December 14, 2009

elephant reviews: Top 10…11…okay, 15… Books of 2009.

elephant journal’s Top Reads of 2009.

Last year I created a top 20 list of books to give as gifts, but I realized pretty quickly that a list of 20 was pretty overwhelming for not only me to create, but for my readers as well.  This year I made the promise that this year I would create a list of only ten books, which is a lot harder than you might think it is (as you’ll notice).

Clicking on the title of the book will take you to my review of it; the reviews also include links to places where you can order the books.

There are still several books I wanted to add, and some that are waiting for my review; I’m even going to cheat a little and add two more… make that three more… recommended books that I haven’t quite finished yet, but are so far definitely good enough to be added to the list (’cause I can do that!).

Note that a book doesn’t have to be published in 2009 in order to make the list (but it helps!!); it just means that I have to have read it in 2009.

So without further ado and in no particular order, here is my list of top ten (okay, eleven… what can I say? I’m a Spinal Tap fan) books to give as gifts this holiday season:

My Top 10 (11) Books of 2009:

1. Buddha for Beginners by Stephen T. Asma. The Buddha in a comic book?  Yes, and it’s one worth reading… don’t let the format fool you.

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  Yeah, in theory this is a “young adult novel.”  Baloney. Plenty of adults have read this book and have recommended it over and over again.  Just have tissues ready when you get to the last 50 pages.

3. Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate by Brad Warner. The inimitable Brad Warner returns to give his unique take on Zen Buddhism and how it has applied (or not) in his own life.

4. Spade and Archer by Joe Gores.  Sam Spade returns in this well-written prequel to The Maltese Falcon by an expert and devotee of Dashiell Hammett.

5. Jesus in the Lotus by Russill Paul.  A wonderful text for demonstrating the links and commonalities between Christianity and the spiritual side of yoga.

6. Buddha’s Wife by Gabriel Constans.  A fictional account of what might have transpired to Yasodhara after the Buddha left her and her son; a thought provoking “what if” tale rather than a story of women in early Buddhism.

7. Smile At Fear by Chogyam Trungpa.  The newest posthumous work from the founder of the Shambhala lineage in the United States.

8. The Complete Tassajara Cookbook by Edward Espe Brown.  I said it before and I’ll say it again: this is a must have for any cook’s shelf, vegetarian or not!

9. Mindful Teaching & Teaching Mindfulness by Deborah Shoeberlein.  If you teach anything to anyone, this is one for your collection.

10. The Child Thief by Brom.  A dark, disturbing, and well written re-imagining of J.M. Barrie’s original.

11. Yoga for a World Out of Balance: Teachings on Ethics and Social Action by Michael Stone.  Stone’s The Inner Tradition of Yoga made last year’s list; his follow up book is just as great.  Highly recommended for those looking to do more with their yoga than just stretch it out on the mat.

12. Speaking of which, I almost forgot one more… yeah, I know that makes my top 10 list a top 12, but hey, that’s why I don’t teach math, okay? Yoga in America, edited by Deborah Bernstein and Bob Weisenberg definitely needs to be added to my list of top 2009 reads.

Haven’t finished ’em yet, but recommended nonetheless (with reviews to follow soon!):

13. The Best Buddhist Writing 2009, edited by Melvin McLeod.  Once again the editors of Shambhala Sun have collected the best work from the magazine into a collection that spans the range and depth of Buddhist studies.  Includes writings from Jack Kornfield, Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hahn, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Pico Iyer and others. Update: This review is up now, too.  Here it is!

14. The Middle Way: Faith Grounded in Reason by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  An exploration and commentary of Nagarjuna’s Fundamental Stanzas on the Middle Way and Tsongkhapa’s Three Principal Aspects of the Path.

15. The Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown.  A nice companion to The Complete Tassajara Cookbook (see above) but with a focus on a wide variety of breads. Update:  The review for this book is right here.

Okay, so I didn’t exactly stick to a top ten, but hey, at least it’s not 20 this year… right… right?

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