2017, in books

"What are you reading?"

It's one of my absolute favorite questions to be asked. It's an opportunity to share the experience of a little universe in which I have been taking part in solitude. It's a chance to bring someone into a world I am just discovering.

Lately, I find myself buying and reading books that fall into the following categories: classics, contemplative spirituality, poetry, motherhood/parenthood, historical novels and biographies particularly by women and people of color, and sociological issues of our time.

I continue to love my Audible subscription and whizz through books while I cook, drive, clean, or wile away a few moments.

Here is my list of the worlds I peeked into in 2017. This list does not include countless children's books, read over and over and over and...


Operating Instructions - Anne Lammott
 A must for any mother with a baby. Lammott's journal of her son's first year is honest and hilarious and heart-rending. She makes you feel a little bit less crazy about fluctuating between wanting to leave your child forever and put them in a cage so you'll never be apart. When she described her postpartum tummy as a little dog curled up beside her when she flips on her side, I wanted to raise my glass to her. 

Letters to a Young Poet - Rainer Maria Rilke
Likely the most popular work of one of the world's most-loved poets, this slim book should be taken out and read regularly. I underlined half the book and had to pause frequently to let his words sink into my being. With Rilke, you see the world beyond what is visible. As he says, "If your everyday life seems poor, don't blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches."

Between the World and Me - Ta-Nahisi Coates (as an audiobook)
Ta-Nahisi's unflinching letter to his own son on the realities of being a black man in America today is sharp and uncompromising. There is no effort to make his readers comfortable. There is no consolation at truths of racial injustice and for this reason, it was a hard read (or listen). And because it was a hard read, I knew I had to listen. I skipped backwards a few times to let his words come at me again, to make myself look into his reality. I think all Americans should read this book.

The Abundance - Annie Dillard
If anyone can call forth the riches of their everyday life, as Rilke urges us, Annie Dillard can do so. She is seemingly normal woman who lives a seemingly normal life, as far as I can tell, but they way she engages with and learns from and describes her very normal life makes you want to step into your own with a little more vigor. These collected essays describe everything from a solar eclipse to watching a giant water bug suck the life out of a frog. My very favorite was her essay on dirt. Yes, she even makes dirt into the most interesting subject. "Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them," she says. "The least we can do is try to be there."


Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (as an audiobook)
As an American living in Africa, I greatly enjoyed this novel describing the experience of an African moving to America. Maybe of the very same things that tend to confuse me about Ugandan culture confused Adichie's character (a Nigerian) about America and it helped me to see my own country from a fresh perspective. It's an enjoyable novel interwoven with cross-cultural experiences and integrating identities that seem to be worlds apart.

Nurture the Wow - Danya Ruttenberg
I've been toying with the idea of writing a book about motherhood as a contemplative path, so I've read all I can get my hands on that approach the topic. Ruttenberg's book is the closest thing I have found and it was a great read. As a rabbi, Ruttenberg was immersed in spiritual practice until she had her children and struggled to find the time. But it didn't take long for her to realize that her spiritual life is not practices apart from her everyday life and her parenting journey in particular. She shows us how motherhood is a path to discovering the Great Mystery.

A Year with Rumi - Coleman Barks
I had this book on my bedside table and would read one short poem before bed every night. Rumi is said to be the world's most-loved poet and he has a way of opening your heart. I loved ending my day and falling asleep with his words dancing through my head.


Other books I read this year:

  • Gift from the Sea - Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  • The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke - Stephen Mitchell
  • Animal Dreams - Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Tao of Motherhood - Vimala McClure
  • New and Selected Poems, Volume One - Mary Oliver
  • My Antonia - Willa Cather
  • Radical Optimism - Beatrice Bruteau
  • What Really Matters - Tony Schwartz
  • You Are Your Child's First Teacher - Rahima Baldwin Dancy
  • Momma Zen - Karen Maezen Miller
  • Faithful Families - Traci Smith
  • Eager to Love - Richard Rohr
  • Women Who Run With the Wolves - Clarissa Pinkola Estes
  • Tales from the Arabian Nights - Sir Francis Bacon
  • Three Daughters of Eve - Elif Shafak
  • Kleopatra - Karen Essex

Listened to as audio books:

  • Jayber Crow - Wendell Berry
  • Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
  • A Wrinkle in Time - Madaline L'Engle
  • Small Great Things - Jodi Picoult
  • The New Jim Crow - Michelle Alexander
  • Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
  • Dreaming the Eagle - Manda Scott
  • Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi
  • Wild - Cheryl Strayed
  • Hannah Coulter - Wendell Berry
  • Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen
  • The Ministry of Utmost Happiness - Arundati Roy
  • Sula - Toni Morrison
  • The Course of Love - Alain de Boton
  • Brida - Paulo Coelho
  • The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
  • The Notorious RBG - Shana Knizhnik and Irin Carmon

Books or sections of these books read for The Living School:

  • Jesus and the Cosmos - Denis Edwards
  • A Brief History of Everything - Ken Wilber
  • The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching - Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Christ in Evolution - Ilia Delio
  • The Four Quartets - T.S. Eliot
  • The Roots of Christian Mysticism - Oliver Clement
  • The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three - Cynthia Bourgeault
  • Christophany - Raimon Panikkar
  • Integral Spirituality - Ken Wilber
  • The Wisdom Jesus - Cynthia Bourgeault
  • The Wisdom Way of Knowing - Cynthia Bourgeault
  • Discourse on Thinking - Martin Heidegger
  • Disputed Questions - Thomas Merton
  • Search for the Meaning of Life - Willigis Jager
  • Pierre Teilhard de Chardin - Ursula King
  • The View from the Center of the Universe - Joel R. Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams
  • God's Ecstasy - Beatrice Bruteau
  • The Sayings of the Desert Fathers - Benedicta Ward
  • Harlots of the Desert - Benedicta Ward
  • Julian of Norwich - Grace M. Jantzen
  • Revelations of Divine Love - Julian of Norwich
  • The Spiritual Espousals - Blessed John Ruusbroec
  • Jacob Boehme - Peter Erb