Reviews written by SClark
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By writing this book, Toni Bernhard has created a generous gift to people who are ill and for the people who care for them. I was hesitant about opening the book (recommended by a friend) because it sounded depressing, but I was completely engaged by Toni’s voice. It seemed to me that she embodied the process she writes about with loving kindness and compassion – and not a little humor – sharing what has been a long struggle with doctors and the loss of so many parts of her life.
She shares her story that includes becoming ill with something doctors don’t seem to be able to name or treat, having to give up her career, and losing many of her social connections. By continuing her practice of Buddhism she was able to open doors, as she says, to what her life had to offer. Limited, yes, but not without joy.
Her explanations of Buddhism are not only clear, but are given in a way that makes each practice understandable in the context of illness and loss. I checked the book out from our local library, but realized that, while I enjoyed the first read, if I were to actually going to try to adopt the practices in my own life I needed to buy a copy. She invites each reader to take the path her book outlines, to find that, “There’s nothing wrong with our life. It’s just our life.”
Since every life has disappointments and pain, the message Toni gives can be easily generalized to parenting, aging, or your own personal version of limitations. I recommend this book very highly.
Michael Roads, author of several popular books on gardening and metaphysics, describes this book as chatty in tone. He tells of falling in love with gardening as a child when his father introduced him to vegetable growing.
He suggests that by bringing the attitude of a student into your garden you will be able to meet with Nature and enter into the marvels and magic of metaphysical gardening. He urges the gardener not to do battle with Nature, but to engage with Nature, “being with” rather that “doing to.”
Roads writes for many climates, about ornamental and food plants, about lawns, pets, and paramagnetic energy. The book combines stories from his many years of gardening with specific information about building soil, mulching, and the science of soils. His detailed table of contents makes using the book as a resource very easy, but the style invites a full reading. This book offers an inviting way to move beyond the visible garden to the spirit and energy garden.
Author Sydney Eddison has taken her personal experience of declining physical capacities and created a charming, practical book for all gardeners who face similar challenges due to age, illness, or injury. Finding her beloved garden too much to manage as she had done for so many years, she developed techniques and strategies to continue gardening without it taking such a toll on her body. The experiences of friends and fellow gardeners enrich her story and the range of gardening options she has cultivated.
As simple as it sounds, accepting help in the garden can be hard (and finding and affording qualified help), but Eddison leads her readers through choices for getting past this hurdle, and possible outcomes. Culling was the next task, and although heartbreaking to have to say goodbye to some of her plant friends, pulling out poor performing plants and replacing some of her extensive perennials with shrubs ensured longevity for the whole garden.
Weed control depended more and more on mulching and composting. She learned to accept imperfection, to work with nature rather than battle it, and to use native plants and bulbs to add low-maintenance color. Eddison also planned for the time after her passing by making sure her garden would become part of Newtown Forest Association, protecting her garden from succumbing to urban development.
The writing is engaging and the tone positive, in spite of the author’s physical challenges. I’d recommend this book in particular for gardeners in mid-life and beyond, or people of any age who have to balance their love for gardening with their capacities.
Glorious color photos generously illustrate the entire book. People
new to this field won’t feel lost, but the level of detail and the
range of information will quickly engage even the experienced
beekeeper, gardener, or farmer.
The reader learns that we not only need to stop poisoning the many
species of hard working bugs, but we need to stop removing their food
sources and the places they overwinter and reproduce. Suggestions are
given for how to add helpful plants on all types of land uses, from
home and school grounds to railroad rights of way.
You’ll meet and learn to identify, for example, long-horned bees,
metallic sweat bees, bumble, carpenter, mason and honeybees. You’ll
also find garden plans and regional plant lists for native pollinator
gardens plus over sixty detailed plant profiles.
The Xerces Society was named for the Xerces blue butterfly, the first
in the U.S. driven to extinction by mankind. Their work is aimed at
preventing all invertebrates from similar fates. This well designed
book is a great resource for becoming part of this important work.
Author Fasenfest weaves stories about her growth as a home-maker
around tips, techniques, philosophy, and recipes in this 400+ page
book. Fasenfest says near the end, “Today I have such an immense
respect for the earth’s grace that I am humbled and ashamed to think
of how poorly we have treated it.” She writes about "getting off the
teat of technology and fancy living."
The term homemaker has fallen low in the esteem of current culture,
but Fasenfest redeems it, showing that a local economy is rooted in
the home, where people do things with their hands and skills to make
life both frugal and rich.
As a verb, ‘to household’ describes a way to challenge the quagmire
of contemporary society. She says, “The more I sidestepped the
industrial world the happier I became.”
