My Best and Worst Reads for 2013

So I decided to name my top five and bottom three reads for the year (2013), along with my GoodReads review for each one.  I’ll start off with the crappy stuff…

3. Cloud Atlas (D. Mitchell) — “Most of the time, when I see a movie and then read the book – the book is by far the better choice. Sadly, that’s not the case here.”

2. Cyberhenge (D. Cowan) — “Written in 2005, many parts of this author’s perspective are far outdated here in 2013. However, even in looking at the social and technical concepts of the internet as brought forward – the author’s disdain for many of the online aspects of Paganism at that time are quite evident. At the start of his book, he picks out a particular online coven – IOW, a coven that practices their teachings and rituals solely online with one another – and proceeds to utilize that as an anvil to pound his points upon. From my own perspective (and I was around and active on the internet as far back as the mid 1990s), I do not see how a Nature-based practice can be properly brought forward in an environment that lives inside the routers, servers, and connective wiring of the internet. However, that’s solely my own perspective – if it works for someone else, who am I to downgrade that individual’s experience. I would suggest that this particular attitude of my own may have been the primary factor in poisoning my understanding of the cynical (my impression) stance of the author. Considering how out of date this particular book is with today’s internet, and with today’s online Pagan community (which I have personally found to be quite vibrant), I would note recommend this book for anyone looking for an understanding of today’s online Pagan community. Nor would I recommend this book as a good perspective of the online Pagan community of yesteryear, due to my very different perspective of that time frame as well. As a piece of social History on a very narrow window of the online community, its much akin to peeking through a set of closed curtains while standing outside of the house.”

1. Green Energy War (J. Geesman) — “Perhaps one of the worst “books” I have read all year. I was expecting something that moved along the lines of dialogue concerning political directives and policy towards (or even against) Green Energy technologies, philosophy and/or discussion. What I found, instead, was a mishmash collection of blog posts and links to Geesman’s podcast. This, in itself, would not have been so bad if he had written his blog postings on a level that didn’t require a Doctoral degree to interpret his usage of vocabulary. There’s certainly nothing wrong with someone flexing their vocabulary muscles in their writing, but when it hides the meaning of what you are trying to relate to the reader – what you essentially churn out is a bunch of shit. And sadly, that’s what this treatise of Geesman’s devolves to – a huge pile of confusing, nonsensical shit that could have desperately used the assistance of an editor. There was one good aspect to this eBook – it was free.”

…and now for the ones that I actually liked.  These five books were the true pinnacle of my reading for the year. I HIGHLY recommend these books to anyone…

5. Sleeping Where I Fall (P. Coyote) — “Peter Coyote documents both the time he spent in the counter-culture communities of the Diggers and the Free Family — as well as the colorful, endearing, and sometimes contradictory individuals that traveled along that Path with him. The book also documents some of the successes and failures of the intentional communities he helped organize and participate within. While some may consider much of the book as a cautionary tale about drug usage and free-sex…that doesn’t seem to be the case to me as a reader. I see the contents of the book as a celebration, a re-telling of a time frame in our (Americans) History that is continually trivialized in the press, and swept under the rug in the newer History texts. The book helps to chronicle some of the cultural and social struggles our country went through, as well as some of the racial issues — all of which we (Americans) continue to face today in on measure or another. Instead of talking the ideals of the Hippie movement, Peter lived those ideals. For better and for worse. For me, I step away from this book with a greater understanding of the time frame – not a perfect understanding, just a better one. Plus, I was provided the chance to not only get to know Peter, but all of the people that he details from within his life.”

4. Neither Wolf Nor Dog (K. Nerburn) — “Quite honestly, this was one of the most uncomfortable reads that I have ever undertaken. The author takes on the task of telling the points of view of an Indian elder. The topics range from religion to the brutality the Indians faced in the colonization (and that’s not even the right word) of the Western frontier and even into religion, spirituality and racism. Many times, I found myself challenged over my own individual perceptions – and even found some of my perspectives lacking in what was described. I will highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to read about those topics -a dn more – from the perspective of an Indian elder, as well as the internal feedback of the white author.”

3. Facing the Darkness (C. Treadwell) — “Everyone has had those moments of internal darkness. Those moments where it feels like the entire world is looking down their nose at you. Those moments where you think the Flintstones character Schleprock was written about you (the character that always has a rain cloud with lightning following him around). And rarely is there anyone who seems willing to just sit and listen and UNDERSTAND without judging. Well, here’s someone that will – and since she cannot clone herself millions of times over for the world (though I like that idea) – Cat Treadwell has written “Facing the Darkness”.

