Top Five Translated Fiction

Translated Fiction

Tilted Axis Press who published the award winning Han Kang’s The Vegetarian and Human Acts asked me to write an article about why I read translated fiction, so rather than repeat myself, if you are interested in a deeper explanation you can read more about my motivations by clicking on the link below:

“Reading in Translation, A Literary Revolution” by Claire McAlpine

At the end of the article is a list of titles I recommended with links to my reviews. But for today I’m just going to pull up from my memory five books that have stayed with me that at the time of reading transported me elsewhere and that I remember being excellent and memorable reads.

That’s one of the reasons I continue to love reading translations, they’re a form of armchair travel, not to see the sights of other countries, but to enter the minds of their storytellers, to see things from another perspective or delight in discovering one similar one to our own. To break out and away from the narrow influence of the culture we are within. Most of what we are offered to read from traditional channels was imagined, created and published only in English, less than 5% of fiction originates from other languages.

Women in Translation

It’s hard to only choose five especially as I’m going to refrain from choosing titles I have mentioned already in a list I made in August 2019 leading up to #WITMonth.  Do check out the list below, it contains some of all time favourites.

My Top 10 Books by Women in Translation in 2019

To put this into context, I have read approximately 180 books translated from other languages. In choosing the five listed below, I’m trying to be mindful of what I think people might enjoy during this time of isolation.

My Top Five Works of Translated Fiction

1. The Yellow Rain by Julio Llamazares tr. Margaret Jull Costa (Spain)

This was a fabulous read for me and one I’ve never forgotten and often recommended, it’s a quiet, short read, an elegy that evokes the end of an era, in this case one man living alone in a village in the Pyrenees long after everyone else has abandoned it. It might sound melancholic, but this is the nearest literature comes to being like staring at a painting and admiring the creation. Here’s what I said in my review (click on the title to read the whole review):

Written in the future, the past and the present, in a lyrical style that for me never depresses though we might think it bleak, this ode to a changing landscape that is reverting back to its true nature is haunting, gripping, colourful and soul destroying all at the same time.

2. Her Mother’s Mother’s Mother and Her Daughters by Maria José Silveira tr. Eric M.B. Becker (Brazil)

This is one of the more recent translations I’ve read, and one of the most accomplished, for it dares to tell a potted history of Brazil through interconnected stories of daughters, from 1500 to the modern age. They are grouped into five eras providing an insight into how easily humanity loses its connection to its  origins, thinking itself above the rest.

There are occasional traits that pass from one generation to another, in this line of women who range

from slaves to slave-owners, revolutionaries to idle society ladies, muses to artists, powerful matriarchs to powerless victims, Indians to respectable “white” women whose eyes would “light up in shock” if they found out about their indigenous (and African, and working class) ancestry. Enrico Cioni

3. Nothing But Dust by Sandra Colline tr. Alison Anderson (France)

Although it is a French novel, it’s set in the Patagonia steppe, Argentina, about four boys growing up in harsh conditions on a farm under the rule of a tyrannical mother. It’s one of those novels that makes you feel like you are there, willing the youngest son Raphael on as he is challenged by his two older brothers and harsh mother.

It evokes a strong sense of place whether that is the dry, dusty, harshness of the plateau or the lush, fertile, freedom of the forest the youngest son encounters when he must track down two missing horses. It’s a fantastic, compelling novel of the human condition, in an original setting and family dynamic. Thought provoking, atmospheric, charged with tension, it will stay with you long after reading.

4. The Whispering Muse by Sjón tr. Victoria Cribb (Iceland)

I remember reading this novella and the wonderful feeling it evoked as it was New Years Day in 2016 and my first read of the year. The story takes place on a ship in 1949, the narrator is a passenger and Caeneus, the second mate of the freighter, is a storyteller.

