Sharing my reading

October 10, 2011

As promised, here are some of the books I read during these past months. They were either offered to me for my birthday, recommended and lent by friends or bought after I read a critical review. This is where I usually buy them.

“The Butterfly’s Weight”   is a  touching story . This is the title (translated from the French) of this little book by the great Italian writer Erri De Luca. A real jewel of a book. The writing is both poetic and thought-provoking. De Luca tells about an epic battle between man and nature. An old hunter, poacher, and an old, noble chamois; it is about their fight for survival. The originality of this book is that each of them, man and animal, tell the story from their own perspective. De Luca’s writing is just beautiful !
Unfortunately I am not sure this book has been translated in English yet, very few of De Luca’s works have been up to now. Don’t miss it when it will be.  This is a book I will surely read again. More slowly this time to appreciate it fully.

Another birthday gift. I know, I am a spoiled child… The friend who sent me the following book  always chooses books that I just cannot put down. I had never read anything by Carol Edgarian. She received great praise for “Rise the Euphrates”. I read “Three Stages of Amazement” in a few days, so engrossing it was.  C. Edgarian’s book is about the fragility and complexities of marriage and a demanding career. I found the central characters, Lena, Charlie and Theo very likeable and believable. Their story is ordinary and yet complicated and very humane with a touch of humour that I loved. A family journey at different stages of their life through love, marriage, motherhood, grief, betrayal, adversity, loyalty,  wisdom, hope.

The next ones are three books that I took more time in reading and reflecting upon. The first two books are real stories that  will remain with you long after their last page is turned.

“If Nights Could Talk” by Marsha Recknagel is a remarkable,  honest and courageous memoir written with great eloquence, even humour in spite of the tragic events that touched the persons involved in this stunning story. M. Recknagel’s memoir starts  when a derelict kid – Jamie,  her nephew – arrives on the writer’s doorstep. It is about the meanness and love in families, about evil and redemption and how one person can make all the difference in someone’s life by struggling to recreate a family. Marsha and Jamie are each other’s saviours. A beautifully written story, full of feeling and truths. I strongly recommend it.

“Shot in the Heart” (Un Long Silence, in French) by Mikal Gilmore. Mikal Gilmore writes about his brother, Gary, who was  sentenced to death and executed by a firing squad in 1977 after he committed a murder and refused any appeal.

“I have a story to tell. It is a story of murder told from inside the house where murder is born. It is the house where I grew up, a house that, in some ways, I have never been able to leave.”

Before  Gary’s tragic story devastated his own life, Mikal Gilmore decided to write this brave book to try and understand his heritage, to undo the blood ties and escape the family’s curse. M. Gilmore’s book is a real investigation both affective, painful and uncompromising about his own family and his origins. “Shot in the Heart” is a  very dark and courageous journey.

Today, October 10th, happens to be the 9th World Day against Death Penalty. The campaign focuses on a petition asking for a universal moratorium on Death Penalty. It will be the main theme of the 4th resolution of the United Nations regarding DP that will be voted on December 2012.

Both of these books are also powerful and humane documents about resilience. They are about the ravages caused by a devastated childhood where love and respect are just absent. “Murders of the flesh and the spirit”, as M. Gilmore wrote.  Reading those books was not only trying to understand the perversity of the acts that destroyed a family. It was  also about  realizing how someone’s childhood can be broken.

Then, I needed another type of reading, one I had meant to do for a long time. I chose Thich Nhat Hanh‘s “To Touch Life”. The Vietnamese Zen monk resides in a small community in France. He  teaches, writes,  gardens,  works  to help refugees worldwide. He also  travels all over the world to share his teaching about inner harmony. How to fulfil the unity (oneness ?) between body and mind through conscious breathing and meditation.

Before saying good-bye and wishing you a pleasant week, and a good reading – whatever  book is in your hands at the moment – let’s share a few quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”

“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”

More inspiring quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh here :


27 Responses to “Sharing my reading”

  1. Carsten said

    Thanks for the book review Isa. “Shot in the heart” must have been like a hard journey to write. Bringing back many dark memories.
    After thinking a little about that, it is so very different reading your quotes from Tich Nhat Hanh. “…..your smile can be the source of your joy”
    That made me smile!
    Is the last picture the view from your kitchen window?

    • Thanks to you Carsten for your appreciation. Yes, “Shot in the Heart” was a painful writing. A necessary one for Mikal Gilmore who was haunted by his brother’s fate and his family’s tragedy. M. was the youngest and he did not suffer as much as his other brothers did. Still, to try find peace again, he had to write about it. I am happy Thich Nhat Hanh’s words put a smile on your face 🙂 No, the picture is a view I see often as I walk into the forest, pretty in all Seasons.

