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The Pleasure and Comfort of Reading, and the Books That Have Touched My Life

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When my brothers and I were children, whenever the adults in our closer family circle went on vacation – whether for three weeks or five days, they would bring us home a little present. These little gifts could be anything from souvenirs from a faraway exotic place (especially from my aunt and uncle, who traveled a lot), to toys hastily purchased at the Autogrill along the autostrada on the drive home.

With few exceptions, all of these occasions and gifts blur into one another. One of those exceptions I remember as if it had happened just yesterday.

I was about eight-years old, and my brothers would have been six and five respectively. My maternal grandparents were still alive and living on the floor above ours. My aunt Luciana and uncle Mario had gone on a two-week trip somewhere, and when they arrived home, amidst much welcoming fanfare from humans and dogs, they handed us our presents. My brothers received a new toy each, while I was handed a book, a thick one, in paperback, without much color and a title I had never heard of before. I remember feeling so let down and disappointed. You know, the jaw-touching-the-knees kind of feeling. My brothers had received toys and, instead of something as deliciously colorful, I had gotten a bland-looking book with no illustrations.

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Let me interject that by then I was already a voracious reader, with my Christmas present list being essentially a list of books I wanted. Therefore it made total sense that my aunt would think of getting me a book. I don’t know why I felt so let down at receiving a book instead of a toy or, even better, colored pencils (my other passion). Maybe I was hoping for something more colorful, and had the book been a glossy hardcover with lots of images, my reaction might have been different.

As it turned out, I had just been handed one of the best books I have ever read, one that touched me deeply, and that I re-read several times over. It was/is one of the classics of Italian literature, a collection of short stories by Edmondo De Amicis, titled Cuore (Heart). Every Italian will know what I am talking about – at least I hope so. A couple of years later, our teacher had us reading it in class, and I was the only one who had already read it and knew it so well.

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All of this long story because, when I started writing this post about books, that is the memory that popped into my head, so strong and vibrant I could see the moment, the time of day, the exact spot of the building where the scene took place, and where we were all standing.

By all means that was not the only great book I read during my childhood. There was also Little Women, Gone With the Wind, and all of Emilio Salgari’s pirate novels, all of which I read several times over at regular intervals. Come to think of it, I am surprised I never heard about Jane Austen until I was an adult. In high school we read many of the classic English literature, including Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, and D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but not Jane Austen. I do remember that our literature teacher was obsessed with D.H. Lawrence, and it is safe to guess that she did not like Jane Austen. She was a rather peculiar person, just a tad on the annoying end of the spectrum.

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Have I rambled on enough? No? Ok, just a little longer then, to say that over the years I have read some exceptional novels, from The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, to One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, to The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, and a lot in between. However, in the past fifteen-twenty years I have been reading more and more non-fiction and, although I will not pass on a good novel once in a while, that is what I now read almost exclusively. Except for the Harry Potter series, of course, which catapulted me into a realm from which I do not wish to return and, were it up to me, Mrs. Rowling would go on writing Harry indefinitely.

Before I move on to the next section, here are a few non-fiction books I have read and enjoyed in the past couple of years, and that I thoroughly recommend if you are interested in the subject. This is off the top of my head, by the way, as I no longer keep a record of the books I read.

  • Unbearable Lightness, by Portia De Rossi, about her dramatic descent into bulimia and subsequent rise out of it; an inspiring story that all young girls should read.
  • JFK’s Last Hundred Days, by Thurston Clarke, as well two others by the same author: The Last Campaign, which focuses on Bobby Kennedy’s inspiring campaign for the American presidency, and Pearl Harbor Ghosts, which offers a behind-the-scenes, and more local look at the day that will live in infamy.
  • Two of Rob Lowe‘s books: Stories I Only Tell My Friends, and Love Life, which I found fascinating.
  • Walking Home, by Sonia Choquette, on her experiences along the Camino de Santiago – a topic that forever fascinates me, given that I intend to walk the Camino myself.
  • The Way, My Way, by Bill Bennett, also on his experiences along the Camino de Santiago.
  • Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, and you may all know this one because they made a movie of this story featuring southern belle Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed.
  • Steven Tyler’s autobiography titled Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?, a down-to-earth, irreverent, and surprisingly honest behind-the-scenes look at his wild life, which I found entertaining and fascinating. Things took a hilarious twist when I found I could not read the book without hearing Steven’s distinctive voice in my head the entire time. 😀
  • Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson, which gave an in depth (but also maybe a little biased on the negative) look at Job’s life.
  • Dreams from My Father, and The Audacity of Hope by the brilliant Barack Obama.
  • Reclaiming the Wild Soul, by Mary Reynolds Thompson, which I featured on the blog about a year ago.

