Of the exotic places I’ve traveled to, India is by far my favorite destination. I have a deep attraction to the Indian culture because of its fascinating history, its ancient wisdom and alluring mysticism – all of which are tightly intertwined in the roots of this great civilization. I have been seduced by the country’s dramatic beauty, and deep, pervasive mystery.

India is not a destination for the faint in heart. Extreme poverty and dirt assault your sensitivity as soon as you get off the airplane. India will bombard your senses with its kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and smells. Everyone traveling to India must also be prepared to find one’s personal space seriously challenged. No doubt, India will shake you out of your comfort zone in every way. It is said that India changes lives because it is more than a country – it is a state of mind.

If I haven’t turned you off yet, I might have perked your interest… and so you might be ready to engage in a breathtaking adventure -whether you are a seasoned traveler, or an armchair explorer.


I recommend you start by watching the splendid documentary in our collection, produced by Michael Wood, The Story of India. Wood undertakes a very ambitious project (the only one of its kind) to present India in just six hours. The documentary provides the viewer with breathtaking images and an awe-inspiring, well-researched history.

ornate woman

India adores ornamentation and exuberant colors. Whether amidst the hustle and bustle of urban settings, or against a dusty rural landscape, the women of India are alluringly draped in beautiful garments, known as saris. Rich or poor, every woman wears a sari with grace and femininity. She also adorns herself with jewelry: bangles at the wrists and ankles, rings on toes, ears and nose, and necklaces of all kinds from plain gold to fancy, native gemstones – emeralds from the mines of Jaipur to diamonds from South Asia.

Seduced (Iman Bijleveld and Don Block)  is a picture book to satisfy you with cultural insights and photographs, so be sure to also check it out.

The stunning color combination and and imaginative prints of the textiles in India offer an infinite selection, never replicated. The fabrics in India are to me, unsurpassed in beauty. I love shopping for a sari as much as I do wearing one, but be prepared to bargain when you hit that bazaar!! The task can be overwhelming if you are not used to this rapid and intense interaction. Bargaining is an integral part of the culture, expected, and done amicably. I have amusingly noticed that when I shop with my Indian friends, the shopkeepers lose significant interest in selling anything to me!

indian women

Each region produces its own silk, vastly different from one another, in texture and effect. Intricate patterns are usually printed with metal blocks and colored with vegetable dye and limestone – usually passed down through generations of villagers.


Enjoying India: The Essential Handbook is an excellent resource, beyond just describing the sights and rating them. It provides essential tips like how to bargain in India. The book dedicates a chapter to money, bargaining and shopping. It offers useful strategies that in my view, are a necessary education before embarking on a journey to India. The book also offers safety tips, travel recommendations, and interesting perspectives on the cultural differences between East and West.

A few words must be mentioned about the food in India. The flavors are as tasty and spicy as the sights diverse and vibrant. India is said to have the greatest variety of spices, thanks to its tropical climate, and uniquely rich soil. A mix of spices in a dish is called “masala,” which is what we refer to here as curry. Therefore, most dishes fall into the category of curry, though very distinctive from one another. I have been more fortunate than many in that I have been sick only once in the many times I have traveled there. It is common for many travelers to spend some vacation time in bed due to the presence of some bacteria in the food to which we are simply not accustomed.

The good news is that you can cook an Indian meal at home, and enjoy the bursting flavors without the nuisance of a stomach upset. Our library has quite a few fabulous Indian cookbooks in its collection – from vegan to non-vegetarian. Gourmet Indian In Minutes, Cuisines of India, and Rasoi: New Indian Kitchen are a few books that I strongly recommend to satisfy your palate.

What inspires me most about India is its dense spiritual history and religious diversity. Ancient temples are weaved in the country’s landscape like a tapestry, infusing its people with a quality of devotion and reverence for the divine that is unique to India.


The foreign traveler visiting India marvels at the country’s antiquity and enjoys  the monuments and temples, but it is difficult to understand the complexities of India’s religious beliefs and traditions without doing some serious homework. Much of what’s beautiful about India lies therein. In India, one cannot dissociate religion from the culture. In every aspect of society, religion and spirituality find expression.

Portrait Of India (Ved Mehta) offers an eloquent and in-depth study of India and its culture. Mehta takes you into the heart of his homeland with a visible love for his country and provides a perspective of its depth.

Monsoon Wedding is a charming movie about a couple who gets married in the traditions of India, but have to resolve their personal dramas beforehand. The decorum mixed with the moral choices at hand are a delightful depiction of India’s moralities and dilemmas. There is also much humor in the movie, making it a favorite of mine.

The Namesake is an excellent novel, beautifully written by Lahiri Jhumpa. I found it to be very powerful as it relates to the Indian immigrant who struggles with the vast cultural differences and the challenges of raising the next generation of Indian-Americans.

In India Becoming, Akash Kapur writes about the rapid changes India is currently undergoing, and addresses some of the complexities, contradictions and struggles that face a nation and its people in this process of globalization.  He follows several individuals and families as they maneuver within these changes and does so delicately and respectfully.

OWL has other novels to read and movies to watch – enjoy our selection!

Karen Pasternak, library assistant at the OWL


One of the perks of raising a girl today, in my experience, lies in the opportunity to provide her with an education that will expand her expectations of herself. Today, a rich literature on this topic is available. I very much enjoyed reading stories to my daughter which emphasized a girl’s strength and power of decision, because it also nurtured my own sense of womanhood. Many strong and inspiring characters are examples we both still refer to today.  I am grateful for these intimate mother-daughter moments of reading stories together that were dedicated to lift us up, often inspire us, and mostly, entertain us.  Reading books with heroines who conquered their fears and limitations created a bond of sisterhood between both of us, and created a world of possibilities and adventure. These messages have had a solid impact on my daugther as she has grown into a strong-minded, directed and assertive young woman today.

Robert Munsch’s books are examples of early fun readings for girls – and for boys alike. Munsch’s main character is always spontaneous, untidy, witty and utterly charming. She is never self-conscious, nor does she worry about the opinion of others. She is a fearless explorer, independent, and always compassionate. A must-read is The Paper Bag Princess. Princess Elizabeth sets out to rescue her prince who is snooty and spoiled. Then a dragon kidnaps the helpless prince. Elizabeth gives up all her possessions to keep her promise to him and herself to bring him back home. Stripped of all her belongings, she is left with only her character, intelligence, and her determination to follow her heart. She outsmarts the dragon and finds the prince – but in the end, she is turned off by his cockiness and ungratefulness. She speaks her mind and blows him off.  The story ends that “she doesn’t marry the prince after all” and walks into the sunset. The illustrations by Michael Martchenko are very expressive, and the story is really fun.