Each night he tells part of the story of Jason and the Argonauts, the epic poem by Apollonius of Rhodes, (Hellenistic poet, 3rd century BC), so reading the book necessitated a number of welcome diversions to look up that story and an increasing awareness of the connection between what we are reading and that ancient myth. Entertaining, intriguing, intellectually stimulating and fun, I scribbled all over that book in pencil and had fun learning so much more than what was written between the pages.

5. Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan tr. Irene Ash (France)

Because I live in France, I probably read more French books (in translation or original language) than any other foreign language, despite reading from more than 20 countries annually, so it’s not surprising to find a second French title on my list.

Bonjour Tristesse is a slim, coming-of-age classic of Cecile, a 17 year-old girl on holiday with her father at a villa on the Meditarranean, near St Raphael. I loved it.

Jealous of her father’s intentions to remarry she behaves badly and then regrets it, at the same time expressing remarkable insight into her flaws and misgivings. She knows this marriage will turn her and her father into happy, civilised beings, yet she deeply resents it.

Utterly engaging, I was riveted, I loved the ability her character had to understand the personalities around her and her own flaws, despite being unable to stop the mischief she provoked; not to mention this was written when the author was only 18 years old herself. I’m not usually a big fan of classics, but the French writers Françoise Sagan and Colette have me overcoming my usual reluctance.

Do you have an all time favourite read of translated fiction? Share in the comments below. I’m always looking to add other people’s favourites!

If you missed them, here are the rest in the series I’ve posted so far, more still to come!

Further Reading During Our Confinement

My Top 5 on the TBR (To Be Read)

My Top 5 Spiritual Well-Being Reads

My Top 5 Nature Inspired Reads

My Top 5 Uplifting Fiction Reads

Top Five Uplifting Fiction

Finding Uplifting Fiction that isn’t genre specific like Romance or ChickLit is quite difficult. Since you’re unlikely to have these on your shelves, I’m  including a link to a longer Goodreads List described also described as Uplifting:

When you close these books you feel happy to be alive, secure that life is worth living, and motivated to get out there and live an awesome life.

Some of these books may deal with the dark side of life, but they still convey that overall it is good to be alive and leave you feeling uplifted.

GoodReads Top 100 Uplifting Fiction

A lot of the books on their list are children’s classics or novels by familiar authors such as Jane Austen and Elisabeth Von Arnim (I’ve read Elizabeth & Her German Garden and The Enchanted April); others are more contemporary and were popular when they were published like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, The Life of Pi, The Secret Life of Bees, The Goldfinch, The Shipping News, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

None of my choices are on that list, but these five below are my personal favourites.

Top Five Uplifting Fiction

1. Two Old Women by Velma Wallis

Inspired by an Alaskan legend, this is a wonderful short read featuring the original inhabitants of the interior of Alaska; nomads they moved about in search of food according to the weather.

During a particularly harsh winter the group makes a decision regarding the two old women, which results in a sudden change in their attitudes and demands that they recall and put into practice everything they have learned over their long lives. It’s a wonderful, inspiring story, an ode to the importance of sharing experiences through friendship and community and a warning against complacency.

2. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

This book is a modern classic in America, so I expected it to be a slower read than usual, but I was totally hooked right from its opening pages.

Not only is it a compelling story of a woman’s search for fulfillment, it is an elevating study of character and consciousness emphasized by the use of dialect that draws the reader into the narrative as if it’s being read to you. A unique and exciting reading experience once you get into the rhythm of it.

3. The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain

Antoine Laurain is a French author who writes whimsical, humorous novellas and this was the first translated into English. They’re a guaranteed light, uplifting read. The President’s Hat is about what happens when President Mitterand leaves his hat behind in a restaurant and someone else picks it up. That person too leaves it behind, and so on, it is a nod to the nostalgia of Parisian life told as a kind of fairy tale, with its connection to a revered hat-wearing President of the 1980’s, whom Laurain describes as being like a noble Florentine Prince. Also inspired by the loss of a much loved hat and an active imagination!

His other books are similarly uplifting, The Red Notebook, Vintage 1954, or the slightly darker Smoking Kills.