The book is peppered with sidebars, statistics, quotes from people
like Wendell Berry, and instructions about such things as making
informed choices about local meats and the details of spring
cleaning. I have a super-productive quince tree and will definitely use the
membrillo (quince paste) recipe.
Fasenfest invites her readers to begin change, each of us
individually, making it more likely others will do the same. Whether
used as a reference book to dip into now and then or read cover to
cover, it is staying on my bookshelf and it belongs on yours.
Since 2006 when Lowenfels and Lewis published their original version
of Teaming with Microbes, scientists have made discoveries about the
life in the soil that required that the authors update their work. In
the first section, the new Chapter Four introduces archaea (ar-KEY-
ah), once thought to be a weird type of bacteria. One of their
critical functions is converting atmospheric nitrogen into a plant-
In the second section, the new Chapter Nineteen discusses
mycorrhizal fungi, whose associations with plant roots extends the
root systems, providing nutrient delivery in exchange for sugars from
As for illustrations, who doesn’t like the microscopic photos of
science fictiony creatures grappling for survival?
The second section gives all the specifics you’ll need to manage your
own soil food web, make compost and compost teas, a calendar for when
to do what, and a list of simple rules.
In the introduction the authors say, “Once you are aware of and
appreciate the beautiful synergisms between soil organisms, you will
not only become a better gardener but a better steward of the earth.”
They provide clear guidance for achieving both in this excellent book.
James Arthur Ray, self-proclaimed multi-millionaire and “Rock Star of Personal Transformation,” is now accused of three counts of manslaughter as a result of deaths in a sweat lodge training course. Author Connie Joy was part of Ray’s organization as a participant and a volunteer for three years. Her book chronicles her own spiritual development, the growth of the organization, and the leader’s change from a charismatic teacher to a man in love with money and fame. She shares the details of Ray’s growing business, and her attempts to improve safety practices. Her message to others is to be careful consumers in spiritual teaching as in any other purchase, and not to let your trust lead you into unsafe actions.
Joy writes in a clear voice, sharing what will surely be interesting to others on spiritual quests.
This novel follows the protagonist Beth Calhoun from her abusive
marriage through her struggle to become a strong woman able to stand
on her own. Set near the Canadian border on Rainy Lake, the story
introduces Seth, a native American, and his Ojibwa spirituality as
well as Beth’s dark family history, which haunts her.
The characters are appealing, the unusual setting is strongly
portrayed, and the resolution, while predictable, is satisfying. If
you like romance, historical anecdotes, and Native American lore, this
book should be on your list to read.
This book, which took over fifteen years to complete, tells the story of a father’s journey to understand the death of his nine year old son; “the still unfolding mystery of his life and death.”
The author, an anesthesiologist, outdoor educator, bicycle commuter, and martial arts expert, tells of the physical challenges his son Brian faced and the delight the parents felt as Brian grew into a quirky, bright, surprising child. Brian died having completed his first trip around the bases in a baseball game.
Korbon’s book follows the path of a father’s grief and his transformation into a more compassionate person, a better hugger, and a believer in “magic stuff.” One example of this magic stuff was the note the parents found on their son’s door, posted there just before the baseball game. It said, “Brian is on a trip. Do not worry about me.”
This is a compelling story clearly written and very engaging. The author doesn’t gloss over the pain of loss, but finds hope and joy in his journey through grief.
Author Derek Lin spins together the strands of teaching stories and what he calls five rings of destiny: spirit, mind, relationships, world, and destiny. His writing is clear and engaging, the book is a pleasure to read, and worth reading repeatedly.
He offers readers a path for deepening their cultivation of the Tao, but as he reminds us, the Tao is really beyond words. One story involves a daughter being given three birthday presents: a mirror (her present self), a skull (her future self), and a Buddha (her eternal self). The lesson included learning to recognize the Buddha within, but that’s just one; there are multiple layers of meaning to be found in each story.
Lin says that one can attain effortless perfection that manifests naturally when one flows with the Tao, transcending personal limitations and doing what we thought we couldn’t. The success he envisions is moving toward your goals, free from strife and needless struggles, lending a helping hand to others.
I think this book is a gem—and plan to read it again.
The main characters in this book are daughter Jane who is the author, her father Harry, and Harry’s wife Angelika. Harry dies unexpectedly, leaving his bed-ridden wife Angelika alone. Daughter Jane, who lives across the continent, wants to comfort her isolated stepmother, and
begins a yearlong relationship with her father’s spirit and other helping spirits. Family reconciliation is just one of the loving outcomes.