Munsch and Martchenko together have published a good number of entertaining books, many of which we own here at the library. Another delightful one is Stephanie’s Ponytail. Stephanie sets a trend in her community with her changing ponytails, and outsmarts everyone at the end. Her character is innovative, assertive and independent. Loved it.  Smelly Socks is yet another charming story of a girl who so loves her new socks, she never takes them off. The community is up and arms over the smell she leaves behind, but she does not listen. Here, our little hero is a free-spirited little girl whose willpower has no bounds and her joy is communicative.   On a more serious note, Millicent And The Wind speaks of a socially isolated girl who befriends the wind, who in turn guides her to new and sustaining friendships. I liked this story very much as it addressed fitting in with others, and the ability to tune into nature to find guidance and comfort.

Another important book which left its mark in our household was Angela’s Wings (Eric Jon Jones). The story is about a little girl who has an exceptional gift, and slowly grows to embrace it. She wakes up one morning and finds that she has sprouted little wings on her back. She is horrified at the discovery of this new feature. Angela doesn’t want to be different from the rest of the world and so tries to hide them. When the wings grow big and graceful and she can no longer hide them, everyone makes fun of her. Angela is ashamed of herself, and sits alone at the playground. She then meets several individuals in her community who counsel her and show her that she has an incredible gift she needs to use for herself and the greater good. She hears about others before her who had exceptional characteristics but never used them, and therefore lived very unhappily. Angela’s Wings is about stepping into your own individuality and owning it, even if it sets you apart from your peer group. Angela eventually grows to enjoy her uniqueness and gains a whole new perspective on her life.

This story had a profound influence in my daughter’s life, who also journeyed with her own gift as a musician – and finally made it an integral part of her identity. She even  referred to the book in her college essay to address her own development. The book is good for young children who struggle about being different. The illustrations are beautiful and the writing simple and conversational. Do take this book home – it has power in it and might enrich your child as it did mine.

For slightly older readers, Seven Brave Women (Betsy Hearne) and The Bravest Woman in America (Marissa Moss) place their heroines in a historical context. In Seven Brave Women, the story follows several generations of early American women who survive through difficult historical or environmental circumstances, all the while upholding their duties to their families and community. The book is about making a difference in the lives of others, simply by the power of your character, strength and endurance. The Bravest Woman in America is about a lighthouse keeper who grows up dedicated to save many people in distress.

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Author Tamora Pierce builds her characters as introspective and self-aware young women who bravely overcome fictional but symbolic archetypes by making difficult compromises. Pierce wrote The Song Of The Lioness series in which the protagonist, Alanna, is determined to become a knight to follow justice and serve the highest and best in herself and society. Her calling takes her on a wide adventure in which she discovers herself, facing her own demons and doubts,  keeping her conscience as her guiding light to make the right choices.


 In Daughters Of The Lioness and The Immortals,  she sets new standards for fantasy literature.  Pierce’s characters are determined to break barriers in order to do the work they love. In The Immortals, the heroine Veralidaine, has a magical gift. This magic gives her a unique connection with animals. At the beginning of the series, she can communicate with animals, then the gift gradually evolves throughout the series – she can heal the animals, and finally she can shapeshift into an animal.

Patricia Wrede wrote the delightful story, Dealing with Dragons. This book is about a heroine who finds being a princess excessively boring so she takes a job working for a dragon. This is the first of a popular and humorous series.

If you like pure adventure, Island Of The Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell) is a winner. Twelve year-old Karana must survive alone for years on a West Coast island. She is a resourceful girl, and through a rough odissey, she blossoms into a compassionate young woman who values communion with nature and animals. Throughout her journey, she makes new choices, becomes a vegetarian, and builds her own community from which she draws support and is able to nurture. Beautiful story!

For young adults, I recommend Isabel Allende’s book, The House of  the Spirits.  Allende’s books were published as adult literature, but I recommend them to a younger audience as well. The House of the Spirits remains faithful to the South American style of weaving fantasy with history and culture. The book is a family saga, following several generations of exceptional women of intelligence and character. I personally loved all of her books because Allende skillfully brings the reader into the mind of her inspiring heroines who follow their inner voice.

Come browse our many books and series that cover the topic of strong, wonderful girls, and about successful women that history has graced us with. They are a true mark of our time and remind us all that women possess within themselves endless resources which open them to an array of possibilities.


Over time I have come to believe that the movie industry in France is one of the nation’s richest cultural legacies. Since I moved away from Europe many years ago, viewing a French movie has the unfailing power to immerse me back into a culture I am deeply attached to and love. The French movie usually contains a rich and imaginative dialogue, leaving my attention fully engaged up to the very end – be it a drama or comedy. Also, what is unique to French cinematography is that it speaks poetically and the images capture the climate of the story in a very skillful and subtle way. I think it is partly because the pace of the French movie is generally slower than the American productions.

I find that in French films the interactions between the characters are realistic, richly layered, and multifaceted. More often than not, the characters are depicted as ambivalent in nature, leaving the audience actively involved, empathetic and contemplative. In most French movies, usual cliches and predictable dialogues are minimal or even absent. Banal sentimentality is replaced by a higher order of feelings and reflection. I find that this is done by bringing out universal, human tendencies rather than by focusing on whether a character’s decision was good or bad. I most enjoy the way a French movie leads its audience to draw its own moral conclusion on any given issue, rather than feeding it a ready-made, preconceived, and predictable opinion already scripted in the plot. The French film industry offers a delightful variety of movies, rarely leaving you disappointed, and often filled with surprises – regardless of its genre.

The following films are a few that I particularly enjoyed and that we own at this library.

If you haven’t already seen Jean De Florette and Manon Des Sources (Manon of the Springs), do not miss it. To me, this production ranks among the classic French films. The author of the novel, Marcel Pagnol, has written many classics in French literature, many of which I had to read as a child growing up in a French-speaking country. The two films cover the span of two generations, and offer loads of intricately woven mysteries and secrets that keep you mesmerized until the end. The plot is dark at times, yet set in the most beautiful and peaceful  of settings of Provence. It is a saga of determination, love and loyalty – as well as deceit, and retribution. The movie splendidly evokes the provincial atmosphere of a small southern French town. I particularly enjoy the scene of the town meeting. Everyone is fired up and boisterously complaining about a water problem they are facing – the interactions  and abiance are priceless. The splendid acting of Daniel Auteuil, Yves Montand and Gerard Depardieu make this movie a “tour-de-force.”

