Category Archives: Book Reviews

Writers! Stop cleaning that oven at once!

I can see you.

The spray can of heavy duty industrial oven cleaner parked on the kitchen floor is a dead give away. Peel off those rubber gloves, stop pretending that your family will drop dead of food poisoning tonight if you don’t clean those charred meal residues insulating the inside of the oven right away. Follow me. Yes, just as I thought. The study door is ajar. I can see the laptop screen from here. Closer….yes, that’s it. Don’t die of embarrassment, it won’t help. A new document  is open on screen. A title?

(NB – provisional ) Of authorship and toads….

" Of authorship and toads...."

And ?  I suspected this. One paragraph indentation, and the word  “The”…...can that really be all ? Oh. There’s a new line.

“ F— this, I might as well be cleaning the oven!!!!”

I have two words to say to you. Pay attention, they really will help, I promise:

Natalie Goldberg

A few months ago, I visited Glasgow Buddhist Centre in search of a meditation stool. Yes, you’ve guessed, I had an article which had to be submitted by 5pm. I was distracted from the article by the stool, then distracted from the stool by Natalie Goldberg. Her book “ Wild Mind : Living the Writer’s Life” drew me like a lure. What a wonderful writer! What an inspiring book! Did the article get to the postbox? I’m not telling you.

Natalie Goldberg is an American writer  and creative writing teacher. She is sharp, witty, compassionate, lateral….and tough. She has bottom lines and is not afraid to state them. She has rules. My guess is, if you follow these rules on a regular basis, you’ll rarely be distracted by oven cleaning or any other form of housework ever again.

She is fanatical about writing practice. “ If you learn writing practice well, it is a good foundation for all other writing.” We need to do it as regularly as possible, she says.

“ When you sit down to write, whether it’s for ten minutes or an hour, once you begin, don’t stop. If an atom bomb drops at your feet eight minutes after you have begun and you were going to write for ten minutes, don’t budge. You’ll go out writing.”

In essence, writing practice is a technique for cracking open the confining grip of our conscious, rational mind – and flying free into the big blue sky of what Goldberg calls “ wild mind”.

Here, briefly, are Natalie’s rules:

(She also thinks they mostly work for hang gliding, tennis and sex.)

1. Keep your hand moving. If you stop your hand, you stop the creator’s flow and give the editor in you an opportunity to interrupt.

2. Lose control. Just say what you want no matter how inappropriate. Just go for it.

3. Be specific. Don’t write flower, write narcissus.

4. Don’t think. Stay with the first thing that flashes into your mind.

5. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling, grammar.

6. You are free to write the worst junk in America ( or in your case, could be anywhere in the world ! )

7. Go for the jugular. Whatever comes up, no matter how frightening or disturbing, write it down.

There you are. Begin writing practice today. Next step, buy Goldberg’s books on the writers’ craft. They are a wonderful investment. I’m doing well with my writing practice, by the way. I’ve bought two new notebooks. Still can’t decide which one to start….

600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Writers! Join the e-revolution via Kawasaki and Welch….

Review: APE: How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki & Shawn Welch

Author-Publisher- Entrepreneur

The energy for revolution is with us, all across the world. A chip of it has lodged in me. Fed up with traditional publishing – my first book’s publication having been a less than satisfactory experience – I recently decided to take up a colleague’s offer to publish my next two books in electronic form via the upcoming publishing arm of his established Web business.

Right on cue (were you guys spying on me?) an email with a free review copy of the above book popped into my box.

It is a real gift to any writer embarking on the e-journey. As the authors put it:

Ebooks and tablets are rearranging the publishing landscape….”

This being the case, writers of all levels of experience need help and guidance in navigating territory with which Kawasaki and Welch are thoroughly familiar. They have brought extensive experience together with considerable expertise, honesty, humour, clarity and practicality, pointing out that

“…a successful self-publisher must fill three roles: Author, Publisher, and Entrepreneur—or APE…..”

Having done so, they spend twenty-nine easy to read, well laid out chapters covering with great thoroughness and at times brutal honesty (don’t flinch! Trust me, we need this at times) the processes of writing a book, editing it (their advice: don’t do it yourself alone. Get objective, quality outside help), financing it, distributing, selling, pricing, marketing, and promoting. No stone, as far as I can see, is left unturned.

