“Hope in the Dark” by Rebecca Solnit

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Subtitle: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities

Recommended to me by: reading Rebecca Solnit’s essay “Men Explain Things to Me”, and also Haymarket Books was giving away free copies of the ebook on the occasion of the November 2016 election results

I rarely read ebooks. I prefer to hold the book in my hands and have a physical context for what I’m reading and how much is left. Ebooks feel disorientingly abstract. I put this one on my phone and have been reading it in little bits when I wait for an appointment or ride a bus. The book is a series of short chapters and essays, linked together.

Oddly (for a professional publisher) Haymarket Books used an irritating variable font so that letter size and style varies within words, and they also tagged the book repeatedly with my name and email address. I guess they wanted to make really sure I didn’t share the book with anyone, but what they did is distract me while I was reading and repeatedly remind me not to buy any ebooks from Haymarket Books.

Format issues aside, “Hope in the Dark” is an affirming, well-researched, engagingly written anodyne for the current political situation. It was written on the occasion of Bush’s contested election in 2004, and the problems and dynamics then sound remarkably like the current disasters (except Bush wasn’t, as far as we know, in league with a foreign government).

Solnit talks about how powerful entities in the limelight look immovable, but ideas and movements at the edges, on the margins, in the shadows engender change. We forget our victories because they look like they’ve always been that way, and also because those in power want us to forget and despair. Victories build slowly, happen partially, arise suddenly from years of background work.

Activist movements that practice what they want to see in the world (consensus, equity, respect for all) are already winning even if the current battle is lost. Living the way we want to live *is* activism. Distributed movements that share strategies globally but meet and act locally are finding more and more success.

I found support here for living the way I want to live. I also found urging to reach out, connect with local groups, act! The last essay is about climate change and its urgency. Hope is the determination to keep working toward the world we want to live in, non-violently, non-idealogically, peacefully, cooperatively, joyously.

Highly recommended for anyone distressed by current politics.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“Healing Trauma” by Peter A. Levine, PhD.

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Subtitle: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body

Recommended to me by: a client

This is a practical, applied introduction to Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing work. After an introductory summary, he presents 12 exercises, starting with body awareness and grounding, continuing with awareness of felt senses in the body, and then moving into completion of fight, flight, and freeze responses. He includes orienting to a sense of normalcy and balance that may be new and unfamiliar. The approach is gentle, accepting, and warm.

A CD is included where he reads the exercises. It’s not really a guided meditation, because, for example, he says, “Tap your left hand … (notice, etc.), okay now move through the rest of the body.”

The exercises aren’t quite in the order I would present them, since starting with body awareness might be challenging for many people. I would start with grounding and resources first.

Recommended for people who want to tools to work with their own trauma, and/or who want to understand the nuts and bolts of Somatic Experiencing.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“EPUB Straight to the Point” by Elizabeth Castro

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Subtitle: Creating ebooks for the Apple iPad and other ereaders

Recommended to me by: Finding it at the library

Creating an epub ebook from an InDesign print book file involves a whole lot of hidden settings and mysterious outcomes. I read a lot of blog posts, and this book was also helpful in getting the details squared away. It has step by step instructions for creating an epub ebook from Word and InDesign, and then further step by step instructions for editing the epub directly to refine the results. Since I learned HTML before CSS was a thing, and epub uses CSS, this was helpful to get oriented. It’s from 2011, but still useful.

It has some iPad-specific details, like a list of the fonts it supports and previews of each.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“The Thirteen Clocks” by James Thurber

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Recommended to me by: My college roommate

In times of extreme stress, my college roommate gathered a group of us together and read aloud this delightful, illustrated, untraditional fairytale. She tracked down a used copy for me, and it is one of my treasured possessions.

As an antidote to extreme election anxiety, I read the story aloud recently over a couple of evenings. The lyrical language and satisfying conclusion are still soothing all these years later.

I would like a Golux to fix the election please.

Back in print! Available at Powell’s Books.

“Summerlong” by Peter Beagle

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Recommended to me by: It’s by Peter Beagle!

This book is about relationships between real, complicated people, enfolded in Peter Beagle’s usual shining language and richly detailed settings, this time in Seattle. Like the people in his older book “The Folk of the Air,” they interact with the numinous, and suffer for it. I got mad and almost stopped reading when the people hurt each other, and I’m still muttering about the ending. The book as a whole is wonderful.

Peter Beagle’s essay about writing the book.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“The Art of Healing from Sexual Trauma” by Naomi Ardea

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Subtitle: Tending Body and Soul through Creativity, Nature, and Intuition

Recommended to me by: Robyn Posin

As I started reading, I was relieved to discover that Naomi Ardea has thoughtfully structured her book so that it is inviting rather than overwhelming. Stories about her healing process are interspersed with her abstract paintings, peaceful nature photographs, and practical healing tools. The book feels spacious, gentle, respectful.

