Tiny Thought Guy Book Reviews: Page 1 - Updated Oct.1 /16

With the reviews starting to add up, I have decided to post the newest reviews at the top of this page and then move the older reviews to subsequent "Book Review" pages (usually the last page).

On this page you will find book reviews for books that I have enjoyed.  The reason I say “enjoyed” is because I will not post any books on the review pages that I did not enjoy/resonate with. This is for two main reasons:


  1. We all read things differently, we enjoy different topics, and most importantly, we need to hear messages in a way that resonates with us. Just because a book does not resonate with me, does not mean it is a “bad” book, it just means that I might not be ready for the message or that it doesn’t apply to my journey. I do not want to bias the reader of any book, so rather than put the negativity out there and potentially have you pass on a book that could be of use on your journey, I will refrain from saying anything about it.

  2. For those that have little time or desire to read my reviews, you can simply scan down the cover images and know that I liked the book. (clicking on the cover will take you to Shelfari or Goodreads where you can get more information on the book and the author)

I want to note that many of the books currently appearing on this page are older and have been on the market for some time. My desire is that people don’t pass over a book just because it is “old”, these books contain information that is timeless and relevant. I  will be adding new titles frequently, so please check back often.


** Please realize that the covers of some of these titles have changed over the years; therefore they might not be exactly as they appear at the book sellers. **

The Grace Factor - Alan Cohen
ISBN13: 9780910367035

The Grace Factor is an empowering and transformative read that stays true to the light-hearted, uplifting style that I have come to expect from Alan Cohen (have you read, “Why Your Life Sucks and What you can do about it”?).

From my perspective, the central premise of The Grace Factor is that Grace is something we are born with, it is not something that can be lost or earned. Alan does his best to REMIND us that we originate from source and that we are connected to source even if we have bought into the illusion that we are “less than.” Grace is always present, it is our birthright: we just need to reclaim it.

As Alan asserts, listening to negative influences as we go through life--so many people telling us that we need to ‘do’ or ‘be’ this or that--causes us to lose perspective and fall into fear. Contrary to this process, “Grace is the recognition that fear is the liar. Behind the oppressive illusions that keep the world enslaved in despair, we are enfolded in well-being far beyond what our mortal minds can imagine.”

Using personal stories, anecdotes and a good dose of wisdom, Alan reminds us that, “When we recognize the presence of Grace, our life ceases to be a maze and becomes amazing.”

Some of the other insights/reminders that I found profound:
If something you are doing is not working, doing more of it will not work better.”

Our culture is technologically overfed but spiritually malnourished.”

If Spirit wants anything done, it will happen, no matter the false prerequisites the human mind lays over divine possibilities.”

A mistake is not a mistake if it leads to something better.”

Perfectionism is procrastination.”

People misunderstand and misuse the Law of Attraction in three ways. First, they believe they have to huff, puff, sweat and hustle to get their thoughts up to speed to work their way into the vortex of success. ..The second way people misuse the Law of Attraction is as an excuse to beat themselves up…The third way people misuse the Law of Attraction is to micromanage the results…”

And one of my favorites:
Karma is not a burden you labor to offset. It is a belief you rise beyond.

In the end, with so many of us struggling to ‘become’ something or ‘do’ something in order to be successful/important/loved (you fill in the word), Alan Cohen does his best to remind us that this is all illusion and that we always live in Grace: we just need to let go and allow our true nature to be accepted. Or, as Alan succinctly states, “Our earthly journey is not about getting anything. It is about waking up to what we already have.
** I would also like to mention that Alan has loads of superb information on his website, as well as daily inspirational emails etc. **

The Art of Peace - Morihei Ueshiba
ISBN13: 9781585427550

Prior to discussing content, it is important to note that The Art of Peace is literally a ‘pocket book’ - with the physical dimensions being ~ 2.5x3.5x.5 inches (~ 5.5x8x1 cm). Consistent with the small physical size, the thoughts/aphorisms contained in this book, acquired ‘…from Morihei’s collected talks, poems, and calligraphy, and from oral tradition’ are also very brief – most being a sentence or two in length. Translation of the material was provided by John Stevens: a Zen scholar and Aikido instructor.

While John Stevens certainly has the background to compile The Art of Peace, as the person reviewing this book, I have NO knowledge of Aikido and no prior knowledge of the founder:  Morihei Ueshiba. That being said, at the very beginning of the book it was plain for even me to see that the essence of Morihei’s teachings are truly based on a system of harmony within that allows us to interact in a harmonious way without. “Unlike the authors of old-time warrior classics such as ‘The Art of War’ and ‘The Book of Five Rings’, which accept the inevitability of war and emphasize cunning strategy as a means to victory. Morihei understood that continued fighting – with others, with ourselves, and with the environment – will ruin the earth…. What we need now are techniques of harmony, not those of contention.”