4. The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

This is a wonderful story of octogenarian neighbours Hortensia and Marion, living in a suburb in Cape Town, South Africa. They’ve both had successful lives, run their own businesses and are on the same neighbourhood committee, but their similarities act as a reason to divide them rather than support each other. One day an unforeseen event forces the women together. Could this long-held mutual loathing transform into friendship?  Is it really possible to love thy neighbour? Easier said than done.

It’s a story that reminds me a little of A Man Called Ove, except I didn’t like Ove and wouldn’t put that book on my list, but this one definitely, these two are far more interesting to hang out with than Ove ever was! And this novel was nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2017, a worthy contender in my opinion.

5. The Italian Chapel by Philip Paris

Inspired by a true story, this is a tale of Italian prisoners of war, transported from the North African desert to the freezing cold of Orkney, (an archipelago off the northeastern coast of Scotland), at the beginning of winter 1942.

In a testament to the wonders of the human spirit, despite insufferable conditions they build a chapel, one of the most enduring icons of hope and peace to come out of WWII.

The novel introduces us to key characters and imagines them achieving this incredible feat. It is a story of optimism, resourcefulness and the things men do to keep their spirits up when the circumstances are against them. An easy, light read, moving without being overly sentimental, knowing this wonderful refuge still exists today makes it all the more special.

Philip Paris has also written a non-fiction account of the true story behind the chapel. Orkney’s Italian Chapel: The True Story of an Icon. In my review he wrote a comment, saying that he and his wife had returned for the 70th anniversary of the chapel’s completion and met up with several family members of the key artists who built the chapel, as well as 94 year old Gino Caprara, an ex Orkney POW who travelled from Italy for the event. There were many tears shed during those few days together.

Further Reading Lists

Top Five on MyTBR

Top Five Spiritual Well-Being Reads

Top Five Nature Inspired Reads

Map of Another Town by M.F.K. Fisher

Essays on Aix en Provence

While I usually steer clear of memoirs set in France, M.F.K.Fisher (1908-1992) is a writer I’ve long intended to read. She was an American nonfiction writer whose wrote about food, considering it from many aspects: preparation, natural history, culture, and philosophy.

Since no-one can visit Aix-en-Provence right now, here is another way to visit the town, through the imagination and evocative style of this talented writer, a specialist in evoking the senses.

Fisher lived in Dijon for a few years as a young bride, but now it is 1954 and she is a widow with two young daughters spending a year in Aix-en-Provence at a time when France is still reeling from the effect of the second world war. Fisher too is recovering from raw emotional wounds.

While being in Aix makes her feel alive, a sense of frustration seeps through the pages as she describes feeling largely invisible and worse, looked down upon.

She is keenly aware that the grand dames consider her an ‘outlander’, an emissary from a graceless, culture-less people.

Living here has given her a thick skin, a confidence and an extra sense with which to navigate the world.

Over the years I have taught myself, and have been taught, to be a stranger. A stranger usually has the normal five senses, perhaps especially so, ready to protect and nourish him.

Then there are the extra senses that function only in the subconsciousness. These are perhaps a stranger’s best allies, the ones that stay on and grow stronger as time passes and immediacy dwindles.

It is with these senses that she creates her map of the town, Aix-en-Provence.

Le Cours Mirabeau

She finds just the right words to describe the near indescribable, whether it’s the cafes, the main street or the people, and though all of the characters she writes about have long gone, the edifices remain and it is easy to imagine how this place we live in was back when she inhabited it. In reality, little has changed, except that today it is a ghost town.

After reading the initial chapters, I stopped reading for a couple of months just after the chapters The Gypsy Way and The Foreigner, which were somewhat xenophobic. Then I picked this up again and was relieved to find the next essays as delightful as the debut and way more humorous. I found that Fisher was more entertaining when observing herself than she was observing others.

