Tag Archives: Authors

Ten Books I Keep Within Reach

Books are something that adorn nearly every shelf in my home office. I have a fairly diverse selection of material as well. With books on historical topics, programming languages, data modeling, information security, and – yes – books on Paganism. Rarely do I get asked about what programming books I think are great. That usually happens at a professional conference, and even then its once in a very blue moon. As a Pagan blogger and (sometimes) podcaster, its books on Paganism that I get asked the most about.

Usually, the query is what good basic book on Druidry (What Do Druids Believe – Philip Carr-Gomm) would I recommend, or what book on general Paganism (Drawing Down the Moon – Margot Adler) I would hand to someone if I could. But occasionally, I get an interesting question that approaches my book shelves in a way I would not have readily anticipated.

Taking the lead down that rabbit-hole, not that long ago I had a coworker ask me what ten books are my “go to” reading when I need to get some inspiration concerning Paganism or need some help with an issue. And its a fair question to ask, except that not every book I have in my list has to do with Druidry or Paganism. Inspiration comes from many places, including fictional works.

My first choice is a book that has helped me numerous times. Cat Treadwell’s “Facing the Darkness” is a book that is geared towards dealing with depression and many other issues that one can encounter in life. When I first read her book, I loved the way issues were handled with not only a light touch, but with a strong depth of caring. When my mother and father passed away within six months of each other, Cat’s book was one of the first things I reached for to help me deal with my swirling emotions. Definitely a must have book in the bookshelf directly behind my desk – a spot where my unread books go, along with my most utilized books of any topic.

My second, third and fourth books are really an excellent series when put together. However each of them stands quite well on their own as individual works. Joanna van der Hoeven’s “Zen Druidry“, “Zen for Druids” and “The Stillness Within” are all geared to the individual that utilizes Zen practices within their Path. For me, the meditational techniques within Zen are invaluable methodologies for achieving some of my other worldly work. And Joanna’s writings not only are spot on in my opinion, but the material has also helped me refine some aspects of my own practice. Furthermore, I still pull one of these off the shelf from time to time to read for inspiration in trying different techniques as well. Her writing style is extremely accessible, in my opinion.

My fifth book is actually not a book on Paganism. Its a book on computer history called “Fire in the Valley“. This book serves as a reminder of what people can do when they dream and believe. The personal computer was a dream that seemed to only be true for the hobbyist. But somewhere, someone had a dream of putting a computer on every desktop around the world. That every individual would be able to utilize a computer for tasks that were typically confined to the High Priests of the Data Center – hidden behind the locked doors. Where raised flooring surrounded equipment, larger than an automobile, which were manipulated by attendants, who coerced data into results. Somewhere, someone got a fire in their head that told them that mainframe computers could be set on desktops and used directly by the users. I reread parts of this book to remind me where my career field has come from, and that dreamers are the people that make the impossible possible.

My next two books are a pair of biographies that I pick up from time to time to remind me of those who get to close to their personal fires, and those who fight oppression and stereotypes in every step they took in life. First, the mad genius. That would be the biography “Steve Jobs” written by Walter Isaacson. Jobs was a visionary that understood how to make product that people wanted in their lives. The ultimate salesman. However, he let his career drive him in a way that completely engulfed his personal life. His biography is a constant reminder to me of why my job does not define me. There’s far more precious aspects to life than a paycheck. The other is “Where White Men Fear to Tread” which is the biography of the actor and First Nations activist Russell Means. Proud of his heritage, Means fought through Hollywood stereotypes to bring honor to the roles he portrayed. He also fought for the rights of all First Nations peoples in everything he tried to do in his life. I only hope that I have as much drive towards Pagan rights and even a tenth of the influence that Means had in his cause.