She calls out minimizing language around abuse, strongly naming its destructive effects. She affirms our right to feel all our emotions. She details how we get caught up in self-blame, and offers tools to lift it away. We get glimpses of the hard parts of her process, including healing her sexuality, and the tools she uses to manage difficult times, including time with forests and flowing water. Her healing is body-centered, naming sensations and being with them.

I felt comforted by the parts of her process that are similar to mine – the murky confusion that only slowly yields to clear narratives, the difficulties in finding compassionate practitioners, the sense of having to regrow boundaries from the ground up. I felt curious about the differences – her use of essential oils, and EMDR, and expressive finger painting.

I highly recommend this book for survivors and anyone who works with survivors. It bears witness to the possibility of healing while naming the daily difficult work it requires, and shares practical tools to smooth the reader’s path.

Book excerpt showing the spacious layout and full color photos and paintings.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“The Spell of the Sensuous” by David Abram

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Subtitle: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World

Recommended to me by: David Mitchell

David Abram is both a sleight-of-hand magician, concerned with perception and connection, and a philosopher, concerned with insubstantial ideas. Traveling as a sleight-of-hand magician, he got to know indigenous magicians in Indonesia, Nepal, and the Americas. With them, he learned to pay attention to the immediate world of the senses.

This book is a mix of sumptuous sensuous tangible descriptions, and poorly supported abstract ideas. I loved the former, and grumpily argued with the latter as I read. He claims that the alphabet divided us from our immediate participation in the natural world. In the coda, he says that even he doesn’t really believe that; it was just a starting point for discussion.

Yes, we humans are part of the world, not divided from it. Attending to our senses, to the wide, breathing present, nourishes us. Everything is equally alive, equally valid and valuable. Indigenous ways integrate with the world in a sustainable way. Each community’s stories convey urgently useful information about how to thrive in their specific place and time.

This book bridges the abstract world of philosophy with the sensuous world that indigenous peoples have inhabited all along. It casually elides all mention of privilege based on gender, race, wealth, and power. Published in 1996, it changed the conversation about ecology and sustainability.

Recommended as food for thought about how you want to connect with the world around you.

Book excerpt.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“Unintentional Music” by Lane Arye

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Subtitle: Releasing Your Deepest Creativity

Recommended to me by: a friend

This is a wonderful introduction to Process Work via making music.

There is the primary signal – the music we want to make – and the secondary signals – all the mistakes, hesitations, and imperfections that pop up despite our best efforts. Lane Arye recommends emphasizing a secondary signal and seeing what happens. Probably, another secondary signal will emerge.

Following the chain of secondary signals can lead directly to core issues and allow them to change. It can lead organically to more effective technique. It can connect us to what our spirit wants to express.

Highly recommended if you make music or art or want to learn about Process Work in a playful way.

The introduction and first chapter are available on Lane Arye’s website.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“The Non-Designer’s InDesign Book” by Robin Williams

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Subtitle: Essential design techniques for print projects

Recommended to me by: Finding it at the library

I’m formatting my book with Adobe InDesign. While it does work to do a web search to find out how to do things like add more pages to the book, or move a title farther down the page, I decided I wanted more of an overview of the whole program and its features.

A friend suggested checking a book out of the library. This was perfect, because I could check out several books and see which one I liked, and since I have an older version of the program, older books were just right.

This book won because it is inviting, clear, direct, and brief. The design examples are varied and interesting (not all for sports and bars). Some of the examples are even from “Mothering Magazine”! While Robin doesn’t address book projects, the aesthetics and attention to detail in her examples fit in with how I work. Not only am I happy to support a woman author of a technical book, I feel more at home reading her book.

Highly recommended if you need to wrestle with InDesign CS5. I got her Photoshop book too, and I’m looking forward to reading that next, to work on the book cover and interior illustrations.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“Walking with Ramona” by Laura O. Foster

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Subtitle: Exploring Beverly Cleary’s Portland

A 3 mile walking tour of Beverly Cleary’s neighborhood, starting at the statues of Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins and Ribsy at Grant Park. The directions are easy to follow and the information is carefully researched and entertainingly presented. The neighborhood itself is full of gorgeous old houses and a quirky commercial center.

The only downside is photo captions set on the photos themselves, rather than on the white part of the page where they would be easier to read.

Recommended if you want to learn more about the Hollywood district in Portland now or back in the 30’s.

Available at Powell’s Books.