I followed their advice by doing a fairly quick initial read-through. I then cut and pasted a brief ten-page summary to print out, so that I could see at a glance which chapters are most relevant for future perusal. My colleague will be dealing with the more technical aspects of publishing my books – thank goodness! I would rather boil my brain in turpentine than have anything to do with page dimensions, etc….

The section most immediately useful to me personally is the Entrepreneur section. Although I have happily been running a blog for more than four years, and can see that a wide range of articles continues to be read and commented on favourably, nevertheless I am not much good at bothering to do a great deal of interacting on social media. I know that with a bit more effort I could build a much bigger platform.

So – can Kawasaki and Welch turn me into a more socially interactive person than my temperament seems to dictate? That remains to be seen. But they have certainly provided all that is required by way of strong impetus to do so. I cannot in fairness ask any more than that.

And I do LOVE the quotes with which they head up every chapter. The final chapter’s quote is this:

“When you’ve worked hard and done well and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you.” Michelle Obama, at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

This is a first rate book which enables and encourages writers to walk through the doorway of opportunity provided by the e-revolution which is already upon us. Do acquire it for your virtual bookshelf!

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500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

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Book review: ancient discipline, post-modern context

The essence of this important new book is summed up in its subtitle: ‘understanding the ancient discipline in the contemporary world’.

'Integral Astrology' by Armand Diaz, PhD

‘Integral Astrology’ by Armand Diaz, PhD

I found it a highly stimulating read which has come my way at an ideal time. Having just returned to the practice of astrology this year after a very long sabbatical, I have found “Integral Astrology” very helpful in ordering my own thinking about what my relationship now is with our ancient art in this turbulent, challenging time.

We stand not only at the start of a new Millennium, but at a liminal point. The dominant paradigm of rational materialism which has determined our world view since the Age of Reason in the 17th/18th Centuries with such success,  is creaking and groaning.

Post-modern perspectives on the age-old understanding of As above, so below are slowly making their way towards the forefront of contemporary consciousness and culture – bringing new insights from physics, humanistic and transpersonal psychologies, chaos theory etc. They all challenge the materialist view that physical reality ie matter, is the real reality….The strength of Armand Diaz’ book lies in the clear way he weaves together the insights which astrology can and does offer to both individual and collective life, with just those post-modern insights.

In this way, he argues, an Integral Astrology can emerge and take its place within integral theory, which he defines as “….a way of harmonising or synthesising apparently disparate streams of thought and experience: this runs counter to our tendency towards increased specialisation that has dominated the past few hundred years….”

Armand Diaz, with good reason, is worried that astrology, despite its own flowering and moving closer to mainstream culture since its revival from the 1960s onwards,  is going to be left out of this shift: running a parallel course with the New Paradigm disciplines, but at a considerable distance from them. His fear is that if we do not re-examine and re-frame our own discipline in the light of contemporary perspectives, not only will astrology be left on the outside of the larger New Paradigm world view, but astrologers will too.

Diaz’ core point, which he emphasises in different ways throughout, is that the level of consciousness at which an individual is operating critically determines the way in which astrological symbolism plays out.

Emerging from this core are two key themes: one relating to astrology, the other to consciousness models. He points out that the development of human consciousness over millennia has produced different perspectives on the interrelationship between earthly and planetary energies and how these are interpreted:

“….no astrology can exist without being embedded in our constructed meanings, and the best way to understand those meanings is to look at the developmental level, culture, and inner/outer perspective they represent….(p135)….just as humans evolve and just as consciousness in the Universe evolves so astrology also evolves….(p 137)

Had I been an astrologer in Chaldean times, for example, I would not have been able to ponder today’s transiting Mars square my natal Mercury (7.9.12). Astrology then was about the king and the kingdom; no individual horoscopes existed. A century ago, sibling conflict might have been predicted. In today’s post-modern consciousness, I am choosing to channel intellectual energy into hand-writing this book review….in between brisk “thinking” walks!

Diaz also briefly and clearly surveys the different astrologies there are which co-exist in our contemporary world – where it is perfectly possible to practice mediaeval astrology, post-modern psychological astrology, AND archetypal cosmology which sets our ancient art clearly in a New Paradigm context, and call them all “astrology.” As Diaz makes it clear, there is no one astrology.

