Books I'm Currently Reading (or re-reading)
Like many people, I read several books at once. Normally, I’m reading at least one non-fiction book, a new fiction book I’ve never read before, and a much-loved book from my keeper shelf that reminds me why I love to write and why certain books touch readers not just for the moment they’re reading but for many years after the book has been closed on the final chapter.
I've just finished reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It's a small book with a big message, and reading it is time well spent. The agreements are easy to condense into bullet points, but I encourage you to read the book because it lays out the research, the reasoning, and the results you'll get if you follow these easy to remember/hard to do instructions for living a full and happy life. The agreements:
1. Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity, say what you mean, and don't speak negatively about yourself or others.
2. Don't take anything personally. Other people's actions stem from their own reality and isn't a reflection on you.
3. Don't make assumptions. Communicate clearly to avoid misunderstandings. Have the courage to ask if you don't understand.
4. Always do your best. This will help you to avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
I've been meeting myself coming and going these days as I work to fulfill my obligations to my family, my animal communication clients, my publisher, and (last but not least) myself. The four agreements have been guideposts I return to often to help me stay balanced.
Books I Recently Recommended
A Single Girl's Guide to Wedding Survival by Melissa Borg. I've known Melissa for a few years, so I had the great pleasure of reading this book even before its debut. Knowing Melissa's fun and quirky sense of humor, I expected her book to be just as sassy and fun as she is, and I was not disappointed. Her wicked sense of humor shines from every page. Don't be surprised if you find yourself snorting with laughter over some random and clever turn of phrase. (Maybe you shouldn't read the book in public, just in case.) Every character, even the minor ones, are so well-drawn that you can see them--and often, recognize bits and pieces of them in people (and animals!) you've known. Melissa clearly has one of the most important traits a good writer must: She pays attention. Micro-details you may not even notice are threaded throughout to keep you anchored in the book's vivid world. If you like romantic comedy, you will love this book.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown is turning out to be a quick read, and I’m grateful for that, because I also have her book, Daring Greatly, on the table, waiting to be read next. I hope that Daring Greatly will help me to greatly dare as I finish writing the next two books in the Magnolia Bay series and then do the work involved in supporting the series once it’s been launched. Because I am learning that it does take a certain amount of courage to “put myself out there.” I’m hoping that both of those Brené Brown books on my bedside table with help with that.
I’d been hearing about Brené Brown for a while, and knew I wanted to read her books to support my New Year’s challenge to be more balanced in my approach to writing and life. (The word “resolution” almost has a ring of built-in preordained failure to me, whereas “challenge” seems more like a fun thing I might like to try for a while and see where it takes me.) I’m hoping it will take me to a renewed balance of body-mind-spirit that will enable me to write the third book with much less struggle than the second book, which I had to really buckle down to finish on time.
The new beginning of a long-held dream career is exciting, but also daunting. There is always an element of fear, of vulnerability, in showing your creations to the world. Brené writes about getting comfortable with feeling vulnerable in order to become more courageous. And writing for publication does take courage. Each book has its own unique path, and as a writer, you sometimes have to hack through some weeds to find it. In those weeds, you are often confronted with your own fears and insecurities.
I was really happy with the way Warm Nights in Magnolia Bay turned out, so the whole time I wrote the second book, I worried. “What if it’s not as good?” That fear made me procrastinate, so writing book two felt like climbing Everest compared to the brisk hike of book one. At the end, I was satisfied that I’d done justice to the story. I realized then that worrying didn’t make the book bad, but procrastination made it harder to write. I could have made the journey a little easier on myself. I’m hoping that knowing this will make the writing of book three feel more like an easy walk through the woods. Book four, IDK, that’s a long way off still. Maybe, if I’m lucky, it’ll be a quiet stroll along the beach. Hopefully, reading these Brené Brown books will help me get comfortable with whatever it takes to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Cold Nose, Warm Heart by Mara Wells. What happens when a would-be luxury condo developer meets resistance from neighborhood residents who don't want their dog park turned into a parking lot? Plenty of dogs are involved in telling the story, so fun happens, of course! In this funny and sweet romance set in Miami Beach, you'll love the well-drawn characters (human and canine), the vivid setting, and the fast-paced unfolding of the love story between two people who ought to hate each other, but just can't manage to do it. I'm so excited to have found a new romance author whose books are witty, engaging, and well-written. In this debut novel, Mara Wells demonstrates a knowledge of the craft of storytelling that I know will put all her books on my keeper shelf.
