making this reader, formally uninterested in history, a convert.

    Poetry as Survival by Gregory Orr
    Published: 2002
    Rating: 5+
    Goodreads

    I loved it - evidenced by the numerous dog-eared pages and marks (underline, circles, exclamation marks, asterisks and comments) within the margins.

    How he found poetry and what it has meant in his life reminds me of Anne Sexton - both say that poetry had literally saved them.

    When he was twelve, Orr was responsible for a hunting accident that killed his younger brother. While his parents did not blame him, they were unable to talk about it due to their profound grief. He was left unconsolable.  Then two years later, his mother died after a common medical procedure. Trauma upon trauma inflicted on this young adolescent's soul.

    Lucky for him, a high school English teacher exposed him to poetry and he has not looked back.
    I wrote a poem one day, and it changed my life. I had a sudden sense that the language in poetry was "magical," unlike language in fiction: that it could create or transform reality rather than simply describe it. That first poem I wrote was a simple, escapist fantasy, but it liberated the enormous energy of my despair and oppression as nothing before had ever done. I felt simultaneously revealed to myself and freed of my self by the images and actions of the poem.
    and
    When someone, in the throes of a powerful and disturbing experience, turns instinctively to the writing or reading of a poem, it is because they sense the personal lyric can be a powerful aid in helping them survive and make sense of their experience.
    Orr is a professor of English at the University of Virginia.  Reading this book gave me a sense of being in a seminar class on how poetry, specifically the personal lyric, has saved him.  It reads like a memoir, peppered with the poems and lines of poetry that he knows and loves. I have transposed these poems into my own personal poetry journal:
    There is much more to say about this life changing (strong words but true!) book which I hope to do on Josh's blog.  

    Would highly recommend!!!

    Other books by Orr:
    • The Blessing: A Memoir (2002)
    • The Caged Owl: New and Selected Poems (2002)
    • Concerning the Book That is the Body of the Beloved (2005)
    • How Beautiful the Beloved (2009)
    • River Inside the River: Poems (2013)
    The Poet's Corner: The One-and-Only Poetry Book for the Whole Family compiled by John Lithgow
    Published: 2007
    Rating: 4

    This famous actor's love of poetry began at a young age - at the feet of his grandmother who could recite numerous poems from memory.

    So this book is like a love offering - a poetry anthology of his all-time favorite poets who "lived on different continents, in different eras, their works are old and new, romantic and savage, comic and gloomy, orderly and chaotic, long and short."

    Lithgow includes a short commentary on each of the fifty poets and what the chosen poem(s) means to him.  

    He also includes quotes from the poets themselves - my favorites are below.

    Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel….the moment you feel, you're nobody-but-yourself. To be nobody-but-yourself - in a world that is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.    E.E. Cummings 
    If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that it is poetry.  Emily Dickinson 
    A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.    Robert Frost 
    Look, then, into thine heart, and write!        Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    To elevate the soul, poetry is necessary.      Edgar Allen Poe
    Emily Dickinson is one poet whom I find both difficult to understand and amazing when I do.  I found and bought The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson edited by Thomas H. Johnson at my local library book sale a couple of years ago for the bargain price of $1.50. I have not delved into the book as yet but have rather run into Dickinson's poetry via other means - even finding an ambitious blogger who aims to read and write about all 1,789 poems. 

    So when deciding which of the many poems in Lithgow's book I could transcribe here, how could I go wrong with Dickinson? 

    There is no Frigate like a Book (#1263)
    by Emily Dickinson

    There is no Frigate like a Book
    To take us Lands away
    Nor any Coursers like a Page
    Of prancing Poetry - 
    This Traverse may the poorest take
    Without oppress of Toll - 
    How frugal is the Chariot
    That bears the Human soul.


    Audiobook: The Churchills: In Love and War by Mary S. Lovell
    Published: 2011
    Rating: 5
    Goodreads

    I borrowed this from the library - a fascinating, in-depth, frank and somewhat gossipy look at the extended family of one of the greatest statesman ever: Winston Spencer Churchill.

    Lovell's premise is that family is very important to a person and so to gain better understanding of WSC, one must look at his family.  What kind of family was he born into? How did he interact with his parents, grandparents, friends, siblings, girlfriends, political allies and enemies, wife, children?

    WSC was a product of his time and class: post-Victorian, British aristocracy.  He was the grandson of the 7th Duke of Marlborough and cousin to the 9th Duke of Marlborough. His mother was an American beauty, Jennie Jerome.  His cousin married an American heiress, Consuelo Vanderbilt whose first love was Winthrop Rutherford who eventually married Lucy Mercer, FDR's mistress.  Small world!

    While primarily known as prime minister during the Second World War, I came to learn of his many other skills: novice pilot,  prolific writer, historian, painter, bricklayer, consummate politician and Nobel Prize winner (for Literature).  Also, I did not know he had served as prime minister twice.

    Any subsequent reading of this man's life will be enriched by the insights gained from this well researched book.  