My eighth and ninth books are a pair of books about legends, stories, and tales. The first if “Children of the Salmon” by Eileen O’Faolain (I wish I had a link for this book, but sadly it looks to be out of print). I happened across this particular book in a used bookstore in Denton, Texas. I was looking for something that discussed Irish folktales, and found this particular book. Anytime I am looking for a good tale from the island, this is the book I reach for. I’ve read this cover to cover several times, and it never gets old to me. In fact, some of the tales in these pages, you will hear me recite on the podcast in the coming months. The other book on legends is “Indian Legends From the Northern Rockies” by Ella Clark. Its no secret that I love the Rocky mountains. If I had my way – and enough money – I’d leave for Colorado or Montana in a heartbeat. This book has been invaluable as a resource, and entertaining beyond belief for me. I have a very strong affinity for the First Nations and their culture, and while the book does not provide an entry point for that, it certainly provides a nice keyhole into a very small corner.

My last book is by far my most used. I don’t think there is a day when I am home that I don’t open this book randomly and read wherever I open it. “The Poetry of Robert Frost” is one of my most cherished treasures on my book shelves. Frost has always been my favorite of the American poets, and is certainly someone I consider to be one of the greatest of all time. I was introduced to his poetry when I was seven years old. His soaring imagery of the world around him resonated quite well with a young man growing up in Germany. With my family constantly going on Saturday or Sunday volksmarches that wound through fields, towns, and forests, I found the visual keys that I needed to open Frost’s words to a wider perspective. I can only hope to even by 1/1000th the poet that this man was.

Reading is something I enjoy doing. It broadens my mind by presenting topics and perspectives that I had never considered on a variety of issues. It opens the lives of other people to me, exposing the madness of their genius, or the drive that pushes them to keep trying to achieve equality. Or it opens new realms through fictional stories and characters that I can find ways to relate to…and sometimes learn from. Or I can find techniques that help me connect to the world around me, or help me to develop gentle, loving coping skills for difficult times and moments in my life. And sadly, this is only a very small sampling of what I have on my shelves. Authors I have not mentioned have also influenced me to a fantastic degree as well. Their writings open a door into their worlds as well, as they pour their hearts and souls into the pages of what they write. And I can only thank them for doing just that, because they enrich my own life so much with their perspective. Some of them, I have been lucky enough to get to know. A few of them I have even had the chance to interview for the podcast. An even smaller number I have gotten the chance to meet in person. And once I stop being a little fanboy in front of them, I have had some lovely conversations with them. And gotten some wonderful hugs as well. All I can say is this:  support your writers. Buy their books. Support their patreon pages – if they have one. Tell others about them. Authors are wonderful people to love. 🙂

 

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Bloggers, Authors, Podcasters, and E-Zines – Oh My Gods!

Every so often, I get a question about who I read, or who I listen to, or who I recommend…so I thought it might be time to open up a bit more about that in a blog post.

There are a lot of choices to go after within the online and social media realms where Pagan folk are concerned. Most of it really matters on what you want to read or listen to. I’m not a Wiccan or a Witch, but I do read some of the blogs in that area. But for the most part, I focus on the writings of those whose bend is closer to Druidry. The same goes for podcasts – for the most part. But my musical tastes are a bit more eclectic. So, let’s explore a bit, shall we? (Besides, this is a lot more fun and way more interesting than trying to pick apart the Presidency of a guy who has not even been sworn into office yet)

Bloggers/Authors

I combine blogger and authors together – mostly because most of the authors I read also write blog posts. Its no secret that I lust after brainy women. And these first three are not only some of the smartest people I know and read, but they are also among some of the nicest people I have ever encountered. Nimue Brown, Cat Treadwell, and Joanna van der Hoeven all have great books and awesome blogs. These three ladies dispense quite a bit of daily wisdom, wit and every once in a while some awesome shenanigans. Each one has her own distinct style, coupled with a mischievous slice of fun thrown in. All three have books that I constantly refer back to in my own journal writings, especially when I struggle to remember exactly where I read a particular statement. Every one of the physical book copies from these three that I own are dog-eared and the spines show heavy usage on my part. I owe quite a bit of the Druid that I am to each of them.

