I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading during the past couple weeks, indulging my bookworm tendencies more than I have in a long while. I want to give mention to a few of the books I believe are worthy of sharing.
Yane Yolen’s Briar Rose is an expert reinvention of the traditional fairytale as a mystery laced with a love story centered on the holocaust. Yolen is best known for her fantasy works, but this novel stays in the realm of mainstream, realistic fiction and the story benefits from this. This work also shows Yolen’s skill at adapting traditional stories to modern times. Briar Rose is a fine exploration of storytelling, family dynamics and a piece of history that can be too disturbing for many outside the softening of fiction. It’s slight fantasy that gives life to the broader genre with its deft and accessable dealings with a number of seldom matched themes.
I’ve enjoyed reading the books of Haruki Murakami for some time now, first Norwegian Wood and most recently Dance, Dance, Dance. Dance, Dance, Dance is a mystery novel set within a supernatural-meets-reality world (Japan and Hawaii are the real world locales) the nameless protagonist explores in a very human way. The very recognizable and fragile nature of the characters is Murakami’s strength, creating a great deal of sympathy and interest in their stories and contrasting the strange situations portrayed throughout the narrative. Combining appropriate elements of fantasy, noir and mystery, – as well as critique of “advanced capitalism” – the novel surprises, moves and engrosses at every turn. It’s one of the finest works of fiction I’ve read all year.
I’ve been reading a fair bit of Ken Wilber’s writings of late. There’s a wealth of wisdom and facinating theory he’s presented and I could never do it justice. I do want to mention The Marriage of Sense and Soul : Integrating Science and Religion, an incredible book that explores the split between science and spirituality and presents a compelling path to resolve the issue. In my gross, inadequate summary, Wilber advises that we should submit spiritual experience to varification (though repeatable practices such as meditation), setting aside myths and other religious trappings, in order to bring science and spirituality into the harmony they should co-inhabit. He does a fine job of explaining integral theory in regards to the three value spheres of the beautiful (art), the good (morals) and the true (truth) and how to maintain a holism that differentiates without dissociating. As I said, I can’t do justice to his work, but I must say he’s left a lasting, positive impression on my own philosophical exploration and I believe he has a balance of sound theory, accessable writing (he’s damn funny, though more so in his spoken words) and timely subjects (we are living in a world where regressive religion and limited science often battle it out, leaving the evolutionary changes Wilber proposes more vital each day) that make him an important visionary of our times and his books as important as any others being printed today.
P.S. I’d also recommend A Brief History of Everything and Kosmic Consciousness, the latter being an excellent audio interview that showcases Wilber’s humour and excellent, clear explainations of his integral theory, a map of everything.