I've Recently Read...

…some awesome books.

It's no big secret that I love books. And not just reading them. I love books. The smell of a rare books library, clean with just that small hint of musty paper and old leather. The tactile sensation of turning a page, soft with just the tiniest bit of roughness that grips the fingers and a certain fragility that begs gentleness and attention. I love looking at them. Whether stacks of throw-away paperbacks or shelves of leather-bound classics, there is something inherently inspiring and intriguing about the sight. Each one an adventure just waiting to be embarked upon. Each one symbolic of an author who had not simply an idea, but also the dedication and commitment to sit bent over pen and paper (or computer screen) to get that idea down on paper as well as the confidence to put it in front of a publisher (or several), facing possible rejection or editorial changes or loss of control over their dream. Novels and biographies and how-tos…it doesn't matter, I love them all.

It is my firm belief that there is no greater luxury than to sit quietly, book in hand, beverage of choice by the ready. In the warm months, it's slow mornings and a cup of coffee on the back deck. In these cold winter months (and make no mistake, March is still firmly winter here in Maine), it is dark evenings by the fire under a blanket with a tall glass of wine. And while my list of books to read gets longer by the day, I simply can't help revisiting old favorites more often than I should. It's been tradition for more years than I can count to read through the complete Jane Austen as soon as the weather turns crisp in the fall and I can recite my favorite words of Lizzie Bennett or Miss Anne Elliot by rote. And I wish I could claim that it ends with Miss Austen, but there are dog-eared books on my shelves that have been read dozens of times while I continue to lament never having enough time to make a dent in my "to read" list! Ah, well...

I wanted to share a few books that I spent some lovely time with this winter, in case you find yourself game to cozy up with any! 

Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire. Be still my beating heart. This is one of a few here in the stack that is a re-read for me, but it had been way too long. This book lived in my backpack during the years that I guided out west and his words are no less riveting to me now than they were then. Maybe even more so now. My copy is so heavily underlined and highlighted and starred that it's barely legible, but I can't help myself. His descriptions of the high desert are so poetic and strike me so deeply in the pit of my stomach that the urge to sell everything I own and start walking west is nearly overwhelming at times. If you've never read it, put it at the top of your list, immediately.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes's Women Who Run With The Wolves. I was first handed this book by a brilliant woman I knew in the weeks after getting my heart ripped out of my chest in a breakup that was so much more than a breakup. I savored each story and devoured her words, drawing strength and resilience from them. I've revisited the book at least 6 times since then and am always amazed at how I get something totally different from it each time. The language is just beautiful and the stories truly reverberate in the bones. I love this book.

Kristen Newman's What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding. Utterly and absolutely hysterical. Seriously, I cry-laughed reading this…then I booked a plane ticket to go somewhere. Her stories of travel and self-discovery and plans gone awry are amazing and inspiring and, you guessed it, hilarious. Don't miss this one. It's really good on audio as well, in case you like audiobooks as much as I do!

Emily Carr's Growing Pains. Follow this with her collected journals, Hundreds and Thousands and The Book of Small. Emily Carr was a Canadian artist residing on the coast of British Columbia at the turn of the 20th century. Her paintings are extraordinary and ahead of their time and magically capture the inherent essence of the wild forests and powerful coasts of the Pacific Northwest. Her writing is no less incredible and the insight into her struggle to create and to overcome the criticism of others makes for fascinating reading.

Sharon Olds's Stag's Leap. Holy heartbreak. Sharon Olds was one of the very first modern poets whose work I felt immediately connected to. She's amazing. In this collection, her poetry covers the period around her discovery of her husband's infidelity and their subsequent divorce after 30 years of marriage. It's like being exquisitely punched in the gut by Mike Tyson over and over again…

George Stimpson's A Book About A Thousand Things. I know that I mentioned this in my very first post on this blog, but I LOVE this book. I have a tendency to open it at random and just soak in the utterly miscellaneous assortment of information. I just love how he so totally owns his curiosity! 

The WIlderness Reader, edited by Frank Bergon. Containing selected essays from some of the great environmental writers of the ages, I love having bits and pieces from everyone from John Muir to Aldo Leopold to Wallace Stegner and Rachel Carson. I pick this book up and put it down over and over again, reading just a piece or two at a time so that I can really savor each one (and, of course, not sell all of my belongings and start walking west…are you sensing a theme here?). This book has been with me since college and it's more than earned the weight it's taken up in moving boxes over the years!

Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart. I have several of Pema Chodron's books and I love to read just a single chapter in the mornings to begin my day re-committed to growing in my compassion and to accepting change and life in a deeper and more meaningful way. She makes so many of the concepts around Buddhism and meditation so accessible and straightforward and I really appreciate her easy humor and forthrightness. 

That's it for now…I have William Least Heat Moon's Blue Highways with me in Belize (alongside my guidebook and Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones).

Have you guys read anything awesome lately? I always need recommendations and would LOVE to hear what you've got!