15 Jan Top books of 2015
Like the Earth orbiting the Sun, at certain moments it’s velocity through space accelerates and at times it decelerates, at the perihelion and aphelion.
Our lives will often follow similar patterns, we may draw close to our partner for a period of time, then drift apart as we search for some space, we are productive at certain times of the day, then certain times of the week, then certain times of the month then year. Our exercise habits follow cycles, and as I found in the past year, for me, my reading was the same.
In ever increasing and decreasing circles, there are certain words and sentences we read faster or slower, certain paragraphs, certain chapters and then whole books. There were times during the year where I would read 2 or 3 books in a week, and then I would go a few weeks without finishing one. It flows with the pulse of life.
I set myself a target of reading a book a week in 2015, and I managed it with a day to spare. I wanted to come up with a top 10 (and failed because there are too many to mention), which was of course quite a challenge seeing as each of the books I read because I wanted to read!
So, without further ado, in no particular order (well actually in chronological order):
– Tiny Beautiful things – Cheryl Stayed. Advice from a gossip columnist. I heard about this book and the idea of it being based around an agony aunt could not have been more off-putting, but I adhered to the recommendation and I am so glad I did. It was human connection in it’s rawest, humblest and tough-loving best. The essence of it was not pandering to the woes of the authors of the letters, not giving them permission to be victims. Her advice was warm, nurturing, compassionate and loving, but no doubt on occasion challenging for people to read, to hear that the answer to their problems lay within themselves and how they were going to react to what life had thrown at them.
– Born Standing Up – Steve Martin. His work, like that of many comedians, has a marmite effect. Personally, I think some of the work he has produced is genius (some slightly questionable!). Whether you are a fan or not, what can be appreciated by all is his work ethic that is second to none. The takeaway message for me is the comment that he attributes his outstanding success to the creed of ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you’
– Teach us to sit still – Tim Parks. This was a christmas gift, one of those books that when you get given it, you wonder what they are trying to tell you! It was a deligtfully honest and funny story of a cynics journey into meditation. For anyone who has doubts around meditation, it is very gentle, totally non-preachy description of his forays into that world.
– Live your truth – Kamal Ravikant. The author wrote one of my favourite books of 2014, Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It, and followed it up with this little gem. They are short books but each page, infact each word, is packed with so much love, it is almost tangible. The titles (especially love yourself…) seem a little cheesy and self-helpy but I am so grateful to have come across them and ended up reading each one several times.
– The way of Aikido and Mastery – George Leonard – I read Mastery in 2014 and being one those books which I knew I would come back to, I read these two back to back. The idea of mastery of a craft, or becoming a true craftsman or woman, seems to have died a bit of a death recently. Immendiate gratification has such an intensley strong pull, reinforced by the media bombarding us with sex, medications, peak moment after peak moment in TV and movies, the national lottery, consumerism and online shoppping and the list goes on. People seem to be jumping from job to job, hobby to hobby, spiritual path to spiritual path, without ever sticking with anything to truly master it. The big idea i got from this book is to ‘fall in love with the plateau’. When we are on a path, at many times it may seem as if we are not getting anywhere, when the truth is that we are internalising the learing we are doing before we evolve to the nect level.
– Loving what is – Byron Katie. Such a powerful book, the title says it all. Any resistance to what is happening and what has happened, any denial of the reality of the moment, is fighting the truth. And that resistance is what drives suffering. As soon as we let go of fighting and understand that our perceptions of what is happening can create heaven or hell.
– Cosmic serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge – Jeremy Narby. This was a journey in its deepest sense and I discussed some ideas in it in a previous blog post
– Run or Die – Killian Jornet. I read several books last year on extreme athletes of different disciplines. Of note were Finding Ultra and Eat And Run, but this book was the standout one for me. The others focuses on events, times, positions etc, but Run or Die is more like a manifesto written like poetry. His Latin blood is to thank for that and it comes out through the themes, words and phrases he uses to describe the internal processes when training and competing in the most foolhardy events.
– The Compound Effect – Darren Hardy. This is all about habits, identifying which ones to instil and the power of tracking them. The compound effect describes how there is an accumulative power when reinforcing habits day after day after day.
– 100 years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Known as one of the finest pieces of fiction written in the last century and for good reason. It is a kaleidoscope of people, locations and events and will take you on a journey through time.
– The Art of Learning – Josh Waitzkin. Imagine there was a kid who became a national and international chess prodigy, winning titles around the world. He then becomes tired of the game and decides to pursue the world championship title in taichi push hands, not the gentle meditative taichi that we are familiar with, but martial art where extreme physical conditioning is needed to compete at the highest level. Meet Josh Waitzkin and discover the art of learning.
– Zen Mind, Beginners Mind – Shunryu Suzuki. A real classic on meditation. The wisdom of the ages speaks through Suzuki with warmth, humour and love.
– The Churchill Factor – Boris Johnson. Having read this I am a bit embarrassed to admit how little I knew about this great man. It was recommended by Arnold Schwarzenegger of all people on a podcast and I am glad I didn’t let that put me off! He was the instigator and driving force behind the invention of the tank, a decorated war veteran, an explorer and adventurer, accountable for some colossal failures in battle costing tens of thousands of lives, a voracious painter, producer of more documented words than Dickens and Shakespeare put together, and oh yes, also the man who led us to victory in WWII.
Other recommended books just because I couldn’t resist…
– Life and Limb – Jamie Andrew. One man. 4 lost limbs in a mountain climbing accident. An inspiring story of loss, recovery and inspiration.
– Beyond the veil – Burgs. The autobiography of a mediation master.
– The score takes care of itself – Bill Walsh. Focus on the fundamental, have an insanely high standard of expectation, be a professional, live with honesty, integrity and commitment, and the score takes care of itself
I am always on the lookout for recommendations so please, if you have any favourites then please pass them on!
Here’s to some joyful, inspiring and thought provoking reads in 2016!