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Moving into the next section will by necessity reveal a part of me that you may have glimpsed here and there, but that only my close friends truly know about. But given that I have been meaning to share more about me, I shall stir my cup of hot water, lemon, cinnamon and honey and boldly go ahead where I haven’t gone before (I watched Star Trek last night). We are now entering the non-fiction realm that I have been reading the most, all of which have helped me in some way, some of which have actually changed my life. I am talking about what is now known as the self-improvement section, along with the borderline metaphysical, and then the full-on metaphysical.

I will start with what I am currently reading:

  • The Magic, by Rhonda Byrne, who also authored The Secret. This is more than a good read, as it is actually a workbook with daily gratitude practices to guide us essentially to a higher vibration (that of gratitude), which then reflects in our daily lives as more of what we all want: good health, abundance, joy and all that good stuff. I am on day 17 of 28, and together with a similar practice I had established in the past few months, I am noticing a big difference.
  • A Course in Miracles Made Easy, by Alan Cohen, which I finished last night, and if you know the brilliant but intense A Course in Miracles, you will appreciate how this book makes understanding ACIM much easier.
  • Step Into Nature, by Patrice Vecchione, a book about the author’s personal experiences in nature, which I am savoring slowly and filling with sticky notes.
  • Upstream, the most recent, and best-selling, selection of essays by Mary Oliver; another one I am savoring slowly.
  • The History of the Universe and the Psychic War of End Times, by Metatron as channeled by Etienne Charland, and you cannot get more metaphysical than this. I also finished this last night and I am still mulling it over. Not for everybody, that’s for sure.

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In this category, the first book that really changed my life was the world wide bestseller The Celestine Prophecy, by James Redfield. Even though I was already open to the invisible world of subtle energy, I resisted reading this book for a while because of the words ‘prophecy’ and ‘Celestine’ in the title. Until one day, a friend, whose taste and judgement I trusted, explained how it was not what I thought it might be, and that I should read it. I have since read it several times, own the movie, and have read all the subsequent books by James Readfield (also several times), and wish they would make movies of those, too. Even though these books are essentially fiction, they are born of the experiences of the author, and explain a degree of the hidden layers of life in a way that everyone can understand. After that, one can go as deep as one wants.

Along the same fiction-but-not-quite lines, I have also read everything by Paulo Coelho, starting with The Alchemist, and I cannot rave enough about this author, though sometimes I find myself having to push past his catholic imprint. Besides The Alchemist, my favorites by this author are The Pilgrimage, about his experiences along the Camino de Santiago; Brida; The Witch of Portobello; The Valkyries, and Aleph.

One more book here that I would like to mention and that you will not find on the best seller lists, though it should be: The Journey: A Novel of Pilgrimage and Spiritual Quest, by Elyn Aviva. The Journey begins on the Camino de Santiago, takes you to the Forest of Broceliande, Chartres, and Istanbul as it follows Gwen, a young American woman, on a multi-dimensional quest to discover who she really is. A book I would love to see turned into a movie if I did not think Hollywood would ruin it for the sake of the box office.

Entering the full non-fiction/metaphysical realm, I have read everything by the sharply intelligent Shirley MacLaine, and can’t get enough of her work either. My favorites are Out on a Limb, where she talks about her metaphysical search and experiences for the first time, including her time in Peru; and The Camino, in which she relates her experiences along the Camino de Santiago. I really appreciate the down-to-earth way in which she writes about metaphysical topics. By the way, not all her books are on these subjects, some focus on her Hollywood career, and they are truly entertaining.

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In the self-improvement-going-to-metaphysical section, most of which are published by Hay House, and all of which have impacted my life, I have read just about everything by the late (sigh!) Wayne Dyer, starting years ago with Your Erroneous Zones. All his books are a reflection of his own experiences, and are brilliant and brilliantly written. They are all favorites, but if I had to pick a few, I would say Wishes Fulfilled, The Power of Intention, and Change Your Thoughts Change Your Life are the ones that made the most impact; besides Your Erroneous Zones, of course.

Other books in this category that have had a strong influence on me are those by Barbara Marx Hubbard, Deepak Chopra, James Van Praagh, Brian L. Weiss, and the Abraham series channeled by Esther Hicks on The Law of Attraction and The Vortex, just to name a few.