Many of the quotes/aphorisms are profound and they inspire the reader to ponder various aspects of life in general. The wisdom is essentially timeless because the ideas are a philosophy on life, a way of living in harmony with the universe, not simply a series of techniques to throw an opponent across the room.  Indeed, the “…real way of the warrior is based on compassion, wisdom, fearlessness and love of nature.

Other ideas put forth by Morihei Ueshiba that I particularly made note of:
- ‘Life is growth. If we stop growing, technically and spiritually, we are as good as dead.’

- 'There are many paths leading to the top of Mount Fuji, but there is only one summit – love.

- 'A true warrior is invincible because he or she contests with nothing.

- 'Each day of human life contains joy and anger, pain and pleasure, darkness and light, growth and decay. Each moment is etched with nature’s grand design—do not try to deny or oppose the cosmic order of things.

 - 'ULTIMATELY, you must forget about technique. The further you progress the fewer teachings there are. The Great Path is really No Path.


As much as I enjoyed, and will certainly benefit from, reading the ideas of Morihei Ueshiba, the fact that no specific sources were provided with the individual thoughts is a disappointment. I don’t have any doubt that what John Stevens shares is accurate, it’s just that I would like to examine some of these quotes/aphorisms in context or I would like to follow the train of thought all the way to the station. On the other hand, if the intent of not providing the source information was to compel the reader to go on a journey of discovery, then I would say that the aim was successful because I will certainly be reading other books on the philosophy of Morihei Ueshiba.


In the end, if I had to sum up the essence of Morihei Ueshiba’s thoughts, as they appear in The Art of Peace, it would be thus: ‘Walk softly and carry a big stick.’
Personal Power through Awareness: A Guidebook for Sensitive People -
Sanaya Roman & Orin
ISBN13: 9780915811045

Can a book be called a classic when it is 30 years old? Written 30 years ago (where does time go?) “Personal Power through Awareness” shares ideas on personal empowerment that are as useful and relevant today as when they were written – it seems that regardless of the era we live in, many of our challenges exist independent of time or space.

The reason I also say ‘space’ is because the information that Sanaya shares comes to her during ‘channeled’ readings with a ‘gentle spirit teacher’ known as Orin. Now, before you get squeamish with the idea that the information is coming from a source outside of the physical realm, let me remind you that all of our thoughts and ideas have no definable, physical point of origin. How does a musician create new music? How does a scientist come up with a new theory? Where does your thought to watch Oprah come from? Some of the greatest minds in history have said that ideas just ‘come to them’.


So, ALL of our thoughts come from the ‘great unknown’ and the fact that Sanaya brings information from a source that she refers to as Orin has no relevance to whether or not the information is relevant to me. I would suggest that any information that improves the quality of your life, and the lives of others, is worth the time to explore/read.


Perhaps sharing some quotes from the book will help you decide if the information is of interest to you (these quotes are not random; they reflect my personal bias as to what I considered noteworthy):


- ‘Take responsibility for the thoughts and emotions you send out, for they go out into the universe and create the events and circumstances that come back to you.’

- ‘Use positive, high words when you speak to yourself, words such as EFFORTLESS, INSPIRED, and CREATIVE.’

- ‘You could not grow without challenges. Your attitude towards them either helps you go higher and grow faster, or keeps you in the dense levels longer. The more you dislike problems, the more you rebel against things not going your way, the longer your problems will stay with you.’

- ‘Symbols are, in fact, more direct and more healing than words, for they are not connected to your belief system.’

- ‘Emotions help you create reality.’

- ‘Fear is a place that has not yet discovered love.


Wisdom comes from being open to new ideas and, because we all need to hear information in a way that fits into our own internal dialogue, it is good to explore new sources of information/inspiration. And, while the information shared by Sanaya Roman in “Personal Power through Awareness” is very similar to those shared in some of the more ‘main stream’ books in the Personal Transformation/Self-help genre - books written by authors such as Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Doreen Virtue, Louise Hay etc. – her uniqueness has resonated with, and continues to resonate with, countless people searching for ideas on how to improve the quality of their lives.


**As a side note, Sanaya has written and co-authored several other wonderful books, including: “Living with Joy” and “Opening to Channel”.**
Make Your Life Worthwhile - Emmet Fox
ISBN13: 9780060629137

Originally penned in the 1940’s and reprinted numerous times since, “Make Your Life Worthwhile” was written by Dr. Emmet Fox as a follow up to his previous book, “Sparks of Truth” and it is his intention to elaborate on his belief that, “True success: happiness, peace of mind, prosperity, and real help are within the reach of all who sincerely want them…”


Rather than a book of lengthy chapters, “Make Your Life Worthwhile” shares short essays (although I did not do a precise count, it appears there are approximately 150 essays in total), only a page or two in length, which “… were published once a week over a number of years. The subjects are usually handled in a light and amusing style, and often deal with similar incidents in everyday life.”


