short excerpts...other writings...upon occasion or as prompted...
The tiger in the water? A representation of my life -- spirit and environment!


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Recommended Readings

The following are some of my favorite books. The evaluations are, of course, my own, and you may (dis)agree with them. All of them, in my opinion, are well worth the time spent reading them.

Mitch Albom:
The Five People You Meet in Heaven

An excellent book for anyone who thinks his/her life is meaningless. The hero, Eddie, dies in an attempt to save a little girl from a falling cart at an amusement park where he works as a repairman. After death, his life is explained to him by five people whose lives his has intersected. Some of these intersections were positive; some of them were negative. All of them were fateful even though Eddie did not realize it at the time in some cases. In fact, not all of these people were ones he had met! This book gives one pause. We may have a greater influence on the universe that surrounds than we may think. The book is a great read, and the movie based on it is a great film. Choose your medium!

The Cloud of Unknowing and The Book of Privy Counseling

These are two of my favorite books, and usually they can be purchased together in one volume. The author is not known although from the writing style it seems like the same person wrote both. These are the best primers on contemplative prayer that I have ever run across.

St. Athanasias. On the Incarnation of the Word.

St. Theresa of Avila
Interior Castle

For those ready to move into deeper stages of prayer, St. Theresa's Carmelite classic work is very helpful. St. Theresa describes seven "mansions" of the spiritual life, beginning with neophyte and proceeding to mystical marriage (essentially, full union). She discusses difficulties experienced by beginners, the aridity in prayer that comes later, contemplation/mental prayer, the sweetness to be experienced in prayer, and more. The book provides a detailed mystic-theological view of the soul and its development as one progresses from one "mansion" to another.

St. Theresa of Avila:
The Life of Saint Theresa of Avila by Herself

In her autobiography, St. Theresa of Avila describes the various visions she experienced, as well as the voice she would hear. Of great help to anyone in similar circumstances is the set of questions she developed to determine authentic communication from imaginary. For me, this book was a godsend when similar things started happening to me and no one seemed to want to talk about. While I finally gathered the courage to discuss my experiences with a priest, I recognized the "grilling" he gave me as coming straight from the work of St. Theresa, and that gave me confidence in both him and her.

St. John of the Cross:
Dark Night of the Soul

This classic on relationship with God describes two periods of aridity (or dark nights). One occurs as beginners start to advance in their understanding of spiritual matters. The second comes much later, when faith matures -- and in many cases, does not happen at all. How and why one winds up in a dark night is not something that St. John of the Cross explains; it is something that is up to God and one is obliged to accept that. Where the book is very helpful is in describing the nature of the dark nights, as well as the attributes of spiritual immaturity.

Ilia Delio:
Franciscan Prayer

I love the books -- all of them -- by Sr. Ilia Delio. In this book, she defines Franciscan prayer and what sets it apart. She writes about complexity of our contemporary world and how one can go about seeking God today through prayer. "This is a book on Franciscan prayer written by a theologian who strives to define more clearly the path of Franciscan prayer, the nature of its spirituality and relationship with God. She talks about prayer as means of seeking God in today's complex world. At times a little dense reading, it is well worth the time and effort to read.

Ilia Delio: A Franciscan View of Creation: Learning to Live in a Sacramental World

Ilia Delio: The Humility of God

Fr. Thomas Dubay: Authenticity (the second of my two favorite books, if one considers the Book of Privy Counseling and the Cloud of Unknowing as one book)

Fr. Thomas Dubay: Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer

Fr. Thomas Dubay: The Fire Within

Fr. Thomas Dubay: Prayer Primer: Igniting the Fire Within

For anyone of a contemplative and mystic bent, all of Fr. Thomas Dubay's works form an essential core of a contemporary library. This one, one of his earlier works, no less so.

Fr. Thomas Dubay: Seeking Spiritual Direction

Dave Early: 21 Reasons Bad Things Happen To Good People

John Eldridge: Epic: The Story God is Telling

John Eldridge: Walking with God

Dr. Geri Henderson: Thoughts without a Title.

This book contains stories and art work by young people in the Middle East, many of them with religious themes, that provide insights into the thinking of the current generation there. It has the potential to be very enlightening to people who live in the West whose only knowledge of the Middle East is through history books or contemporary journalism. This book looks into the mindset of the people, as expressed through the artistic creations of youth.

