Read any good books lately? I have…

After almost 70 years of being an avid reader, not only of fiction, and what was required during all levels of my education and my independent studies, over the years a few have impinged themselves on my memory : Those are the ones that come to mind when people ask me about my reading experiences.

Being an intensely curious student, I always needed to know more than what my teachers taught, so I sought out books that would fill the gaps in my knowledge. I wasn’t then and am now not limited in my interests, although I did then, and still have some favorite subjects. Anything that would enlighten me, broaden my perspectives, give me insights and stimulate my mind has always invited my attention. Fiction has always been my entertainment. However, I’ve learned as much through reading good fiction as non fiction.  Fiction has enabled me to learn about life, people, the world and the complexities of human nature. It reveals through the cast of characters an understanding of what motivates people in ways a psychology class and text book cannot explain. Only my personal interactions with people, my clinical, psychic and intuitive experiences have equaled fiction in adding to my employable education.

Good fiction writers have to be good psychologists and brilliant in forming characters that are real for us, and through which we live vicariously their inner and outer lives. They teach us about ourselves and about other people, and the kind of challenges people face that we might never personally experience, and reflects the best and worst of all human endeavors and behaviors. Fiction is about real life in all of its forms with all its potentials, human strengths and frailties. It’s like living many lives through many different people’s perceptions.

Science fiction speaks to us of our human potential, our creativity, inventiveness and aspirations, and that being human we will always strive, achieve amazing things yet will always have to deal with who we are as humans and how we are as individuals in any situation; it stimulates our imagination and often predicts what is to come.

When an author succeeds in getting me involved, believing in the characters and adds wit and wisdom along with a good story, I am literally hypnotized into experiencing the reality the writer has created. In some cases, I’m sorry it when it is ends. I’m sure you have had that experience.

Non fiction of  almost every genre is in my library, including my vast collection of professional books that have added to my knowledge, whether or not I have agreed with its premises:  From Freud, Jung, Adler, Maslow, and many others who have contributed to the field of psychology, from past and current authors in the fields of hypnosis and philosophy, sociology, parapsychology, mind and brain, health, healing and more fill my shelves to overflowing. I hold onto books, because not only do they remind me of their contributions to my knowledge, they are rather like friends whose company I will always appreciate and enjoy.

Of course there are many on my list of most loved and admired books. Not just because they were brilliantly written, or because they have all the qualities of fine literature and excellent prose. Because they have given me the experiences that are most precious to me; learning, being with interesting characters, challenging my concepts, forcing me to ask questions, given me meaningful answers, taken me to far off worlds and introduced me to people, times and places I may never otherwise know. They have given me new perspectives and lots to think about. I love that!

I’m often asked by my clients if I’ve read any good books lately, or if there is a book I’d recommend to them. So herein I will list just a few I believe will be well worth reading; they just might end up being among your most memorable, too. If you’ve already had the joy and satisfaction of reading any of the following, revisiting them, as I have from time to time, will give you new pleasures.

When I was quite  young I read A.J. Cronin’s, The Citadel, it’s a powerful book: The messages in it are clear and so eloquently expressed it’s a joy to read. It was one of those fiction books that drew me into the library searching for more of the same. I read a great many of Cronin’s works, enjoyed them immensely, although his later writing made me wonder if he was getting paid by the word, as many authors were at the time.

Pearl Buck’sTaylor Caldwell’s, Frank Slaughter’s  and Robert Ruak’s, Ken Follett’s, Zoe Oldenbourg’s works are brilliant, and always educational, they all have the same well researched and as humanly authentic ingredients as Thomas Costain’s book The Money Man: These authors bring history to life via fiction. There’s just too many to list here. And it’s hard to imagine, other than the most well read classics that one could have lived without having opened and kept ravenously reading their novels. Those writers, and some modern ones whose work I’ll list here will always give you not only pleasure, they will add new dimensions to your reading life, and therefore your world.