A perfect read for someone grieving, this book teaches that the after-life is unimaginably beautiful and that, as the title says, love never dies.
For William Powers, spending forty days in a friend’s tiny house turned into a spiritual journey, a search for how to live with and respond to the global economy and all the devastation that it creates. His goal was to “uncover hope for personal and global healing.” As he adjusted to living simply, in a 12 by 12 building without electricity, he found himself “slipping into what the Chinese call wu wei, an alert inactivity,” and gradually learned from the dilemma rather than fighting it. His style of writing invites the reader to join his learning, creating your own enlightenment as you follow his.
Powers’ story rambles through the Permaculture farm, his previous travels, the stories of various visitors, and the issues of corporate culture. Recalling his childhood, Powers said the safe and prosperous life that he had enjoyed had been produced by ecocide, planetary destruction. I love his definition of false privilege: any action that can’t be enjoyed by everyone on the planet without compromising the ecosystem. At one point, all the world’s ills overwhelmed him, and he realized he had to let go of anger, shame, blame, and guilt, and just let be, not condoning, but being present, transforming anger into the energy of compassion.
Here’s just one of his suggestions: set a goal to reduce your carbon footprint to average Bangladeshi’s: 1/20th of the average US consumption. For help, see www.carbonfootprint.com . This book is engaging, thought provoking, wise, and well worth reading.
Wisdom from a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and a Harvard professor of nutrition combines into a gentle, wonderful book. In it the reader is shown how to live mindfully, take care of a weight problem in a peaceful way, and gain insight into the roots of weight problems. This is not a battle to be fought, but “we must make friends with our hardships and challenge. They are there to help us.”
Mindful eating means simply eating or drinking while being aware of each bite or sip, and it can turn a simple meal into a spiritual experience. Here’s an example of mindful meditation on the simple act of turning on a faucet:
Breathe in as I turn on the faucet: I am grateful for the clean water that sustains my life.
Breathe out: I remember the billions of people who are without clean water every day.
There is a sample ten-week mindful living plan and a mindful meal, including the cooking, eating and cleaning up. The writing is gentle, engaging, touching, and clear. The final message: savor every moment.
This book is a strange read, combining botany and biochemistry with a poetic voice and a passion for trees. The Canadian author is a botanist and medical biochemist and in this book she shares history, myth, and science, as well as her fears for the environment. I found the science well explained, detailed, and fascinating.
A couple of the topics I was most touched by are (1) the release of forest hormones by logging that then enter our drinking water (and us) and (2) the mounds as big as Egyptian pyramids built by the Cahokin culture (of prehistoric Illinois). Beresford-Kroeger explains the details of how ocean warming interrupts the food chain and tells how to create a forest bio-plan around epicenter trees.
Her concern that “the majesty of diversity is being reduced by ignorance,” comes through clearly but is balanced by a flow of positive information about things we can change, influence, and do that can make a difference.
In a nutshell, her book says the world’s forests are in danger, here’s why it matters, and here’s what to do. I really enjoyed the unusual presentation and the new-to-me information about botanical medicines.
Billee Sharp begins her book with a weighty question: what do we really need to sustain ourselves? The tone of the book, however, is more like a chat with a friend - a frugal, creative friend. She describes the book as not a “dreary call to economize but rather an opportunity to scrutinize.” She mixes some of her philosophy about living simply and more lightly on the planet with abundant specifics such as a host of home health remedies, home repair tips, a chapter on inexpensive celebrations, and over 40 pages of recipes for inexpensive foods.
Ms. Sharp celebrates the values of the counterculture of forty years ago, augmented with up-to-date technological information, to help readers create a simpler life with less need for money and more satisfaction. Her advice combines urging us to complete the sentence “I’ve always wanted to…” and then setting a goal to do it, or as Joseph Campbell said, follow your bliss.
Your new lifestyle may include a new occupation, selling excess possessions, practicing extreme thrift, freecycling, and buying in bulk. Maybe you’ll make your own jams or sauerkraut, too. The instructions are in the book.I marked the recipe for an essential oil arthritis bath, which I’m eager to try on a painful shoulder. This book is an easy read, light in tone but packed with specifics for reducing your need for cash and increasing the smiles in your life.
What is the symbolic capital of the U.S.? Author Chris Hedges thinks it is Las Vegas, and this Pulitzer Prize winning writer makes a good case. He peels away artifice, telling a compelling story about the crumbling of our culture, which he predicts, is leading to a grim future.
