Wes Nisker author of Buddha’s Nature: A Practical Guide to Discovering Your Place in the Cosmos (Bantam Doubleday Dell Publications, 2000)
I’m reading Seven Life Lessons of Chaos: Spiritual Wisdom from the Science of Change, by John Briggs and F. David Peat (Harper Perennial Library, 2000), as well as a novel calledMoonlight on the Avenue of Faith, by Gina Barkhordar Nahai (Washington Square Press, 2000), and a memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers (Simon & Schuster, 2000). As for Buddhist books, I’m continually dipping into The Words of My Perfect Teacher, by Patrul Rinpoche (Shambhala Publications, 1998).
Dr. Mark Epstein author of Going to Pieces without Falling Apart (Broadway Books, 1998)
In The Fig Eater (Little, Brown, 2000), Jody Shields takes Freud’s famous patient Dora and constructs a murder mystery around her death, turning a crime investigation into a metaphor for psychoanalysis. Roberto Calasso’s Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of Ancient India (Vintage, 1998-1999) takes the Indian vedas and, retelling them as if in the present, plunges us into the mind of India in which gods and humans intermingle. In Love in a Dead Language (University of Chicago Press, 1999), Lee Siegel, a professor of Indian religion, reworks the Kama Sutra from the point of view of a Sanskrit scholar with an erotic obsession for a young Indian student. And in his Toxic Nourishment (Karnac Books, 1999), Michael Eigen, a brilliant New York psychoanalyst, breathes new life into the words of Bion, Lacan, and Winnicott.
I ordered The Life of the Buddha (Vipassana Research Publications, 1992) as told by Nanamoli. I look forward to spending time with it, getting into the rhythms of the Pali translation, feeling the presence of the Buddha in every line.
Just bought When Mountains Walked (Houghton Mifflin, 2000), by Kate Wheeler, who was a nun in Burma and now teaches meditation. She’s written an acclaimed book of short stories, Not Where I Started From (Houghton Mifflin, 1997), and edited, most recently, In This Very Life (Wisdom Publications, 1992), a collection of the teachings of the Burmese master U Pandita Sayadaw.
I intend finally to read Zen and the Brain, by James H. Austin, M.D. (MIT Press, 1999), because I’m fascinated by the connection between the brain and consciousness, between neuroscience and spirituality.
I’m looking forward to reading Stephen Batchelor’s new translation of Nagarjuna’s poems, Verses from the Center(Riverhead, 2000). I heard him read from it in January and was captivated by the simplicity and elegance of the language as well as the audacity, even transgressiveness, of what he is trying to do. I’ve also set aside a copy of Plato’sPhaedo. I’m curious about how his notions of Idea and Form compare to the Buddhist idea of Nirvana. And I’ll probably pick up a novel for the beach.
Tom Robbins author of Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates (Bantam Doubleday Dell, 2000)
I’m planning to invade City of God, by E.L. Doctorow (Random House, 2000). There’s barely a drop of Buddhism in it, so I understand, but it turns Christianity and Judaism inside out and upside down, and booms a high-octane hymn to New York in the process.
Also, as protection against being sucked into the nationwide whirlpool of clueless election-year cretinism, I’ll begin each day with a poem or two by Rumi, Kabir, Basho, or Buson, or a verse from Jim Harrison’s radiantly tough collection, After Ikkyu (Shambhala Publications, 1996). And, of course, at bedtime I’ll continue to work on Finnegan’s Wake. I’ve been running Joyce’s literary obstacle course for more than fifteen years and am currently on page 38.
Kate Wheeler author of When Mountains Walked (Houghton Mifflin, 2000)
I will be spending the summer in Bolivia, where very few dharma books are available. My list is a kind of desert-island reading list. I will probably fill a suitcase with books; but I will make sure to pack fundamental books, books I enjoy but also feel I can rely upon and return to again and again. These will certainly include As It Is, by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche (Rangjung Yeshe, 1999) and Voices of Insight, edited by Sharon Salzberg (Shambhala Publications, 1999).
Charles Johnson author of Middle Passage (Scribner, 1990) I’ll be reading Going Home, by Thich Nhat Hanh (Riverhead Books, 1999). I read Living Buddha, Living Christ (Riverhead Books, 1997) and found it to be such a deeply rewarding book that I’m dying to reexperience Thich Nhat Hanh’s wisdom and clarity. Also, The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya, by Maurice Walshe (Wisdom Publications, 1996). I’ve been studying these translations from the Pali on and off all year, and I hope to finish them this summer-“The Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness” is, I thought, a gem of bottomless beauty and philosophical depth.
Sylvia Boorstein author of That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist (HarperSanFrancisco, 1997)
At the top of my list is And There Was Light: Autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran, Blind Hero of the French Resistance, translated by Elizabeth R. Cameron (Parabola Books, 1998). And I am reading the poetry of the Sufi Master Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky.
I read The Walking People: A Native American Oral History, by Paula Underwood (Tribe of Two Press, 1999) in Japanese translation. It is an oral history of Mongoloid people crossing the Bering Strait to North America. I hope to read it in English, which Paula has made available for us after ten thousand years of passing it from generation to generation of her tribe.
I’ll also read The Case Against the Global Economy, edited by Jerry Mander and Edward Goldsmith (Sierra Club Books, 1997). Is there anything we can do to withstand the force of the World Trade Organization? I hope to learn how it works so we can stop it.
This summer I plan to continue my exploration of Robert Beer’s remarkable The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs (Shambhala Publications, 1999). His astounding art is accompanied by equally detailed and informative text. I also plan to read Suzuki Roshi’s recently published Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness. I can’t explain why I haven’t read it yet. I guess I’ve been saving it for a dharma-dessert.
Robert Aitken Roshi author of Taking the Path of Zen
(North Point Press, 1985)
Think Sangha Journal, No. 2: “The Lack of Progress: Buddhist Perspectives on Modernity and the Pitfalls of ‘Saving the World,’” Jonathan Watts, editor (Buddhist Peace Fellowship, 1999); Selected Poems, by Kenneth Rexroth, edited by Bradford Morrow (New Directions, 1988); Barbara Jordan: American Hero , by Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah (University of Chicago Press, 1992); Shifting Shape, Shaping Text: Philos-ophy and Folklore in the Fox Koan, by Steven Heine (University of Hawai’i Press, 1999).
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