While the information itself can likely prove beneficial to people of any faith, there are frequent references to the Bible; however, Dr. Emmet Fox seems to interpret and apply the information from the Bible in a more liberal/non-traditional manner. As an example, in the section where there are 11 short essays that deal with some of the key words in the Bible, the word “repentance” is defined as, “to change one’s mind concerning something…. Repentance does not mean grieving for past mistakes, because this is dwelling in the past, and our duties to dwell in the present and make this moment right. Worrying over past mistakes is remorse, and remorse is a sin, for it is a refusal to accept God’s forgiveness.


Given the previous definition, and the numerous other interpretations of biblical verses/words, I rather doubt that Dr. Emmet Fox would be categorized under traditional denominations and I personally do not know how he “labeled” himself, so my personal belief is that he was “spiritual.”


In order to better decide if this book is for you, here are several quotes that appear in the book:


“…we make our own world by the way in which we think; for we really do live in a world of our own thoughts.”

“Practice is the price of proficiency.”

The man who overstresses his ANCESTORS is like a potato plant–the best part of him is underground.”

Determine today that you will demonstrate health, happiness, and true success, by realizing that God is working in and through you to bring these things about; and do not, for a single second, allow the carnal mind to tell you that it cannot be done. It can be done…”

You can build any quality into your mentality by meditating upon that quality every day.”

No one has ever lived in any moment except the present. To know this is the door to freedom.”

Too often we think of our salvation as being a greater or lesser distance ahead of where we are now, whereas in reality it is right here, or nowhere.”


With these short essays, readers who are looking for lengthy discourses may be disappointed, yet if you are looking for a book that offers some profound insights into life and that can be digested in small independent chunks, the ideas shared by Dr. Emmet Fox in “Make Your Life Worthwhile” may very well be just what the doctor ordered.

Love, Animals, and Miracles: Inspiring True Stories Celebrating the Healing Bond - Bernie S. Siegel, Cynthia J. Hurn
ISBN13: 9781608683345
Although traditionally trained as a medical doctor and surgeon (for humans), Dr. Bernie Siegel has spent much of his life advocating for patient’s ability to heal themselves through lifestyle changes and increased awareness. To help create this awareness, Bernie wrote numerous books; among them: “Love, Medicine and Miracles”; “How to Live between Office Visits”; “A Book of Miracles” ; “365 Prescriptions for the Soul” and now, “Love, Animals & Miracles.”

Perhaps the last book on the list appears to be different from the others, yet it is actually very much related because research continues to show that having animal companions can greatly improve our health and well-being. However valid this connection may be though, the messages shared in “Love, Animals & Miracles” is not derived from research in a clinical setting: the essence of this book lies in the deep, spiritual connections that every animal lover has felt with their kindred furry/feathery/finned companion. Everyone who has (or had) a pet companion knows that there is a bond that exists beyond logic and explanation, a connection where these companions improve the quality of our lives in so many ways.

As Bernie so profoundly explains in the Introduction, “… animals are the teachers and messengers. They are the doctors and the nurses. They are the miracle workers, the companions, and the sources and subjects of love. They are the guileless clowns who make us laugh. They are the extraordinary guides who pass through the curtain between life and death with their consciousness, showing us the true meaning of timeless eternity” and in “Love, Animals & Miracles” you’ll not only read stories about the “Siegel Zoo”, but you will also share in the stories submitted by animal companions from all over the world.

Some of the stores are humorous and some of the stories will undoubtedly bring a tear to your eye; however, every story included in this book reminds us of the inseparable bond that can exist between any living creatures when we come from a place of love.
Talking to Heaven: A Medium's Message of Life After Death - James Van Praagh
ISBN13: 9780451191724

After many years of having ‘Talking to Heaven: a medium’s message of life after death’ sitting on the shelf, I decided that I would read James Van Praagh’s words once again, and I am glad that I did because I re-discovered many things that I had forgotten about the world of mediumship and life after death.

While James Van Praagh might not have been the first medium to share his experiences and beliefs about death, dying, and the afterlife, I don’t believe that any of his predecessors had their books go to number one on the New York Times bestseller list, nor did they have their own weekly TV program dealing with the subject or provide their expertise to a popular Hollywood TV production (Ghost Whisperer).

With a great deal of introspection and uplifting perspective, Talking to Heaven shares James Van Praagh’s personal story and what led him to becoming a medium, how the process of mediumship works and there are numerous, specific readings that James conducted with people who wanted contact with departed loved ones. However, regardless of how interesting and pertinent the historical information is to the reader, I believe that the greatest benefit is the comfort that this book bestows on those open to the idea that life does not end with our physical death.
Through his compassionate sharing, James ensures that the reader is better equipped to deal with the inevitable loss of a loved one, whether human or animal, and their own mortality.