My favourite essay ‘A Familiar’ didn’t even take place in Aix, it’s a stream-of-consciousness narrative of six hours spent in the train station of Lucerne after being sold a ticket for a non-existent train. Refusing to allow herself to venture outside, she orders a vermouth-gin in the station restaurant to ease her awkwardness.

I would have liked to order at least two more,  but although I had to laugh at myself I was afraid that the maid, already somewhat alarmed at my ordering such a potion … a woman alone … would report me to the police who must be somewhere handy in the enormous station.

And in the essay ‘The Unwritten Books’, she visits a cake shop, asking the pastry chef to make a cake, one drawn by her young daughter, a cross cultural hilarity, not to mention the proprietors constant refusal to hear her other request, to provide her with a calendar of culinary events, for which there is only ever one reply, an(other) invitation to visit the calisson factory? Priceless!

A must read certainly if you know and love Aix-en-Provence, this is an outsiders insight into the old city, one who has fallen for its charm, cursed by her inability to meld completely into it. Humorous in some parts, cringworthy in others, overall a delight and superbly descriptive.

This new edition with an introduction by Lauren Elkin, was re-released in 2019 by Daunt Books. Thank you to the publisher for sending me a review copy.

Top Five Nature Inspired Reads

Nature Inspiration

Welcome back to my Reading Lists for Total Confinement. Today I’m sharing my Top Five Nature Inspired reads.

It’s not winter, however we are in period of hibernation and just as bees pollinate flowers, somehow we humans are spreading a virus around the world.

Without pollination, plants cannot create seeds. For now, it’s difficult to see what good will bloom from Covid-19 but lets hope something positive will come from what we learn in solitude and while locked in lets hope the bees can get on and do their job out there.

When it’s too cold to be out in nature or when I feel like a break from the books I’ve been reading, I love to read compelling nature essays or stories inspired by nature. A form of quiet escapism, they are a unique appreciation of nature.

The choices below are a mix of essays, fiction, memoir and poetry. If you like the sound of a book, click on the title to read my review.

Top Five Nature Inspired Reads

1. The Bees by Lalline Paul

I’m starting with a novel, because this was an incredible feat of the imagination as well as being a compelling read. It’s the story of The Hive narrated by Flora 717, a worker bee. Flora is a lowly sanitation bee and we meet her as she is becoming aware of her surroundings and the hierarchy within which she lives.

Not only was the author inspired by bees, but she models the fictional landscape of The Hive on a Bronze Age Minoan Palace. Stunning, I was completely bowled over by this story. A thrilling read!

2. Under The Sea Wind by Rachel Carson
Many know Rachel Carson for her groundbreaking work Silent Spring that launched the environmental movement and brought about revolutionary changes in laws governing air, land and water use.

But Carson’s own personal favourite and a book I absolutely loved was her debut Under the Sea-Wind. I’d read a few excellent creative non-fiction nature titles and was wondering whether anyone had written in a similar lyrical way about the sea. And here it is, the masterpiece, what a unique and incredible insight she gives of it.

Divided into three parts,  it’s written from the perspective of three creatures she knew well (she was a zoologist), Part One is the life of the seashore, seen through the eyes of a sanderling she names Silverbar; in Part Two we experience the ocean with Scomber the mackerel, and Part Three takes us into the deep dark, fathoms, following Anguilla the eel out of a river into the Sargasso Sea. Absolutely inspired, informative, stunning.

3. The Turquoise Ledge Leslie Marmon Silko

I had to include this here even though I’m doing a separate list about Memoirs, because it was such a fascinating read and introduction to the Arizona desert and its wildlife. The way Silko talks about the rattlesnakes that inhabit her property will almost convince you that under similar circumstances we too might live harmoniously with these creatures!

Alongside the critters, she recalls ancestral Laguna stories of her childhood, talks of Star Beings, collects turquoise rocks in the arroyo (dry creek bed) and shares her fascination with the Nahua people, their language and Tlaloc, the Nahua God of Rain to whom she occasionally chants her own rain prayer.

