world o' books

Andy sent me this fun thing to do, a consideration of books in my life. Because the set of questions is being sent on from blog-person to blog-person, it's kind of like a chain letter, or a contagious virus; or like a game of tag. (I guess "technically" it's called a "meme" which is "an idea or behavior that spreads through a culture" and which seems to be related to "mimic" and to the French word for "same" which is "meme" with a little accent over the first "e" which I don't know how to type in Blogger-text.)

I think it is also an opportunity for rediscovery and praise, as well as a very good way to avoid tackling the piles of work spread all over the dining room table (I've even managed to accumulate a pile of stuff to do under my laptop).

How many books I've owned
I would be surprised if anyone I know who is over the age of 6 knows how many books they own. Just lots, and lots. Lots. Even after selling big boxfuls and giving piles away. I do love and appreciate the Public Library system, but I can't write in those books. Once I have a relationship with the ideas or fall in love with any of the phrases or passages, I want to have my own copy so that I can write back, in the margins.

Reading style
During spare moments, and at night. My husband and sons and I take our books with us when we go to restaurants, and if we're not talking, then we're reading. I always have a magazine or journal or article to read in my briefcase, and always take a book (sometimes just a blank book) when I'm carrying a backpack or purse. I also often read in the hottub. So, my books not only have handwriting and drawing in them, they often have water spots too (I don't do those things to books I borrowed, though, honest!)

The last book I bought
Mediated: How the Media Shapes Your World and the Way You Live In It by Thomas de Zengotita, on the recommendation of Toyce at the Integral Education Center. I haven't started it yet--it's in the "next" pile.

The last book I read
Hmm. I guess that means the last book I actually finished. There are many many books on the floor or on my desk or in one of my bags that I have read part of and then put down, either for a while, or for pretty much ever.

So, the last book that I read all the way through (and didn't even skip the boring parts because there weren't any) is called Field Notes on the Compassionate Life: A Search for the Soul of Kindness, by Marc Ian Barasch. He explores the nature of human (and animal) compassion and altruism from the perspectives of neuroscience, spiritual teachings and practice, psychology, evolutionary theory, and through interviews with people who have forgiven unthinkably horrible crimes, and with people who have gone way out of their way for total strangers, wondering: what is the essence of compassion? Can it be learned? Is kindness counter-evolutionary, or the ultimate evolutionary force?

It's written in a personal style that in itself is elevating. Here's a bit:
"Something within us already conduces toward heartfulness, and its nature is to grow with the merest effort. Aldous Huxley, asked on his deathbed to sum up what he had learned in his eventful life, said, "It's embarrassing to tell you this, but it seems to come down mostly to just learning to be kinder." And though I set out to write a more hardheaded, less softhearted (and perhaps les softheaded) book, I can onloy conclude the same.

People living in arid countries have found a simple method of collecting water. They spread out sheets of fabric at night and siphon off the dew that condenses on them each morning. Like moisture, love really is in the air. It will settle upon the thinnest reed, scintillate on a bare tip of grass, free for the taking. It is an elixir that can heal, drop by drop, all the sorrow and separation in the world. It changes pretty much everything."
Five books that mean a lot to me
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard
Coming to Life: Traveling the Spiritual Path in Everyday Life, by Polly Berrien Berends
The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, by David Abram
The Jew in the Lotus: A Poet's Rediscovery of Jewish Identity in Buddhist India, by Rodger Kamenetz
His Dark Materials (a trilogy that includes The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass), by Philip Pullman

I love the language and the ideas and the perspectives of all of these books so much, and don't think I can describe then well enough to even try.

(And these are the books I'm reading now--a new category that wasn't in the original recipe...)
Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine by Kerry Bone and Simon Mills
The World Cafe: Shaping Our Future Through Conversations that Matter, by Juanita Brown with David Isaacs
Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths, by Karen Armstrong
Consciousness & Healing: Integral Approaches to Mind-Body Medicine, edited by Marilyn Schlitz and Tina Amorok with Marc S. Micozzi

Invite some more to play
I'll see if Open Space friends Ashley, Chris, Jeff and Michael, and new-to-blogging, long-time-friend, Brad, are interested--particularly, of course, I'd like to know what their "books that mean a lot to me" are, so that I can read them,too.