Included in the discussion are many other self-empowering ideas, such as following:
• ‘Every day we experience things that cannot be explained. Some refer to these experiences as coincidences, accidents, or sheer luck. There is no such thing!’
• ‘Will the passing of a loved one be valuable to them in their spiritual growth? We cannot understand these things with our rational minds because these matters are of a spiritual nature.
• ‘All of life is about learning from our experiences.’
• ‘I don’t believe that God is a figure in space looking down on us. And while there have been many who have represented the great Light of God in human form, the same God spark that was in them is in each one of us. God is my light, your light, and everyone else has this same light too.’
• ‘Your mental thoughts are real, and they have a direct result of how you feel. Therefore, always try as best you can to keep a positive outlook on life.’

If these concepts resonate with you, if you are interested in learning more about the life of a prominent medium, or if you are seeking comfort in dealing with the loss of a loved one, then you will certainly enjoy and benefit from ‘Talking to Heaven.’

**A personal note, having observed James Van Praagh at live events, and having had a personal reading with James, I can attest to the fact that he is able to share information that defies logic and could not have been obtained from any physically available source. I believe that James uses his talents to bring comfort to those in grief and to bring awareness to those who are willing to see beyond the physical world.**
It's the Thought That Counts: Why Mind Over Matter Really Works - David Hamilton
ISBN13: 9781401921477
Originally intrigued by the placebo effect while working as a scientist in the pharmaceutical industry, David Hamilton began a personal journey into how it was that people were being healed when they weren’t actually receiving any real medication. David realized, as many others throughout history have advocated: our thoughts are powerful forces in shaping our reality and destiny.

Having realized the connection between our thoughts and our physical reality, the author fills the pages of ‘it’s the thought that counts’ with his life experiences and numerous scientific discoveries that ultimately allow the reader to improve their lives by making them aware of their inherent power. In David’s own words, “This book describes how our thoughts and feelings, ideas and beliefs, and hopes and dreams alter the condition of our bodies, the circumstances of our lives, and even the state of the world.

The message that David shares is conveyed in a format that is straight forward and easily understood and yet he still provides sufficient ‘scientific truth’ to make the ideas credible. A small sampling of quotes from ‘it’s the thought that counts’ that I found illuminating:


  1. Thoughts of care and compassion can induce changes in the immune system because they cause the production of neuropeptides that light up the receptors found on some immune cells, thereby switching them on.”
  2. The latest scientific discoveries are revealing that every thought and feeling we ever have is expressed throughout our bodies.
  3. When a person is highly motivated, genes switch on, brain cells grow, and proteins are manufactured so that the person begins to evolve into the image of themselves that they are striving to become.”
  4. You probably haven’t considered it, but every word you speak, on account of its vibration, affects your body and affects the body of any person hearing it.
  5. We are now recognizing that even DNA, the building block of life and holder of the genetic code, dances to the tune of the mind.”
  6. Just as steam or hot water can be used to sculpt ice, so thoughts and feelings may sculpt atoms and molecules…”

For those wanting more detailed/evidential information on these ideas, the reference section at the back of the book is quite extensive, at over 22 pages in length, and there are also numerous books listed in the ‘Further Reading’ section.


Overall, I found ‘it’s the thought that counts’ to be a perfect blend of the ‘spiritual and ‘scientific’ and I found it to be a very objective and modern exploration of the age old idea that our thoughts have incredible power in shaping our lives. 

A Survival Guide for Life: How to Achieve Your Goals, Thrive in Adversity, and Grow in Character - Bear Grylls
ISBN13: 9780062271952

For those familiar with the action packed and educational television programs “Get out Alive” and “Man vs. Wild”, you will be familiar with the name Bear Grylls; however, you might find that the content of this book, ‘A Survival Guide for Life’ is not what you might expect. This is not a ‘survival’ guide that educates the reader on the physical aspects of survival – there are no techniques on how to build a fire, secure shelter, read animal tracks, or where to find food in the wilderness – this book is a self-help/philosophical/ spiritual book on how to deal with the everyday challenges that we all deal with on a day-to-day basis.

 

Essentially, Bear Grylls uses his life experiences and stories to convey 75 life-affirming suggestions/rules that he incorporates into his life journey. A few of the 75 ideas he shares are:

  1. There is no education like adversity.”
  2. Chase the goal, not the money.”
  3. Don’t listen to the dream-stealers.”
  4. How you speak about others speaks loudest about yourself.”
  5. Tentative is no power.”
  6. Every time you surprise yourself, you inspire yourself.”

 

Certainly, readers of ‘A Survival Guide for Life’ might already be familiar with some, or many, of the ideas that Bear uses to guide his life, yet he presents the ideas from a perspective that comes from his unique, and often harrowing, experiences. I can guarantee that nobody in the self-help/personal transformation genre has gone through as many life threatening and demanding experiences as this author.

