John’s Book Recommendations
Here is a list of books I have found helpful along my faith journey. Included are a children's book; a book from some of my favorite writers: Robert Fulghum and Henri Nouwen; a daily reader; and a few other books that touch on the mysteries of life, forgiveness, grace, and love.
So I encourage you to take some time and check them out. Enjoy. John
From Beginning to End by Robert Fulghum
In this free-form meditation, former Unitarian minister Fulghum (All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten) examines how people impart meaning and structure to their lives through public rituals-weddings, funerals, high school reunions, church services-as well as myriad private and interpersonal rituals that mark events and preserve memories. Ritual, in his broad discussion, includes the repetitive yet crucial chores of parenting, learning to drive a car, walking home alone from school for the first time, one's first sexual encounter, prayer and thousands of "little deaths and little rebirths," such as partings and reconciliations. Fulghum movingly describes his recent reunion with his long-lost daughter, whom he and his fiancée had secretly placed with an adoption agency in small-town Texas in 1958. He writes with the calm wisdom and gentle reassurance that marked his previous bestsellers.
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
The mother sings to her sleeping baby: "I'll love you forever / I'll love you for always / As long as I'm living / My baby you'll be." She still sings the same song when her baby has turned into a fractious 2-year-old, a slovenly 9-year-old, and then a raucous teen. So far so ordinary--but this is one persistent lady. When her son grows up and leaves home, she takes to driving across town with a ladder on the car roof, climbing through her grown son's window, and rocking the sleeping man in the same way. Then, inevitably, the day comes when she's too old and sick to hold him, and the roles are at last reversed. Each stage is illustrated by one of Sheila McGraw's comic and yet poignant pastels. (Ages 4 to 8)
The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen
Henri Nouwen, Catholic priest and popular author (The Wounded Healer, 1972), hit a six-month spiritual and mental crisis at the end of 1987 during which he "wondered whether I would be able to hold on to my life. Everything came crashing down --my self-esteem, my energy to live and work, my sense of being loved, my hope for healing, my trust in God... everything." This book is his personal journal written during his time of anguish. For years, Nouwen feared his experience was too personal to share with the world, but on advice from friends, and in the hope that these insights would help nurture others, he published his journal entries.
Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup
Braestrup was an accidental chaplain. Her husband, Drew, a Maine state trooper, died in a car accident at a time when he was considering a second career as an ordained minister. After her shock subsided, Braestrup decided to follow in his footstepsand became a chaplain for the Maine Warden Service, which sets up search-and-rescue missions throughout the state.Practical, unsentimental,straightforward, she is the kind of person who considers a book entitled Death to Dust: What Happens to Dead Bodies? a romantic gift (Drew's to her on her thirty-first birthday). She, not the mortician, bathed and dressed Drew's body. Shewitnessed its cremation. And, rather anomalously, she, a middle-aged mother of four, works mostly with young men. Herown remarkable storyencompasses thoseof the men and women who work alongside her, incorporating many touching anecdotes, none more moving than that of the state police detective, a breast-feeding mother whose last name is Love, who arrests a sexual predator for a young woman's murder. A poignant, funny book by a sympathetic, likable, immensely appealing figure.
Stopping - How to Be Still When You Have to Keep Going by Dr. David Kundtz
Kundtz's radical self-help book says that the best thing to do to improve one's life is nothing. Yup, nothing--just stopping awhile and seeing what happens. Therapist and priest Kundtz contends that many today suffer from living on "the mountain of too much." They have tried to deal with overloaded lives very typically, cramming more into each hour and cutting back on some things. Trouble is, they have reached the point where they can't cram more into the little time they have, and they are cutting out pleasurable things (lunch, friends, holidays) to try to accommodate crowded schedules. Kundtz then offers three kinds of stopping: "stillpoints" (little pauses), "stopovers" (longer times of stillness), and "grinding halts" (life-changing periods of stasis). Written in pithy, short chapters--his audience is the overscheduled, after all; they don't have time to read for long--the book is a good, commonsense adviser on a pervasive problem.
Anyway – The Paradoxical Commandments by Kent M. Keith
As the story goes, author Kent M. Keith was a sophomore at Harvard University in the 1960s when he first wrote "The Paradoxical Commandments," a manifesto about doing good in a crazy, ungrateful world. These commandments are the basis of his repackaged and expanded book, Anyway. Since his Harvard days, Keith's commandments have taken on a life of their own. They have been quoted by the Boy Scouts of America and written on inspirational office memos, classroom handouts, and Internet sites around the world. They have even been discovered in Mother Teresa's children's home in Calcutta. Now, Keith has stepped forward to explain his commandments and speak to his credo for doing "the right thing." Readers will probably recognize the commandments:
1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
3. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
10. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
No doubt about it--these are provocative and encouraging statements, reminding us that there are no guarantees or tangible rewards for doing good in the world. Each commandment gets its own chapter, where Keith elaborates on the theme with personal anecdotes, famous stories, and advice. Fans of the original "Paradoxical Commandments" will certainly enjoy meeting the voice and integrity of the man behind the words. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Everything Happens for a Reason by Mira Kirshenbaum
If you believe that "everything happens for a reason," you might find solace in this well-written self-help guide by psychotherapist Kirshenbaum (best known for the relationship guide Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay). Her premise is that "that no matter what happens to you, not only does something valuable come out of it but it's just what you need." Kirshenbaum details in separate chapters the 10 possible life lessons one might learn from unhappy life events, ranging from self-acceptance, feeling at home in the world and letting go of fear to finding true love or your hidden talents. Readers answer diagnostic questions to determine which lesson might be theirs. There is also a wealth of advice, such as a seven-step method to overcome fear and a list of the 10 elements of true love. Kirshenbaum is careful to note that what you learn doesn't make up for what you have lost. Still, the case studies always end positively. If you don't believe there is comfort to be found in life's worst events, this book isn't for you. But if you've undergone a tragedy and are desperate to find meaning in it, Kirshenbaum's smooth, comforting tone may give you some direction.
Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
In his follow-up to Full Catastrophe Living--a book in which he presented basic meditation techniques as a way of reducing stress and healing from illness--here Jon Kabat-Zinn goes much more deeply into the practice of meditation for its own sake. To Kabat-Zinn, meditation is important because it brings about a state of "mindfulness," a condition of "being" rather than "doing" during which you pay attention to the moment rather than the past, the future, or the multitudinous distractions of modern life. In brief, rather poetic chapters, he describes different meditative practices and what they can do for the practitioner. The idea that meditation is "spiritual" is often confusing to people, Kabat-Zinn writes; he prefers to think of it as what you might call a workout for your consciousness. This book makes learning meditation remarkably easy (although practicing it is not). But it also makes it seem infinitely appealing.
Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach
This book features 366 essays (one for every day of the year – the leap year edition!) penned from a woman's perspective. Sample topics include gratitude, harmony, self-nurturing, positive body image, the importance of scented linen closets, and obviously many, many others.
The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness By Simon Wiesenthal
Author and Holocaust survivor, Simon Wiesenthal recalls his demoralizing life in a concentration camp and his envy of the dead Germans who have sunflowers marking their graves. At the time, he assumed his grave would be a mass one, unmarked and forgotten. Then, one day, a dying Nazi soldier asks Wiesenthal for forgiveness for his crimes against the Jews. What would you do? This important book and the provocative question it poses is birthing debates, symposiums, and college courses. The Dalai Lama, Harry Wu, Primo Levi, and others who have witnessed genocide and human tyranny answer Wiesenthal's ultimate question on forgiveness.