But before this, he offers “….a sampling of ways to think about the evolution of consciousness….” (p 141) 

Put very briefly, the models he lays out, centering on Spiral Dynamics, provide a way of thinking about the evolution of human consciousness which links individual, group and collective processes.

His key point is that these models provide a ‘vertical framework’ for describing the upward movement of consciousness from Matter > Life > Mind > Soul > Spirit: the core process behind the Perennial Philosophy which underlies all the differing consciousness models eg Koshas, Chakras, Yoga, Kabbalah right through to post-modern Spiral Dynamics.

However, astrological symbols operate along the ‘horizontal’ plane, ie that of

“ universal conditions that can and do occur at any and all evolutionary levels….” (p14)

 He points out that astrology can indicate the timings and types  of stresses and challenges encountered by individuals. But it cannot say whether those challenges will lead to evolution of consciousness up the ‘vertical’ scale.

To assess this needs the dynamic of astrologer, horoscope and client, usually over several encounters rather than one. In his final chapter “ Consulting”, Diaz presents a model of astrological practice which, with examples from actual client work, lets one see how the weave of  contemporary perspectives from both the sciences and the humanities which he has laid out in this book, all come together in the consulting room. It is challenging, impressive –  and helpful in a down-to-earth way.

I would recommend this book to astrologers at all levels of learning their craft. It introduces newcomers to a model which places astrology in the context of New Paradigm perspectives, which they can take forward with confidence as part of the world-changing shift re-claiming that ancient insight ‘As above, so below’ for a level of collective consciousness appropriate for the vastly more complex Universe we now know we inhabit. And it gives a good shake-down to the practice of more seasoned astrologers such as myself – who may be in danger of becoming set in our ways…..

 “Integral Astrology” by Armand Diaz, Ph.D, published 2012 by Integral Transformation, LLC. pp 192.

Cost: $19.95 USA/ £12.87 UK

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1000 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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No, you probably don’t have Altzheimer’s….!

This post should probably be appearing on my new site

MoreBitsFallOff.com

However, being an uncharacteristic hive of industry today, I have posted something new there already – check it out! What was I saying? Oh yes, NOW I remember…..which brings me to the friend in whose honour I am republishing a book review which appeared here on ‘Writing from the Twelfth House’ last year. I spoke to her this morning. She was (once again!) so worried about incipient Altzheimer’s that she wanted to re-borrow the book I had lent her last year which she had found incredibly reassuring. It is called “Where did I leave my Glasses?” and is absolutely wonderful. No-one over the age of fifty should ever leave home without it.

Here is my review:

“Where Did I Leave My Glasses?”

The What, When and Why of Normal Memory Loss

by Martha Weinman Lear

A few weeks ago my husband dashed off to an evening meeting. Shortly afterwards, he rang me, sounding stressed. “Can you please find my glasses for me? A friend is passing by shortly – she can pick them up and bring them along to the meeting.” My irritation with him dissolved into fits of laughter when I eventually found the glasses. Where were they? Yes, sitting right on top of  the book he was then reading, called “Where Did I Leave My Glasses?” by Martha Weinman Lear.

Exhibit A - the glasses!

One of the realisations which don’t dawn until the fifties – I speak for myself here, maybe you are ninety-six and still in denial! – is that it’s all downhill physically from now on. I think writer Richard Holloway is right when he talks in one of his books (surprise, surprise, can’t remember which one….) about the importance of starting to cultivate fortitude once you reach your fifties. Time is going to win, and you, small speck of ephemeral matter, are going to lose – no matter what you do to try and stave off the aging process.

An indestructible sense of humour is a huge asset in facing this truth. So is information which cheers you up rather than depressing you. Everyone over the age of fifty should therefore read this book. It succeeds in being simultaneously very informative and very entertaining on the topic of normal memory loss, a subject which generates intermittent worry for, I would estimate, at least 99 per cent of us who are baby-boomers and older.

Martha Weinman Lear, former articles editor and staff writer with the New York Times Magazine, is well qualified to research and present information and opinion on the topic of memory loss, having written extensively before on social and medicine-related topics.

I infer from the book that she is a person past the first flush of youth. Here she is, inviting us to

“Consider our own memory situations, yours and mine.