Additionally, while many of us are already with the age-old adages like: “Do unto others…”, “Know thyself”, “Honor the journey” etc., how many can actually say that they incorporate these ideas into their daily lives? The point is, we may have heard a concept before, but because we all resonate with different words and experiences, hearing it from somebody who has endured physical and mental stress far beyond what most of us will face in our lives might just be the force glue that finally makes the ideas sink in.

 

This book is formatted in such a way that the reader can open to any of the 75 ideas and understand it without having read any of the previous material. The main theme is written in massive font on a single page and is then followed by a page or two of information that generally incorporates one of Bear’s life experiences.

 

I can also say that I enjoyed this book because Bear’s exuberance and positivity just radiate from the pages. This is a very upbeat and life-affirming book and whether you are familiar with Bear Grylls or not, I believe that the words and wisdom in ‘A Survival Guide for Life’ are universal and can be enjoyed by all.

Living Without Fear - Ernest Holmes
ISBN13: 9781585428137

While I enjoyed, and learned a great deal from, “Living without Fear”, I think the title might be a little misleading because this book only discusses the topic of ‘fear’ indirectly – as a byproduct of not understanding our connection to the Universal/Source/Divine/God (insert whatever word you prefer, they are used interchangeably within this book). By giving our power away to another person/entity we can become fearful in our powerlessness; therefore, Ernest focuses his writing on re-affirming our own inherent power: power derived from being a part of the Universal source rather than merely a servant of it.


In other words, when we are in a state of fear the way to overcome that situation is not to beseech, beg or bribe an external power for help, but rather, as Ernest Holmes suggests, we should accept that we are one with the higher power and work with that power through a ‘spiritual mind treatment’ to resolve the challenges we face. A ‘spiritual mind treatment’ is, “…based on the theory that we are surrounded by a universal Law—a creative medium which is receptive to our thought and acts upon it automatically in an intelligent manner.” Furthermore, “We do not change the nature of Reality through prayer, and it would be superstitious to suppose that we do or can. But, through prayer and meditation we enter into the nature of Reality and partake of this nature.”

If you are someone who believes that we are separate from the Universal Source or that the Universal Source is a distinct entity that needs appeasement, then it is likely that this book will not be to your liking (nor would anything else written by Ernest Holmes); however, if you can relate to statements such as:

Man is a spiritual being, using the Law of Mind, living in a world of objective form, and being surrounded by an unfoldment in his experience which is the counterpart of his persistent pattern of thought.”


“…the Law of Cause and Effect governs everything… There is nothing which can hinder Law from working. It is never a question of how much the Law will work, but always how well we can use It. We can constructively use It to the degree our thought and belief will let us, no farther, but always as far.”


Thoughts are things.”


We must learn that we can transcend our previous experiences; that we are bigger than we know; that beyond the finite is the Infinite.”


It is impossible to separate the mental from the spiritual.”


Just as there are laws of matter, so there are laws of mind, for what is true on one plane is true on all… If certain factors in physics produce certain results, then certain mental factors will produce certain results.”


then you will resonate with the rest of the ideas discussed in “Living without Fear.


If you are looking to learn more about the specific topic of ‘fear’ in its many forms and manifestations, there are some other wonderful books that you might consider, including: Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, ‘Fear’, Susan Jeffers books, ‘Feel the Fear and do it Anyway’ and ‘Feel the Fear …and Beyond.’

Don't Let Anything Dull Your Sparkle: How to Break Free of Negativity and Drama
- Doreen Virtue
ISBN13: 9781401946272

While usually recognized for one of her many books, or card decks, related to angels, Doreen Virtue’s latest book, “Don’t Let Anything Dull Your Sparkle”, uses a blend of her personal wisdom and her formal education (she has various degrees in counseling psychology) to help people ‘break free of negativity and drama’ in their personal lives and in their relationships.

I think it is important to say that this book is not written like a psychology textbook or like a speech from the Dr.’s office, rather Doreen communicates on a heart level that makes it easy for the reader to understand the negative consequences that drama has in our lives and the consequences if we don’t deal with it. In her words, “Drama, a secondary pattern following trauma, is a form of self-sabotage and self-punishment that is highly addictive.” 

The premise is that when we have a traumatic experience in life, and the definition of a ‘traumatic experience’ will vary from person to person, our brain produces chemicals to help us deal with the trauma; however, if we don’t deal effectively with the experience the potential is there for us to become addicted to these chemicals. “Our brains are remarkable, ingeniously creating chemicals to insulate and protect us from pain. The trouble is, some of these brain chemicals feel so good that they become addictive.” The addiction to these chemicals then causes us to seek out other situations, forms of entertainment, relationships etc. that stress us out and give us a chemical cocktail high that will eventually cause us physical harm. This trauma-drama process, and a quick and easy questionnaire to help the reader determine their ‘drama quotient’, are all discussed in the first section of the book.

