The Book Report by Rebecca Traver - Our Online Bookshop Curator

Here are some books to help inspire you to deepen your connections to the natural world; a handful of books about the feminine path and those who have led by beautiful example; a few titles related to (what else?) self-care; an interesting astrological book about the language of the moon and how to work with it. All these and more are available on our page!

“Don’t be afraid to be weird, don’t be afraid to be different, don’t worry too much about what other people think. Whatever it is that’s original in you and your work might sometimes make you feel uncomfortable. That probably means you’re on the right track, so just keep going.”
~Terri Windling

Now that we’ve stepped across the threshold of Imbolc at the beginning of February, we can gently turn our imaginations toward the promise of Spring’s blessings. The days are ever so gradually becoming softer, the stirrings of renewal are carried on the wind, and the invitation to creatively express the inner growth of Winter is at hand.

I will begin this report with a few books to help inspire us to deepen our connections to the natural world, both in our homes and gardens, and in the world at large. Whether or not you have a green thumb, I’m betting that you’re a steadfast plant lover. 

Next comes a handful of books about the feminine path and those who have led by beautiful example, a few titles related to (what else?) self-care, an interesting astrological book about the language of the moon and how to work with it, and a poem by Thich Nhat Hahn who passed last month.

Let’s begin…

Our Life in Gardens is a beautiful book full of much practical information about the cultivation of plants and their indisputable value in how we experience any given landscape. Another thing I like about this book in particular is that it outlines the development of a garden over time as it emerges, evolves, thrives, and eventually declines…which, of course, opens the door to a new design.

Sonya Patel Ellis’s The Botanical Bible: Plants, Flowers, Art, Recipes & Other Home Uses is as elegant as it is useful - offering a comprehensive introduction to the beauty, diversity, and gifts of the botanical world. Readers will not only learn how to garden and forage in six major climate zones, but also how to make the most of their harvest through a series of recipes for savory dishes, sweets, and drinks - and - how to use botanicals for beauty and health. This book is a gem.

A Wilder Life: A Season-By-Season Guide to Getting in Touch with Nature by Abbye Churchill and Celestine Maddy is a lovely, oversized lifestyle book, giving readers a wealth of ideas for interacting with the great outdoors. Learn to plant a night-blooming garden, navigate by reading the stars, build an outdoor shelter, make dry shampoo, identify insects, create a butterfly garden, or tint your clothes with natural dyes. This would make a terrific wedding or birthday gift.

“In our lifetime there is only one person we must encounter, one person we must meet as though we were passionately in love. That person is the essential Self, the true Self.” 
~Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

I am a newcomer to the work of Zenju Earthly Manuel and I am so happy to share it here with you. Her latest book, The Shamanic Bones of Zen: Revealing the Ancestral Spirit and Mystical Heart of a Sacred Tradition, stands strong at the crossroads of Buddhism and indigenous earth-based practices. Here she explores the deep human traditions of transformation that are made possible by meditation, ritual, dreams, and spiritual connection to one’s ancestry.

I’m also quite taken by her work The Way of Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender which centers on the inquiry, “What does liberation mean when I have incarnated in a particular body, with a particular shape, color, and sex?” Manuel brings her own experiences as a lesbian black woman into conversation with Buddhism as a contemplation of our ultimately empty nature in the face of the superficial perspectives of everyday life. Her conclusion is that only warmth and compassion can cure hatred and heal the damage it wreaks within us, both as individuals and as a collective.

A fitting compliment to Manuel’s work is The Heroine with 1001 Faces by Maria Tatar which seeks to dismantle the prevailing cult of the masculine warrior, revealing another version of history at the very heart of our shared cultural imagination. From popular literary and cinematic characters like Hermione Granger, Katniss Everdeen, Beatrice Pryor, and more we learn how the journey of courage is one presented to us all - each in our unique way.

Speaking of female leadership, The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women edited by Zenshin Florence Caplow and Reigetsu Susan Moon with a foreword by Zoketsu Norman Fischer is a beautiful collection of one hundred koans and stories of Buddhist women from the time of the Buddha to the present day. To support the reader’s process, each story is accompanied by a reflection from a contemporary woman teacher, a meditation prompt, and an invitation for relevant inquiry from the editors.

And then there’s The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World by Janice Kaplan (author of The Gratitude Diaries). Across the generations, even when they face less-than-ideal circumstances, women have created brilliant and original work. Here you'll learn how they moved past obstacles and broke down seemingly unshakable barriers. The women in this moving, powerful, and very entertaining book provide more than inspiration - they offer a clear blueprint to everyone who wants to find her own path and move forward with passion and purpose.

“Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate, or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for the person who has the vision to recognize it.”
~Henry Miller

Aspire Higher: How to Find the Love, Positivity, and Purpose to Elevate Your Life and the World! is the latest offering from Ken Linder full of support and guidance as we aspire to create lives filled with empowered inner love, self-worth, positive perspective, and kindness. We are reminded of the interconnectedness of life and how, when we grow our hearts, we light the way for others as well. All for one and one for all - always!

Maria Shriver’s I've Been Thinking: Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life somehow passed me by when it first came out a few years ago, but, oh, how glad I am that we’ve met now. This book is like having ready access to a close friend - the one you reach out to when the going is tough, when there’s something to celebrate, and for those sweet ‘just because’ times. Prepare to be moved, inspired, and grateful.

If you ever find yourself in a place where you’ve just had it and need a quick reset, 5-Minute Stress Relief: 75 Exercises to Quiet Your Mind and Calm Your Body by Elena Welsh is for you (and by ‘you’, I mean everyone). Whether you’re at home, in the office, or out and about, there’s something practical and accessible you can do to help befriend the anxiety beast. 

For a more in-depth approach, may I suggest The Yoga Prescription: A Chronic Illness Survival Guide by Cory Martin? This is not a typical yoga book, in that Cory draws upon personal experience and extensive training to offer real-world advice on how yoga can improve our quality of life, as well as presenting detailed instructions on everything from movement and breathing to learning how to listen to our body, say no, and let go into beingness.

52 Ways to Walk: The New Science and Timeless Joy of How, When, Where, and Why by Annabel Streets is a treat. This user-friendly guide to attaining the full range of benefits that walking has to offer - physical, spiritual, emotional - is just the ticket to help sustain you on your path. Streets contends (as do I) that just about everything can be improved by a walking practice. 

Meditations and Affirmations: 64 Cards to Awaken Your Spirit from Deepak Chopra is a useful way to support your meditation practice (aka everyday life) with a meditation on one side and an affirmation on the other. Just choose a card, allow it to inspire and motivate you and help you set intentions. Sometimes it’s simple, accessible practices like this that can make the most difference.

And to round out this report, here’s something special…The Power Wish: Japan's Leading Astrologer Reveals the Moon's Secrets for Finding Success, Happiness, and the Favor of the Universe by Keiko in which we use the language of the Moon and starts to learn how to become actively involved in charting a fulfilling path for our lives.

In honor of the life and work of beloved Buddhist monk, teacher, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh who passed on January 22 this year, I would like to introduce you to a new list at the Paradise Found Online Bookshop - Legacy + Leadership: In Praise and Gratitude for the Lives and Work of Those Who Have Gone Before Us.

In conclusion, here’s a favorite poem by Thich Nhat Hahn:

Call Me by My True Names

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of a river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.


I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to, my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.


My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.


Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.


Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

~Thich Nhat Hahn

Please visit our online Bookshop to see our full selection of lists and titles. 

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May you be inspired, supported, and delighted by what you find here.

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