(The above photo is of our Easter Sunday brunch – scones, marmalade, hard boiled eggs and chocolate – and has nothing to do with this post).
I’m home today, in bed with a bit of a cold. Mostly it’s a sore throat, but there is a bit of general achey-ness thrown in as well and I’ve popped some ibuprofen to reduce my small misery to an even smaller one. On the one hand, I feel like a big faker calling in sick after a long weekend (but I’m not!) On the other, I don’t mind the prospect of a day spent slowly puttering – reading, writing, lying about – on my own. I’d rather not be sick at all, but I don’t mind the idea of having some extra time to myself either.
I’ve been on a bit of a reading binge lately – seemingly triggered by the official completion of my coursework for my Master’s degree. My final full class was last Monday, and all that’s left now is the party to celebrate the end of four years of work. I didn’t realize how much I’d cut back on my recreational reading until I finished my last “required” reading a couple of weeks ago (Crime and Punishment) – and found myself in McLeod’s secondhand books that very day eagerly perusing all the books that I have time to read now! Since then I’ve managed to down three books – all in the light reading category – and am working my way through another (slightly more rigorous). I’ve also started a notebook again, out of the blue, to record my thoughts, quotes from my readings, snippets and facts. I’ve periodically kept notebooks about general life, but not recently. Not in the last four years. It feels like a new practice again and I have no goals with it – just to pay attention to myself and my thoughts when it is convenient to do so.
There is nothing in particular which draws my most recent three reads together – except a compelling story in each of them perhaps (and the fact that two of them came out of my community free library) – but even so, I’ll record them here with a few-sentence impression in case you have been wondering about whether these are worth the time.
A Death on Diamond Mountain | Scott Carney : Engagingly written, this is a fast read about a Tibetan Buddhist organization in the United States that has bordered on cult-like behaviour. Scott Carney uses the object-lesson of a death at the edges of a retreat to examine the potential dangers of enlightenment-seeking with a western mentality and briefly discusses meditation and mental states. He gives all the players in the key story a balanced treatment, but I wish he had focused more on the psychology of seeking behaviours and how to cut against them while still following a spiritual path. Definitely worth a read. (for the precis version, check out this article.)
The Happiness Project | Gretchen Rubin : This one came out a few years ago – basically the author experiments with being in the now, putting on a happy face (fake it till you make it), becoming less critical and more grateful, and extending herself to more people and discovers that happiness, at least to some degree, *is* a choice. I concur with her conclusion (having been a life-long experimenter in some of the very same areas), but I didn’t find anything jaw-dropping in either her practices or her final results. Worthwhile if you are looking for ideas about how to infuse your life with a less negative outlook.
Gone Girl | Gilliam Flynn: Yes, this one is now a movie and was a bestseller a couple of years ago – so I’m late to the game – but it just showed up in the book box one day. Quick read, compelling narrative, smart take on the problem of the unreliable narrator in fiction. This one is just for fun and once my step-daughter finishes the book – we’ve got the movie ready to go.
The book I’m currently working on it Sarah Bakewell’s How to Live which is a biography of the 16th century essayist Montaigne posed in one question and twenty answers to illuminate various aspects of his life and philosophy. Even though Montaigne is the inventor of the personal essay, I probably wouldn’t be that interested in his biography, but I appreciate the way that Bakewell has framed this as an exercise in philosophical study and so I picked it up. I’ve also just pulled A General Theory of Love off the shelf for a re-read as I seem to remember some pretty fabulous conclusions in there that I feel like thinking about and perhaps writing about now that I am done with the school thing for the moment.