I discovered it the same way I found Under the Sea-Wind, this time I was looking for a creative non-fiction title set in the desert near Tuscon; I found this stunning memoir and snapped it up straight away.

Silko too is an author many know for her bestselling novel Ceremony, I enjoyed Gardens in the Dunes and the slim collections of letters with poet James Wright The Delicacy & Strength of Lace. Yes, I was hooked and read whatever I could get my hands on after reading her inspired memoir. Fortunately I still have Storyteller and Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit on my shelf.

4. When Women Were Birds, Fifty Four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams

Terry Tempest Williams wrote Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place in 1991 about a personal loss and the dangers confronting Great Salt Lake. Twenty years later, now 54 years old, she was the age her mother attained when she departed this world and thus reflects anew on life, as a woman, a conservationist and activist in another arresting memoir.

Referring to ancient crow etchings of women in China that were read by women she thinks of her own bird marking, a scar above the eye made by a falcon on a river trip. She speaks of the Mormon tradition of keeping journals, of a gift her mother left her, the collection of carefully preserved, beautiful cloth bound journals and the shock of what she finds within their pages. This is one you’ll want to slow read, to ponder, cherish, and even re-read.

5. A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver

And to finish a short collection of poetry from Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver who passed away in January 2019. Her poetry oscillates between the natural world and worldly experiences and in this collection she goes down to the shore, dances for joy, falls downs the stairs of the Golden Temple on a trip to India and in my favourite of the collection lets us know, as if she too has been told to self-isolate, that she has accepted her fate.

I HAVE DECIDED

I have decided to find myself a home
in the mountains, somewhere high up
where one learns to live peacefully in
the cold and the silence. It’s said that
in such a place certain revelations may
be discovered. That what the spirit
reaches for may be eventually felt, if not
exactly understood. Slowly, no doubt. I’m
not talking about a vacation.

Of course, at the same time I mean to
stay exactly where I am.

Are you following me?

Do you have a favourite nature-inspired read to share?

Further Reading Lists Featured

My Top 5 TBR

My Top 5 Spiritual Well-Being

Kindred by Octavia E.Butler

I have been wanting to read Octavia E. Butler for some time, she was one of the most well-known African-American science fiction writers, with a reputation akin to the likes of Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou who sadly passed away at the age of 58 in 2006.

I guess it was the science-fiction label that stopped me reading her until now, having read Kindred her best-known work, I understand why Butler refers to this particular novel not as science fiction, but fantasy. She uses that element of fantasy to transport a character back to that historical period.

The novel begins with a shocking revelation, that immediately puts the reader on guard. After reading the first line, I was ready for something brutal to occur. It did, but not what I expected.

I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.

It is 1976 and Dana is remembering everything that happened leading up to that moment. She is a Black woman writer married to a white man, a writer named Kevin. On her 26th birthday, something strange happens, she feels dizzy and nauseated, the room blurs and darkens around her, symptoms she will come to recognise with horror, signalling she is about to be transported back in time.

I was at the edge of a woods. Before me was a wide tranquil river, and near the middle of that river was a child splashing, screaming …

Drowning!

The child is Rufus, it is 1815 in Maryland and Dana has time-travelled (without explanation) to an era where her liberties are severely constrained, to save the life of an ancestor. She must try and survive while she is there and figure out how to return to her own life. Until the next time his life is danger and she is called back again.

It’s a riveting account, putting a modern woman into an era where her attitude, education and way of being in the world are a danger to herself. It reminded me of Andrea Levy’s story of slavery in the Jamaican plantations Long Song both writer’s had a similar objective, to get inside the world of their ancestors, to imagine those voices that hadn’t been able to record their perspectives and feelings.

Levy looks at slavery through the eyes of a slave and does so with both humour and distaste. Butler transports a modern women, someone like her in fact, back in time, and makes us feel what life was like in 1815, showing us how someone from our own time might cope if sent back there, knowing what we know now. It’s an interesting predicament.