Here is mine:

Adjectives elude me. Verbs escape me. Nouns, especially proper nouns, totally defeat me. I may meet you at a party, have a long, lovely conversation with you, be charmed by you, want to know you forever, and a day later not remember your name….”

The book is laugh-aloud entertainment, rooted in real conversations with real people all of whom including herself have funny disclosures to make centering round the five top responses to the question she put to all the lay and expert interviewees in the book, ie ‘What can you most reliably depend upon yourself to forget?’

These five were:

Where did I leave my glasses?

What was I just saying?

What did I come in here for?

What did I ask you to remind me to do?

What’s her(his, its) name?

Lear’s book may be wittily written, but it is also thorough and well-informed in exploring aspects of normal memory and memory loss, including why we are actually wired to forget. She covers a range of topics including sex differences in memory function and deterioration, different types of memory, how to train the aging brain into being more efficient at remembering – and most fascinating of all, the future of memory enhancement in a culture where increasingly we are living longer than biology built our bodies to last.

I found “Where Did I Leave My Glasses?” enormously comforting and reassuring in the face of the spectre that haunts our increasingly long-lived Western populations – Altzheimer’s. Lear’s book’s central message is that most memory lapses beginning in middle age are universal: a normal part of the inevitable process of aging.

In short, don’t worry if you don’t know where you left your glasses. But do worry – and seek help – if you can’t remember what your glasses are for….

Exhibit A - the glasses!

(this is the slightly edited and re-published version of a book review published on this site in 2009)

800 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2010

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Winter Solstice Book Review: “The steps of the Sun” by Paul F. Newman

At the Winter Solstice 2009, Paul F. Newman writes:

“The winter solstice, the shortest day, is for us in the northern hemisphere the
Sun’s lowest possible point. Its declination or latitude measurement is as far
south of the celestial equator as it is possible to be. These steps of the Sun
mark out the turning phases of our year and the customs we have attached to them….

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….and Anne Whitaker reviews “Declination in Astrology The steps of the Sunby Paul F. Newman ….

The Steps of the Sun

DECLINATION in Astrology

Declination measures the position of planets North or South of the celestial equator, which is the Earth’s equator projected into space. As Paul F. Newman demonstrates in this broad ranging and informed study, it is a measure which has been used at least since Neolithic times, notably in the most famous solar temple in the world, five thousand year old Stonehenge. Do we astrologers use it today? The answer to that question is probably – not much.

The blurb on the back of the book asserts, however, that declination is “an ancient art of astrology currently undergoing a vital revival” and Paul F. Newman is to be congratulated on presenting the topic in both a practical and inspiring way which should have a number of astrologers checking Norths and Souths in future!

One of the problems with astrological practice is that there are so many techniques and approaches available that the practitioner, intent on earning a living, has to prune this cornucopia to a workable minimum of personal favourites.

As one reads through DECLINATION in Astrology The steps of the Sun”, it becomes clear that declination provides easily accessible tools, which can most definitely enhance the art of analysis.

I have two favourites from the toolbox. The first is Out of Bounds planets – overstepping the declination boundaries set by the Sun, vividly describing ‘awkward squad’ tendencies in those who possess them!! The second is  planets on or near Zero declination, the equatorial point dividing the earth into Northern and Southern hemispheres, and therefore in Newman’s own words “a potent and critical position”.

Readers familiar with Paul F. Newman’s writing will recognise the quirkiness and diversity of the examples from film, poetry, soap opera and science fiction he draws upon from his own wide reading to bring the book’s theory to life. We have “Tarzan of the Apes” rubbing shoulders with that late great astrologer John Addey (out of bounds Mercury); with Liberace (out of bounds Venus, you’d never have guessed!) ; with a famous “Photo of the Beatles”; with Mickey Mouse, the Elephant Man and “The Twilight Zone” to name a very few.

My favourite, as a poetry lover, is Paul’s brilliant and haunting analysis of Coleridge’s “Rime of the ancient mariner”. It is only after the old navigator crosses the equator ( Zero declination) and sails South, that all the strange events following the killing of the albatross unfold…read on, and experience the scary allurement of Neptune’s realm….

Paul F. Newman skilfully weaves astronomical declination theory together with key aspects of mythology connected to the solar journey throughout the four seasons of the year. The artwork is his own: he has produced diagrams which are both clear, and soothing to the brains of spatial dyslexics like myself who have rather a struggle with the astronomical basis of our great art.