For those of you who enjoy Gerard Depardieu and his brilliant theatrical talent, you might also like Cyrano de Bergerac and Danton. They are dramas drawn from classic French literature.

Je l’Aimais (also featuring Daniel Auteuil) is a movie which addresses conflicts over love and infidelity, beyond facile moral judgments. Although a banal topic – and oftren a tedious one – the movie invites us to delve deeper than our own predictable moral judgments. The story is of a family man who falls in love with a younger woman with whom he has a passionate affair for years. Every character in the story is essentially good and decent, but appears to be dominated by his or her needs and emotions, to the point of losing the very anchor of his/her character, and therefore, inner peace. Each character has become pray to his/her fears, desires and ambivalences. The subject of infidelity is treated with openness and honesty in the movie. There is no moral judgment in its delivery, letting the audience draw its own conclusions on the matter according to one’s own set of values – which are also cleverly brought up for re-evaluation. While I was skeptical about the topic at first, the movie left me with a “round” and richer perspective. I very much recommend it.

If you like a thriller with a Parisian flair, you will enjoy RAPT and 36 Quai des Orfevres, and The Page Turner. In RAPT, you will be captured by the intensity of a thriller, but once again, without the predictable character redemption at the end. Rather, the story ends on a sober note where the main character is taken down by his own character flaws.

Another study in character that I very much enjoyed, was L’Elegance du Herisson (The Elegance of the Hedgehog). The movie was adapted from the very popular book written by Muriel Barbery. What struck me most in this movie, was the eloquence and intelligence of the dialogue – a feast for the ears. Often, the exchanges are literary, pregnant with subtle, symbolic meaning, though never losing the audience in fluffy abstractions. The story speaks of ordinary lives who come together despite their morbidly cynical and love-less lives. Each character finds in the other the possibility of love, a richness that gradually breathes life back into them. The setting is in an apartment building in Paris, inhabited only by wealthy families. The two principal characters are a brilliant, young girl with dark, suicidal thoughts and a jaded, cynical janitor of the building. Both characters discover love in their own way, each one finding it deep, below their skin. Lovely, at times poingnant and dark, and other times humorous – the movie is entertaining throughout. I found the actors to be sensational, namely Josiane Balasko (the janitor). Don’t miss it, it is a heartwarming movie.

La Vie En Rose is another “must-see” picture. It is the story of French singer Edith Piaf whose brilliant career soared in the 40s and 50s. While her life was dramatic and often filled with tragedy, the movie is remarkable. It does not romanticize the star, nor does it depict her character in any artificial and predictable way. Piaf is portrayed as she was, emotionally scarred by the rough circumstances of her past. Piaf was raised on the streets, her parents being destitute and alcoholics. She spent childhood years in a brothel, raised by prostitutes who cared for her as best they could. Piaf became a needy, emotional, vulnerable, scruffy and often difficult adult. She drank too much, succumbed to vulgarity and was involved in many scandals. In the movie, she is not made to be liked or disliked, but rather, she is depicted as a needy and simple human being. At every moment throughout the film, I expected her to transform into a softer, redeemed, and healed character. Disturbing and dark as her life might have seemed, her singing translated every layer of her struggles into an uncanny radiance.

For lighter French movies, Bienvenue Chez Les Chtis (Welcome to the Sticks), The Dinner Game, Potiche, La Cage Aux Folles, The Closet, and Les Comperes will be delightfully entertaining, funny – and loaded with French charm and culture.


The library has many other French films in our library to enjoy – browse the foreign film collection to find a new treasure!

The Amazing Philharmonic

If you haven’t yet attended the philharmonic,  I suggest you consider putting the experience on top of your  list of  things “not to be missed.”  You need not be a musical scholar to savor the thrilling experience.  While there is a vast array  of musical styles,  there are numerous composers that are easy to appreciate – Mozart, Bach, Mendelssohn, Brahms, to name just a few. Sitting in the midst of intensely creative energy will most likely engage the senses,  fascinate the mind, and it may also take the breath away and bring the listener to a place of transcendental inspiration.

A couple of weekends ago, I went to Baltimore to visit my daughter and watched her perform as a violinist in the Peabody Concert Orchestra.  The performance took place at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in town, as part of the “Cathedral Music Series” which featured works for organ and orchestra. The acoustics were extraordinary, the sounds reverberating to the core of my being.  The pieces highlighted were from W. A. Mozart, Joseph Jonsen, and Ottorino Respighi. All three pieces were diverse, rich in tone and melody, and engaged the listener’s concentration effortlessly. The audience could not help but be moved by the frequently romantic and catchy tunes, intermittently contrasted by crescendos of intensely passionate movements.

I believe that the attending audience is greatly uplifted by a live orchestral performance because both the visual and auditory functions are engaged simultaneously.  The listener’s receptivity to the music is significantly enhanced.  It is fascinating to watch musicians entranced in what seems to be a state of meditative concentration, while watching the conductor’s precise directives. The subtle, but constant communication between musicians and conductor throughout the performance is baffling to the keen observer.

The individual expression of each musician forms the artistic character of the orchestra. It is inspiring to watch a performance come together, aiming to realize the full expression of the composer’s creation.  It makes me hopeful when I witness people joined in a common effort to create beauty and harmony.   In my view, the orchestral experience is a perfect expression of unity in action.

If you do not have the opportunity to attend an orchestra, there are effective alternatives to experiencing  those magical and elevating moments. Choose an excellent performance of any well-known philharmonic orchestra from around the world, sit comfortably and play it loud enough for the music to settle into your  being – you will not be disappointed.

Here are some suggestions:

W. A. Mozart, Symphonies No 35-41, Berlin Philharmonic

Mozart broke all the rules with his style and was not taken seriously at first. However, people could not resist attending his performances because they were moved by his freedom of expression and the youthfulness of his music. This selection of symphonies seems dramatic and at times very moving as they overtake you emotionally. Let this album bring you along for the ride!

W. A. Mozart, Symphonies Nos. 40-41 “Jupiter” Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra

To me, Mozart is among the easiest composer to love, because his music entertaining, witty, playful and filled with a range of melodic emotions. This album will not disappoint you –  it will carry your mind in rhythm and dance. Starting with his famous Concerto No. 40 in G minor, he will fill your heart with delight!

