There are few material items more precious to me than my books. The wisdom carried in books has brought me expanded viewpoints, profound solace, and at times, affirmations of subterranean truths I struggled to articulate to myself. In light of starting a new blog, I am going to periodically share some of my favorite reads, past and present. My hope is that you discover a few gems that nourish your emotional, psychological, theoretical, and spiritual life. Oh, and fair warning: 95% of my reading is non-fiction. So, without further ado:
Sati’s Recommended Books for Autumn 2019
by Richard Preston
This amazing story reads more like an adventure novel than a non-fiction account of intrepid explorers who sought to climb the tallest trees on earth—the California redwoods. The book blends science, history, and emotional storytelling into a soup of compelling surprises. This work only strengthened my desire to witness these ancient giants.
By Bessel Van Der Kolk
This is one of the most valuable books I’ve read this last decade. The first half of the book really shines the brightest as it ties together valuable research on how the body—in particular the nervous system—responds to traumatic events. The research was incredibly eye-opening and useful to me on a personal level. It contextualized experiences I’ve had with others in my past that I struggled to fully understand. Warning: This book does dive into challenging case studies of violence that may be difficult to read.
By Karen Armstrong
This remains my favorite spiritual memoir—and surprisingly it isn’t Buddhist! I am not sure when I first encountered Karen Armstrong, a renowned religious scholar of (primarily) the Abrahamic traditions, but I was immediately impressed by her story: a devout catholic nun at 17 years old who eventually becomes a disillusioned atheist. She then devotes herself to literary scholarship while she battles a brain disorder she doesn’t know she has. Eventually, she becomes a revered religious scholar and one of the most compassionate voices for religious literacy and interfaith dialogue in the world. Karen has written two memoirs, and this one is her second: it picks up right after she leaves the convent. The final chapter is pure poetry.
This book is not light reading and not for those new to theoretical concerns related to Buddhist meditation. But for those who have come across debates surrounding jhana states and have struggled to understand what all the fuss it about: this book is solid gold. I will need to revisit this book again and again until the subtleties are fully impressed upon my memory. I found this book compelling and a great contributor to my understanding.
By Kay Larson
Kay Larson is an extraordinary writer, and her own engagement with Buddhist practice served to give this book an especially significant intimacy when addressing John Cage’s own contemplative evolution. In my teens and 20’s, when I was dancing and making performance art, I was immersed in studying American modern art history, and of course John Cage was a major figure. While I knew John Cage had interfaced with Zen Buddhist thinking, I didn’t fully appreciate the impact it had on him. I also didn’t fully understand how much of an influence Cage’s ideas and work had on generations of artists of all mediums.