Khaled Hosseini: The Kite Runner

Dr. Omar Imady: When You're Shoved from the Right, Look to the Left: Metaphors of Islamic Humanism (wonderful short tales that fit any religion; some are found also in the Zoroastrian stories; one was used recently in a homily by a local priest who had read the book)

Spencer Johnson & Kenneth Blanchard: Who Moved My Cheese?: Amazing Ways to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life

Kent Keith: The Case for Servant Leadership (stretches beyond work relationships into life)

Harold Kushner: When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Br. Lawrence: The Practice of the Presence of God

Margaret Nutting Ralph: And God Said What?: An Introduction to Biblical Literary Forms

Helen Steiner Rice: And the Greatest of These Is Love

Dale Evans Rogers: Angel Unaware (a work of love that will comfort anyone who has lost a child)

Richard Rohr: Grace in Action

Richard Rohr: Things Hidden.

Rohr's highly insightful interpretation of scripture and application of it to the contemporary world gives one a new perspective on the Bible, especially the New Testament. While not at odds with Catholic teaching, it does stretch one's mind to contemplate a whole that is greater than its parts when viewing the stories and teachings of scripture. All of Rohr's works are great, as are his lectures and DVDs, but this one is exceptionally special.

Francis Thompson: "The Hound of Heaven"

Lev Tolstoy: "Bog pravdu vidit, da ne skoro skazhet" (God Sees the Truth, But Waits)

Jean-Pierre de Cassaude: Abandonment to Divine Providence

This is not the easiest book to read. Occasionally, the logic, not being of the current era, is difficult to follow, as is the discourse for the same reason. Nonetheless, the many nuggets of golden insight are well worth the time it takes to dig them out. The Reverend de Caussade points to God’s presence in even the simplest of daily activities (not unlike the attitude maintained throughout his life by Brother Lawrence; see The Practice of the Presence of God in this list) To find God, we most totally surrender ourselves to His will, and, in that, we will find peace. This is the message of de Caussade.

Brendan Manning. Ruthless Trust

I suppose this book appealed to me for two reasons. First, the concept of ruthlessness reflects my all-or-nothing approach to life. When asked by an investigator, conducting a security clearance interview for a position to which I had been appointed, whether I was ethical, my husband Donnie responded with only one word: “brutally.” (Hopefully I have since learned to be gentler in my insistence on ethical behavior.) Second, trust is something that comes naturally to me. Sometimes I trust people too much, but I don’t learn. I still trust the next time with a new person. I also trust God in that same all-or-nothing way, at least usually.


  1. I have read the Mitch Albom book. I read Dale Evans' book years ago. Brother Lawrence's book is in my bookcase in the living room. Right now, I am reading Stormie O'Martian's book on praying women.

  2. I don't know O'Martian's book. Can you provide me with the reference? Thanks!

  3. Elizabeth,
    I am a bookworm, too. I have read about half of these books. By the way "The Hound of Heaven" is my favorite poem. I love poetry and have yet to find anything even close to this in it's beauty!

  4. Mary, I missed your comment somehow! Anyway, the Hound of Heaven is my favorite poem, too.

    Thanks, Dan. I have been pretty lax in finishing the annotations and adding. It's hard to find the time to do it.


About Me

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I am the mother of 4 birth children (plus 3 others who lived with us) and grandmother of 2, all of them exceptional children. Married for 42 years, I grew up in Maine, live in California, and work in many places in education, linguistics, and program management. In my spare time, I rescue and tame feral cats and have the scars to prove it. A long-time ignorantly blissful atheist converted by a theophanic experience to Catholicism, I am now a joyful catechist. Oh, I also authored a dozen books, two under my pen name of Mahlou (Blest Atheist and A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God).

My Other Blogs

100th Lamb. This is my main blog, the one I keep most updated.

The Clan of Mahlou
. This is background information about various members of the extended Mahlou family. It is very much a work still in progress. Soon I will begin posting excerpts from a new book I am writing, Raising God's Rainbow Makers.

Modern Mysticism. This blog discusses the mystical in our pragmatic, practical, realistic, and rational 21st century world and is to those who spend some or much of their time in an irrational/mystical relationship with God. If such things do not strain your credulity, you are welcome to follow the blog and participate in it.

Recommended Reading List

Because I am blog inept, I don't quite know how to get a reading list to stay at the end of the page and not disappear from sight. Therefore, I entered it as my first post. I suppose that is not all that bad because readers started commenting about the books, even suggesting additional readings. So, you can participate with others in my reading list by clicking here.
I do post additional books as I read them and find them to be meaningful to me, and therefore, hopefully, meaningful to you. One advantage of all the plane traveling I do is that I acquire reading time that I might not otherwise take.