Practical Handbook of Veterinary Homeopathy: Healing Our Companion Animals from the Inside Out by Wendy Thacher Jensen, D.V.M. My dog Fred has chronic foot pain that several veterinarians have been unable to correctly diagnose or treat. On the advice of a knowledgeable client, I’ve been looking into homeopathy. When this book was sent to me for a review, it seemed like a sign from the Universe, and I couldn’t wait to dig in. I’ve already read several books on the subject, and most are so esoteric or unnecessarily detailed as to be inaccessible to the average reader who hasn’t been trained on the subject. This book immediately drew me in with its conversational, approachable style. Filled with real-life stories of the author’s clients and backed up with lists of reference materials for those readers who want to learn more.
A Place to Call Home: A Novel by Deborah Smith. This is one of those books whose characters will live in your heart long after you’ve put the book down. It’s tender, sexy, southern, and it tells a compelling story of the treacherous pathways between one side of the tracks and the other. On my keeper shelf, this book has the mark of an unputdownable book: It has clearly been dropped into the bathtub.
Animal Talk: Interspecies Telepathic Communication by Penelope Smith. This is the first book I read about animal communication, way back when I experienced it for myself in such a memorable way that I decided it was time for me to learn to control my abilities instead of being blindsided by them. That was many years ago, and at the time, there were few books available on the subject. I have since read every one of Penelope Smiths books, and they are all still relevant and helpful to anyone who wants to learn about animal communication. Penelope Smith is credited with being the first pioneer to bring animal communication into the mainstream of human consciousness, and many of the best animal communicators practicing today were taught by Penelope (including me). I highly recommend this book and any others written by her.
The World Is a Waiting Lover: Desire and the Quest for the Beloved by Trebbe Johnson. This book delves into the compelling connections that draw battle lines and love lines between ourselves, those we love, and those whose magnetic allure has the power to reel us in and reveal our unrealized potential. These people and possibilities can lift us out of the mundane and rip us up by the roots. Whether the seductive allure of the untapped unknown destroys our foundation or builds upon it depends on whether we have the courage to look these troublemaking possibilities in the face with honesty and integrity. A fantastic book I recommend for reading and re-reading.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I love books that are steeped-in and colored-by the dark muddy waters of the Deep South. I was talking about this book with a fellow writer, and she didn’t love it because she didn’t have the patience to read the detailed descriptions of the setting, the murky bogs, the mosquito-infested swamps, and the sucking quicksand of the past that can drag the unwary under before they know they’ve stepped wrong into a mud-patch that goes down forever. If you don’t like reading about a lush landscape sliced-through with sharp slivers of backstory, you might not love this one. I think that maybe this book didn’t call to my fellow writer friend because she isn’t from “around here.” But it is (so far) especially compelling to me because I grew up surrounded by the mystery of deep woods and even deeper swamps. Because it took me back to a time when I was free enough to embrace the danger and mystery of an unknown wild, and fearless enough to call it mine.
Practicing Peace in Times of War by Pema Chodron. This book is a tiny little bedside gem; I’ve been reading and re-reading it for years. Each chapter is only a few pages long, and it always seems that whatever chapter I open the book to at random has some nugget of wisdom about viewing whatever trouble or strife is going on in the world without absorbing it and allowing it to overtake me. I fail at this fairly often, but the book also shows me how to have compassion for myself and my failure to be the kind of person I strive to be.
