As the temperature drops and I watch the world slowly make its way to hibernation it’s hard not to shut yourself inside, cozy up on the couch, and grab a good book. Especially in the morning as I rise early, grab my cup of hot tea and sit down with my puppy on my lap; this season was made to get lost in the words of a good book, which is why I picked up these 5 books.
I’ve been going through my own transitions lately. Diving deep into self-work as I redefine who I am and who I want to be. I’m on the tail end of my 29th year heading for 30 and I couldn’t be more excited about it. But I also want to hold space for this transition and not just let it pass me by. I’ve been on a spiritual journey, to learn about my ancestors, to find my own definition of religion, and decide who I was before the world told me who I needed to be. I want to go back to that girl, artistic, kind, self-assured, and ready to take on the world. You’ll notice that this month’s books are a direct reflection of the internal journey I’ve been on.
A Secret History of Witches (Novel) – 5 stars
It all started with witches, as any good story does. I went looking for my ancestor’s history which would have been tied up in European politics also known as the witch trials. I’ve been drawn to this idea of the modern witch and felt the urge to follow with wonder. It lead me to learn more about the history of witches, both in fiction and in history.
A Secret History of Witches was the perfect place to start. This book takes you through 5 generations of witches using language, facts, and resources that are all accurate and true to the history of the witch trials (the torture and persecution of innocent women) and to their rituals (celebrating holidays like Samhain and honoring the many more seasons of their culture). The story of these 5 generations felt so appropriate to read in the month of October as we approached Dia De Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) and honored our ancestors who have passed before us.
If you want a novel to get lost in with a little magic, then I give A Secret History of Witches 5 stars.
Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: a History of Women Healers (Non-fiction) – 4 Stars
It didn’t feel like enough to just read beautiful stories about made-up witches. To really look back at the history of my ancestors, those coming from Europe, I needed to learn about where it all started.
Witches, Midwives, and Nurses was a pamphlet written in the 1970s to educate women about their health care system and to push for more female doctors in the industry. While the stats are outdated the history of how our current medical system came to be was fascinating and infuriating. It, of course, put men and the privileged first discriminating against the poor and more specifically women.
Many schools teach the history of the Salem witch trials, but the European witch trials aren’t talked about. The European trials lasted much longer, were more brutal, and were primarily a way to oppress knowledgeable women, who were helping the poor. This book is a quick read and will give you the history education you never received in school.
Personally, the first half of the book was more interesting to me as I want the deeper history and less of the history in the 1970s which is why I gave it 4 stars.
Running Toward Mystery (Non-Fiction) – 3 Stars
I learned about the Christian Mystics around the time of my Yoga Teacher Training exactly one year ago. I like to say that the Mystics are the cross between Christianity as you know it and yogic philosophy. This beautiful balance of the God I grew up learning about, one of power, grace, and unconditional love, combined with pure magic. (You can see where my interest in witches has traveled this month).
In Running Toward Mystery, I was looking for a book on the mystics and actually found a book about the Buddha. A journey of a monk who started his path to enlightenment at the age of 10 and all the teachers, of every faith, he met along the way. I appreciated this book as a story, sharing life lessons, but not a self-help book or how-to book. I loved seeing the different faiths coexist and work together to find new truths within their own faiths. But most of all, it was a reminder to come back to contemplation, prayer or meditation, and tune in to ourselves to find the answers we’ve been looking for. As with Dorthy in the Wizard of Oz, they have been with us all along.
There were bits and pieces of this story that resonated with me and other parts that dragged on. I gave 3 stars as I skimmed roughly the second half of the book.
The New Tarot Handbook (Non-Fiction) – 5 Stars
In my journey to learn about witches and the mystics, I got a deck of tarot cards. Something to use as a tool to ask new questions, to journey, and perhaps to have a little fun when girlfriends came over.
I was told to look for a book by Rachel Pollack to get started and this book was just what I needed. It’s nothing fancy but walks you through each card breaking down the symbolism and history of the card. It opens your eyes up to a new story within the deck that you never knew was happening and helps you understand archetypes along the way. It’s the perfect book for anyone looking to get into Tarot. While there are many more books that will give you different interpretations, and you’ll discover your own as you play with the cards, I found this book to be a great jumping-off point, which is why I gave it 5 stars.
Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life (Non-Fiction) – 5 Stars
Don’t ask me where my head goes when I’m deciding on what book to read next. One thought leads to a book search on google and then a search at the library. After seeing so many Japanese words come up in the books I’ve read lately and a passion for their traditional and simplistic way of life, I decided to find some books on Japanese culture. Wabi Sabi happened to be the perfect place to start.
The term wabi sabi, while having no direct translation, is a feeling that we get. It’s a connection to the past, to nature, to our truest self. It’s the recognition of impermanence and imperfection in all things, ourselves included. And by understanding that nothing lasts, we can fully embrace the moment we’re in and give ourselves, and those around us, grace.
This book was a love story to coming back to the slow and steady life, appreciating what’s in front of us, and simplifying in all areas of our lives. It has me rethinking so many things in my life and how I want to live. It’s made me slow down and try and be in the present as much as possible. The other Japanese culture books I’m reading now are only enhancing this knowledge.
If you’re burnt out, overwhelmed, or have this ache in your heart for a simpler time, then this is the book for you. I truly loved its knowledge and gave it 5 stars.
Slow Down With a Good Book
I use books to grow and to escape. A good fiction book will have me trapped on my couch for hours because I just have to know what happens next. But a non-fiction book I can read more slowly, taking in all it has to offer and teach me. I keep a journal nearby to write down quotes I like or to process thoughts it might bring up for me. Most of my books are from the Library so saving quotes to reference later is hard. But the books I know I’ll read again or want to be able to lend to friends are the ones purchased, highlighted, and saved on my shelf to reference again years later.
Reading can just be a way to escape for a little bit, to grow a little bit, but most importantly to find a moment of joy in your day. Whatever is going on in your life, I hope you can make a little time for a good book, whether it’s one of these or something completely different. Time with a book is how I practice slowing down and being present.