While these three form the biggest trio in my readings, there are others that I read quite frequently as well. One is the blogger – and now author – John Beckett. His very well done, and frequently updated, blog – Under the Ancient Oaks – is great reading. I am lucky enough to know John in the face-to-face world. And while our individual approaches to Druidry are somewhat different, his blog posts provide topics that will get me contemplating thoughts, processes and topics in ways that I normally would not. And sometimes, its not his main point that I wind up thinking about. Many times, I find myself following a side comment or minor point into an area where I spend more time turning over the rocks and stones I find.

And there so many others that I could drone on and on about. The wonderfully fun Kristoffer Hughes, T. Thorn Coyle, Morgan Daimler, Elen Sentier, Brendan Howlin, Rachel Patterson, and a whole host Moon Books authors; as well as the awesome Moon Books editor Trevor Greenfield, who posts such wonderul thoughts in the Facebook groups for Moon Books. Then there’s also the Pagan blogs over at Patheos, the site Gods and Radicals, and many, many others. I am beginning to realize I could make a HUGE blog post on this in its own right – and still leave off a massive number of people. So consider this to just be the start.

Podcasts

At one time, podcasts were the “hot” item. Nowadays, podcasts tend to come and go fairly often. But let’s face it – just like writing a blog, podcasting is hard work in its own unique way. There are quite a few podcasts that I listen to on a regular basis. Druidcast by Damh the Bard is definitely one of the tops, but so is The Wigglian Way run by Mojo and Sparrow. Mojo is literally the smartest Pagan I have ever had the chance to get to know. Just listen to the episodes for TWW, and you will find a guy who is genuine in the way he approaches daily life. And that laugh of his…just awesome. And there’s Sparrow, the lady with the sexiest voice on the podwaves. And quite the activist. These two are some of the most awesome people on the podverse. Between the stuff that Damh brings up on Druidcast, and all the hilarity, fun and knowledge that comes through on The Wigglian Way…you easily have two-plus hours of awesome combined from these two with every new episode. And then there’s Down at the Crossroads. Chris Orapello is easily the Graham Norton interview experience of the podverse. He brings a wide diversity of people and topics to the show, along with awesome music and brainy thought. While podcasting is not quite the “hot” area of social media it once was – one listen to each of these three shows, and you will understand why I call these “The Big Three”.

Even More

I would be remiss if I didn’t add the online magazine Pagan Dawn to this mix. I buy my copies through my Apple news-stand app, but I do believe that physical copies can be had. Check with their website here to see how to get their issues. This is one of the most guilty pleasures I have for a weekend. Sitting on the back porch, listening to the waterfall (I have a waterfall effect in my backyard pool) run, drinking coffee, and reading articles from Pagan Dawn is something I could just not do without. The writers that are brought forward in the articles are some of the best “food for thought” that I have found in a magazine of any format. I generally keep a “notepad” app open on my iPad while I read, so that I can add my own personal notes for later review or research. I am quite sure there are more Pagan ‘zines out there as well. If you know of any – pass those along in the comments. I am sure I am not the only one that would want to know more.

Back in the 1990s, I remember that there were a few “glossy” magazines available at the local “occult” shop. There were also the National and International Email exchange services, such as PODSNET (Pagan Occult Distribution System) and many others. All were aimed at discourse of one type or another. People could debate with one another, share tips, even have innocent (and not so innocent – Merry Meat) fun. The limit was your ability to write evocatively. In the late 1990s, systems like PODSNET disappeared as the internet gained favor as the communications methodology.

Today’s internet has changed the manner in which we all communicate with one another. Quick, short chat messages, video chats, audio chats have all bitten into the old writing methodologies. But thanks to many of the above named individuals, web sites, bloggers, and authors – the written word still has favor in some form. To balance that out, we have video bloggers, podcasts, and other formats that have opened other avenues. None is any better than any other…the favor of its usage comes from those that choose to be the receiver in the communication paradigm. I’m old-fashioned in a sense. I like the writings…but I also have favorites among the others as well. Just remember, keep looking. There are new bloggers, writers, authors, podcasters, vloggers, and ‘zines coming. And all of those people are just as human as you or I…and they are easy to talk to. And who knows? You might make a lifelong friend too….