Tending The Soul With Healing Ritual by Gay Wolff, Ph.D. is a quick read, well-written and concise, packed with information about how to integrate healing rituals—described as embodied moments that allow us to open the windows of our inner being to let our soul expand, ventilate, and be refreshed—into daily life. Since starting this book, I’ve restructured my meditation space, and have nearly finished the labyrinth I’ve been creating in the yard for several years. If you need to jumpstart the creation of some healing rituals in your life, I think you’ll enjoy this book.
Natural Healing Techniques: Get Well & Stay Well With Asian Bio-Energetic Therapy (1) by Joanne Klepal. As an energy healer, I’m always looking to add new modalities (or at least the understanding of them) to my toolkit. In Natural Healing Techniques, the author begins by relaying the fascinating story of her own journey of healing that began in Thailand and took her to many other parts of the world. In two years of traveling, she trained, practiced, and taught several healing modalities, some that I’m very familiar with—because I use them myself—and others that I didn’t know anything about. It’s a fascinating book, and I love the personal anecdotes and conversational tone that make the book accessible to anyone who’d like to learn more about alternative healing modalities.
Here's Looking at Euclid: From Counting Ants to Games of Chance - An Awe-Inspiring Journey Through the World of Numbers by Alex Bellos. My husband likes to read boring books about math and science and astronomy at night; it helps him fall asleep. So my holiday gifting always includes a likely-to-be-boring book I’ve found on Amazon specifically for that purpose.
This book, unfortunately for me, didn’t fill the bill. The writing is engaging and witty, so rather than falling asleep, my husband reads aloud to me about math at night, thus keeping us both awake. I have learned more than I’d like to know about math games, perfect numbers, number trains, and the like.
The book even tells about this one mathematician who has collected thousands of number sequences that follow some made-up rule or another. Interesting, huh? Well, at least it makes me wonder. It makes me wonder whether we can get that mathematician to come to our house and pull weeds because he is clearly thorough and meticulous and has nothing better to do.
Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything by Ervin Laszlo. This book is on my bedside table, but like the math book my husband likes to read, this really isn’t great for nighttime reading. (Subjects that make your brain go “poof” aren’t conducive to relaxing and falling asleep.) We’ve all heard about the Akashic Records (the record of everything that has ever happened, is happening, or will happen), an “interconnected cosmic field at the roots of reality... from which all things arise.” Many psychics (and so-called psychics) claim to be able to tap into those records to reveal the past, present, and future for their clients. But does this virtual field of information really exist, and if so, how does it fit in with “true” science? Laszlo integrates modern scientific knowledge with spiritual mysticism, effectively taking the “woo-woo” out of the idea that we are all connected to each other and to the cosmos by an enduring field of intelligent conscious energy that is available to each of us, should we choose to connect with it.
Loving Animals: Conversations with an Animal Communicator by Jeannie Lindheim. This sweet little gem of a book is a fantastic introduction to animal communication for anyone who wants to know what it is, how it works, and how it can help them to better understand their animal companions. The first third of the book is written in simple Q and A format. The answers are brief, straightforward, and informative. The middle third of the book is a series of client testimonials—stories of animal communication experiences—written by Jeannie’s clients. The end of the book shows some of Jeannie’s personal photos and experiences, and includes a comprehensive list of animal communication books for those who want to learn more. If you’re wondering what animal communication is all about—or if you know someone who is—you will love this book!
The Intention Experiment: Using Your Thoughts to Change Your Life and the World by Lynne McTaggart. This book has been on my keeper shelf since 2007. It was a big deal back then because it supplied the science behind The Secret, which was an even bigger deal. It's very dense reading--packed with information about the power of intention, and explanation of the science that supports it. McTaggart cites multiple studies and experiments throughout the book (there are 49 pages of footnotes at the back of the book), not only the successful experiments that support her thesis, but also the experiments that failed and why. Then she goes on to explain how we can use our own power of intention to manifest positive change in our lives. There's even a great website where you can read about intention experiments that were done after the book was published: www.theintentionexperiment.com. On the website, McTaggart offers a year-long intention experiment master class. I'm thinking I'll take the class in 2021. Who's with me?
Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry, Revised and Expanded 2nd Edition by Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D. This is one of the most cleverly written books about human psychology and personality disorders that I have ever read. Come to think of it, it's one of the most cleverly written books I've read, period. Bernstein explains why the idea of vampires is such a compelling and enduring one: Because vampires really do exist. They just suck you dry without having to use their teeth to do it. Bernstein shows you how to recognize vampires (there are many different kinds; antisocial vampires, narcissistic vampires, obsessive-compulsive vampires, to name just a few). He tells you how to spot them, and even more important, how to avoid being hypnotized by them. He gives handy checklists and quizzes to help you identify the type of vampires in your own life, then tells you exactly how to deal with that particular type of vampire. In flipping through the book, I found a little list that describes the obvious belief systems of a well-known emotional vampire with whom we are all familiar: My needs are more important than yours; The rules apply to other people, not me; It's not my fault, ever; I want it now; and If I don't get my way, I'll throw a tantrum. Extra points for guessing who it is.
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear. I’m reading it Very. Slowly. I’m very busy with my writing these days, so I’m only able to read brief snippets each day. But it’s keeping me engaged and enthusiastic about the possibility that this book could be a game-changer. It stresses the importance of redefining yourself, then making tiny, incremental changes to move you painlessly closer to being the person you want to become. So it’s less about setting goals and working toward those goals, and more about deciding how you want to define yourself, then making choices that are consistent with that definition. “Every action,” the book says, “is a vote for the person you want to become.” It’s not: I want to lose ten pounds, so I must diet and exercise daily (motivation leads to action). It is: I am a health-conscious person, so I choose to live in a way that honors my body’s needs (self-identity leads to the embodiment of that identity). It’s not: I am on a deadline, so I must write 2,000 words each day. It is: I am a successful published author, so I make choices that are consistent with that belief. For me as a writer, it’s a less-rigid, easier-to-follow but more comprehensive plan that includes daily writing, but also includes many other activities that successful authors routinely engage in. So instead of beating myself up for working on my newsletter instead of making progress on the next book, I am recognizing the validity and necessity of doing both. Instead of looking only toward the completion of each goal, I am giving myself permission to enjoy the process. I’ve only read the first few chapters, but already the book is helping me to view myself and my small daily accomplishments more positively, and allowing me to celebrate small victories along the way.
Mary Jane's Farm Magazine June July 2019 is a wonderful, uplifting magazine that arrived in my mailbox out of the blue, a thoughtful gift from a friend, a gift she sent for no other reason than that she thought I’d enjoy it. I may only have time to read a paragraph or a page at a time, but I’m keeping it on my bedside table, and it’s perfect for unwinding and redirecting my overactive brain before bedtime. My friend’s thoughtful gift was another reminder to me that small kindnesses are so important, especially now, when the pandemic and the current nastiness of politics are adding to everyone’s stress. When the only thing we can be sure of is that it is going to get worse before it gets better, we all need to do what we can to lift each other up and try to see everyone around us through the eyes of love. That’s something our animal companions teach us daily, but I’m thinking that in these uncertain times, they’re gonna need a little help. I hope you’ll take a little time today to think of one small thing you’re grateful for, and then find a way to share that thing with someone you care about.
Books on the Keeper Shelf
Santa's Dog [hardcover] Joann Sky (author), Ed Koehler (illustrator) [Sep 12, 2018] by JoAnn Sky. I loved this book by JoAnn Sky. Santa's Dog is a rhyming read-aloud children's book your kids will love. It's a sweet, touching story with bright, whimsical illustrations.
The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel By Garth Stein This fantastic book is expertly told from a dog's point of view. A completely enthralling book from the first page to the last.
Busting Loose From the Money Game: Mind-Blowing Strategies for Changing the Rules of a Game You Can't Win by Robert Scheinfeld. This book isn't really about money. It's a new way of thinking about how we play the game of life. If you want to take charge of your life, read this book!