This morning I closed my eyes and asked myself to think of what words I associated with summer. Without the baggage of complete sentences these words surfaced: innocence, silence, an uncluttered life.
In a desperate attempt to carve out a little island of “innocence, silence, and uncluttered space” I made a special row of books between two bright-red bookends, with five books I wanted to read. If I did have such a spacious summer, what words would I want to have parachute into that space?
I won’t have a silent, uncluttered summer. But I did resolve to read in the early morning, quietly, when my mind is fresh—little “pockets” of summer. And to give myself time to nurture what I call a second innocence: the willingness to say yes, to begin again, to trust, to risk.
Here are the books I chose for my summer reading list:
Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in Challenging Times by Paul Rogat Loeb
Soul of a Citizen overflows with evocative stories of people who lived their lives with conviction—who acted on a calling. I’ve read this book before, but feel a strong desire to re-read it as I prepare for the outreach phase of my book, Ocean Country. We often think of people who’ve lived with conviction—such Rosa Parks or Robert F. Kennedy—as superheros. But what if you don’t feel like a superhero? How do you live? This book has innumerable answers.
The Naked Voice: Transforming Your Life through the Power of Sound by Cloe Goodchild
In the end of Ocean Country one phrase summed up so much of how my life had changed. Going forward I feel that how I live is in large part in response to one question: What if I lived as if my voice mattered? Goodchild’s book explores the physical and psychological relationships one has with one’s voice and how you can make your true self, your inner voice, audible. And in doing that you may discover the “song of your life”—which is often a calling.
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins
I’ve spent a lot of time recently documenting environmental devastation and human suffering. I’m ready for some serious nuts-and-bolts ideas about how to transform our economy and I’m convinced we need to do that to have a more sustainable and just civilization. Natural Capitalism presents one of the most compelling visions for migrating to a more ecologically responsible and equitable economy.
The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance, by William McDonough and Michael Braungart
The Upcycle, takes sustainability to a new level. Instead of just thinking of reusing and recycling products, it proposes designing buildings, manufacturing chains, and energy-generation technologies that not only minimize their footprint, but improve the environment. It takes the sustainability mantra “try not to do too much damage” a step further: “let’s help heal the natural world.”
River Flow: New & Selected Poems, by David Whyte
No summer is complete without poetry. Whyte’s poetry speaks of nature and the human condition with haunting, understated profundity. Just for fun, I just cracked the book open to “any place” to see what quote might pop up. Here’s what I saw—a few lines from the poem “Ten Years Later”:
Innocence is what we allow
to be gifted back to us
once we’ve given ourselves away.