All posts filed under: Nonfiction

firstlight

Firstlight: The Early Inspirational Writings of Sue Monk Kidd

“The most significant gifts are often the ones most easily overlooked. Small everyday blessings: words, health, muse, laughter, memories, books, family, friends, second chances, warm fireplaces, and all the footprints scattered through our days.” Sue Monk Kidd, Firstlight Before becoming an international sensation and household name at the age of fifty-four with the publication of her first novel, Sue Monk Kidd was a writer of personal spiritual nonfiction. And earlier yet, writing was not her primary career at all. A longtime nurse, Kidd began her writing career by surprise when a piece she submitted to a contest was published by Guideposts, an interfaith publication founded in the 1940s. She went on to write for the magazine for twelve more years; thus began a superstar bestseller’s unexpected journey. From there, Kidd went on to write and publish an array of personal nonfiction, from pieces in magazines and eventually three memoirs on spirituality before she would ultimately publish The Secret Life of Bees. Her 2006 book Firstlight gathers together these early writings from her Guideposts years and …

takingtheleap

Drop the Storyline: Pema Chodron on Learning to Stay with Difficult Emotions

“Deep down in the human spirit there is a reservoir of courage. It’s always available, always waiting to be discovered.” So writes Pema Chodron in the epilogue of her book, Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears, a collection of wisdom gained from her Buddhist teachers. It is, as Pema is known for producing, an attempt at honoring her beloved instructors, passing along their teachings as a means of healing a beautiful, broken world. Yet it becomes, as her work often does, a uniquely important rendering of timeless peace-based practices into a language the modern-day Westerner will be able to quickly understand. “We are all a mixture of aggression and loving-kindness, hard-heartedness and tender open-heartedness, small-mindedness and forgiving open mind. We are not a fixed, predictable, static identity that anyone can point to and say, ‘You are always like this. You are always the same.’ Life’s energy is never static. It is as shifting, fluid, changing as the weather. Sometimes we like how we’re feeling, sometimes we don’t. Then we like it …

cslewisandhiscircle

C.S. Lewis and His Circle: Essays and Memoirs from the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society

“So I am finding him still at this stage, and I expect still to be finding him when I’m 80, as a welcome and at the same time endearingly infuriating interlocutor. I can never quite let him go…” Malcolm Guite, Yearning for a Far-Off Country (C.S. Lewis and His Circle) Although C.S. Lewis was the author of the beloved Chronicles of Narnia series, he was many other men besides. A professor, an intellectual, a theologian, a philosopher, a brother, a husband, and a Christian, Lewis contributed much to the world in varying ways throughout his life. Largely considered one of the most influential thinkers of modern Christianity, he brought his profound theological insights into his fiction writing; and likewise, the imagination that gave birth to the wonders of Narnia served as his greatest resource as a philosopher. To study Lewis, whether as an academic or a devoted reader, is to uncover a world of new ideas, much in the same way the Pevensie children discovered a new world at the other end of a magical …

bigmagic

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

“I believe that enjoying your work with all your heart is the only truly subversive position left to take as a creative person these days. It’s such a gangster move, because hardly anybody ever dares to speak of creative enjoyment aloud, for fear of not being taken seriously as an artist. So say it. Be the weirdo who dares to enjoy.” – Elizabeth Gilbert (Big Magic) One of the things I find unique – and remarkable – about Elizabeth Gilbert is her natural storytelling ability, not just through her books and public appearances, but most intriguingly through her social media outlets (especially Facebook). In person, before a crowd, she has the preternatural gift of making each of her listeners feel distinctly welcome to the party, but for this inclusiveness, this sense of intimacy, to be transmitted through text to millions of people across the globe all at once is nothing short of magic. “You might spend your whole life following your curiosity and have absolutely nothing to show for it at the end – except …

Mary Oliver Reads Wild Geese, Why I Wake Early, and The Summer Day

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” In celebration of National Poetry Month, I would be remiss if I didn’t spend some time with the artform. And I would, of course, gravitate toward my favorite poet, Mary Oliver, even as I’ve determined to branch out and discover some new poets this year. There’s something singular and altogether legendary about Mary Oliver and the remarkable work she creates; she’s a quiet legend, a humble legend, and her work has inspired legions of poets and seekers. There’s something inherently spiritual about her poetry, particularly when she writes about the natural world. My favorite of her poems contemplate mountains and small creatures alike, and they muse on her devotion to her own small place within a bigger, beautiful sphere of grace. One of my favorite things about her writing and her choice of themes is the way she’s able to both honestly observe her own vulnerabilities and also exercise her seemingly ceaseless sense of wonderment about all things – …

lovepoems

Richard Armitage Reads Classic Love Poems

Of all the many topics covered by the classic poets, love is a favorite of mine. The rhythmic cadences and the complexity of the emotion make for a fascinating combination; and the intimacy of the words draws up the depth of our human connection. I think to get lost in these poems in solitude is sometimes the best way to experience them; that chance to be an unseen entity looking in at the very heart of the writer. Whether it’s darkly melancholy or alight with ardent joy, whether a love-letter poem or one that tells a story, they all have a way of transporting the reader into the essence of love, and the exquisiteness of the emotion is heightened by the use of language that only few have been capable of wielding for the topic. Byron, Keats, Shelley. Even Poe was a masterfully romantic poet when he turned his eye to the subject of love. In part because I don’t consider myself a classic student of these works (and maybe just because they’re so beautifully …

emptymansions

Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.

On January 8, 1839, during the eighth US president’s time in office, William A. Clark was born in a Pennsylvania log cabin. One hundred and seventy-two years and thirty-six presidents later, his daughter Huguette would be living in reclusion in the middle of Manhattan, the century-old heiress of an unfathomable fortune rendered from copper in the time of the Civil War. It’s an extraordinary story of rags-to-riches with several lifetimes’ worth of scandal, loss, and generosity in between – a story of a remarkable family and one of American history’s greatest fortunes, both fallen into the shadows, hidden in plain sight. The breadcrumbs of this forgotten piece of social and cultural history were stumbled upon in 2009 by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bill Dedman who, when fanciful curiosity led him slightly out of his price range, came across an abandoned mansion while he was house-hunting in Connecticut. He soon discovered that the house, in a shambles but still handled by a manager, was owned by a woman who had never lived in it – a woman …

chasersofthelight

Chasers of the Light by Tyler Knott Gregson

Tyler Knott Gregson wrote the first poem in his popular typewriter series without ever knowing there would be a typewriter series. After stumbling across an old Remington typewriter in a used bookshop, he took a page from the $2 book he was purchasing and, without ceremony (without even taking a seat), he typed out a poem. What followed was a love affair between a poet and an unchangeable medium. Gregson, a born romantic and self-proclaimed “chaser of the light”, fell in love with the honesty of writing poetry on a typewriter, the solidity of the aesthetic and its inability to be edited. He first shared his poems online to viral acclaim, and now a selection of them are available in his book, Chasers of the Light. The book comprises poems Gregson has typed on found scraps of papers as well as poetry created with the blackout method (book pages blacked out to leave only stray words that together form a poem), and traditionally printed poems accompanying some of his original photography. What looks to be …