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Newsletter Number 28 • February 13, 2007

Books

February is the shortest month, and has never been my favorite month. Growing up in Revere, Massachusetts I remember bitter cold days and huge snowstorms. The most redeeming quality of February was that the days were finally getting longer and spring was on the horizon. February has never been a lucky month for me, whether I was gambling at a racetrack or speculating in the markets.

However, February is the month of love, since we celebrate Valentine’s day, and love is really what life is all about. So I hope everyone will have a February that is warmed by the heat of love.

As I enter this February I am deep in nostalgia, thank to two books I have recently read.

The first, The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson is his memoir of growing up in the 50’s in Des Moines, Iowa. The fifties were certainly a very different era, and at that time I believe America was much more homogenous, and his experiences of growing up in an Iowa suburb were very similar to mine growing up in a Boston suburb, or yours growing up anywhere else in suburban America. Bryson is a fantastic observer of his time and environment and an extremely talented and humorous writer. I rarely laugh out loud when I read a book, but this book had me chuckling over and over again. If you are a “boomer” this is a must read. You will re-live many of your childhood experiences, dreams, and fantasies. Since this book was recommended to me by my 27 year old son, Sam, I feel reasonably confident that anyone from any generation would find this book informative and extremely entertaining. This is one of those rare books I read that when I got to the last page I wished it was twice as long. Quite simply said, I loved this book!! I rarely quote blurbs off the book jacket, but I think the quote from the San Francisco Examiner perfectly catches the spirit of this book: “Bryson writes about … America in a way that’s both trenchantly observant and pound-on-the-floor, snort-root-beer-out-of-your-nose funny.”

Let Me Tell You a Story: A lifetime in the Game, by John Feinstein & Red Auerbach is the story of the greatest basketball coach who ever lived. (OK, the greatest pro-basketball coach that ever lived—I can’t argue against John Wooden.) But what makes this book special is that Red Auerbach is a truly fine man. Red proves to be a fabulous raconteur. His stories about growing up in Brooklyn, serving in the Navy, and being a pioneer in the early days of pro basketball go beyond charming and really are quite spellbinding. The book is totally straightforward and honest and I found it fascinating to learn about Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Larry Bird etc. from a man who knew and understood them.

As I was a Celtic fan who saw Bill Russell’s debut in 1956 and was at Boston Garden later on that year when they won their first NBA championship in double-overtime thanks to Frank Ramsey’s “shot heard round the world”, this book has a special place in my heart.

However, whether you loved the Celtics or hated the Celtics, this is a book any sports fan would love, and transcends partisanship because Auerbach is such an incredible guy and story-teller.

For the last couple of months Tony and I have been recommending, begging and/or cajoling people to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s brilliant and fabulously entertaining Eat, Love, Pray. I have received feedback from dozens of people who have read this book. A couple of friends thought it was “pretty good”. Almost everyone else thought it was quite a treasure. If you have not read it yet, it is never too late for a good thing. As I thought about this book I tried to rack my brain to find another book that had the same kind of charm, charisma, and intangible value that made the Gilbert book so special. While browsing through our bookstore I came across one of my old favorites, Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure, by Sarah MacDonald. If you liked Eat, Love, Pray, then you would almost certainly like Ms MacDonald’s book about the year she spent in India. She is irreverent, funny, and a great observer of the scene. Whether you have ever been to India or not, this 30 year old Australian has written a book that will engross and entertain you. What I liked about Ms Gilbert and Ms MacDonald as authors is their openness, and refreshing honesty and ability to entertain and enlighten. This is another real winner.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY Len Oppenheim

February is a wonderful time to find an excuse to settle yourself by the fire and lose yourself in a wonderful read ( Of course for yours truly any month or any or all excuses will do to find me with a book in hand.)

Here are some suggestions to warm your February heart.

A Thousand Names of Joy: Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are, the latest book by Byron Katie, explores the ancient wisdom of the Tao Te Ching. She analyzes different sections of this ancient text from the point of view of one who is an actual embodiment of the knowledge. Each chapter is Byron’s personal experience of the different verses.

“This is a portrait of a woman who is imperturbably joyous, whether she is dancing with her infant granddaughter or finds that her house has been emptied out by burglars, whether she stands before a man about to kill her or embarks on the adventure of walking to the kitchen, whether she learns she is going blind, flunks a “How Good a Lover are you” test or is diagnosed with cancer. With her stories of total ease in all circumstances, Katie’s does more that describe the awakened mind, she lets you feel it, in action. And she shows you how that mind is yours as well.”

A wonderfully inspiring book.

The Heart of the World: A Journey to Tibet’s Lost Paradise by Ian Baker with an introduction by His Holiness The Dalai Lama

This is a book I have yet to read but was recently highly recommended. It is a story of travel but more importantly of a spiritual quest. The author attempts to find an ancient mystical Sanctuary in the Himalayas (from ancient Tibetan Buddhist legends) a journey that takes him into one of the most wildest and inaccessible places on earth. The trip was sponsored by The National Geographic Magazine. This is the type of book I fall in love with and am looking forward to reading… to be continued…

A must for any lover of spiritual quests.

Several books on Yantras (Spiritual Mantras) have just arrived from India that look fascinating for any lover of this subject

Yantra Mahima by Dr. M.H.K Shastri and PT. Laxmi Kant Vashisth

“The book deals with yantra pooja, design of yantras, the mantras (text with transliteration) being used for worshipping the yantra, energizing (praan prathistha) the yantra & other usages of the yantras. The contents of this book are purely based on old Sanskrit classic. A detailed method of worshiping the yantras is given in the book which would be beneficial for the readers. Contents: Chapters on Introduction, Iconography & Yantras, Astrology & Yantras, Yantra Pooja, Ganesh Yantras, Gayatri Yantras, Devi Yantras, Shiv Yantras, Vishnu Yantras, Surya Yantras, Hanuman Yantras, Astrological Yantras, Numerical Yantras, Saundriya Lahri Yantras, Bhairon Yantras, Vastu Yantras, Six Rites Yantras, Other Yantras.”

The Yantras of Deities and their Numerological Foundations by Fredrick W. Bunce

“The author, an internationally known scholar of oriental art, examines a range of tantric yantras, with their varieties, applications, modes of construction and, above all, their iconographic features. Also inter-woven in his text are lucid descriptions of all else associated with a yantra, notably, its deity, its specific purpose, its predominant and secondary numbers and its mantra.

Carrying beautiful visual representations of over a hundred yantras, Professor Bunce’s study holds out enduring appeal to the readers concerned not only with the iconography of tantric yantras, but their mystifying under-pinnings as well.” (jacket)

If you would like a book on inspirational thoughts as a gift for a love one or oneself I highly recommend A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul edited and compiled by Leo Tolstoy. Everyday there are varied inspiring messages taken from Western and Eastern sacred texts, as well as enlightened masters from Luke to Lao-Tzu.
“unjustly censored for nearly a century, it deserves to be placed with the few books in our history that will never cease teaching us the essence of what is important in this world”
A 21st Century Best seller

February light is the most special, different than any other month.

Around Valentines Day and for a few weeks afterwards, there is a magical quality about the afternoon light of February, maybe it is the near beginning of spring or the curvature of the Earth’s path to our sun. Some late February afternoon, take a few minutes out of your busy schedule and enjoy this special gift of light.

Happy Valentines Day

Love is what we are.

Tony

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