Hedges tells a well-researched and detailed story of the spectacle, phony-ness, and lies that surround us. He takes the reader into the world of celebrity worship, wrestling, pornography, politics, and elite education, showing how each of these arenas illustrates “the undiluted narcissism of a society in precipitous decline.”
Hedges’ research demonstrates that we live in a world where fantasy has displaced reality, and the techniques of theatre have leaked into politics, religion, education, news, warfare, and crime. The illusionists who shape our culture profit from and encourage our incredulity, effectively telling us, “We are all entitled to everything.” Hedonism and wealth are openly worshiped on a host of television game shows, and no moral code limits what people will do to win.
This no-holds-barred race to win led to the trashing of our economy, he says, and the heads of financial corporations lied, manipulated, and took money from millions of investors, walking away with enormous bonuses and compensation. This cult of distraction not only keeps us from paying attention to social injustice but is designed to keep us from fighting back.
I love this book for speaking intelligently to me, as though I am capable of taking the tough truth. By the conclusion I was nearly overwhelmed, but I recommend it, and appreciate being given the respect that we all deserve. Hedges doesn’t offer much hope, but I’d much prefer facing the truth than watching even one reality TV show.
Author Ivan Rados asks us to consider that "there may be something more going on in the physical body than just chemical and electrical activity.” He says the energy of the divine flows though us and as we grow in consciousness we move toward health and wellness. When we are ill we are out of balance, the flow of energy is blocked, and the body function is impaired.
Healing is “…a matter of learning how to allow the health that has always been our true nature to stream forth…” but he says we can’t think our way to wellness. We need to embrace each moment’s stillness.
The practice he outlines centers around the seven chakras aligned with the glandular system and using meditation to open a door to finding the ability to increase our health. He provides a seed syllable or mantra for each chakra and instructions about how to meditate with each one.
With clear language Rados guides his reader through the meditations, chipping away Western attachment to thoughts and beliefs, and leading to both an understanding and practice of meditation. This is a very readable book which I think many people, especially those concerned
with health issues, will find very helpful.
This book is written for the reader looking for answers to the big questions of why we are here and who we are. Author Hoffman says she provides guidance to relationship with the divine, and calls herself “a conduit and scribe of ancient wisdom.” She describes a temple of light as an energetic temple, the conscious soul of an Egyptian sacred site.
According to a friend of mine who is a scholar and author on ancient Egypt, the Egyptian Mystery Schools were renowned sites, and thought by some to be the source of much of the wisdom that eventually helped form our own culture. Author Richard Wilkenson is quoted as saying, “the temples stood at the nexus of the three spheres of heaven, earth, and the nether worlds…a kind of portal (for) gods and men.”
The book includes a CD as well as print versions of thirteen meditations divided into two groups: the first group of seven meditations called the Heart Expansion Ascension Spiral, and the second six called the Inner Temple Ascension Spiral. Following these meditations is designed to help you find a deeper sense of yourself and to help you connect with the divine. A map of the physical location of these sacred sites helps orient the reader to the geography, but this is not a left- brained book.
Hoffman recommends working through the meditations at a pace of one per week, or even one per month, and she says you need a quiet, undisturbed place in which to follow the guided meditations. “This body of work is to be experienced,” she says, as you become your greatest, most liberated self. If Egypt is calling you, this book may be just what you’re looking for.
Author Greg Craven is what he calls a green realist; he’s also a science teacher and a father of two. He sees the climate change debate stuck trying to answer the wrong questions.
Rather than asking “Is it going to happen?” or “Is it really caused by us?” we should be asking “What if we don’t do anything and it really does cause big problems?” Could you live with that? Can any of us?
The genesis of the book came as he thought about climate change, imagining a time when he would feel driven to protect his children’s drinking water at gunpoint. That’s a place he’d rather not be, so he began talking, writing, and teaching differently, pointing out that climate change is a security issue, not about saving the world, but about saving US!
In his book he teaches the use of tools that help improve thinking, one of which is called a Magical Grid Machine. He uses it to step his students and readers through a “what if” process that leads, in this case, to a clear decision to work as if global warming is a problem because it’s better than not acting and finding out too late that it is.
My favorite part of the book is the graphic that shows modern prosperity being held up by a structure built of modern medical care, abundant natural resources, our credit-based financial system, cheap energy, and high-yield agriculture. All of that is underpinned by a stable, predictable climate, like a house built on a cliff and held up by one big beam. This picture is worth more than a thousand words!
Go grab this book! The light tone and injection of fun belies the grim seriousness of the topic and his ultimate call to action. Thanks for the inspiring book, Greg.