  2. lola said

    Thank you Isabelle for share. I like specially De Luca’s book because listening different points of view is fascinating to me and many times surprising. Carol Edgarian’s story because is about family struggles and love and i love those stories. The others titles seems necessary reading to understand human suffering, to go deeper and be open to compassion…and compasion to ourselves first as T. N. Hanh seems to suggest.
    Love that peaceful country view and the second hand bookstore. Both my idea of paradise!!

    • Hello Lola, nice to read your words. I agree with you about listening to different points of view, learning to be more open and tolerant. Compassion, that is apparently so much talked about these days, is a feeling hard to come to terms with in certain circumstances. These two books (Gilmore and Recknagel) are a good example of it. Fully accepting ourselves and others, recognizing our human weakness, is a real challenge and also an enlightening process. Thanks for your inspiring words.

  3. iniyaal said

    I have read a book by Thich Nhat Hanh on Zen Buddhism. It is amazing the way simple things about life mean so much, yet need to be explained or written about before we realize its worth. Your selection of books is interesting. Love the landscape view win the last photo.

    • How right you are, iniyaal ! When you read about Thich Nhat Hanh’s thoughts and teachings, you may think this is all so simple and obvious. Yet, how difficult to put these thoughts into practice and stay “here and now” ! At least for me. Thanks a lot for your visit and words.

  4. truels said

    Thank you for sharing your reading with us! I love having new ideas for books to read: I read many books (when I have time) and borrow all of them at our local libraries, where I use their website to search for books (and music CDs DVDs etc. ), I hear or read about, combined with their weekly newsletters that refer all the new books, music or movies that are bought in all 20 libraries in Aarhus United Municipality (materials they do not provide the home from other Danish libraries!) all this is free for all citizens in the municipality! All I have to do is pick up and return the things I order at my local library. Of course I sometimes wait some time in queues for the most popular films, books or CDs, but it does not matter, because even in little Denmark an overwhelming number of exciting things are published , so I can not read everything that is exciting anyway.

    • Your comment was very interesting, truels, thanks a lot ! Why don’t you share some of your Danish reading sometimes ? Reading books from a library is a good – and cheap – way to know what is being published on a regular basis. I should do it too now and then. Thanks for mentioning it. I like to give my books to others once I have read them. Apart from a few that are sort of “reference books” for a reason or another. Now I am reading two books : a fascinating one by Jon Kabbat-Zinn “Coming to Our Senses” and a lighter although very thought-provoking one by Arto Paasilinna’s “The Year of the Hare”. Enjoying both a lot !

  5. Kathy said

    Thich Nhat Hanh is an inspiration. The real miracle is to walk on this earth…aware…alive…present…realizing the miracles that surround us. Thank you for sharing your reading list, Isa.

  6. Thank you for sharing these wonderful books with us Isa. I’m very tempted to read Le Pois Du Papillon and Shot in the heart. The only thing is I should find them here. Here is a book that I recommend: A thousand splendid suns by khaled Hosseini. It gives us a wonderful picture of Afghanistan, replete with its beauty and dreads, through two women- both from complete different upbringing and status brought together by fate to share everything, including their husband.

    • Rukmini, I feel you would love Erri de Luca’s book about this poacher and the chamois. One of those stories that bring you so much from “behind the façade”, so to speak. I have read with an immense pleasure both books by Khaled Hosseini “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand splendid Suns”. Two different perspectives and stories in Afghanistan, men and women who move you beyond words and whom you remember for a long, long time. Thank you Rukmini for mentioning this author.

  7. sartenada said

    Bonjour Isa.

    Dans le monde il y a des millions de bons livres. À notre maison nous avons une grande bibliothèque avec d’environ trois mille cinq cents livres. Ma femme lit les biographies et l’histoire. Moi, j’aime des livres Anticipation. Pendant trente cinq ans j’ai collectionné environ un mille cinq cents livres d’Anticipation et tous sont en francais par écrivains français. La plupart, je l’ai déjà lu trois fois et les meilleures de la série, dont le nom je ne mentionne pas ici, même la quatrième fois. Je n’ai pas besoin d’un dictionnaire quand je les lis, parce que mon vocabulaire passif est vaste. Grammaire, ce que c’est, mais je le sais très bien.

    Pendant le voyage je prendre chaque fois un “roman de brique” comme le Sinouhé l’Égyptien, ou les aventures de Sherlock Holmes. Un livre ce qui est très impressionnante est Les 900 Jours de Leningrad. En plus je lis aussi “Ouest sauvage” par Zane Grey et je les ai nombreux. Zane est le meilleur écrivain ouest.

    Ainsi, notre monde est très different comme tu vois.

    Belle journée.