The longer Dana stays, the more she begins to feel part of the household, familiar and accepting.

That disturbed me too when I thought about it. How easily we seemed to acclimatize. Not that I wanted us to have trouble, but it seemed as though we should have had a harder time adjusting to this particular segment of history – adjusting to our places  in the householder of a slaveholder.

Rufus is the son of the plantation owner, the person Dana is connected to, as he ages and becomes more like his father, she struggles to rationalise her feelings towards him.

I looked at him again and let myself understand. It was that destructive single-minded love of his. He loved me. Not the way he loved Alice, thank God. He didn’t seem to want to sleep with me. But he wanted me around – someone to talk to, someone who would listen to him and care what he said, care about him.

And I did. However little sense it made, I cared. I must have. I kept forgiving him for things…

It’s a thought-provoking novel that uses that element of fantasy to place a woman of the 1970’s into the 1800’s to look at that life and legacy from the inside out. We can imagine how that would have stretched the imagination of the author and the challenges that created for her, grappling with what she discovered there, with what she was becoming aware of.

Highly recommended.

Top Five Spiritual Well-Being Books

Well-Being Inspiration

Welcome to today’s new list, my top five spiritual well-being reads . This is Day 2 in my series of Reading Lists for this period of total confinement. Yesterday I shared the Top 5 Reads on My TBR.

There is a tab above with links to more authors and books in this category and a short intro to the author and what they specialise in.

Many of my suggestions are Hay House authors. Hay House is a publishing company founded in 1984 by Louise Hay when she was 58 years old. In the 1970’s she wrote a pamphlet known as ‘Heal Your Body’ which later became the bestselling book ‘You Can Heal Your Life’.

I have an affinity for Hay House authors as I often listen to their free radio HayHouseRadio.com when I’m cooking dinner. Many authors have a weekly radio show where they interview interesting people and invite callers to ask questions. Ordinary and extraordinary life questions that receive spiritually enlightened answers from what I perceive as pretty grounded, high functioning empathetic teachers, with open-minded perspectives on the Divine.

Top Five Spiritual Well-Being Books

1. Raise Your Vibration by Kyle Gray

I came across Kyle Gray thanks to Christiane Northrup, a protégé of Louise Hay, she invited him to present at an I Can Do It event (gatherings of kindred souls to share similar experiences, expand awareness and reach higher levels of consciousness) when he was 22-years-old. It’s so heart-warming to see a young man inspiring so many in such a grounded, reassuring and confident way.

Raise Your Vibration is the perfect bedside read and daily practice. Vibration is a similar term to energy, we all vibrate energetically at a particular frequency. The lower the frequency, the denser your energy, and the heavier your problems seem. The higher the frequency of your energy or vibration, the lighter you feel in your physical, emotional, and mental bodies. We experience greater personal power, clarity, peace, love, and joy. You have little, if any, discomfort or pain in your physical body, and your emotions are easily dealt with.

Kyle refers to his practices as vibes. So raising our vibe is good. It’s not necessary to read more than one per day and we benefit more by doing this as often the day will show us something that relates to what we’ve read. I loved this book because it opens us up to serendipitous events and makes us more aware of them. It’s informative, uplifting and can be life changing.

2. Making Life Easy: A Simple Guide to a Divinely Inspired Life by Christiane Northrup

Christiane Northrup is great. A woman with a foot in both camps, a medical doctor, OB/GYN physician who specialises in women’s wellness and has published lots of health related books (with terribly unappealing covers) I’ve never read on menopause, physical and emotional health & healing, ageing, mother-daughter genetic health legacies and more.

I had heard her often on the radio but only began to read her after she wrote Making Life Easy, the book in which she “comes out of the spiritual closet” and shares many of the alternative, more spiritual practices that have guided her through the years.