Rumer Godden is an author whose writing skills astound me! How does she manage to use so few words to define so much about human beings and events in such an insightful entertaining way? If I could write as she does, I would give up everything else to do it.  Her book Episode of Sparrows is enough to get you looking for more of her work.

In my teens, I began reading a great deal about psychology, parapsychology, mind and brain, and  during that early reading period  I came upon a book called You Shall Know Them, by Vercors.  Once you get through the rather banal early chapters of this science fiction story about the missing link between man and ape, you will find yourself embroiled in one of the most intriguing and challenging issues; what determines a human being? The arguments and the way the author leads up to them is fascinating and mind stretching.

Lamb in His Bosomby Caroline Miller is a book that is just as, and in my estimation better than Gone With the Wind. I doubt you’d ever forget the characters or their stories: Its heart warming and heart wrenching as well as enlightening about people who toiled to survive in the hardest of times and who lived often desperate lives in the Deep South before and during the civil war. You’ll never forget any of them

 Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier is a literary work of art, and although some of it is tough to read because of its vivid and gruesome depictions of violence, it’s hard to put down. A great story well told with descriptive picturesque writing that gives you the sense of being there. The movie almost did it justice.

Laura Hillenbrand’s book Seabiscuit drew me in and kept me so engaged and excited at times I felt breathless! (The movie did not do it justice). Throughout her wonderfully written true story of the much loved magnificent race horse and all of the characters who were part of his career you find yourself emotionally connected to every person and aspect of his history. And added to that, at the end of the paper back, you find the authors own amazing story, and you’ll be deeply moved and impressed with her courage. A must read.

I can also enjoy a good story teller’s books whose narratives are simple and yet flowingly readable as well as informative. i.e. John Grishom, and his peers.

The White Bone is not only a brilliant work by author Margaret Gowdy it resonated with me because I love elephants. Though fiction it has an incredibly intuitive anthropomorphic look into the animal’s inner life; it’s based on careful research and will cause you to sob in empathy. So if you need a good cry that’s the book for you. Maybe you’ll respond by donating to elephant protection organizations. I hope so.

When Elephants Weep, by Jeffrey Masson, explores the emotional lives of animals and comes through with scientific passion and empathy. It’s another book, though non fiction that gives you a glimpse into the science and research of animal psychology. Pet lovers who never question that their animal friends have emotions may like to argue with some of the facts as they are presented, and even doubt it’s necessary to look into it scientifically. However it’s good to know that some scientists have respect and caring for those creatures with whom we share our planet while others exploit them cruelly for commercial and other purposes.

Marilynne Robinson’s book Gilead is so beautiful and spiritually refreshing it’s like reading poetry. Its one of those books you want to reflect on for awhile before reading anything else so you can savor its effects on you, because it touches your soul. No wonder it won the Pulitzer Prize! All of Robinson’s books have the same hymn like quality to their prose. Her ability to reach deep into our selves through her characters makes her work meaningful and exquisitely satisfying reading. Her non fiction work is also worth reading.

The Brain that Changes Its Self  by  Doctors  Diodge and Merzenich  will not only educate you about the neuro- plasticity of the brain, it will greatly inspire you while it helps open your mind to elements of our human potential that need to be better known. It reminds us that whatever we face in life, with or without all of our faculties, we can overcome, we can achieve, and do more than anyone might believe. It is a fine compliment to The Mind Is Willing because its about mind power, and that when activated by self determination almost anything is possible. A recent read, I Will Not Be Broken,” by Jerry White is also a book that compliments my own, it gives  inspiration and valuable advice to anyone who needs to get over  a life crisis an victim-hood and get on with life in a healthy and productive way.

I could go on and on, however, I hope that while you’re curled up with a good book during the winter months you will have heart warming mind expanding and satisfying reading experiences.

Let me know if you share my opinions on these books. I am always open to hearing from you with comments and input. And please feel free to share your recommendations for good reading. I’ll gladly find the time and the room on my shelves for more worthwhile books.

TTFN from Elaine Kissel

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