This is a deep and meaty book, filled with astounding wisdom from five holy men. Each is given a chapter, forming the central core of the book: Rumi, a brilliant 13th century Muslim theologian, well-known poet and mystic; Kabir, from 15th century India and the father of modern spirituality in India; Hafiz born around 1320 in Iran whose art “paints a multi-faceted panorama of the vast inner landscape of the mystical journey; 15th century Guru Nanak from northern India who founded the Sikh religion; and Darshan Singh, a 20th century Indian holy man under whom Vidich, the author studied.
It is said that if God divided the world into quadrants, with all the power in one corner, wealth in the next, fame in the third, and Himself in the fourth corner, over 99% of all people would be in the first three corners. This book is written for those drawn to the fourth corner, people seeking answers to three fundamental questions: 1) Who are we? 2) Why are we here? and 3) Where do we go at death?
The author says that meditation “unlocks the inner doorway to the vast reservoir of spirit within” and to help the reader, Vidich has included instructions on beginning to meditate, a format for a spiritual journal, lists of teaching points from these holy men, stories that illustrate the teachings, and glimpses of his own spiritual journey.
Vidich’s writing makes this book fairly easy to read, but he paints a picture of a long and daunting journey from where most of us are toward an enlightenment, and one that leaves the world behind.
Treatable and Beatable tells the author’s story of healing her stage three breast cancer without surgery, and it is quite a valuable read for anyone dealing with major health issues. Gross says, “Use your mind as an ally” to promote healing, and “See your health challenge as a new way to appreciate life.”
Gross said that she began writing the book during her treatment and she shares not only the uplifting conclusions, but the fear, treatment side effects, and dark times. She wanted others to know that there are options, and says, “…we need to claim our power from the moment we are diagnosed…”
In spite of being told that surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy were her only options, she chose to take the time to do her own research. She found information about cutting edge treatment being done in Mexico and is now glad she decided to choose that treatment rather than the more traumatic version offered in the US.
Highlights include a whole chapter on anger, a list of positive affirmations anyone can use, recipes for cleansing salt soaks, and the encouragement to laugh more often, especially at yourself. Gross has balanced the negative aspects of a major illness with specific self-care suggestions. One chapter title captures the spirit of her book: “The Blessings of Cancer.”
In her book The Generosity Plan, Kathy LeMay has created a way for anyone to become a philanthropist by helping the reader to develop a personal giving plan. She tells of growing up with her blue-collar family and wishing she had the big money to make the world a better place. She wasn’t wealthy, but as she worked for years as an activist and professional fundraiser she came to realize that every person can become a philanthropist.
LeMay discovered that it’s not about big money. The Generosity Plan invites everyone, especially the majority of people who don’t have millions to give away, to embrace philanthropy and define it individually. She is generous with stories about people she has helped do exactly that.
LeMay has developed a series of exercises that help clarify a rewarding way to use time, talent, and treasure to impact the causes one cares about. Her process tackles the barriers that keep people from giving in ways they find truly satisfying. Through the use of questions and worksheets she helps readers review their history of giving, determine the causes that touch them most deeply, select a charity, and get specific about exactly what they can give.
For those who wish to stretch limited resources and make a real difference, this book offers excellent insights and helpful advice. Your perfect giving strategy could be just around the corner.
The Second Book of the Tao offers the reader sixty-four chaptersthat explore the art of living in a clear, lovely style. There are charming stories, paradoxes, humor, and inspiration. Following the chapters, Mitchell has included extensive notes and a bibliography.
Mitchell’s book is a collection of material freely adapted (rather than strictly translated) from the source materials, two books both over two thousand years old and inspired by the Tao Te Ching, considered the first book of the Tao. Only the Bible has had more translations than the Tao Te Ching. It is believed to have been written by Lao-tzu, and, similar to other ancient religious books, the Tao Te Ching has inspired followers to write commentaries.
Mitchell used two anthologies of these writings as the sources for his latest book. Lao-tzu’s disciple Master Chuang compiled a book which carries his name, "The Chuang-tzu" and Confucius’ grandson Tzu-ssu wrote Mitchell’s other source, entitled "The Chung Yung."
Using these two ancient spiritual texts, Mitchell says he picked “from them the freshest, clearest, most profound passages.” Similar to other Taoist writings, the chapters are often enigmatic, and the reader is invited to look deeply into herself to find meaning.
While Mitchell’s language is inspiring and clear, the book wouldn’t be about the Tao if it didn’t tease and beguile the intellect. The Second Book of the Tao is a gem, worth dipping into repeatedly, opening the mind. “Thus, when the mind is open and free of its own thoughts, life unfolds effortlessly, and the whole world is filled with light.”
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