    Saturday, September 20, 2014

    September 2014 Books


    Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters edited by Linda Gray Sexton and Lois Ames
    Published: 1977
    Rating: 5

    Anne Sexton was a Pulitzer-winning poet who died by suicide at 45.  She was survived by her ex-husband and two girls.   Anne named her oldest, Linda as literary executor which was an extraordinary burden for a 21-year old.

    The reading of all her mom's letters was a massive undertaking as Anne was a prolific correspondent who kept carbon copies of everything - how strange it must have been to be reading the thoughts from her vibrant, brilliant, mentally unstable deceased mother.  

    Anne's letters were often like streams of consciousness - effusive, open, honest - complete with spelling and grammar errors.  To more accomplished poets, she would send her poems and ask for critiques, favors and references.  She gave few tidbits about her family, rather wishing for more time and less distraction to devote to her art.  Her letters sound as if she were talking on the phone - informal, conversational, almost child-like and immature.

    She had a long correspondence with W.D Snodgrass who won the 1960 Pulitzer Prize for Heart's Needle, a poem that had a profound impact on her.  
    ...that when I read your poem, that first time....it walked out at me, and grew like a bone inside my heart.
    People are afraid of people, especially poets...I read "Heart's Needle" and I changed.  It made me see myself new. In seeing you, in feeling your marvelous restrained sense of immediate loss, I saw my own loss in a new color.
    Poetry and poetry alone has saved me.
    This type of impact was what she looked for and what she wanted to write:
     I rather like being slugged, to walk away from the poem with old wounds reopened...let the poem bruise me.
    Creative people must not avoid the pain they get dealt....hurt must be examined like a plague.
    Poetry need not be dull...
    About her poetry:
    Only in a poem is the emotion intensified, sharpened, made acute and sometimes more than I knew I knew...
    You see, I am given to excess.  That's all there is to it.  I have found that I can control it best in a poem....if the poem is good then it will have the excess under control...it is the core of the poem...there, like stunted fruit, but actual.
    Words bother me. I think it is why I am a poet. I keep trying to force myself to speak of the things that remain mute inside.  My poems have only come when I have almost lost the ability to utter a word. To speak, in a way, of the unspeakable. To make an object out of the chaos...to say what?  A final cry into the void.
    It wasn't until I learned to work my guts out that a true poem came into being...fight for the poem. Put your energy into it. Force discipline upon madness....Push for the stars, or at least go back and push one poem all the way up there.
    Inside I feel like a cooked broccoli...the heads that fall apart when you cut them. The only time I'm tough in my own mind is when I'm seized by a poem and then determined to conquer it and let it live it's own peculiar life. All my toughness goes into my writing. 
    She does write openly about her depression - this quote was particularly poignant:
    ...not been able to write, been lonely, been sadder that sad toads would be if they are as sad as their blinking eyes seem to be.
     Four months before she committed suicide, she wrote the following to Erica Jong:
    I keep feeling that there isn't one poem being written by any one of us - or a book, or anything like that. The whole life of us writers, the whole product I guess I mean, is the one long poem - a community effort if you will. It's all the same poem. It doesn't belong to any one writer - it's God's poem perhaps. Or God's people's poem....
    ...and if you can feel you are in touch with experience, if you've (so to speak) stuck your finger into experience and have got it right and can put it down so that others (even other experience tellers) can comprehend their own lives better, can crawl in closer to the truth of it, then you must get on with it! And keep right on.
    After finishing, I wrote in by book journal:

    WOW - what a woman - complicated.
    What a life - tortured.
    What an artist - ambitious, driven, obsessed. 

    Next I plan to resume reading Anne Sexton: A Biography by Diane Middlebrook and Linda Gray Sexton's second memoir, Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide.

     The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart
    Published as trilogy: 1980
    The Crystal Cave (1970)
    The Hollow Hills (1973)
    The Last Enchantment (1979)
    Rating:5

    and

     The Wicked Day (Merlin #4) by Mary Stewart
    Published: 1983
    Rating:5

    While on vacation this week, I've been transported back in time to the magical and heroic days of Merlin the sorcerer and Arthur, bastard son of King Uther Pendragon who succeeded him as High King when he took the sword in the stone, the subsequent battles whereby the new King and his Companions subdued the factions and brought peace to his kingdom, his own bastard son Mordred by half-sister Morgause, the barren but much loved Queen Guinevere - the cast of characters are larger-than-life and believable.

    I found this YouTube interview with Mary Stewart who passed away earlier this year. It is interesting that she did not intend to write a series but ended up doing so based on the request of her publishers and fans. I am glad she did. 

    In the interview, she is talks about the TV series done by BBC and how she was pleased with the adaptation. I plan to watch as it is available via streaming Netflix. This is good as I found myself wishing that someone like Peter Jackson would make movies out of the books.

    For anyone who is interested in the Arthurian legend, I would highly recommend.