The book is essentially broken into three parts that are in nearly every part of the titled areas. Regular typeface describes an issue or feeling or emotion – helping the reader to reflect how this particular area may or may not help them in working through their current state. The bolded section has simply worded lessons and/or activities that are there to help the reader with a proactive moment to start the process of dealing with their internal dragons. The last – but not in all sections – are italicized comments and examples of how others have worked with issues within their own lives. Taken together, the material provides a starting point in dealing with one’s dragons (my term for one’s personal issues). You don’t need to slay your dragon – just learn how to get that dragon to calm down and be more house-trained in your world – so to speak.

Much like Cat’s “A Druid’s Tale” the material is warm and inviting. In many places, Cat reminds the reader of such mundane tasks as “making a cup of tea.” The charm of both “Facing the Darkness” and “A Druid’s Tale” is that you can actually feel yourself having that cup of tea with Cat. And with a topic such as this – its that warm feeling of having a cup of tea and chatting with her that brings the experience of spending time talking with someone – even if its all just in your mind for the moment. Many of her exercises and meditations in this book, I have utilized in slightly different forms – many others, I have not. And while I hope not to have an experience where I would need to use those exercises – I am comforted to have this book in my library. Or even have it there for a friend who may have need of it in the future. An absolutely wonderful book on a very difficult topic.”

2. The Path of Druidry (P. Billington) — “This is a fantastic book full of information and lessons to help the reader understand Druidry from a daily and practical level. Its not designed to be read through like a novel – which is the way I read it. So, I will be spending a second time through, taking each of the chapters very slowly and handling each lesson as intended. This is a very well thought out and extremely well written book. If you’re interested in Druidry from a practical application perspective – I would suggest to start here with Penny’s book.”

1. A Druid’s Tale (C. Treadwell) — “Its really difficult to sit back and just give this book five stars. But since that’s the only choice I have for a top-score…I’ll have to settle with that.

Before I start on how Cat’s book was for me – I find it a little necessary to elaborate on who I am (trust me, this figures into part of how the book was for me). At this moment, I am on the path of Druidry myself – in the Bardic Grade lessons for the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD). I have been on a Pagan path for nearly thirty years of my own life – and I share some similar background to what Cat shares in terms of personal Life. Thus, this book really spoke to who I am, as well as what I believe. Cat’s style of writing comes across as a pleasant, warm conversation shared between you (the reader) and her while sitting at a campfire in the middle of the night. At least that’s my impression of it. Sharing cups of hot chocolate and talking about how Druidry has impacted and addressed aspects of our lives. There are questions at the end of each section that Cat seems to be asking of the reader. I took the opportunity to set the book down from time to time and answer these questions in my own personal journal. I wrote until I felt that I had answered the question. Sometimes it was a couple of lines, and for others it took a few paragraphs. Its not a requirement for reading the book – but Cat does state in the very beginning that the book is intended to be digested in smaller chunks, rather than read straight through.

Perhaps the most interesting part in reading the book, I found a perspective that mirrors my own. Rituals, spellwork, robes, staves, wands, crystals, etc etc…all are nice items to have in one’s toolset…but in the end, its about embracing your beliefs and living them. Respect for others, accentuating the positive aspects of the day, and embracing the fact that Life isn’t always that ray of sunshine you hope for. The key isn’t all the aspects of a toolkit as I mentioned previously – its about the relationships one has with others, with the environment, and with yourself. Cat discusses how she approaches all of this (and more) — and I honestly wish I had read her book long before I had started down the path of Druidry. Not because it would have warded me off the Path – because it would not have. However, I would have had a much different approach in the beginnings. I can’t change how I started down the Path, but I can apply a lot of what I read in a more meaningful walk down the Path for me.

Do I recommend this book to someone investigating the path of Druidry? Wholeheartedly, YES! The book, along with the questions contained within each section, will provide a lot of self-answers for people, in my opinion. More so, I would also recommend that you read her excellent blog – the Catbox – as well. ( Located at: http://druidcat.wordpress.com/ ) You will find a witty, charming individual who is not only willing to talk about how she has and continues to walk her Path, but also is willing to talk with you about yours. When you have finished the book, you will literally feel like it would be the most natural thing in the world to just flop down next to her on a grassy hill on a Summer afternoon – and talk, talk, talk. (grin) And in my opinion, its that particular feeling that makes this book a cherished item in my own collection. Get it. Give it a try. See if you feel the same way when you’re finished.”

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