3. The Four Insights – Wisdom, Power and Grace of the Earthkeepers by Alberto Villoldo

I came across Alberto via Colette Baron-Reid, they have worked together and produced a Mystical Shaman Oracle deck, which is a great way to learn about this ancient wisdom, Alberto writes wonderful books which really help deepen one’s knowledge. A medical anthropologist who thought he knew a lot (PhD’s etc), he spent years investigated the effects of energy healing on blood and brain chemistry and spent years in the company of shamans, a humbling experience that changed the course of his life and views. He writes with simplicity and gives examples from his own experience as well as those of clients.

The Four Insights is an excellent introduction to this ancient wisdom and energy medicine, explaining the four levels of perception with suggestions as to how we can how we can alter our own reality, by shifting perception into a higher realm. It is a pre-requisite to Shaman Healer Sage, How to Heal Yourself and Others with the Energy Medicine of The Americas

4. The Grief Recovery Handbook, The Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, & Other Losses updated to include How Grief Recovery Addresses Trauma & PTSD by John W. James & Russell Friedman

I haven’t reviewed this book for obvious reasons (My Long Absence Explained), but I have to include it on the list as it is a real gem and totally resonated for me when I needed it. Ironically, I bought this for research and had it sitting unread on my shelf, when the day arrived that I needed and was thoroughly comforted by it.

“Recovery from loss is achieved by a series of small and correct choices made by the griever. This book takes on the the specific challenge of reeducating anyone who has a genuine desire to discover and complete the emotional pain caused by loss.”

5. Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elisabeth Gilbert – I include this because I believe creativity is an essential key to unlocking or releasing suffering. Once we understand it, we find that creativity lies at the centre of our calling or purpose in life. I don’t mean the often quoted traditional form that some take to mean art, that’s one form, not do I mean a career. I mean that thing within us that yearns for expression, the thing that we like to do that makes us feel good. That keeps us sane.

“Possessing a creative mind, after all, is something like having a border collie for a pet: It needs work, or else it will cause you an outrageous amount of trouble. Give your mind a job to do, or else it will find a job to do, and you might not like the job it invents.

It has taken me years to learn this, but it does seem to be the case that if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind).”

Tell me, do you have a favourite read for your spiritual well-being? Share it with us, I’m always looking for inspiration!

Further Reading Lists in the Series for Total Confinement

Top 5 on My TBR

Top 5 Nature Inspired Reads

Reading Lists for Total Confinement

Health and Well-Being

Our bodies are affected by what we eat, the air we breathe, how much we move and the strength of our immune systems. When these things are in balance they have a positive effect on the mind.

When we are told to stay at home, whether that’s due to recovering from an ailment or like now, to protect us from one, we risk becoming out of balance, physically and mentally.

We are discovering alternative ways to continue activities in unique ways, whether learning, exercising, preventing boredom or coping with the effect of the over abundance of panic/fear inducing news stories out there.

Some are creating suggestions for the #StayAtHome period, so when Paula at Book Jotter in her Winding Up the Week post asked if anyone was creating therapeutic reading lists, I thought I might create a few, I have shared a few of these titles with people already this week, being worthy titles that might assist or entertain us during this crisis.

I believe that what we consume affects our state of mind and that applies to our reading material as much as food. In order to bring balance, we can refer to books that have a positive effect on the mind, that allow us to stay in a calm, neutral state, an antidote to the excess of material and media that triggers fear, panic and other states of disequilibrium.

So over the next few days, I’ll be making a few suggestions from books I’ve read, according to the following themes, which I’ll link back to this page:

Top 5 Spiritual Well-Being Reads

  • books that suggest how to move to a perspective that fosters calm, helps prevents trigger inducing states, moves us out of drama and protects us from negative energies. And how to have fun doing it.

Top 5 Nature Inspired Reads

  • since we can’t all go there, these books put you in nature and allow you to appreciate it, going to places you’ll probably never visit, bought alive and evoking the senses without ever getting bored.

Top 5 Uplifting Reads

– they are few and far between in my opinion, books that actually make you laugh or feel good about humanity, the no drama, no trauma zone, feel good factor.