In the second section of “Don’t Let Anything Dull Your Sparkle” Doreen shares numerous ways in which we can return to health and ‘regain our sparkle.’ Specifically, Doreen gives us: ways to reduce stress, information on foods that assist in the healing process, ideas on creating a healthier living environment, natural ways to deal with depression and anxiety, and some surprising information about yoga and how certain forms/types of yoga can actually hinder our health.

The third section of the book deals specifically with regaining our sparkle as we interact with others: whether it is family, friends or co-workers. With so many of the people in our society being addicted to drama we need to ensure that we are in nurturing environments, or that we develop the skills to deal with adverse relationships and not get caught up in destructive patterns.

Regardless of the level of trauma we have experienced in life, all three sections in “Don’t Let Anything Dull Your Sparkle” provide lots of useful and life-improving information. Even if the reader doesn’t feel that they have personally experienced trauma themselves, this book will help the reader gain an understanding of why somebody in their life might be behaving in a self-destructive manner. In other words, this is a powerful book because it can help the reader heal themselves or it can help the reader be more aware and empathetic to the struggles of the people around them.

If the information in this book is not sufficient for the reader, or for those wishing to get more detailed information about some of the studies mentioned by Doreen, there is an extensive bibliography provided as well.

As a closing remark, I want to restate that this book is not one of those ‘heavy’, hard-to-read, self-help books. Doreen Virtue’s uplifting writing style and her lively, sparkly personality very much shines through on these pages and it is very apparent that she is using her own challenges as a foundation for helping people overcome the trauma-drama in their lives. Even if you aren’t dealing with any issues personally, I believe that there will be somebody in your life that will benefit from the words in this book.

Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story - Arnold Schwarzenegger
ISBN13: 9781451662436

With a great deal of humor and honesty, the “Austrian Oak” shares the story of his life, from his humble beginnings in a tiny Austrian village, to the time when he left political office in 2011.

Personally, I couldn’t care what political party Arnold is affiliated with, and I certainly am not willing to make judgments about his time in office, nor his decisions around his marriage: I wanted to read “Total Recall” because I am always interested in the stories that successful people (in my eyes) have to share.

And, with even a brief glance at Arnold’s history, I think most people would say he has achieved success in his endeavors. He was born in a very small Austrian village during a famine and, in spite of the lack of food with the high nutritional content generally needed for bodybuilders, he was Mr. Universe by the age of 21. Growing up in a German speaking country with very little formal English training he won a Golden Globe Award for his acting debut and he went on to become one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Arnold was a millionaire from his shrewd business ventures by the time he was in his early 30’s and he used that knowledge to become the Governor of the world’s seventh largest economy. After his term in office he has now transitioned back into a successful movie career without pause (this is not covered in the book, but is evident from all the times his name is appearing on the marquee once again).

Not only are Mr. Schwarzenegger’s achievements of note, his entertaining personality also shines through in his writing, making for an easy and fun read (granted I did skip through numerous pages when he was discussing the political arena). Furthermore, I believe that his diverse experiences have also given him a keen insight that allows him to relate to people from very diverse demographics: not in a smarmy used cars salesman kind of way, but with a genuine interest to listen and learn.  My belief was reinforced when I arrived at the last, and my favorite,  chapter in the book, “Arnold’s Rules.”

Although much of Arnold’s personal views and philosophy are part of the entire book, in the “Arnold’s Rules” section we get a summary of Arnold’s principles of success and a brief discussion on each. Although Mr. Schwarzenegger presents 10 of them, the ones that I was most partial to were:

Turn your liabilities into assets.”

Never let pride get in your way.”

Never follow the crowd, go where it is empty.”

Don’t overthink.”

There were also some quotes that I was fond of:

The only way to make the possible possible is to try the impossible. If you fail, so what?”

Sometimes it is not always obvious what to celebrate. Sometimes you have to appreciate the very people and circumstances that traumatized you.”

Memoirs are about looking back, but I have lived my life by the opposite principle…I’d rather do a project or make another movie and learn from looking forward.”


Indeed, with so many diverse achievements behind him, and even with Arnold’s seamless transition back into Hollywood, it seems difficult to predict in what area of life we will next see Arnold Schwarzenegger’s name in lights; however, if the past is any indication, I am certain that it will be an entertaining and successful endeavor – just like, “Total Recall: my unbelievably true life story.”
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Time - Pema Chödrön
ISBN13: 9781570623448
As with books written by Thich Nhat Hanh and The Dalai Lama, Pema Chodron writes with a loving and gentle style. This book, “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times” incorporates sage advice from traditional Buddhist teachings and blends it with Pema’s personal wisdom and insights from her own journey. Although there are too many profound ideas to share here, if I were to pick seven that I really resonate with, it would be these:

This very moment is the perfect teacher.”