J. Brahms, Symphonie No. 4, Vienna Philharmonic

Brahms is more serious and adheres more the traditions and rules of classical music. I enjoy the balance between the more tragic and imposing movements to the ballad-like that reveal a more child-like side to Brahms’ music. Brahms is a diversified composer and offers the world a glorious selection of music.

A. Dvorak, Cello Concert & Tschaikowsky’ Rokoko-variations, Berlin Philharmonic

Both Dvorak and Tchaikovsky bring into their composition the strong influence of either Czech and Russian folk music. I find the compositions often romantic and otherwise filled with drama – much to my appreciation. Also, these composers carry the audience to new landscapes – inner and outer ones.

L. Van Beethoven, Symphony No. 5  in C Minor, and Schubert, Symphony No. 8 in B Minor “Unfinished” Vienna Philharmonic

These are grand classical pieces that are worth listening to over and over again. Subtleties inevitably bring us back to a place of novelty, no matter how many times we hear them. Beethoven’s passion and Schubert romance were written for large ensembles which extract the grandeur of the compositions. Enjoy these masterpieces!

Bach Fugues, The Emerson String Quartet

Baroque music of Bach, Telemann and Vivaldi is enchanting for its lightness and gaiety. Bach was a very religious man who composed music for church choirs.  Much of his music conveys his devotion to his faith. Bach never fails to uplift my mood wherever I may find myself listening. I will include here J. S. Bach Brandenburg Concertos and A. Vivaldi, Gloria in D major, R. 589 which are glorious indeed.

A. Dvorak, Serenades, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra:   “Serenades” adheres to a stricter classical format as it was written early; but true to Dvorak’s style, the Bohemian dances and waltzes offer his signature recipe, traditional Czech influence and liveliness. This is one of my favorites because I am never bored listening. Instead, I am always engaged in his alternating rhythms and moods.  The melody is rich and colorful every moment. The orchestral work is also splendid.

F. Mendelssohn,  The Complete String Quartets, The Emerson String Quartet

To Mendelssohn lovers, this album is a usually a favorite. The collection presents the composer’s versatile creations, skillfully interpreted by the amazing Emerson String Quartet who brings out the vitality of Mendelssohn’s music.

Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto & Bruch: Violin Concerto

I could not do justice in words to the brilliance of Mendelssohn’s creation – I am brought to tears every time I hear them. As for Max Bruch: a “must” experience. My daughter performed the Concerto 1 for violin and orchestra a few years ago and the intensity of this piece will put shivers down your spine. The movements are filled with contrasts and mood swings, all in a few moments. The concerto is so powerful and exuberant, it will stir your soul. The album then offers also a taste of Pablo De Sarasate’s delightful creation, as well as Fritz Kreisler energy injection. What a fantastic album filled with exciting treasures!

Karen Pasternak is the library assistant

Community Service – Vitamins For Mind And Food For The Soul

Working for the welfare of others, commonly known as community service,  is an essential ingredient in keeping my life fulfilled and in bringing me lasting peace of mind.  I learned over the years that the reward of community service is not derived from its content or quantity, but from  the intention behind the action itself.  I believe that compassion is the defining power behind the hands that serve. Community service has the ability to inspire, energize and nurture us deeply.

In the last few years, I have spent much time and effort in serving the elderly at several nursing homes, as a friendly companion. Each person has a unique and extraordinary story to tell and yet, everyone has had some measure of loss, failing health, transitions, fear, and helplessness. When I walk into the resident’s room, I am fully committed to the need of our time together – and nothing else matters to me but the welfare of the person sitting in front of me.  I find no act more meaningful than the complete dedication of myself to the demands of the present moment for the benefit  of someone else in need, whose heart is wide open to receive sincere friendship. These shared moments have left in my heart and mind a long-lasting sense of inter-connectedness – and fulfillment.

I believe that one’s effort to serve the community is an attempt to experience at some level, a sense of unity in a world of  diversity.  I found that the satisfaction experienced when I am connected to the effort of reaching out to another in distress is more meaningful than any other activity I have ever undertaken. The term compassion means “feeling with another.” I believe that the temporary sacrifice of one’s selfish nature for the betterment of the whole is at the core of community service. It is said that compassion is a human quality inherent in all, and when it is cultivated and shared on a large social scale, it could change the world.

Several leaders around the world have emphatically stressed that service to the community is an essential element to the survival of society. Research suggests that compassion taps into a higher order of human experience and functioning, endowing the individual and the community to grow and thrive. It also suggests that community service has a healing effect on the individual who reaches out in compassion

Recommended reading:

1) One of the more articulate proponents of community service is author and teacher Ram Dass. In his masterful book, Compassion in Action: setting out on the path of service, Dass addresses eloquently and poignantly the effects community service on both the recipient and the individual who serves.  American born and a Harvard graduate, he was deeply influenced by Eastern philosophies and has integrated them to modern, Western psychology. His writing is compelling to the reader because he describes with humility his own journey into the multi-layered aspects of community service, pointing to its traps as well as its rewards.   I found it entertaining as well as soul-stirring. This is one of the richest books on the topic I have found – and it is a short read!

2) In Twelve Steps To A Compassionate Life, Karen Armstrong takes the reader one step at a time to access the inherent tendency  to participate in some form to the upliftment of the world. Armstrong combines research and personal insight to make a moving case for community service.

3) Reading the Dalai Lama is always a joy-filled experience to me because of his straightforward simplicity.  In How to Expand Love, the Lama  speaks of loving friendships as a base from which to expand compassion in ever-widening circles.  He addresses the world’s dire need for compassion in the form of community service to save the world. He masterfully leads the reader into the deeper aspirations that bind us all together.

I include below inspiring books on individuals whose service to mankind have uplifted nations, nurtured and encouraged compassion in action for generations to come.

4 & 5) For an elevating and awakening read, I recommend either of the biographies of Gandhi:

4) Mahatma Gandhi, by Vincent Sheean This biography is short and concise, and speaks directly to the  character of this timeless leader; the author says that Gandhi embodied power through his immense compassion, ideas, emotions, and beliefs, concentrated together to create change.


5) Gandhi’s Passion, by Stanley WolfpertThe second book is also a rich compilation of Gandhi’s work  and his service and sacrifice to his nation.   Gandhi exemplified the spirit of love and compassion which fueled a non-violent revolution to liberate and unify a nation. He so yearned for the freedom from oppression in his native land of India, that with his intense determination together with peaceful means, he succeeded in terminating its British occupation. Though only temporarily, Gandhi was also able to unite Muslims and Hindus for a common goal.