I would also recommend the books by brilliant (and very entertaining) author Pam Grout: E-Squared, E-Cubed, Thank & Grow Rich, and Jumpstart Your Metabolism; as well as The Biology of Belief by Bruce H. Lipton.

Books that have actually changed my life are:

  • the books by Don Miguel Ruiz, especially The Four Agreements, which seriously turned me around within minutes of reading it, and I have since gifted copies of it to family and friends.
  • the books by Denise Linn, all of them, but especially Sacred Space, and Quest, as they brought me to attend not one, but two of her retreats in California, which have impacted my life on so many levels, including meeting some of my absolute best friends.
  • the Conversations with God series by Neale Donald Walsch.
  • The Hidden Messages in Water, by Masaru Emoto.
  • the books by Hank Wesselman, particularly his first, Spiritwalker, because eventually they led me to the Big Island of Hawai’i to addend one of his retreats (and the rest is history). Now, this author, though delving into a fascinating subject, also has a very big ego, something I discovered during the retreats, and which I learned to sidestep. Of all his books, the one I would recommend is The Bowl of Light: Ancestral Wisdom from a Hawaiian Shaman, because that is the one in which he writes about Hale Makua’s teachings. Hale Makua was a true spiritual Hawaiian Kahuna, the kind that would never call himself such, who lived his role with great humility (as opposed to Mr. Wesselman), and spread so much joy and light before leaving the Earth plane via a tragic car accident in April 2004. It has been my joy and honor to have met Makua in person and sat in at several of his ‘talk story’ moments. It is worth reading through the ego minefield of the author just to be in touch with Makua’s teachings.

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Ready to go really deep into the woo-woo metaphysical?

Some of the most amazing books I have ever read, and wish there were more of, are the books by hypnotherapist Dolores Cannon, who, during her hypnosis sessions with her clients, started hearing descriptions first of other lives on this planet, and then also other lives on other planets. Dolores Cannon’s experience spans fifty years, during which she cross-referenced everything multiple times, and published nineteen books. I have so far read twelve of them, and it is hard to pick favorites. Of course, the most recent are always the most relevant, and these would be The Convoluted Universe books 1 through 5, The Three Waves of Volunteers and The New Earth, and her last, The Search for Hidden Sacred Knowledge. However, all the previous ones will also keep you spellbound. These are the kind of books you want to both read slowly and devour in one sitting, which is not possible as they are too long, and you will need breaks to feed your dogs, pee, sleep, maybe eat, and absorb what you just read. Dolores Cannon transitioned out of her body about a year ago, but her daughter Julia Cannon continues her work, as do many of the practitioners Dolores trained in Quantum Healing Hypnosis Technique (QHHT), which she perfected throughout her long career.

A few more powerful books in this realm I have read and can recommend:

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I will conclude by lightening things up and listing a few novels I have thoroughly enjoyed in recent years, again off the top of my head. Here goes:

  • Serafina and the Black Cloak, by Robert Beatty (if you enjoyed Harry Potter, you will enjoy this one)
  • The books by Sarah Addison Allen, which are all a delight to read: Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, The Peach Keeper, The Firefly Dance, Lost Lake, and First Frost.
  • Any novel by Gail Tsukiyama: Women of the Silk, The Samurai’s Garden, Night of Many Dreams, The Language of Threads, Dreaming Water, The Street of a Thousand Blossoms, and A Hundred Flowers.
  • The novels by Kate Morton: The House at Riverton, The Secret Keeper, The Distant Hours, The Forgotten Garden, and her latest The Lake House.
  • Novels by Alan Brennert, who creates the most unforgettable female characters: Moloka’i, Honolulu, and his latest Palisades Park. And there is a new one in the making (update of 01/03/19: Daughter of Moloka’i, the sequel to Moloka’i, to be released in a few days).
  • Russian Winter, by Daphne Kalotay.
  • Winter Garden, by Kristin Hannah.
  • The Lake of Dreams, by Kim Edwards.
  • And, of course, the Dan Brown novels: The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, The Lost Symbol, Inferno, Digital Fortress, and Deception Point.

Are you overwhelmed yet? I hope not, as I know I have left some out. Any of these books you have also read? Any more you would like to suggest that you think I and other readers might enjoy? Please let me know in the comments below.

p.s. The gorgeous armchair featured in these photos belongs to my dear friend Valerie and is by MacKenzie-Childs.

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“May You Be Happy

May You be Blessed

May You Prosper in All Things”

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