May 2007 Reading List
Here are the books I have read for the month of May. Reviews in quotes were borrowed from various reviewers on Amazon.com. There’s a legend that explains the rating system below the reviews.
1. There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem by Wayne Dyer ©2001 – “In There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, bestselling author Wayne W. Dyer offers compelling testimony on the power of love, harmony, and service. When confronted with a problem, be it ill health, financial worries, or relationship difficulties, we often depend on intellect to solve it. But in this inspiring book, Dyer shows us that there is an omnipotent spiritual force at our fingertips that contains the solution to our problems. Drawing from the various spiritual traditions, especially from the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, Dyer helps us unplug from the material world and awaken to the divine within.”☻☻☻☻ ☻
2. Two Little Girls in Blue by Mary Higgins Clark © 2006 – I find that when I pick up a book by this author, it is very difficult to put it down. This story revolves around the kidnapping of one of a pair of twins. The book draws loosely from research with twins showing that they have a subtle form of hidden communication between them that others do not have.☻☻☻☻
3. Life After Death – The Burden of Proof by Deepak Chopra © 2006 – “ ‘In India death is perceived very differently than in the West, as a brief stopping point on an endless soul journey,’ says Chopra in this introduction to life beyond bodily existence. Chopra, a medical doctor and world leader in mind-body medicine as well as author of more than 45 books, now ventures to answer: what happens after we die? For Chopra, death deserves to be called miraculous, a “doorway to a far more important event—the beginning of the afterlife” and a mode of being that “can be as creative as living.“ Although I usually find Chopra’s books inspiring, this one was a little dry and clinical for me.☻☻☻
4 The Tooth of Time by Sue Henry ©2006 –Number one in a series of what I predict to be mediochre detective novels. This one revolves around a retired woman and her dog seeking intrigue and adventure across the country in their Winnebago. ☻☻
5 Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen ©2006 –Two sisters one a talkshow host, and the other a social worker, struggle to define the true meaning of success, and the qualities in life that matter most. A slow starter, but I’m glad I hung in there. ☻☻☻☻☻
6 Slipping Into Darkness by Peter Blauner © 2006 –“Francis X. Loughlin is an aging police detective haunted by a twenty-year-old homicide involving a young female doctor. A man named Julian Vega was put away for that crime, possibly without sufficient evidence, when he was seventeen. As Blauner’s novel opens, Vega has just been released from prison, on a technicality, when Loughlin is called to investigate a crime that bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the earlier murder. Though the book sometimes takes the easy way out (the climactic twist feels both generic and arbitrary), it is elevated by Blauner’s surefooted characterization of Julian. Newly free, struggling to find his way, dependent on the (somewhat tenuous) kindness of strangers, he is both sympathetic and tough; his portrait has a complexity that few authors could achieve.”☻☻☻
7 A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas ©2006 – “In these exquisitely written essays Thomas reflects on how her marriage had to be reinvented after the night her husband, Richard, took their dog, Harry, out for a walk, and Harry came home alone. Richard had been hit by a car and was lying bleeding in the street. The traumatic head injury he suffered didn’t kill him, as attending police had predicted it would, but it rendered him susceptible to large-scale memory loss, hallucinations, and such wild rages that Thomas was forced to commit him to an institution. Lesser events have destroyed relationships, so it would not be surprising to learn that Thomas abandoned Richard. She didn’t. Instead, she sold their New York apartment, moved upstate to be near him, and acquired two more dogs to keep her company. What’s more, she can’t imagine life without her husband, saying, “It would be like falling through space with a parachute but no planet to land on.” Thomas has elevated what could be, at best, an overemotional sermon or, at worst, a grim romp in self-pity to a high plain of true inspiration.” ☻☻☻☻☻
8 The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri ©2003 Although I just finished this book, it has already entered my Top 5 favorite books. It’s a story about Indian immigrants who begin to assimilate into American culture and how their American-born children combine knowledge of their two cultures into a whole within themselves.☻☻☻☻☻
9 Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson ©2005 – “Veronika, a 30-year-old Swedish writer, rents a home in a remote village to finish work on her second novel. Her only neighbor for miles is Astrid, a reclusive octogenarian who has earned a reputation (perhaps undeserved) as the village witch. Veronika and Astrid gradually become friends, taking long walks and sipping wine made from the wild strawberries in Astrid’s garden. Each shares painful secrets along the way. Veronika abandoned a devoted boyfriend to take up with a bartender from New Zealand. They fell passionately in love, then tragedy befell him, leaving Veronika incapacitated by grief. Astrid endured sexual abuse from her father and a long loveless marriage to a man chosen by him. Until now, she has never told anyone the truth about her infant daughter’s death. This is the first novel for Olsson, a native of Stockholm who now lives in New Zealand. Though the pace of her narrative lags at times, readers of Anne Tyler and Jodi Picoult will appreciate the lyrical prose and expert rendering of the themes of heartbreak and loss.” ☻☻☻☻
10 Beyond Knowing by Janis Amatuzio, M.D. ©2006 – Strange book that starts out with the doctor (who is actually a practicing forensic examiner) telling stories about her medical training, residency, and pathology training (apparently she is setting up her science background before she talks about topics of the spirit so she will be seen as an inquisitive scientist rather than a nut – which I don’t think she is, I agree on her views of spirit). The book then veers off into her spiritual experiences with patients and families that consists mostly of a family member dreaming a particular dream of their sick loved one the very moment of their death, etc. I do believe in these things myself, however the format in which she presents them left me with a “so what?” feeling. Perhaps I have just read too many in-depth books about spirit to be amazed at her little stories. ☻☻☻
11 The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst ©2003 – This is a very strange, weird “puppy” of a book, but nevertheless enjoyable. A woman (Lexy) takes a fatal fall from an apple tree in her backyard. The dog she and her husband own, named Lorelei, is the last one to see her alive; indeed Lorelei is there when Lexy falls. Her husband Paul, a linguist, becomes crazed with grief over Lexy’s death. With his linguistic background, he believes he can teach Lorelei to talk, thus hopefully communicating to him facts about Lexy’s death. Did Lexy slip and fall? Or did she commit suicide? Paul makes some discoveries about himself, his marriage, and his dead wife as he attempts to teach Lorelei to speak. The only negative aspects of this book for me are a few instances of animal cruelty (NOT perpetrated by Paul, but by a cult of individuals who physically alter dogs to aid them in speaking). I see why the author included these scenes, but I think the book could still have brought its point across without them. I still recommend it. ☻☻☻
The Ecstatic Journey by Sophy Burnham ©1997 – The author relates her personal spiritual epiphanies, which are interesting. However when she started quoting what I call “hearsay” stories about others’ miraculous or ordinary spiritual experiences, she lost me.
The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt ©2005 – On January 29, 1996 the famous old Venice (Italy, not California!) opera house La Fenice (pronounced “La Fen-EE-chay”) burned down. This book examines that fire and while the author is at it, he also makes us privy to other historical facts about the city of Venice. I actually read about 165 pages before I gave up the ghost. I found that I knew too few of the historical figures the author was going on about, and just lost interest. If you are a history lover or love Venice, you will definitely like this book. I suppose I don’t fit into either category.
☻☻☻☻☻ Excellent. I highly recommend this book. Wonderfully plotted or chockfull of insights.
☻☻☻☻ Very good. May have minor aspects of style or plot that prevented it from getting 5 smileys.
☻☻☻ Flawed, but of some entertainment or thought-provoking value.
☻☻ Read this book if you are stranded on a desert island and have nothing else handy to read.
☻ Don’t bother, it’s a waste of time. A suggested use is to light the fire for cooking your fish on the desert island.