6) I also recommend the masterful movie, Gandhi, starring Ben Kingsley.

7) In the same category of inspiring personalities dedicating their lives to the freedom and welfare of their fellow citizens – Conversations With Myself, by Nelson Mandela  speaks of the driving force of an individual whose selfless service to mankind can change the world.

8) Another stirring example of selfless service in a grand scale is personified by Mother Theresa. Her intense longing to unite with Christ in path of Love was expressed in her uncompromising dedication to the welfare of the poor and the forlorn of Calcutta. What is striking about reading her own letters in Come, Be My Light, by Mother Teresa is the intensity of compassion she embodies to bring the light into the darkest corners of the earth.

9) Still related to Mother Teresa is Mary Poplin’s, Finding Calcutta (What Mother Teresa Taught Me About Meaningful Work and Service). In this book,  the author shares with the reader the insight and inspiration she has gained  by observing Mother Teresa in action. She extrapolates her own discoveries and the inner transformation that community service has had on her life. I loved the ongoing theme in her book, which was that community service is not a job description or a place to go, but rather, it is a state of mind, insight and vision. She calls upon the reader to find his or her own “Calcutta” by asking the reader to reflect on his own inner calling to serve.  She says,  “not everybody can go to Calcutta. But all of us can find our own place of service and calling. Come, answer the call to find your Calcutta.”

10) In a different format, Eboo Patel, a American born Muslim of Indian descent speaks from the perspective of a wise youth today, and the need for this new generation to find unity in diversity by means of social action. He cites and describes recent terrorist attacks and contextualizes it within the greater “sickness” of isolationism in the world. Patel’s writing is dynamic, to the point, and reaches to the compassion of all to incite new vision and new understanding in the culminating social tensions around the world.

Karen Pasternak is the library assistant

Sell Your House In A Tough Market: Simple Staging Strategies

Selling a house has become a very challenging undertaking these days. Due to an unsettled economic climate, the task can be daunting to the seller, and may imply taking a significant loss in one’s life savings. We’ve all noticed that economics dramatically influence the real estate market and reduces the circulation of potential buyers.  In addition to these factors, the overall condition of the house is a major determinant in this process.

I just put my house on the market. Fortunately, I had recently invested in costly renovations such as a new roof, new furnace, new shower, and a fresh coat of paint all around the outside of the house and most of the inside. I realize that the “bones” of the house have to be strong or else the potential buyer might quickly run the other way.

I was quickly informed by several real estate experts that the many renovations and updates I had undertaken will not be recovered in the sale of the house. I believe that the housing market will fluctuate in times to come, and which way it will go remains a mystery to most of us. However, the one thing I do have control over in this process, is how my house looks when someone comes to visit it.

I am learning small strategies to stay focused in this volatile process. In my experience so far, the best way to do that is to keep small, low budget projects going in the house, to maintain or improve my home as time goes by. The way I gauge the appeal of my own house is important and so I educate myself by “visiting” other homes for sale on the internet. I ask myself how do I like to feel when I walk into a home that might become mine? I believe that a house which is lovingly cared for will be far more attractive to a buyer – or any guest visiting for that matter. Making the atmosphere and energy of the house welcoming, balanced and harmonious seem essential in making it attractive. Tidiness inside and out, lighting/brightness, recent painting of rooms, fragrance – all of these details tell me how much care and love a person or family has put into their home.

The three adjectives I follow closely are:  neutral – tidy – and clean.

1) A fresh coat of paint in several rooms brightens up and refreshes my house – and it is easy on my  budget.  I keep the colors neutral so that the house will appeal to a broader audience.

2) If you don’t have time to do garden work, hire help for tasks such as weeding, trimming and mowing. This will give your home  “curb appeal” without having to spend a fortune on fancy landscaping.

3) make sure your home is de-cluttered (even if it means getting rid of unnecessary, accumulated things), tidy and clean.

Suggested readings:

How To Sell Your Home In Any Market, by Loren K. Keim

This is an excellent book, very well organized and covers every possible aspects in preparing your house for selling. It addresses issues such as location, staging, pricing, among many other considerations when getting your house ready to sell.  I can barely put it down! I like that the author walks you through each room of the house, making a checklist for the reader. I am following this checklist (de-clutter and repair stage; enlarging stage; deep cleaning stage; neutralizing stage; setting the home apart stage).  I am seeing my house change. Also, she addresses location challenges and helps you either market the property or finding a broker that will optimally represent your property. If you are planning to sell your house, it is a “must read.

How to Sell Your House, Condo, Co-op, Amy Sprecher Bly, Robert W. Bly

Though not recently published, this is an excellent, timeless and complete resource on the topic if selling your house – from setting the right price, to showing your home at its best. The format is different from other books in that it addresses items of your home (eg. floors, walls, windows, door knobs) rather than taking you room by room.

301  Simple ThingsYou Can Do To Sell Your Home NOW, by Teri B. Clark

This books is also a solid reference book to prep your house for the market. What I like most is that the author provides you with real scenarios and cases, to demonstrate what works and what doesn’t. Also, she compares and contrasts situations between an optimal staging and a mediocre one. The tips she provides are economical and practical. Also, the book is supplemented with photographic examples.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Selling Your Home, by Katie Severance and Nancy Gentile

This is a pragmatic and helpful book. There is a section on renovating to save energy, or “going green” with the improvements we undertake. Also, I liked to read the section on “overimproving” one’s home and how not to get caught up in investing too  much in a market that will not bring us the returns we hope for.

For in-depth do-it-yourself projects, please refer to the the following:

Fix It Fast Fix It Right, by Gene & Katie Hamilton

This Old House Kitchens – A Guide To Design And Renovation, by Steve Thomas

The Family Handyman, Magazine

Fine Homebuilding, Magazine

Country Living, Magazine

Old House Journal, Magazine

Switzerland The Beautiful

Born and raised in Switzerland, I came to America in my mid-twenties. The culture of Switzerland has settled into my DNA, and today forms an integral part of my identity.  Most people know this small country by its exquisite chocolates, vast selection of outstanding cheeses, precision watches,  skiing in the majestic Alps, or its pharmaceutical industry. Many have  also heard of Switzerland’s banking system which has drawn the good and the bad from all over the world.  In my view,  Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world,  with a rich cultural history and strong traditions proudly worn by its citizens.     

