To A Mountain in Tibet
By Colin Thubron
Harper 2011; 240 pp., $24.99 (cloth)
According to folklore, Mount Kailas flew to Tibet from an unknown country, and before the celestial gods could return it, the Buddha nailed it down with his footprints. To a Mountain in Tibet is the celebrated travel writer Colin Thubron’s account of his pilgrimage to the holy Mount Kailas. It’s also an account of his grief. “Sometimes journeys begin long before their first step is taken,” he says. But this journey began not long ago, in a hospital ward as the last of his family died. The book’s two threads—modern Tibetan culture and mourning—work well together, because Thubron delves deeply into his take on Tibetan beliefs and customs regarding death and dying. As always with Thubron, the prose is rich and polished.
The Poet’s Way
Windhorse Publications 2011; 160 pp., $12.95 (paper)
Haiku Before Haiku: From the Renga Masters to Basho
Translated by Steven D. Carter
Columbia University Press 2011; 176 pp., $69.50 (cloth)
Yoga Heart: Lines on the Six Perfections
By Leza Lowitz
Stone Bridge Press 2011; 112 pp., $12.95 (paper)
Here are three new treasures for poetry lovers. The Poet’s Way is a step-by-step guide to writing poems that lays down poetic techniques and theories, and includes exercises, a rich selection of examples, and engaging anecdotes. The author is Manjusvara (David Keefe), who leads writing workshops in Buddhist centers around the world and teaches that writing can be a spiritual practice that helps us better understand our lives. Haiku Before Haiku begins with Steven D. Carter explaining that, though the mention of haiku may make many of us think of Basho, haiku—in an earlier incarnation—was already 500 years old when Basho composed his poems. Carter goes on to detail the evolution of haiku and then offer his translations of a delightful selection. Yoga Heart, by yoga teacher and Shambhala Sun contributor Leza Lowitz, is a book of original poems. It’s divided into six sections, each containing ten poems and focusing on a different paramita, or transcendent perfection. “Practice the six perfections to perfection,” she writes. “Then lavishly pass them on.”
The Buddha in the Classroom: Zen Wisdom to Inspire Teachers
By Donna Quesada
Skyhorse Publishing 2011; 224 pp., $12.95 (paper)
After twelve years of teaching, Donna Quesada understood something she’d never realized as a kid at school: sometimes teachers want the three o’clock bell to ring even more than their students do. The Buddha in the Classroom is the story of Quesada’s journey from burnout to a rekindled passion for her profession, and the critical role that her longtime Zen practice played in that transformation. Each chapter unpacks her experience of a common classroom challenge, such as tardiness, cheating, and disruptive behavior, accompanied by a relevant dharma teaching. Since Quesada is a professor specializing in Asian philosophy at Santa Monica College in California, her anecdotes are about teaching at the college level. Nonetheless, the meat of what she says is applicable even for kindergarten teachers.
The Next Eco-Warriors: 22 Young Women and Men Who Are Saving the Planet
Edited by Emily Hunter
Conari Press 2011; 262 pp., $19.95 (paper)
Twenty-two environmental activists, all under the age of forty, tell their stories. These young people, who hail from across the globe, are using every imaginable tactic to make a difference. For example, Tanya Fields, an African American woman, is fighting poverty through guerilla farming in New York City; Rob Stewart, a Canadian filmmaker, is shining a light on the shark-finning industry through his film Sharkwater; and Australian model Hannah Fraser is performing in a mermaid costume to educate people on the importance of marine life. Emily Hunter, the editor of The Next Eco-Warriors, is the daughter of Greenpeace’s founding president and is herself an environmental activist. Her work has included trips to Antarctica to help save whales and the Galapagos Islands, where she was held hostage when she tried to stop poaching. Currently, Hunter produces and hosts TV documentaries about environmental issues.
By Cary Groner
Spiegel & Grau 2011; 288 pp., $25 (cloth)
Exiles begins dramatically, slamming readers into the action. In chapter 1 we meet Peter Scanlon, an American doctor, and Alex, his teenage daughter, caught in the crosshairs of a civil war. They’re in Nepal, hiding in a cold, dark hut. Alex is feverish, squatting miserably over a bucket, and Peter is shrugging off the discomfort of his foot. He doesn’t expect to need that foot anyway, not come sunrise. Peter came to Kathmandu to volunteer at a health clinic, but—it seems—he’d sorely misjudged the dangers involved. Author Cary Groner has studied meditation and Tibetan Buddhism with Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche for more than fifteen years, and he’s woven the thread of Buddhist philosophy into this fast-paced novel.