Top 5 Translated Fiction

– a sample from the millions that we’ll never read, the few that have made it through to be translated into English, providing us a glimpse into storytelling from parts of the world we probably don’t even know how to ‘Hello’ in.

Top 5 Memoirs

– Not the rich or famous, just glimpses into a slice of life of someone who has experienced something that gave them an interesting insight into life.

Top 5 Popular Fiction

– just a really good unputdownable read.

For today, I’m going to share the Top 5 Books on my TBR (To Be Read) across different genres and themes, which at the moment changes daily!

Top 5 Books On My TBR

1. Courageous Dreaming – How Shamans Dream the World Into Being (Spiritual) by Alberto Villoldo – I’ve read 3 or 4 books by Villoldo and loved them all, a psychologist and medical anthropologist who studied the spiritual practices of the Amazon and the Andes, he shares more of these ancient wisdom teachings. You can read my reviews of his other works here.

I’ve already read each of the opening chapter quotes, which I find reminiscent of our times, Chapter One, Escaping The Nightmare begins with the following thought-provoking epigram:

“I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it.”

GARRISON KEILLOR

2. The Shackle by Colette (Fiction) – I LOVE Colette, my favourite French classic author, a woman with attitude, totally outside her time, read Introduction to Colette (my review)here. I bought this novella because Vivian Gornick discusses The Shackle and The Vagabond in her new book Unfinished Business – Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader. I can’t read that till I’ve at least read The Shackle!

I have also read The Complete Claudine, (my review) a series of four novellas that can be read as one and I have Earthly Paradise, a selection of extracts from her  memoirs, notebooks, and letters which together provide an insight into her life.

3. The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden (Historical Fiction)– Last year I read Praise Song for the Butterflies,(my review) my first novel by McFadden and it was excellent. She seems to write well researched, easy reading novels that teach us something interesting, that earlier novel was inspired by a tale told her by two women she met when visiting Ghana concerning a practice called trokosi.

The Book of Harlan is historical fiction set during WWII about black American musicians in Paris invited to perform in a Montmartre, affectionately referred to by them as “The Harlem of Paris”. Also based on extensive research, it blends the stories of her actual ancestors and imagined characters.

4. Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie (Nature Essays) – One of my favourite nature essayists, Kathleen Jamie is a poet and an astute observer of sensory detail no matter what she is studying. Surfacing is her latest blend of memoir, cultural history, and travelogue of her visits to Alaska, Orkney and Tibet. From the thawing tundra linking a Yup’ik village in Alaska to its hunter-gatherer past to the shifting sand dunes of the preserved homes of neolithic farmers in Scotland, she explores the natural world, considering that which surfaces and that which connect us with the past.

My reviews of her debut collection Findings and Sightlines here.

5. Plainsong by Kent Haruf (Fiction) – There’s nothing like a good trilogy and I’ve read a couple of excellent ones, such as Sandra Gulland’s excellent historical fiction of the life of Josephine Bonaparte: The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B, Tales of Passion – Tales of Woe, The Last Great Dance on Earth and Nancy E Turner’s memoirs of her great grandmother Sarah Prine, an astonishing, willful, unforgettable pioneering woman who seeks a living in the harsh, untamed lands of the Arizona Territory circa late 1800’s, These is My Words, Sarah’s Quilt, A Star Garden.

Kent Haruf’s Plainsong trilogy follows the lives of a cast of characters in a small farming town in Colorado.

Ursula K. Le Guin said when he passed away in 2014 that Haruf’s

“courage and achievement in exploring ordinary forms of love – the enduring frustration, the long cost of loyalty, the comfort of daily affection – are unsurpassed by anything I know in contemporary fiction”.

I’ve just finished Octavia E. Butler’s excellent novel Kindred, so tonight I’ll start one of these. Watch this space!

Please take care everyone, don’t take unnecessary risks, stay at home and be safe.

What exciting read do you have on your TBR to read next?