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again in full apart again.

Scrambling for security has never brought anything but momentary joy.”

…making friends with our own demons and their accompanying insecurity leads to a very simple, understated relaxation and joy.”

We can use a difficult situation to encourage ourselves to take a leap, to step out into that ambiguity.”

When we protect ourselves so we won’t feel pain, that protection becomes like armor, like armor that imprisons the softness of the heart.”

And one that I have already written on an index card,
Every day, at the moment when things get edgy, we can just ask ourselves, ‘Am I going to practice peace or am I going to war?’”

Pema also shares a term early in the book that I was unfamiliar with and whose absence from the English language I find unfortunate: that word is ‘maitri’ and the meaning is, “loving-kindness toward oneself.” I say that the lack of such a word is ‘unfortunate’ because if we had such a word maybe we would also be more aware of its power to improve people’s lives. I would suggest that the lack of ‘maitri’ in the world is one of the predominant causes of conflict and by having more loving-kindness for ourselves we would have more to share with others.

Related to the subject of conflict is, of course, suffering and the author shares a Buddhist method of dealing with suffering called, ‘Tonglen.’ According to Pema, “Tonglen practice is a method for connecting with suffering–our own and that which is all around us, everywhere we go. It is a method for overcoming our spirit of suffering and for dissolving tightness of our hearts.” From a practical approach, ‘Tonglen’ is a breathing or meditation practice that helps us move through suffering: either our own or that of others in the world. As Pema lays it out, it seems to be a very practical approach that is universally applicable and easily implemented.

One final observation from reading, “When Things Fall Apart” is that Pema Chodron frequently uses the word ‘dissolves/dissolving’ which is a word that I also very much resonate with. As I see it, that which we struggle against we empower; therefore, to truly overcome an obstacle we need to find a means to overcome it without resistance and ‘dissolving’ an obstacle is, in my mind, the perfect process to achieve this. In other words, rather than fighting against something, we simply incorporate that something into a process of growth and expansion thereby nullifying its power over us. While Pema doesn’t explicitly delve into the concept, ‘dissolving’ it is a prominent theme throughout the book and I would suggest that it is an important method to deal with challenges when things fall apart.
God Spelled Backwards: (The Journey of an Actress Into the World of Dog Rescue) - Sylva Kelegian
ISBN13: 9781493143795
I am so grateful that people like Sylva Kelegian are out there looking after our fury companions.

In Sylva Kelegian’s book, “God Spelled Backwards: The Journey of an Actress Into the World of Dog Rescue” we are given a glimpse into her personal life and, predominantly, into her journey as a rescuer of dogs. This book is well written, interesting and inspirational and the resource section at the end of the book - a listing of resources and a list of things that people should do when trying to rescue a dog – is invaluable.

This book is not condescending or preachy and it does a wonderful job illustrating the trials and tribulations of those people who are passionate about animal rescue. Indeed, while Sylva has done so much to just bring awareness to the plight of the abandoned and neglected dogs in this world, and she has been able to save over 500 dogs from neglect, she also acknowledges that there is so much more than can be, and needs to be, done to protect our companions.

If you are a lover of animals you will find this book heartwarming and sometimes tear-jerking, but always passionate and inspiring. I say “Thank you” to you and to the rest of you who are taking care of our kindred companions. Namaste.

The Power of Compassion: A Collection of Lectures by His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama
- Dalai Lama XIV
 ISBN13: 9780722532102

While not found on the cover, the subtitle of “The Power of Compassion” is, “A Collection of Lectures by His Holiness The XIV Dalai Lama” and this adds some clarity to the content of the book because the book is not exclusively related to the subject of compassion. While the Dalai Lama exudes compassion throughout “The Power of Compassion” and, while compassion may be the thread that connects the discussions in this book, there are essentially six main topics (broken into distinct chapters) that this book focuses on:


  1. Contentment, Joy and Living Well
  2. Facing Death and Dying Well
  3. Dealing with Anger and Emotion
  4. Giving and Receiving: A Practical Way of Directing Love and Compassion
  5. Interdependence, Inter-connectedness and the nature of Reality
  6. The Challenge for Humanity: An Interfaith Address


and there is a seventh chapter that presents a series of questions and answers.


Of course, these discussions come from a Buddhist perspective; however, the Dalai Lama also seems to use a great deal of common sense when exploring these ideas. Indeed, the Dalai Lama even says that, “…in Buddhism, greater emphasis is given to reason and intelligence than faith.” Having very little knowledge of the Buddhist philosophy, this came as a surprise to me.