I learned in school that Switzerland is a constitutionally strong, forward thinking, progressive and determined democracy. It is also a philanthropic, peace loving, environmentally responsible, independent country.  Growing up there,  I have learned to appreciate the people’s insistence on punctuality, cleanliness, and their desire to maintain its pristine, natural state. 

Switzerland’s neutrality in world politics and alliances has contributed to its fame and success. Geneva is the home of the United Nations headquarters, providing a neutral ground for world decisions to be debated, negotiated and implemented. When I was a teenager, many of us participated in the Student United Nations sessions each year. For a few days, we were allowed to use the auditoriums where countries united and we were given some challenges that the world was facing at the time. Using the same format, we practiced resolving the conflicts at hand and formed mock alliances.  I also remember quite a bit of distractions going on, as one might anticipate with a room-full of teenagers.

For its size, Switzerland enjoys a rich linguistic mix. Four languages are spoken over a relatively small territory – French, Swiss German, Italian and Romansch. When you buy your groceries, everything is written in three languages – from product content to instructions.

The Switzerland I remember as a child is one of enduring friendships, endless outdoor exploration, wide open spaces, and a sense of safety rarely questioned.  I also recall a strict academic education, rich in traditions which included specific skills such as knitting, sewing and cooking. I will never forget the exciting school or family ski trips and spring hiking field-trips to majestic glaciers with my class. We would climb along the pastures and stop at the farms along the way, where farmers were churning the milk to make cheese, butter or cream. I also loved the annual  visits to the chocolate factory where samples were distributed generously to the delight of all of us.  I vividly remember the  cleanliness of the Swiss cities, and the abundance of flowers meticulously groomed, on the streets or the window sills. Whenever I visit again, I am immediately afforded a feeling of peace and tranquility deep in my bones.

Switzerland is healing medicine for the soul to many who have flocked there and I strongly recommend it to those who are seeking new destinations.

If you are planning a trip to Switzerland or simply reading up on the country, I recommend the following books:

    Swiss Watching, by Diccon Bewes

Whether or not you are traveling to Switzerland, you will enjoy this book. It is not a guide book – it is informative, interesting,  and humorous. Bewes lives in Switzerland and his book is engaging and blends facts with playfulness. This is a well-rounded, must read “inside Europe’s landlocked Island.”  I love it! 

Rick Steve’s Switzerland, by Rick Steve

The book offers interesting insights – however, often based on subjective preferences – visiting tips to places such as the beautiful Berner  Oberland and quoting unexpected venues. His description of Glacier Express and Bernina Express are particularly detailed and enjoyable, if you are looking to visit some specific, very scenic countryside – of which there are many more than mentioned. I am a bit biased, as Geneva is not mentioned much, or referred to as “boring.” Otherwise, Rick Steve’s has some valuable suggestions.

    Fodor’s Switzerland, by Fodor

The book is divided into 14 sections, including the final section, “Understanding Switzerland.” The first section is a general introduction to the country: it covers the geography, the various classes of lodging in Switzerland, the top experiences, the best hikes, several itineraries (first time visitor to castles and catherals), and scenic train and car trips. The other sections deal with the cantons and major cities. Fodor’s Switzerland is thorough and will provide a multitude of choices to visit, shop, eat, and sleep. Many pictures too! Great resource!

The Rough Guide to Switzerland    

This book includes solid sections on Geneva and Lausanne, important towns which Rick Steve ommitted . Geneva is dear to me, and so I find this book a useful resource. The format is different than Fodor’s and Rick Steve’s guides, therefore offering an additional angle to discovering Switzerland.

For a historical read, Dunant’s Dream: War, Switzerland, and History of the Red Cross, by Carol Moorehead

This is a lucid, compassionate and well-written book. Morehead’s research is scholarly, and her documentation is very meticulous. She examines the historical record and the ethical dilemnas of  the organization which was founded on Swiss principles of neutrality and quiet diplomacy which was then faced with atrocities in its own territory. The author addresses the failures and the multidinous successes of the Red Cross, covering the WWII Holocaust. Dunant’s Dream is said to be an “extraordinarily readable” book.

As for DVDs, the following ones will take you on a virtual tour and will certainly entice you to travel there – in addition, they are delightful:

Passport to Europe with Samantha Brown,Germany, Switzerland, & Austria

Hidden Treasures Europe to the Max Alpine Secrets, DVD

I very much enjoy this DVD because it successfully conveys an atmosphere that is unique to Switzerland. When I get homesick, it will definitely take me to a place of childhood. Please note that though the holiday or folkloric scenes appear “made-up,” this is not so: Switzerland feels like it has been left into a time of its own – while still benefitting from the highest technology and science.

We also have a couple of fun VHS films on Switzerland to watch, if you still have a machine!

Good Dog! (New Perspectives On The Relationship Between Man And His Best Friend)

The permanent residents in my house today consist of three dogs, a cat – and me. On occasions, my children will claim residence at this address as well.

When you enter my home – and after you’ve been vigorously greeted by all four-legged creatures – you will most likely find couches and chairs occupied by my furry friends. When I’m at home, the dogs are at my feet at all times. And yes, three out of four animals sleep on my bed.

This Is My Nap Chair

Some might conclude that such habits reflect a lack of discipline and that furniture is no place for dogs. I happen to be content wherever I find them, as I am with any companion that lives under my roof. The unconditional love, devotion, and playfulness of my canine companions far outweigh the inconveniences and impracticalities they bring about.Lets Get It

I have to admit that my dogs do not obey many simple commands like “sit,” ” down,” or “roll-over.”  However, words such as “treat,” “kibble,” or “walk” could probably make them sing or dance if I asked them to.

The more redeeming qualities I seek in my dogs lie within his or her very nature. Even though Parker would be at the far end of  the backyard while I would be inside the house, my late golden retriever could always sense when I was sad. He would run back home to sit by my side and lick my face or face until my demeanor changed. Similarly, I could sense when my dog was ill, even before outward symptoms appeared. Though Parker was never trained for anything besides doing his business outside, he was able to follow every command, from simple to complex – to the amazement of all.  My belief is that when the relationship between a dog and his owner is “tuned-in,” basic training naturally unfolds as part of the rich and multi-layered communication between them. The quality of the interaction depends on the subtle interconnectedness between the two companions.  Recent literature on dog raising, training, and rescue, speaks extensively on the aspects of love and understanding as the most effective ways of communication (see suggested reading below).

