What’s She Reading? (summer ’16)

I’m calling this the summer of self care. Deeply delicious and oh-so-necessary self care.

Aside from the moving meditation that comprises most of my kitchen adventures, one of my favorite self care practices is crawling into bed with pages that turn. My bookshelves often reflect the landscape of my life.

This summer I found myself seeking books that brought me serenity, a deeper awareness of the political landscape in which we find ourselves, and my endless curiosity about how we navigate the anatomy of grief. Here are a few of the books I’ve enjoyed recently. Follow the links below the images for more in depth reviews or a closer look at the author.

wild comfort
The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore

Kathleen Dean Moore is a writer, a moral philosopher, and an environmental thought-leader. She wrote this book at a time when she was overcome with grief and took solace in nature. Her words: “That autumn, events overtook me, death after death, and my life became an experiment in sadness. One friend drowned. Another died of Lou Gehrig’s disease. My father-in-law faded away like steam from stones. Then, on September 22, a fuel truck rounded a curve on the coast highway and …”

I finished this book and then, I started it all over again. Her words feel like balm to a broken spirit. If you appreciate the wonder of nature and the beauty of language, you’ll love Wild Comfort, The Solace of Nature.


Living in Gratitude by Angeles Arrien

I had the privilege of interviewing Angeles Arrien shortly before she passed away. She introduced me to the the sacred ways of indigenous people. In our interview we discussed body wisdom, voice, ancient wisdom in a contemporary world, and beauty as a portal to creativity. You can listen to that interview right here.

In this book she invites us to make gratitude our focal point for an entire year. This is the book that inspired my 365 days of gratitude project back in 2011. I’m revisiting that practice again. Here’s a taste, one of the many practices she suggests for integrating the material:

“Choose in advance a particular day this month to notice the many ways people express affection and love. On that day, carrying a small notebook with you, set out to observe any expression of love that may occur around you. Notice a kind word, a gentle pat, a protective gesture, a bright beaming smile, a shared good-hearted laugh. Write these down as they happen, or as soon as you can. Choose the ones that most deeply moved you, then notice when you express your love in these similar or different ways.”

This was an extremely eye-opening experience for me. Instead of taking my notebook around town, I started recording the many ways in which my husband expresses affection and love that are not necessarily the ways in which I would take note. Even more thought-provoking was the inner reflection that followed. My own ways of expressing love and affection are closely tied to my family of origin where food was an expression of love. You can imagine my challenge in this regard. Here I am enculturated with the “need to feed” and my beloved white-on-white rarely partakes of the meals I prepare. Yes, this practice especially called on me to find new and interesting ways to show love and affection in my marriage. I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts on this practice. Perhaps you’ll try it this week!



The Iceberg by Marion Coutts

This is a heartbreaking, heart opening memoir written by Marion Coutts. “… a compelling poetic meditation on family, love, and language.”

Here’s a taste:

“Music. Perhaps his accompaniment, his exit will be against this manual work. The dragging of hair bows across strings, friction against tightness, reeds vibrating, air blown through holes, through tubes. Valves shut off and opening again, lips relaxing and contracting, finely calibrating objects hit. Metal on metal; wood on metal; leather on wood; padding on metal; pitch, tome timbre; cylinders and coils, all shapes resonating. Sequences rising and falling, fingers, everywhere fingers. The warm brush of lungs. Creaking of buttocks on on chairs, slight release of air, stomachs against belts; clasps and buckles, skirts rustling, paper finely shifting. Dry skin on palms worn down and rubbing together. Bells, diaphragms, stools, rib cages, all bones in concert, felt and leather above and beyond.”

Remember the book I told you about last summer? The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander? This book feels very similar. Both of these women manage to bring you into their experience of death in a deeply poetic way. I am reminded of a quote by Gordon Lish: “Wear your heart on the page, and people will read to find out how you solved being alive.”

That’s what I took from each of these memoirs, an assurance perhaps, that we are indeed broken apart in times of grief but somehow we survive it. We must.



Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

When Toni Morrison says, “This is required reading,” I listen. I purchased this book a while back and it sat on my nightstand for months in my ever-growing pile. I’m glad I waited. This was exactly what I needed to read this summer as racial tensions escalate in the wake of so much violence. Coates was inspired, after rereading James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time,” to write his own version for the current era. He’s writing to his adolescent son.

Here’s a slice:

“You were born that August. I thought of the great spectrum of The Mecca—black people from Belize, black people with Jewish mothers, black people with fathers from Bangalore, black people from Toronto and and Kingston, black people who spoke Russian, who spoke Spanish, who played Mongo Santamaria, who understood mathematics and sat up in bone labs, unearthing the mysteries of the enslaved. There was more out there than I ever hopes for, and I wanted you to have it. I wanted you to know that the world in its entirety could never be found in the schools, nor on the streets, alone, nor in the trophy case. I wanted you to claim the whole world as it is.”

Need I say more?


And speaking of self care, don’t forget, my next SoulCollage® Sunday takes place on September 11th via telecall, email and private Facebook group to practice and play for five full days. I hope to see you on the roster. (It’s only $27!) Best nourishment practice ever.

