- Later Essays – Susan Sontag
- Urban Monk – Pedram Shojai
- Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo
- Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware
- The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden
- The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit – Michael Finkel
- The Art of Stopping Time – Pedram Shojai (Unfinished)
- Urban Monk – Pedram Shojai
- Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill (Unfinished)
- The Wasteland and Other Poems – T.S. Eliot (Unfinished)
In trying to get back to monthly updates on reading, I’ve found myself doing extensive personal development of which whittling down my reading list was a considerable part of. This month I finished three novels, put a dent in nonfiction selections, and opened up February for diving in to the writing of Sontag.
In usual fashion, my reading selections unveiled themselves to me an air of synchronicity, and I started the audio book of Shadow and Bone at the same time I opened the hardcover edition of Bear and the Nightingale. Both take place in Russia, though Shadow’s depiction of the place is significantly altered to create a fantastical tone. Though in both, drinking kvas and wearing a kaftan is commonplace.
I discovered in my listening that Shadow was a book for young adults, whereas Bear needn’t have been; likely had not intended to be at all. Both carried strong female protagonists, each with a destiny that they neither understood nor could retreat from.
The formal antagonist of Shadow was introduced in a clandestine manner, while Bear’s antagonist, aptly called the Bear (or, Medved), was an elemental force, (What is this word? Not personified, but giving living characteristics to an unloving thing?) Anthropomorphized into the one-eyed terror that fed off fear and worship.
I enjoy retreats into the fantastical, and oftentimes gain some insight into more mundane matters simply by the exploits and endeavors of characters deftly written. Something about both called out my more naturalistic side, and in The Stranger in the Woods, I was introduced to a man named Christopher Night, who spent twenty-seven years in the Maine woods in solitude. Called a hermit, in those twenty-seven years he had said that he had contact with only one other person, and that was a brief exchange where Hello was the only word spoken. (Though one other encounter where no words were spoken was also mentioned.)
This man had returned to nature. Regrettably, for those twenty-seven years he had been burgling the local summer camp and other vacation cabins for food and supplies, but that he remained in solitude, fighting cold winters and possible discovery, is a feat of remarkable will. In this book, and also the works of Pedram Shojai, I felt my desire to escape growing to overwhelming levels.
Urban Monk spoke to my esoteric longing, and I found renewed vigor in the search of both spirituality and in reclaiming my health. Over the past year I’ve mentioned my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis several times, but haven’t gone into much detail. That will be changing in the coming year.
The rationale behind this blog was to have a space to air my thoughts, which had taken on a darkness as I progressed through a dark night of the soul. In favor of keeping a facade I neglected posting some of the darker inspirations, which I suppose defeated the purpose. Shojai presented wonderful information on using traditional Taoist techniques in modernity to live a balanced lifestyle. One of the elements that I needed the most work on was this blog, and what I was using it for, other than forum for my reading lists.
He presents Art of Stopping Time as a Gong, or a practice to be continued on. It’s 100 individual activities to be done, one day at a time, in an effort to becoming more inhabited in your body and in your environment, and if you don’t like it, give you the impetus to change it. Much of my personal development has also been focused on this.
Book purchases started being rather light. I’ve known for some time that I needed to focus on paying down debt, and I’ll further discuss that in later posts. This month I picked up Urban Monk after hearing Shojai’s interview on Bulletproof Radio. Also I was somehow led to the essays of Sontag, and I decided to give it a whirl. This is the Library of America publication, and I have a few of these for other authors as well (Kerouac’s poems, Lincoln’s speeches, etc.).
The unfinished books of the month will likely carry over to next month, or at least I’ll think about reopening them. I hadn’t gotten very far into any of those.
Until next time!