Ready for something amazing and true*

June 25th, 2009

*A hope note given to me by Jen Lemen.

The other night at the bookstore I handed out a list of my recommended summer spiritual reads, and even though I’ve shared some of these before, and even though one of them has been around for two thousand summers, I thought I’d share them again. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for something amazing and true.

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu and Stephen Mitchell – my favorite translation of the ancient Chinese text that informed the ancestry of Zen. Easy, accessible, beautiful and intuitively meaningful.

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke – a hauntingly honest and powerful response to the question of life’s meaning, particularly to those still chasing idealized notions of love and work.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi – a lovely book “not about Zen,” but rather the spirit of Zen conveyed in talks given by this 20th century teacher. Effortless and spare, this slim work satisfies as a full meal.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson – Pulitzer Prize winning novel and modern spiritual classic. An aging country preacher testifies to the plain and lucid miracle of existence in a memoir left to a young son.

Endpoint and Other Poems by John Updike – A collection of poems written by the late novelist in the last seven years of his life and assembled shortly before his death. Clear-eyed, stunning and resonant.

My Grandfather’s Blessings by Rachel Noemi Remen, MD – The kitchen table storyteller uses recollections of her rabbi grandfather to spiritualize everyday life.

Off for a weekend in San Francisco with family and new friends. Bay Area denizens: Come and get your zenagains!

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  1. Great list, thank you, I was hoping for some inspirational reading this summer – I would add:

    The Alchemist, Paulo Cohelo & Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer.

    Comment by Heidi Renee — June 25, 2009 @ 3:59 pm

  2. ive just been starving for something delicious to read in the last few months. you are setting my table again and again.

    thank you!

    p.s. im am loving eve!

    Comment by latisha — June 25, 2009 @ 4:03 pm

  3. Thank you for this list. Here's the page I opened to, just like that:

    #72, Stephen Mitchell's translation:

    When they lose their sense of awe,
    people turn to religion.
    When they no longer trust themselves,
    they begin to depend upon authority.

    Therefore the Master steps back
    so that people won't be confused.
    He teaches without a teaching,
    so that people will have nothing to learn.

    Comment by jena strong — June 25, 2009 @ 5:43 pm

  4. Thanks for the list. Maybe it's time to read Rilke again — I understand him more now than I did when I was young. The Updike poems sound tempting, too.

    Comment by Judy Merrill-Smith — June 25, 2009 @ 6:07 pm

  5. I am rubbing my hands together mischievously, and plotting the acquisition of those on your list, as well as Heidi's! I just finished my latest, and was in the market, so your timing is perfect!

    Enjoy yourself in San Francisco!!

    Comment by Cam — June 26, 2009 @ 7:37 pm

  6. You've modestly left something off of the list: Momma Zen! I'm in the midst of rereading it, and, Karen, it is such a beautiful book!

    Comment by Mama Zen — June 28, 2009 @ 1:27 am

  7. I feel like I read and read and read and am still clueless. But thank you for the recommendations.

    Comment by mapelba — June 28, 2009 @ 3:56 am

  8. I loved Gilead, read it over and over just to feel the words in my mouth. I felt like it was teaching me so much but could not for the life of me tell anyone what it was. On the strength of that book, I will gladly follow your other recommendations in making my latest summer reading list.

    Comment by gpc — June 29, 2009 @ 12:13 am

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