This is an accomplished book which deserves to be widely read, contributing as it does to the updating and publicising of a dimension of astrology which until fairly recently has been somewhat neglected.

 

Paul F Newman

Paul F. Newman is an astrologer, astrology teacher, writer and contributor to many journals including ‘The Mountain Astrologer‘ and  ‘The Astrological Journal’, author of “You’re not a person–just a birth chart” and  “DECLINATION  in Astrology The Steps of the Sun”

He can be contacted at pneuma@ukonline.co.uk

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600 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Paul F. Newman 2009

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

A book for Advent: “Things Seen and Unseen” by Nora Gallagher

“ Things seen and unseen
A year
lived
in
faith ”

by  Nora Gallagher

“ Faith is not about belief in something irrational or about a blind connection to something unreal. It’s about a gathering, an accumulation of events and experiences of a different order….” (pp 78-79)

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It was just such an “accumulation of events and experiences of a different order….” that led me in mid-life, after an odyssey of spiritual exploration, finally to take the Dalai Lama ’s advice. If you can find a corner in your own tradition, he said in one of his books, why adopt anyone else’s? So it was that I found a corner in the Scottish Episcopal Church, fifteen minutes’ walk from my house.

All the sacred stories, Christianity being one, have at their core the ability to offer humans collective ritual practice through which to affirm that persistent sense, endemic to the human psyche, that we are all tiny sparks in a great blaze of divine light. We need to celebrate that together, with humility and awe. I needed to have that celebration in my life. And to find a mode of entry, despite my innate resistance to any form of doctrine or dogma.

As I struggled with my defiant heart in the first few months of churchgoing, a friend gave me Nora Gallagher’s fine memoir to read; the narrative begins in the season of Advent. It proved a great support and comfort.  Most importantly, it aided my entry into church life. A re-read followed about two years later, and again this month – for our church community’s book group.

This time, I resolved to write an appreciation for my website. This is THE memoir to read for anyone returning, as Nora Gallagher did, to a church forsaken a long time previously; anyone with spiritual needs to be met who doesn’t quite know how to go about it; anyone who is prone to sitting in the back of the church and crying without quite knowing why – as Nora Gallagher did, for the first year of her return.

 

Trinity Episcopal Church, Santa Barbara, USA

She writes beautifully, with stark honesty and directness at times: What is a priest? she asks a friend, a canon.  “A person who is too fucked-up to do anything else” he replies drily.

She can also convey her experiences with spare and moving simplicity, for example in describing a totally unexpected encounter with the presence of a beloved friend who had recently died, Lois, at a time when Nora herself felt especially vulnerable and in need of consolation: “…. I felt, particularly, the skin of her hands. They felt dry and sunny, as if she were holding a piece of the sun….The overall feeling of this whatever-it-was was of detached kindness, without emotion, clarity without sentiment, the purity and refreshment of a sun-dried sheet.”

She is able to communicate the ordinary day to day failings and inadequacies of herself and her fellow community members as they travel together for a whole year from one Advent season to the next. The texture and turbulence of church life is rendered with forensic accuracy and unfailing humour. The despair and exhaustion of supporting terminally ill friends and, most painfully, her beloved brother Kit, through the gruelling business of dying, is not shirked.

Central to the whole book is her developing understanding that the beauty and nurturing of liturgy as spiritual practice has an inseparable partner: service to others. To this end “A couple of us started a soup kitchen in the parish hall”, which grows and develops throughout the church year, feeding all levels and groups inhabiting the underside of  American prosperity – people who for many and varied reasons have fallen through the cracks. For them, the Trinity community kitchen is a lifeline.

 

 

Gallagher does not glamourise the usually thankless and occasionally dangerous business of feeding those folk upon whom ordinary society has turned their backs. She writes about the vicissitudes of such service with unfailing honesty, humanity, and just the right seasoning of humour.

The church to which Nora Gallagher returns is not the same church that she left – had it been, she clearly states, she would not be there. She is supported by wonderful women priests: realistic, humorous, humane and compassionate. In the partnership between ordained and lay ministry which is strong at Trinity, she takes on such tasks as serving at the Eucharist: “The mysterious and irrational Eucharist….that fed my mysterious and irrational life.” In attending to this task, she sees “the fallen-down helplessness in people’s eyes….” but also “….bits of hidden life, something about to emerge…. ”

A thorny contemporary issue finds central place in this vividly evoked year in the life of Trinity Episcopal church. Mark Asman, the temporary priest in charge, is an openly gay man. Should the community call him as their Rector? They love him and appreciate his strengths, especially his ability to pull the community closer by bringing out the best in people. But is this enough to cope with the controversy such an appointment would surely bring? The way the Trinity community deals with this process, and their eventual arrival at a decision – Mark was called, and said “Yes” – is beautifully woven by Nora Gallagher into the tapestry of a vital, painful, joyful, tempestuous and inspiring year.

I love the way she ends the book. She and spiritual director Ann Jaqua are lunching in a favourite cafe, discussing their latest creative project which is meeting with some resistance. Nora observes that there are times when she can’t stand church life. Ann responds that she can either put up with it, or start a new one. Just then, “a crazy man with dreadlocks” who used to come to the community kitchen strolls by. Nora can’t finish her sandwich and is wondering aloud what to do with it. The crazy man pauses, asks if she wants the half sandwich, she says no, and without a pause he takes it. Ann Jaqua grins. “Nothing is lost.”

Do choose “Things Seen and Unseen” as your Advent companion!

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1000 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2009
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Bite-sized book reviews

I haven’t published a book review for a while, and the Personal Book Reviews page is very well visited. So this month sees me posting some ‘bite-sized’ reviews from my ongoing, sometimes scrappy pencil-written “Books I have read” notebook. Sometimes I only write a couple of sentences. Hopefully that should be enough to stimulate you to check out the books below which I have really enjoyed and appreciated: and maybe, even, to buy them yourself.

By the way, the writers involved don’t know about these recommendations, and do not provide me with any incentive to promote them – apart from the high quality of their work! I really appreciate positive feedback on my own writing, and it’s just nice to be in a position to be able to put out a good word for others.

Mediaeval Bookworm....

Mediaeval Bookworm....

“The Spell of the Sensuous” by David Abram

A wonderfully written, erudite exploration of our human embodiment in the natural world and our journey of alienation from it. Very stimulating and thought-provoking: full of good quotes, eg:

“ Direct sensuous reality, in all its more-than-human mystery, remains the sole solid touchstone for an experiential world now inundated with electronically-generated vistas and engineered pleasures; only in regular contact with the tangible ground and sky can we learn how to orient and to navigate in the multiple dimensions that now claim us.”

( Preface, p x )

Novels : “Judgement Day” and “Passing On” by Penelope Lively.

“Judgement Day”, set in an English village, is centered on fund-raising for the church and the dramas arising therein. “Passing On” deals with the unfolding lives of two emotionally squashed middle-aged children on their domineering mother’s demise.

Penelope Lively regards the human condition with compassion, detachment, lack of any sentimentality, dry mordant wit, and forensic observation. Brilliant writing and highly enjoyable reading.

“Science and the Akashic Field” by Ervin Laszlo

It seems that the ancient idea of Akasha, and the Akashic Record which records everything everywhere for all time, is being borne out by current understandings in physics and cosmology. This is an ‘integral theory of everything’ book, bringing insights of contemporary science and ancient wisdom together. Very clearly written and (mostly!) comprehensible by someone like me, whose lifelong fascination with matters scientific is forever hampered by a lack of formal scientific education.

“Let your life speak” by Parker J. Palmer

A jewel of a book by an American Quaker, on the subject of the vocational quest which arises from within, and from the promptings of Spirit, rather than being adopted from the thrustings of Ego allied with social ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’. I found his writing very honest, and movingly personal without being at all self-indulgent. Just the right book for those of us whose vocational path has been varied and tortuous but feels, in mid-life, as though it could not have been otherwise!

“Belief” by Joan Bakewell

A very enjoyable selection of interviews from her Radio 3 (BBC, UK ) series: religious writer Karen Armstrong; monk, writer and poet John O’Donohue; writer of sacred music John Tavener; scientist Richard Dawkins (whose shallow and limited perspective on matters spiritual was very obvious here); composer James Macmillan; and many other thoughtful and able people. I especially appreciated the depth, range and balance of scientist Paul Davies’ views. This is, mostly, a stimulating and inspiring collection.