Historically, the popular belief held that the relationship between a dog and his owner is a matter of “who dominates who.” The theory that someone (in this case, a dog) will find a way to control you unless you control him first, is a tendency we’ve seen in many aspects of human behavior and society throughout history.

In my experience, dogs respond to eye contact, a compassionate tone of voice, words that are simple – and most of all, words that are sincere. The alignment of thought, word and deed seem to have significant results in conveying a message – with animals as well as with humans. For example, if I am nervous and give my dog a calming command, the message will have very little impact.

In his new book, “Dog Sense,” John Bradshaw offers a refreshing perspective on dog training and communication. He steps away from the historical emphasis that the dog originates from the wolf who communicates primarily by the domination-submission paradigm. Bradshaw suggests that because he has evolved into a domestic animal, the dog developed refined methods of communicating his feelings with humans.

My observation is that the most effective communication with a dog unfolds when addressing him with respect. I believe that respect is transmitted through love rather than through domination. It’s been well documented that love has the potential to completely transform a traumatized dog coming from an abusive or neglected background. I recommend reading Merle’s Door, Oogy, and Amazing Gracie. These books beautifully illustrate the process of profound healing through their relationship – dog and man respectively. These books are moving stories about transformation and redemption, through love and respect.

I am no expert in dog training. I speak of my personal experience raising dogs over several decades. I know that there are many personalities with dogs – as with people – and the levels of challenges vary greatly between each personality.

Suggested Reading:

Dog Sense, by James Bradshaw

Bradshaw appeared on NPR last month and his book will surely bring a fresh look on dog behavior. His book is highly recommended as it provides compelling new insights into the dynamic communication between man and his best friend – a view that steers the reader away from the traditional approaches that reduce a dog to a perpetual child, disabling a dog rather than promoting change and creating healthy habits.

Oogy, by Larry Levin

The book tells the story of a dog whose beginnings were traumatic, as he served as bait for fighting dogs. Escaping death and having been severely wounded, Oogy is  adopted by Larry Levin and his family. He is nurtured back to health, while simultaneously deeply transforming every family member. In the book, the author finds his own wounds and scars as he reaches outward in love to this marvelous dog. Oogy becomes a mirror for everyone’s inner strengths and weaknesses, and his fundamental goodness and sensitivity awakens the reader to new dimensions of compassion. Though an emotional read, “Dog Sense” is an eye-opener to one who is ready for introspection.

Inside Of A Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, And Know [sound recording], by Alexandra Horowitz

This audio book is filled with tips and instructions. Horowitz communicates her own enthusiasm on the dog’s nature and his innate possibilities with humor and facts. She’s a scientist, but in the book, she’s hardly clinical. her interest in the dog-human relationship will enrich the listener for sure.

Amazing Gracie: A Dog’s Tale, by Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff

In this book, it seems in the beginning that the human is rescuing the dog, but the book reveals that the dog rescues the human. By means of love and loyalty, the dog goes from a throw-away puppy to a tremendous dog. Amazing Gracie is a funny, moving, true story and a reminder of how animals can touch and even radically change the lives of the humans who care for them.

Merle’s Door: Lesson From a Free-Thinking Dog, by Ted Kerasote

This is a remarkably well written book – it is humorous at times, and instructive at others. Merle taught Kerasote that great things can happen if humans will change their behavior instead of always trying to change the behavior of their dogs. The book compellingly demonstrates that humans treat dogs as though they have no independent power of judgment, but Merle proves them otherwise. The book provides sound data and instructional information in the reference section.

Pukka: the Pup After Merle, by Ted Kerasote

Kerasote uses a different format in his new book, Pukka. Each page is filled with photographs of Pukka’s puppy days and how the dog discovers the world around him and narrates the relationships he forms along the way. The captions just add details to the telling pictures. An aspect that adds spice to the book is that it is written in the first person, as if Pukka told the story. It is an intimate account of a relationship between a dog and his owner.

Cesar’s Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding And Correcting Dog Problems, by Cesar Millan

Cesar Millan is a well-respected dog trainer, also known as the “dog whisperer.” He focuses his attention on correcting dogs as well as training the humans that care for them. He speaks of the subtle communication between the dog and his owner as being key to their relationship and pivotal in the effectiveness of their “language.” He claims that listening and understanding our canine companions as well as looking at our own thinking and behaviors are essential elements in creating a positive relationship together.

The Dog Listener, by Jan Fennel

Fennel has extensive experience breeding and training dogs. She speaks of her own journey toward greater compassion through her relationship with dogs over many decades. She has a keen eye on the dog’s needs and provides the reader alternative methods to traditional approaches to dog training, and correcting, emphasizing gentleness and love as the essence of her approach.

Karen Stancs

Assistant Librarian

Indian Vegetarian Cuisine: Exotic and Perfectly Balanced

When I was growing up, my family and I had the privilege of traveling around the globe  extensively. Visiting many regions of the world  provided me with a rich and unique education, and opened my intellectual horizons far beyond the four walls of a classroom.

The broad culinary exposure I received was among the more exciting perks of traveling. While on vacation, every evening brought with it the anticipation of new flavors and aromas, as we tried different  exotic restaurants. And most often, these experiences culminated in the discovery of some unforgettable dish that my brother and I still talk about today.

A decade ago, I  converted to a completely vegetarian diet. Becoming a vegetarian was a response to my compelling drive to practice non-violence and lead a healthier life.  I knew that such a commitment had to begin with my daily habits.

I learned that there were significant health benefits that resulted from being a vegetarian.  Today, there is scientific evidence based on extensive research to support this theory. I strongly recommend reading “The China Study,” a compelling collection of research on the various diets practiced around the world.

India has become one of my favorite destinations these days, and the food of this land is as enchanting as its ancient culture. Most of my friends come from South Asia and I’ve had the privilege of being invited into their kitchens where they have shared with me a wealth of culinary knowledge,  passed down through generations of women.  Dals (lentils), breads and soups will supply the required amounts of protein on a daily basis. Masalas (curries) are customarily made from scratch at home,  and the spices used for preparing them vary from one household to another, giving each home its own culinary signature.   This makes the food always exciting and unique. As you begin to explore the vast selection of Indian dishes, you find that healthy options abound. One of my favorite combinations is the South Indian sambar and dosas.  

Be careful or you can get more than your share of fried-foods with delicacies such as pakodas (fried vegetables in batter), samosas (fried pastry stuffed with vegetables), or vadas (fried dumplings) –  to name just a few delightful items.