Okay friends, I could go on and on but I’d like to hear from you. What are YOU reading?

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14 Responses to What’s She Reading? (summer ’16)

  1. Sandra Fain September 3, 2016 at 5:52 pm #

    Not knowing whether I can squeeze out the words now, I will sign up for your soul-collage. Within the past two years, worry and grief have wired my insides tightly. If anything can free me, it well might be seeing food and soulfulness as one. I do not know how to hate. I only know love and sometimes, that is rock heavy.
    Thank you for your list. I only know my two bedside stacks are intimidating me.

    • Sue Ann Gleason September 4, 2016 at 6:48 am #

      I would love to support you here, Sandra. For me SoulCollage® has become such a soothing and restorative practice. I know this place of worry and grief. We need tools and practices that restore and replenish, yes? So glad you are considering my SoulCollage® Sunday dear one.

  2. Allison September 4, 2016 at 4:06 pm #

    What an intriguing reading list, Sue Ann. I love reading your posts. How do you manage to be so deep and so light at once?

    Since you asked. . .

    Before we moved, I caught up on the stacks of New Yorkers and Atlantics (including some contributions by Coates) that had built up, and ending up diving deep into politics, like you! So fascinating, but I had to pull up. I was losing myself.

    I found my center again in fiction — JK Rowling’s “A Casual Vacancy” — which I found compulsively readable. Now my attention has been captured not by a book but by a podcast. Brooke Castillo’s the Life Coach School podcasts. I’ve been eating them like chocolates from a box — I get to eat one each time I go jogging. 🙂

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason September 4, 2016 at 8:06 pm #

      Oh yes, I know that place, Allison. I, too, found myself consumed by politics and all those egregious reads. I suspect it was a mixture of fear (more like terror) and the need to understand the unraveling. Like you, I turned to books that helped me find my center. I will have to check out the Life School Podcasts … eating them like chocolates, well, say no more. xxoo

  3. Cami Flake September 4, 2016 at 7:13 pm #

    Wow, Sue Ann. I felt like I just glided through a symphony of words. So moving. Now this is how you offer a reading list. I am so intrigued and inspired by all of them. These words, “Choose the ones that most deeply moved you, then notice when you express your love in these similar or different ways.” are the ones I’m paying attention to tonight. Thank you!!

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason September 4, 2016 at 8:08 pm #

      I look forward to hearing which book(s) you choose to read, Cami. Rich conversations will follow, I’m sure. xxoo

  4. Laura September 5, 2016 at 12:28 pm #

    Sue Ann, I love your reading lists! I think both of us ventured into the murky political waters this summer, and that’s resulted in a deep need to fully understand the underpinnings of the landscape. I’ve read many long reads by Coates, but have been staring at his book on my shelf for a few months now. Perhaps it’s time to take the plunge.

    I absolutely inhaled the book “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara — it’s brutal and not a light read, but speaks to the bonds of friendship in a way that I had not read before.

    Are you on Goodreads?

    • Sue Ann Gleason September 6, 2016 at 10:51 am #

      Ohhhhhh, I’ll need to check out “A Little Life,” Laura, thank you. I was in Goodreads but I didn’t follow it as I just couldn’t fall into one more rabbit hole. *tee hee*

  5. Penny September 7, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Reading your thoughtful post and the comments of your readers, I was pondering my book group meeting last night where I revealed I have never read ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’. Shocked silence ensued, so I guess that’s got to be on this month’s list! ‘A Little Life’ was also recommended as being totally wonderful, so I should lay my hands on that too. I like the sound of your first book; today is the 12th anniversary of my darling dad’s passing, and my brother and I have been discussing how raw it still feels some days X

    • Sue Ann Gleason September 7, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

      I’m eager to check out “A Little Life,” too, Penny. And yes, grief lingers. Sometimes, for me, it feels like it’s in “remission” and then it breaks me apart all over again. I think that’s why I am so drawn to these books. How DO we solve being alive? Thanks for reading and commenting. xxoo

  6. Laura September 7, 2016 at 8:22 pm #

    I have not heard of a single book on your list. And I am intrigued. As I am all about self-care rituals on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis, I plan to add Living in Gratitude and Wild Comfort to my list. I like that they may stretch me a bit, and I am excited to see others’ writing styles that are so much unlike my own.

    And hooray for Soul Collage!

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason September 7, 2016 at 8:28 pm #

      Thank you, Laura, and I’m excited that you are going to stretch yourself here. Who knows? You may just find a new genre to love. #bookloversunite

  7. Mary McConnell September 14, 2016 at 3:07 am #

    Thank you for this list ; I have just ordered Wild Comfort,the solace of nature I feel it will bring me comfort right now as my mother is ‘fading away’ and as I remember how great a part the enjoyment of nature played in her life.

    • Sue Ann Gleason September 26, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

      I hope this book brings you comfort in your loss, Mary. Holding you tenderly as you bid farewell to your beloved mother. xxoo

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