    • Bonjour cher Matti,
      Quel plaisir de lire tes lignes et d’apprendre que votre maison est une vraie bibliothèque ! La lecture est un passe-temps fabuleux dont je ne pourrais pas me passer. J’ai toujours un livre sur moi, en ce moment Arto Paasilinna 😉 Tu connais sûrement ? Sinouhé l’Egyptien, j’ai lu il y a très longtemps. Fascinant. Je ne connais pas les autres titres que tu mentionnes mais je vais chercher sur le web.
      Oui, notre monde littéraire est très différent mais quelque part on se retrouve, fiction, histoire, biographie, poésie, aventure…
      Bonne lecture à vous deux ! Et merci.

  8. Janice said

    Bonjouir Isa,
    What an interesting reading list! The ones that appeal to me are Carol Edgarian and Thich Nhat Hanh. I know I still have skills to develop about being in the moment – although this is something I think about and try to do.
    Like Sartenada we have a vast collection of books. Unlike you, we find it difficult to part with books we have enjoyed!
    I’m trying to think up a couple of books to recommend to you, although I’m sure you will have read many of my favourites. Have you read any Ahdaf Soueif? I recommend The Map of Love and In The Eye of The Sun. Also Vikram Seth: A Suitable Boy. And Margaret Atwood: Alias Grace.

    • Bonjour Janice, merci de tes commentaires et suggestions. I have not read any of the books you mentioned. I will try to find them over here. Vikram Seth is Indian like Arundhati Roy, a Indian lady writer I really enjoy reading (“The God of Small Things”). I see that Ahdaf Soueif is anglo-Egyptian and his “Map of Love” is a work I am curious to read. Thanks also for mentioning Margaret Atwood, I often read about her but never got to read one of her books. More on my reading list ! Thanks a lot Janice.

      • Janice said

        I was going to mention Arundhati Roy. God of Small Things is one of my favourite books! I have a great love of the quality Indian writers who write in English. If you enjoy Vikram Seth’s Suitable Boy (and I cannot imagine that you wouldn’t!) let me know and I will give you a little list of some of my other favourites. Alias Grace is my favourite Margaret Atwood, and is also the one I think you would most enjoy because it has a quilting theme running through it! Ahdaf Soueif is a woman, by the way.

  9. Thank you so much Janice. I will try finding these three books you mention and let you know. Talking about a book with a quilting theme… have you read “Whitney Otto’s “How to Make an American Quilt” ? I read it long ago and enjoyed it a lot. Should read it again in fact.

  10. Marie said

    Hi Isabelle,

    I love the Thich Nhat Hanh quotes. He is a favorite of mine!
    Thank you for the link/reminder of his beautiful words ❤

  11. sonali said

    Isa, I enjoyed this blog post. Oh, you pick quite an interesting topics to read on. “Three stages of amazement” and “If nights could talk” seem to interest me too, I shall hunt for them. Life has become extremely busy my side with no time for anything that I love to do – hopefully things will be in place soon *sigh* Thank you, Isa for sharing the good quotes! *smiles at you*

    • Hello sonali, nice to find you here again. Your choices of books are good, both of them are great to read for different reasons. Sorry your life is so busy right now, there are such times… but hopefully things will quieten down soon for you. I will think of you as I will cook an Indian meal for my family soon. I received a great choice of spices from a friend back from Kerala. I love the delicious smell of an Indian meal. And its taste too !

  12. Hi Isa,
    Thanks so much for sharing your reading list. Three Stages of Amazement sounds incredible (perfect for an upcoming vacation I’ll be on). Your quilts and photography put a smile on my face – so bright, colorful – Lovely!

    You earlier asked when my book would be available. I’m pleased to share that it is available now on my brand new website. Women at P.L.A.Y! Peace, Love, and Acceptance of Yourself afer 40 is the name of my eBook. You can check it out at: (available in the Shop).

    Also my blog has moved to my new site above. I look forward to sharing more of my posts with you at the new location.

    Thanks again for being a bright light!
    Suzan : )

    • How nice to read you, Suzan. You will enjoy “Three Stages of Amazement”, stages in a couple and family lives. I had read your message as I travelled to the South of Switzerland. Now I am back home, things are quieter, and i will check your brand new website again. Thanks a lot!

  13. Giiid said

    It is always a pleasure to read your posts, Isa. How do you manage to read so many books, in such short time? They all sound very interesting, and the quotes you have written out is beautiful and useful thoughts. Thank you.

    • Hello Birgitte, nice to start my day reading you. I read those books over a few months and they were fascinating enough for me to read them quickly, sometimes too quickly. I am glad you enjoyed the quotes which inspire me every single day.
      Have a lovely day and thanks for your words.

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