For a start, I suggest some basic ingredients to have on hand: fresh ginger, cumin seeds, cardamom, coriander seeds, curry leaves, asofoetida powder, mustard seeds, turmeric, tamarind paste, shredded coconut and green/red chillies.  Some of these items have to be purchased from an Indian grocer.   A pressure-cooker is  recommended to reduce time spent in the kitchen. With a pressure-cooker, a complete Indian meal can be concocted in 20-30 minutes.

Suggested readings:

The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study Of Nutrition Ever And The Startling Implication For Diet, Weight-Loss, And Long-Term Health, by T. Colin Campbell, and Thomas M. Campbell II. The book describes a monumental survey of diet and death rates from cancer in China. It is an effort to demonstrate the implications that nutrition and diet have on health.

In Pure & Simple by Vidhu Mittal the recipes are written with simplicity and the illustrations are extremely appetizing. In the glossary, there is a photograph for every ingredient which can be very helpful when you are sorting out the wide variety of  lentils and spices.  Try the tamarind flavored potatoes, or the potato fritters; the cool yogurt with vegetables (raita) as a side dish is delightful; the fried flat breads (parathas) are not complicated and can accompany any meal – Indian or western. This is a very nice, user-friendly book to work with.  The idli (savory rice/white lentil semolina cakes) are a famous and nutritious South Indian delicacy that can be served with sambar or any chutney.

The Best of Lord’s Krishna’s Cuisine, by Yamuna Devi.  Although there are no mouth-watering photographs, this cookbook is a very straightforward, simple book to experiment with containing excellent recipes. I recommend the coriander chutney to go along with any flat bread, the curried cauliflower and potatoes, and  my favorite halva desserts, made with wheat semolina.

Yamuna’s Table, by Yamuna Devi – try the mung bean-cabbage cakes with Bengali tomato chutney (better known as vegetarian crab cakes). Another fun dish is the ratatouille spirals with red pepper-tomato sauce, or for a simpler preparation, try the bean salad with three roasted peppers. In one dish you get all your nutrients in a balance!

Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook, by the Editors of Vegetarian Times. With this book in your hands, you will never be left without ideas on what to prepare. It offers a mutlicultural selection of flavors, and recipes are imaginative and easy to prepare.  Try for instance, the sauteed spinach, garlic and lima beans, to create a balance of nutrients and colors; rice and beans burritos, or the black bean quesadillas among the many vegetarian ideas in this cookbook, originating from Mexico. I would also recommend the Russian bean-and-potato soup,  or the tofu scramble. So much to enjoy!

Main Course Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin is a solid resource for balanced vegetarian meals, western style. You can vary the recipes and “dress” dishes up or down with spices, as you see fit. Also, there are quick and practical recipes. I like the couscous with provencal vegetables and the broccoli rabe with tomato-cheese polenta.

Another excellent book if you are interested in the medicinal components of most spices and herbs used for cooking Indian food, please read,  Healing Spices (Aggarwal, Bharath B.).

Reading: A Powerful Tool For Self-discovery

In today’s busy and often stressful world, there are several tools available for us to remain centered, balanced and connected to the stillness at the core of our being. In my own life, reading an inspiring book has a significant healing power – not because it provides me with an escape from daily routine,  but rather because it grants me new insights,  and a wider perspective on life.

In  my experience, the author whose awareness expands beyond the intellectual and emotional realm, carries with him the power to transform the “tuned-in” reader.  The awakened writer impacts the reader’s experience by accessing his subtle, intuitive nature.  I call this process a “journey from head to heart.”

The transformative power of reading lies in its capacity to expand the reader’s field of awareness and tap into his deep wisdom and compassion – the essence of what it is to be human.     In this manner,  reading becomes a spiritual practice and becomes food for the soul.

I must have been seven or eight years old when I consciously began to question the meaning of life. I recall discovering nature and the space around me as a mysterious and compelling phenomena: I would notice with awe the many shades of green in a single blade of grass;  I would wonder about the experience of ants as they ardently worked in unison; I  remember listening intently to the pronunciation of words coming out of my mouth as if I were a witness to some strange occurrence;  I also recall “feeling” the vibrancy of the earth and its profound resonance within me. I often felt there was a quiet witness inside me looking out at the world. What was working behind the scenes?  These experiences have nurtured a life-long search for what lies beyond the mind – supplemented with rich literature.

Reading as a form of contemplation has the power to quiet the mind and bring the reader to directly experience the meaning of the words.  This type of reading is what I enjoy most, and I highly recommend it to those who wish to explore a new, inner landscape.

The age-old question, “who am I?” surfaces again and again, apparently since the birth of human civilization.    One could easily speculate that the quest to know oneself is at the root of what separates mankind from the animal kingdom.   It is indeed a unique privilege to explore those horizons, taking advantage of the abundant literature available to everyone.

Here are a few books I recommend:

Thich Nhat Hanh: 1) No Death, No Fear; 2) You Are Here: Discovering The Magic Of  The Present Moment            

 Among contemporary western mystics, Eckhart Tolle: 1) The Power Of Now; 2) Stillness Speaks; 3) A New Earth have provided ground- breaking insights to a very large, interested audience.  Tolle refers to the “present moment” as a dynamic energy from which the world appears. Eckhart Tolle carries us into every aspect of our own life and re-contextualizes our existence into a new reality.

Rachel Naomi Remen remains one of my favorite authors.   In My Grandfather’s Blessings, Remen provides rich, personal anecdotes of her own life and brings us immediately to our own deep heart.  She does not lead us into abstractions, but rather keeps us very grounded into everyday life, and shows us the beauty and compassion that lies within us all.

In 12 Steps To Lead A Compassionate LifeKaren Armstrong inspires and motivates the reader to identify with his innate capacity for compassion. The books provides a historical context in which the evolution of human consciousness unfolded, and points to the universal, innate compassion in the heart of man – and the imperative need to live by it in order to save himself.

Pema Chodron’s Places That Scare You  instructed me that when I face my fears completely, they become my greatest allies, as they transmute themselves into agents of compassion and forgiveness. She describes this process as “the opening of the heart.”

For those who prefer reading novels, The Alchemist, from Paulo Coelho, and Siddhartha, from Hermann Hess, are dazzling novels of the journey into the higher self.

A thought-provoking documentary on DVD that addresses quantum physics, spirituality and related research is What The Bleep Do We Know: Down The Rabbit Hole.

Enjoy the discovery!