The other day a friend made the horrible mistake of asking me what was new. “Wow,” I thought. “Where to begin?” And then it hit me: I’ve been running 100 miles an hour in 100 different directions for heaven knows how long and I had no idea what was new. I was tired (that wasn’t new) and out-of-focus (not new since 1964) and I didn’t know what to share. That should give you a bit of insight into why twice a year, I intentionally pause to reflect. Every Jan. 1 (yes, I can be cliché) and then again in July (it’s a birthday/mortality thing). As I’m writing this, my birthday is approaching (reminder: time to buy more ibuprofen and multi-vitamins), and I’m in mid-quest. So, I’m trying to blend my thoughts and reflections, the store’s books and my assignment: finding books that touch on goal-setting, conquering fears, overcoming obstacles, making changes and living your dreams. The first thing I’d noticed about the theme was, if you will, a crescendo. We’ll start out by looking at books about conquering fears and setting goals and end up looking at books about living dreams. Conquering Fears When Bad Things Happen to Good People ($12.95), by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, has done more to leave me with a peace of mind and allow me to start rebuilding and overcoming obstacles than any other book that I’ve ever read. Although inspired by his faith, Rabbi Kushner offers an easy-to-read book, chock-full-of inspirational anecdotes that will recharge and rearm those of us secular and those of us of faith. If you feel like you’re in need of a catalyst to get back into life’s game, start here. Goal-Setting For fun, type, “A Busy Mind,” into Google. Amongst other things, you’ll find that a busy mind is: happy, tired, busy and quiet. Wow. Is it any wonder why even thinking about what we have to do can be overwhelming? My “busy mind,” keeps me up all night. They say that the best way to quiet that busy mind is to set it to the task of writing down the fears and anxieties and stuff that conspire to keep us awake. Write it Down Make it Happen: Knowing What You Want and Getting It ($15), by Henriette Anne Klauser will help. Klauser offers a short cut for turning dreams into reality by guiding readers in articulating desires and setting in motion the wheels that can take them to their goal. Klauser offers down-to-earth tips and easy exercises for readers to follow to take matters into their own hands. Making Changes In no small part because my wife is just finishing (while thoroughly enjoying) this book and because a dear friend is starting a reading group for this book, my list would be incomplete without heavily recommending Karen Armstrong’s, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life ($22.95). The twelve steps Armstrong suggests begin with “Learn About Compassion” and close with “Love Your Enemies.” In between, she takes up “Compassion for Yourself,” mindfulness, suffering, sympathetic joy, the limits of our knowledge of others and “Concern for Everybody.” She suggests concrete ways of enhancing our compassion and putting it into action in our everyday lives, and provides a reading list to encourage us to “hear one another’s narratives.” Throughout, Armstrong makes clear that a compassionate life is not a matter of only heart or mind but a deliberate and often life-altering commingling of the two. Sounds important enough to me. Living Your Dreams I suppose that living YOUR dream is highly correlated to what YOUR dream is. If your dream is for stuff, please do yourself the favor of picking up a copy of Consumer Reports magazine ($5.99 or $6.99 for the car buying guide) first. It might be a simple dream, but it’s the only dream that will come with a warranty. If your dream is for good health and long life, I’m a big fan of The China Study ($16.95) by T. Colin Campbell. Drawing on the project findings in rural China, but going far beyond those findings, The China Study details the connection between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The report also examines the source of nutritional confusion produced by powerful lobbies, government entities and opportunistic scientists. The New York Times has recognized the study (China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project) as the “Grand Prix of epidemiology” and the “most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease.” Finally, if your dream is for inner-peace, Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life ($15), by Thich Nhat Hanh might not deliver you instant nirvana, but it will set you on a path of less fretting over the mundane. In this modern spiritual classic, a world spiritual leader and Zen master shows how to adapt simple Zen principles for daily living and the way to peace — the first practical book on the subject since Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Peace is Every Step offers ways to use everyday events — washing dishes, eating a meal, sitting in traffic — in the quest for peace and fulfillment. All that for $15 (gotta be less than a counselor’s co-pay)!
Liberal, Jewish and vegan. Scott has six kitties, a dog, four kids and a wife who saves peoples' lives. He operates EVERYbody Reads bookstore, 2019 E. Michigan Ave. in Lansing.