Another aspect of Buddhism that I found surprising was how it seems to evolve and incorporate new ideas as society changes,

I think it is quite important to be able to make a distinction between what I call the ‘core’ and ‘essence’ of religious teachings and the cultural aspects of the particular tradition. What I would call the ‘essence’ or ‘core’ of religious traditions are the basic religious messages, such as the principles of love, compassion and so forth, which always retain the relevance and importance, irrespective of time and circumstances. But as time changes, the cultural context changes, and I think it is important for the followers of religious traditions to be able to make the necessary changes that would reflect the particular concerns of their time and culture.”


Furthermore, the discussion around ‘Interdependence, Inter-Connectedness, and the Nature of Reality’ might very much read like a section straight out of a modern textbook in physics rather than Scriptures from hundreds of years ago. 


While this aforementioned, fifth chapter of the book provided for a challenging read, I also find that my layman’s knowledge of Buddhism was a hindrance when trying to grasp the many precepts that entered into the discussion. Principles such as: the Four Noble Truths, the Four Powers, the Three Jewels, the Ten Negative Actions etc. are all absolutely foreign to me. I assume, even though I prefer not to make assumptions, that readers who are better versed on Buddhist traditions and texts would derive far more benefit from these specific discussions that I was able to.


In general though, I would say that, in spite of my limited knowledge, I felt that there were some profound insights in “The Power of Compassion” and my life will be improved from having read them.

Stop Your Sh*t Shoveling: Why Your Life Is in the Toilet and What You Can Do about It - Carl A. Hammerschlag
ISBN13: 9781889166407
This book, “Stop Your Sh*t Shoveling” is perfect proof that you don’t need hundreds of pages of dialogue to make a book useful.At 48 pages in length, Carl Hammerschlag, a world renown psychiatrist and healer, makes his points quickly, directly and, as you have likely guessed from the title of the book, without candy-coating. That being said, Carl also uses substantial doses of humor to hammer home his point (pun intended).

For those that might not be familiar with sh*t shovelers, Carl categorizes them into two levels, with level 1 being, “…the people who occasionally spend time complaining about people/situations/behaviours that give them pain and heartache but always manage to put up with it.” Those on level two are those “people who are getting a PhD (Piled Higher and Deeper) in shoveling. They’re the folks you know who endlessly tell you, year after year, about their crummy marriage, traumatic childhood, or the tragedy that happened ten years ago, maybe twenty….Chronic Shit Shovelers continue to spread it around, toss it back and forth, but never do the transformational work required to create lasting change in their lives.”

Of course it is ironic that we can usually recognize the shovelers around us, yet, like vampires, a mirror has a tendency to make them vanish. Therefore, if you are having a hard time recognizing a sh*t shoveler, Carl provides a quick and easy 7-point, self-examination to help you determine how big your shovel is.

Of course it isn’t all gloomy, and there is hope for those who are truly tired of shoveling. If you have arrived at a point in life when you realize that the best way to get out of the hole is to stop shoveling then are some ideas that will help you and then you realize that, “If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do you no harm.”

The overall message behind this book is that while we all have challenges in our lives, they are compounded by us holding onto them and dealing with these issues doesn’t have to be a long, complicated process. As Carl so aptly says, it is about, “putting down the shovels and moving away from the piles.” So, if you’re up to your neck in some stinky stuff and it is piling up faster than you can shovel it, maybe it’s not years of therapy you need, but rather a 48 page book written by Carl Hammerschlag.
Notes to the Future: The Authorized Book of Selected Quotations - Nelson Mandela
ISBN13: 9781451675399
Just think, it wasn't that long ago that even quoting Nelson Manela was a crime!

This book, “Notes to the Future” is an authoritative collection of Nelson Mandela’s ‘most inspiring and historically important quotations.’ The reader is provided with wisdom and insights derived from Nelson Mandela’s public speeches, interviews and even his personal letters to friends and family. The quotes are dated from the time before his incarceration, up until the start of the new millennium, and they are arranged into four central themes: 


Struggle”; “Victory”; “Wisdom”; “Future”; with these themes then being broken down into categories/sub-themes - generally consisting of between two and seven quotes. 


While it would impractical to list all of the profound insights that the reader will find in “Notes to the Future”, a few of them are:

Our differences are our strength as a species and as a world community.”


We should never forget those on whose shoulders we stand and those who paid the supreme price for freedom.”


It is in the character of growth that we should learn from both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.”


It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”


No single person, no body of opinion, no political doctrine, no religious doctrine can claim a monopoly on truth.”


In addition to these specific quotes, “Notes to the Future” contains another 300+ quotes, all dated and sourced.


The final few pages of the book are dedicated to Nelson Mandela’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1993 and, just so that the reader is aware, Nelson Mandela’s biographical information is limited to the information gleaned from the quotes themselves and the brief introduction by Desmond Tutu.