I've been an avid reader since I was a little girl. Books are still some of my most treasured possessions. When I visit someone's home for the first time, I love to look at their books. I feel like the books we keep and read are a great expression of our selves, which is one reason I hesitated to publish this post. It feels like opening the door to a private place and letting everyone in to see who I am. It's a vulnerable act, but this is who I am. This was my year in 2014, in books.
The Land of the Grasshopper Song – Mary Ellicott Arnold and Mabel Reed
A lovely book I picked up in a gift shop during our drive through California’s Redwoods. It’s the true story of two women from the East Coast, commissioned by the US government to, for lack of better words, culturally colonize the native people in California. But during their two years in the Land of the Grasshopper Song, these women grew to love the Karok Indians and advocated for their rights. In the time of the gold rush, they were the only 2 white women around and their humorous tales are a satisfying read for anyone who admires adventurers, who can relate to the hardships and the humor of living cross-culturally, and who appreciates the depth of female friendships.
Women Who Run With the Wolves – Clarissa Pinkola Estes
If there is one book I would suggest to any woman, this would be it. I went through this book slowly with a friend over a couple of years and now that we’re finished, we’ve decided to start over again! The author uses stories and myths she has collected from around the world to tap into the experiences and psyches of women. She somehow manages to always find the right words for a feeling or thought you could never describe. It’s a book I will always treasure and, if I have a girl, will pass on to her.
The Way to Love – Anthony Di Mello
Eric and I slowly work our way through this pocket-size book, packed with depth and insight into what love really means. We’ll read a chapter once in a while before we fall asleep or together at the breakfast table. Anthony Di Mello always finds a way to take an old verse to a new level and often the only thing you can do with his wisdom is let it sink in.
The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet – Benjamin Hoff
A splendid explanation of Taoism using one of our favorite childhood characters. Its simplicity and charm will draw you in quickly and you’ll see the wisdom of becoming more Pooh-like.
The First Muslim – Lesley Hazleton
Zealot – Reza Aslan
An American Agnostic Jewish woman wrote a biography about Mohammed, the Muslim Prophet, and an Iranian American man who grew up Muslim, converted to Christianity in his teens, and now calls himself simply a follower of Jesus wrote a biography about the savior to Christians. I had to read these books back-to-back and it was a fascinating comparison. Both writers are compelling and place their subjects in historical context, shedding new light on their lives that is often unconsidered and overlooked by their followers and skeptics. I highly recommend both of these books to anyone interested in religion and its relevance to our times.
In the Body of the World – Eve Ensler
Eve Ensler doesn’t tell us how our bodies, particularly as women, are connected with our Earth – she makes us feel it deep inside as she takes us on the journey of her cancer treatments and with the women of Eastern Congo. It’s a quick read, but you’ll often want to put the book down and just feel her words and cry or laugh with her on her journey.
Strength to Love – Martin Luther King Jr.
Coretta Scott King has said people tell her that this book, of all of the books written by or about MLK, has changed their life the most. It’s a compilation of some of King's best sermons and Eric and I have both marked up the whole book, underlining powerful quote after powerful quote.
Black Elk Speaks – John G. Neihardt
A classic of Native American spirituality, I found this biography of Black Elk, a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux, simply fascinating. The recounting of his life dives deeply into a spirituality our world has largely lost, while also touching on key events in the history of the Sioux.
Trauma Stewardship – Laura van Dernoot Lipsky with Connie Burk
A great read for anyone working in the field of social work who has ever felt burnt out, cynical, tired, or has just lacked inspiration. You realize that you truly must care for yourself before you can adequately care and advocate for others.
Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom – Christiane Northrup
I originally bought this book to refer to from time-to-time, but upon picking it up, I found it too fascinating not to read from cover-to-cover. I have kept it by my bedside for the last 2 years and was actually sad to finish it. Northrup takes a very holistic approach to women’s health and has made me love and appreciate my body for the wisdom it gives me, should I choose to listen, rather than wanting my body to look differently and being scared it will somehow rebel against me. This is another must for any woman and I have given out many copies to friends and family.
Hildegard of Bingen – Matthew Fox
This incredible nun from the 12th century, largely unknown, wrote the first opera of the West 300 years before any other, composed music anticipating Mozart 600 years before his birth, taught methods of healing and medicine that are still used today, and called out kings and religious leaders for hypocrisy, which got her interdicted at the age of 80. She was a painter, a poet, a musician, a prophetess, a reformer, a mystic, and a healer. She called for a reverence of nature and our Earth, called science a gift from God, and interwove the feminine into her worship of the Divine. She is recognized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church and was recently named a Doctor of the Church in 2012, but, as the author points out, the Catholic Church doesn’t quite know what to do with her teachings that were way ahead of her time, and quite relevant to ours!
Illumination of a Skyrider – Eric Kreutter
I am now officially married to an author. My husband finished writing a book this year, and has even made significant progress in turning it into a trilogy! I was honored to be the first to set eyes on the very first draft! He has managed to use a chicken and a turtle as his main characters in this story to teach us deep life lessons. It is an outpouring of my husband’s depth and an expression of his truest self, but it’s still a light read and fun to follow along with the journey of Fenix, a chicken trying to find his way in life!
Moving Towards Balance: 8 Weeks of Yoga with Rodney Yee
If you’d love to practice yoga at home, but are like me and think the videos on the market are too cheesy and poorly-made, this is the perfect alternative. Rodney Yee takes you through 8 weeks of yoga, explaining every pose. Even if you’ve done yoga for a while, it will help to remind you what each pose should feel like, and you get to go at your own pace!
The Soul of Money – Lynne Twist
I wasn’t excited to read a book about finances, but I was required to for a class I’m taking, and I am so glad it was this book on finances. Lynne Twist challenges us to evaluate our deepest values and guides us on how to use our money to advance these values in our lives, making us richer in so many ways.
Invitation to Solitude and Silence – Ruth Haley Barton
Solitude and meditation have long been a part of Eastern traditions, but Ruth Haley Barton highlights how Western Christianity has become so frenzied, that we are missing out on the many spiritual, emotional, and physical benefits of solitude and silence. She makes her points gracefully and provides simple practices after each short reading to pull you into this special invitation.
The Hidden Face of Eve – Nawal El Saadawi
A powerful Egyptian author, all of Nawal El Saadawi’s books have a particular punch to them and this one is no exception. An overview of her experiences and perspective of women in the Muslim world, it is a compelling read, but one that I could only take in a little at a time due to the severity of the issues she addresses.
A Call to Action – Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter has called this the most important book he’s ever written. He brings our attention to the plight of women and girls across the world as well as within America, shedding light on issues many would prefer to ignore. It’s a nice summary of these compelling issues and it’s a relief to read such words from a powerful Western, white man.
More books I read in 2014:
Birthing from Within – Pam England and Rob Horowitz
The Untethered Soul – Michael A. Singer
When the Heart Waits – Sue Monk Kidd
Meeting the Shadow – Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams
Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea – Mark Kurlansky
The Mists of Avalon - Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown
The Garden of Burning Sand – Corban Addison
Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
The Call of the Wild and White Fang – Jack London
Hobomok – Lydia Maria Child
A Woman’s Book of Life – Joan Borysenko
The Wisdom of the Enneagram – Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson
Wisdom of No Escape – Pema Chodron
The Abstinence Teacher – Tom Perrotta
Wise Women – Susan Cahill
Devotions: Wisdom from the Cradle of Civilization – Danielle and Oliver Follmi
Hard Decisions – Hillary Rodham Clinton
The Terrorist’s Son – Zak Ebrahim
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy